For anyone who might be watching the series for the first time, you’ll just have to take my word for it that this episode is much more significant looking backward than it is watching the series from the beginning. Be forewarned, there’s a great surprise at the end of the episode that you won’t want to ruin for yourself. This is definitely a case where you should watch before reading any summaries or reviews.
This is our second government cover-up episode in a row but with a twist. For conspiracies that have nothing to do with the greater mythology I have a special category: Half-Caff. These types of episodes generally involve a dangerous cutting edge science or technology that the government it trying, and failing, to control. This episode, however, doesn’t quite fit into any category. There is a cover-up, yes, but the mythology is also a much stronger presence in this episode than we’ve had since “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23). Since Skinner has rebelled, it seems CSM has roped himself a new puppet. And he’s a doozie.
We start off with what may be one of the series’ most compelling and mysterious intros to date. We, the audience, know we just saw a fire ravage a man’s home. So where did it go? From the teaser, we segue into a “Mulder the Jackass” routine and this is where I’d like to pause for a minute.
Mulder can be a bit of a self-important jerk at times. True, Krycek will turn out to be far worse than that, but Mulder doesn’t know that. No, he has no excuse for his arrogance. We can only explain it by assuming that Mulder doesn’t want Krycek to interfere when he uncovers some diabolical plot or some paranormal oddity. Not to mention Mulder is fed up with the FBI and isn’t interested in making friends. But are those the only reason Krycek’s getting the cold shoulder?
No one wants to shake Krycek’s hand figuratively or physically, not even Scully. During the autopsy, Mulder and Scully carry on one of their intensely whispered conversations as if Krycek wasn’t even there. Why does he get the brush off when he hasn’t done anything wrong? It’s not about whether he’s good, bad, or pathetic. Mulder works with Scully or he works alone. He doesn’t trust anyone but her. For her part, Scully isn’t comfortable with the idea of Mulder taking on a new partner either. Could, horror of horrors, Krycek replace her in Mulder’s estimation? Scully goes so far as to fish shamelessly for confirmation of Mulder’s continued affection. Judging from his sheepish response, the loneliness is quite mutual. At one point, they act like 13-year-old sweethearts who can’t get off the phone even though it’s 1 in the morning and the conversation has long since gone quiet.
I still think their relationship is platonic at this point, but judging from that conversation, I can see why my fellow Shippers might feel differently. They’re certainly not hiding the fact that they’re lonely and bored without each other. As I mentioned last episode, they’re much sweeter to each other than they were last season. However, if their relationship was a budding romance Krycek would be no threat and neither Mulder nor Scully would have much reason to resent him. After all, he doesn’t represent a potential rival love interest for Mulder (despite what Slashers may think). The truth is, at this point what Mulder and Scully have is no more or less than a perfect partnership. That’s why Krycek coming in as a new partner is enough to rattle them both. It means that Scully could be displaced.
As long as Mulder doesn’t officially have to work with anyone else, Scully can be his unofficial partner on the side. But will it be the same if he, Scully and Krycek work as a threesome? Of course not. And what if, God forbid, he actually starts to prefer open-minded Krycek? That might be Scully’s worst nightmare. She prides herself on being useful to Mulder. She need not worry. The Mulder we met in the “Pilot” (1×79) may have been looking for a more Krycek-like partner. But after learning to relish the challenge that Scully represents, Mulder would be bored out of his mind with a Yes Man.
But enough about Krycek, there’s more fresh meat in this episode. Finally, Mulder’s new, nameless informant steps out of the shadows. We only know him as Mr. X. A far cry from Deep Throat, X acts like there’s nothing he’d rather not be doing than helping Mulder. He has no intention of becoming another martyr to the cause and ominously hints that Mulder is in danger himself, and not just of being fired. X himself oozes danger. No surrogate father figure is he. Whatever fuzzy feelings Mulder might have had for Deep Throat, X isn’t poised to resurrect them. When Scully questions whether or not Mulder trusts him, Mulder can only sigh.
I’m glad the writers decided to take X in a completely different direction from Deep Throat as an informant. A simple 1 for 1 replacement would have been boring. Between X, Krycek, and CSM’s growing presence, The X-Files is quickly taking on thriller-like proportions.
…And the Verdict is:
“Sleepless” owes a little something to The Manchurian Candidate and that’s a good thing. I’m glad to add this to the list of episodes I enjoyed more this time around. Before I had slept on the plot (pun intended) and had forgotten how good the interpersonal dynamics are.
More than that, I had forgotten how perfect a set-up this episode is for the 3-episode arc that follows. I might even go so far as to say that “Sleepless” should always be watched before “Duane Barry” (2×5) to get the full effect. It certainly makes the ensuing events more sinister. Now we know that something bad is going to happen to Scully and Krycek is at the root of it. He knows what Mulder and Scully know, that he can’t fully ingratiate himself to Mulder with Scully still around. She’s too much competition.
I don’t know that this episode does its job as a stand-alone, but as a part of the series as a whole it’s valuable and effective.
Dr. Grissom’s sleep disorder center seems behind the times considering the man has already figured out how to render sleep unnecessary. You’d think that these lesser sleep issues would be a quick fix.
CSM has reading glasses. That’s so not diabolical.
Did Krycek kill Cole on purpose? I believe so. But Cole was also purposefully trying to get killed.
Mulder makes a selfish demand of Scully in regards to the autopsy, knowing she’ll drop everything and help him. Already it starts.
Krycek: I paid off your cab. I don’t appreciate being ditched like somebody’s bad date.
Mulder: Sorry if I hurt your feelings.
Krycek: Where do you get off copping this attitude? I mean, you don’t know the first thing about me.
Krycek: You know, back at the academy, some of the guys used to make fun of you.
Mulder: Oh, stop it, or you’re going to hurt my feelings.
Scully: Sounds like your new partner’s working out.
Mulder: He’s alright. He could use a little more seasoning and some, uh, wardrobe advice. But he’s a lot more open to extreme possibilities than…
Scully: Than I was?
Mulder: …than I assumed he would be.
Scully: Must be nice not having someone questioning your every move, poking holes in all your theories?
Mulder: Oh… oh yeah. It… it’s great. I… I’m surprised I put up with you for so long.
Smoking Man: What about Scully?
Krycek: Reassigning them to other sections seems only to have strengthened their determination. Scully’s a problem. A much larger problem than you described.
Smoking Man: Every problem has its solution.