This is where the conspiracy really begins and the first in a long line of enigmatic informers side-steps his way into Mulder’s life. It’s also the first time that we see parts of the story unfold from Mulder’s POV rather than Scully’s.
In another sense, the series takes two steps back here. Scully plays the archetypal skeptic in this episode more so than she ever did in the “Pilot” (1×79), which is disappointing. She’s indignant at a “UFO goosechase” whereas previously she was intrigued, entertained even by Mulder’s ideas. Part of what made the Pilot interesting is that she started to molt her skeptic skin. In Deep Throat, she wears hard-headedness like a war medal. In case you can’t tell, I’m not a particular fan of this side of Scully. I like her better when she’s more interested in solving a mystery than in purely refuting Mulder. Even “El Mundo Gira” (4×11) gives her that much. The subtlety of her personality shines in those types of cases. This Scully bears a close resemblance to Mulder’s skewed version of her in “Bad Blood” (5×12). Too close a resemblance. She even stifles his benign overtures of friendship. “Agent” Mulder? Really??
While Scully smirks a lot in this episode, she comes off as less amused at Mulder and more amused at his expense. It’s inconsistent. From what we can tell both in the “Pilot” and in the next episode “Squeeze” (1×3), part of Scully’s value to/for Mulder is that she takes him seriously as an investigator even when she finds his ideas absurd. This is a more antagonistic Scully than we’ve seen previously, which, no doubt, is part of why Mulder ditches her eventually.
Thank heaven Scully isn’t completely humorless. There is that wonderfully exasperated way she closes her eyes in the town diner… And she more than redeems herself when she kidnaps the “reporter” at gunpoint: Scully Squared ™. She has the bravado to hold a government agent hostage. The same woman who argued about the government’s right to keep secrets now threatens to expose them all if she doesn’t get her partner back on demand. And to be fair to stick-in-the-mud Scully, Mulder jumping to conclusions on the basis of those mealy photos is laughable. He’s supposed to be an investigator. Her mockery of him is annoying, but earned.
Even if character development suffers a little bit, this episode is our true introduction to the government conspiracy plot. It was only hinted at in the “Pilot” by the presence of CSM. Along with Scully’s too standard portrayal, the reason this is being explored in the second episode is because there’s no guarantee that anyone saw the “Pilot”. The assumption is that this is the first glimpse of the show for most of the audience. Hence there isn’t a MOTW in sight. This is still about establishing the core premise of the show: two very different agents chasing down a government cover-up about the existence of extra-terrestrials, and one of them unwillingly. The mythology hasn’t quite raised its seven heads yet, but it’s stirring.
An interesting issue does come up that I could wish had been explored further. Just for a second at the motel we wonder, are Mulder and Scully on the right side? If Mulder is right and the government is hiding its advanced testing from the American people and, by extension, the rest of the world, isn’t it reasonable to think that they have a responsibility and a right to do so? After all, not keeping our full capabilities on the down low would be the height of foolishness as a nation.
And the Verdict is…
This isn’t one of my favorite episodes of the first season, but some aspects of it are much better on the re-watching. Since 3 of the first 4 episodes all revolve around an alien/government conspiracy, the beginning of Season 1 feels a little top heavy; a necessary evil since the writers have to establish what the show’s all about.
One thing that is nice is that we start to see the story unfold from Mulder’s POV and not just Scully’s. From the introduction of Deep Throat to his kidnapping, now we, the audience, know what Mulder knows… and can’t remember.
Another check mark in the plus column is, of course, the M/S banter. Scully does give him the old what for.
However, the story does Mulder’s character a bit of a disservice. His conspiracy theories are correct, but that’s sheer luck. Mulder doesn’t have any real evidence that would lead to the conclusion that this is anything more than a test flight program by the military. Why is it alien technology just because the pilots can’t handle it? Where’s the Mulder who finds evidence no one else bothers to look for, like in “Squeeze”? Those fake looking, Cracker Barrel photographs don’t count.
Scully doesn’t come off any better.
“Deep Throat” pits Mulder’s blind faith against Scully’s rigid science. But why do faith and science have to contradict? They’re not mutually exclusive; they’re linked. That may be a philosophical conversation for another time, but The X-Files works best when Mulder and Scully aren’t quite so glued into their respective corners.
Why did the military let Mulder and Scully go? Why weren’t they both put under arrest? Surely they could’ve overpowered a 5’2” redhead with a mere government-issue gun.
If Scully says, “my field report” one more time…
This is the first Scully voiceover. I actually start to miss that device later in the series.
Scully is already wearing her cross. Though I’m not sure how much we’re supposed to read into that at this point, it does tie in with Scully not being as averse to faith and belief as she would appear to be on the surface.
Scully doesn’t know any better than to believe Mulder when he says he’s going to be a good boy. My, these are the early days.
How brave of Deep Throat to meet with Mulder right out in the open. Any half-decent sniper could’ve taken them both out. Didn’t Deep Throat see “Redux II” (5×3)? Oh, wait…
Mulder: Tell me I’m crazy.
Scully: Mulder, you’re crazy.