This is another example of one of my favorite MOTW sub-types, a Half-Caff X-File. Like “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) before it and “Soft Light” (2×23) after it, Young at Heart depicts a government conspiracy to control an unspeakably valuable yet potentially mankind-destroying science. No paranormal activity, just extreme science gone horribly awry. We’ve already had two similar episodes this season with the previously mentioned “Ghost in the Machine” and even “Ice” (1×7) to a certain extent. But with “Young at Heart”, it would seem that Chris Carter has a Frankenstein fetish. (And in case this episode doesn’t make that clear enough he later writes and directs “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6) just to make sure we get it.)
Season 1 spends a lot of time delving into Mulder and Scully’s past. Scully just had a go with “Lazarus” (1×14) so now, tit for tat, it’s Mulder’s turn again. One element of Mulder’s history that tends to get lost as the seasons go on is that he once held a lofty position as the FBI’s resident Boy of Promise. Mulder banished himself into the nether regions of the basement, but not before he proved he was an investigative genius. It’s during Season 1 that we see the memory of Mulder as a profiling Ace still alive and well in the Bureau’s collective consciousness. Now through his former superior, we learn just how great Mulder really was. Well, he still is great only no one but Scully knows it anymore.
His fairly recent fall from grace still seems to affect Mulder emotionally in this first year, whereas later on he’s jaded and indifferent. We see his resignation to his fate in “Squeeze” (1×2), we glimpse hurt feelings for a moment in “Lazarus” but in Young at Heart he has to face his former glorious past head on. He barely flinches.
Mulder himself bears some resemblance to Dr. Ridley, a brilliant man who bucks the establishment because he single-mindedly believes in his cause. Called names by his peers, he shrugs off their disdain with self-righteousness as his armor.
Mulder’s guilt over the Barnett case? We never hear from it again. We were led to believe that part of the reason Mulder shrugs off the rules so easily in the present is because playing by the rules caused him to be responsible for 2 deaths, and that these deaths continue to haunt him. I suppose they eventually saw fit to haunt him no longer. Like Scully’s godson et al., these histories of Mulder’s and Scully’s fall by the wayside after Season 1.
And the Verdict is…
One of the great things about Season 1 as it progresses is that Mulder and Scully start feeling more like a team, with Scully playing the clueless tag-a-long less often. In the very first scene after the teaser, Mulder and Scully even walk shoulder to shoulder, or more accurately, shoulder on top of shoulder. They just can’t help themselves. They don’t even know what personal space is when it comes to each other. I know I sound as repetitive as Toucan Sam but I still don’t think this is sexual. It’s just that they are inexplicably, spiritually drawn to one another.
If that weren’t enough, one by one, the writers pick off their former allies and friends. The few people at the Bureau with any admiration left for Mulder are falling by the wayside. Jerry was offed back in “Ghost in the Machine”. True, he was Jerry the Jerk, but he had to have a certain amount of respect for Mulder’s abilities to want to consult him and steal his work, right? Now Reggie, who is a mentor to Mulder, is gone just as we get to liking him. And as we shall soon see, Deep Throat’s days among the reliable are numbered as well. It won’t take too much longer before Scully is the only friend Mulder has left.
Besides being able to enjoy their now tangible camaraderie, “Young at Heart” makes for a decent episode even looking back into the abyss of Season 1 awkwardness. My one disappointment is that John Barnett was a lot more intimidating in profile and in flashback than he was in the final act. At least the ending is happily foreboding.
Why does the defense attorney ask Mulder why he didn’t shoot? That seems an oddly placed question… unless of course you’re a writer and you want Mulder to admit in front of a crowded courtroom that people are dead and it’s his own fault.
How did Barnett snag a job fixing the piano at the cello recital? That was awfully short notice and he wouldn’t be able to fake that skill set easily.
How did Dr. Ridley figure out that Scully was looking for him, and more than that, where she lived?
Why is it that Barnett is getting younger while Ridley merely stays the same age?
Wouldn’t Barnett notice that Mulder’s at the recital too and realize it’s a set-up? It’s not like Mulder was there incognito. Truth be told, he does look back after Mulder when he’s onstage tuning the piano.
Here and There:
Mulder and Scully are such cute little youngins and they have no idea what’s coming 3, 4 and 5 seasons down the road. Am I the only one with the overwhelming urge to pinch their television cheeks?
The segue into the courtroom scene? Hilariously bad.
Agent Henderson could’ve been a fun recurring character a la Agent Pendrell.
Scully: Mulder, I know what you did wasn’t by the book….
Mulder: Tells you a lot about the book, doesn’t it?