Duane Barry 2×5: A fine thread of sanity.


Let me show you those drill holes!

Is Duane Barry Mulder’s future?

Mulder’s been sliding down a dangerously deluded path for a long time now. He even admitted in “Little Green Men” (2×1) that he didn’t know whether his quest amounted to little more than tilting at windmills. But the whole point of that episode was that it didn’t matter if Mulder was right or wrong as long as he kept going. Now Mulder, similarly to Duane Barry, is at the point where it’s again important to him to prove the truth of what he’s been claiming all these years.

When you think about it, there are quite a few parallels between these two characters. While Duane is eventually used as a patsy by CSM to carry out his dastardly plans in regards to Scully, initially Duane kidnapped his doctor not to make an exchange with the aliens, but to prove to him that he’s been telling the truth all along. Duane wants desperately to be believed. He wants to be understood. Well, so does Mulder. And like Duane, Mulder is willing to go to fantastic lengths to expose the truth. He thinks he’s willing to go to any length, but this episode will test Mulder’s resolve in that regard.

In the end, Mulder is proven right. Duane Barry was telling the truth. But in being validated, Mulder loses Scully. He finds the truth and meets the consequences. Was it worth it? Is the cost too high to find the answers? Is it enough to know you’re right and be right all by yourself? Mulder will be dealing with those questions for the next few episodes.

Of course, these events don’t transpire naturally. Krycek has been sent to spy on Mulder by CSM, presumably to gauge what information he has and were he’s getting it from. Unfortunately for their plans, Mulder is stuck like glue to his old partner Scully and isn’t interested in learning to trust Krycek. That’s a problem because not only do Mulder and Scully have the annoying habit of getting to the bottom of things, but as long as Mulder keeps Krycek out of the loop it’s going to be hard to feed him disinformation. What to do, what to do…

What they do is manipulate Duane Barry through a staged abduction scenario into kidnapping Scully and bringing her to them. It’s clear why they used someone like him. Because of his medical and psychological history, there’s no need to discredit his story. He discredits himself. That’s no doubt why they took him for abductions in the first place.

…And the Verdict is:

This episode is about truth versus delusion and how sometimes you can’t tell the difference. Mulder is sure about Duane, then unsure about Duane, then sure again. Does it matter either way? It does for Mulder because the events of the last several months have weakened his confidence in his beliefs. Even though now he’s surer than ever, soon he’ll learn the cost of that certainty.

Steve Railsback gives a fabulous turn as Duane Barry. His character was set up in such a way that his performance would make or break the episode and I’m glad to say he couldn’t have done a thing better. To be both frightening and endearing is a hard line to walk.

It’s also exciting to see the conspiracy take a diabolical turn this season. Before, the issue was whether they were keeping the secret of alien life from the American public. But this, this is personal. CSM is out to contain Mulder and if he has to hurt him to do it, so be it.

Overall, a great episode that leaves you wondering which lie to believe.

A-

Quirks:

Why didn’t the FBI set up a roadblock once they knew from the police tape what general area of Virginia Duane Barry was in? It’s not like he changed direction on them.

Didn’t the hostage team already assume Duane Barry was dangerous and delusional? Mulder was the only one who believed him even though he knew Duane came out of a mental hospital. I don’t see why the information Scully brought was so earth-shattering.

CSM is controlling Duane Barry, not aliens, which would meant that the government is behind the abductions. If that’s true, how can they do things like stop time? And if they can stop time, shouldn’t they be able to balance the budget?

Thoughts:

Another highlight was that scene where Scully scans Duane’s implant in the supermarket. Americans are being abducted and tagged like so much human merchandise. Only on The X-Files. Also, that old-fashioned “asterisk” scanner brings back memories.

Those alien costumes look like alien costumes. That will make more sense later. Hide a lie within a lie. To hide the aliens, pretend to be aliens.

Did we just hear the very first, “Mulder, it’s me?” I don’t think I heard it in an episode previously, but I could be wrong.

Best Quotes:

Krycek: Is there anything I can do?
Agent Kazdin: Yeah. What’s your name again?
Krycek: Krycek.
Agent Kazdin: Krycek. Have you got your notepad?
Krycek: Yeah. [Takes out notepad.]
Agent Kazdin: Grande, 2% cappuccino with vanilla. Agent Rich?
Agent Rich: [Waves, “No.”]
Agent Kazdin: [Walks off.]
Krycek: [Replaces notepad with disgust.]

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20 responses to “Duane Barry 2×5: A fine thread of sanity.

  1. Krycek taking coffee orders from CCH Pounder is the unsung highlight of this episode, to be sure.

    The grocery store scanning of the implant is perfect in that when I ask myself “do I think that’s plausible?” I can’t answer a definitive yes/no, but instead arrive at “maybe…?” Part of what makes the show so engaging is that it toes this line between the fantastic and the everday so perfectly.

    Also, I’m not sure I caught that the aliens were fake. What tipped you off to this?

    • CCH Pounder was awesome. She one, along with Terry O’Quin, who I could wish had ended up as regulars of some sort rather than mere guest stars. But ah well.

      You’re so right! X-Files walks that fine line of “I know this is ridiculous, but is it absolutely impossible?” And it does it so well.

      The alien costumes just look so fake to me, but then, there’s also what we learn in the next episode that lets us know that the government is behind this somehow. It’s not a far stretch to think that they created this illusion just to manipulate Duane Barry.

      • “I know this is ridiculous, but is it absolutely impossible?”

        Aka, what Scully asks herself everyday

      • …And now we’re at “the aliens are fake, because there haven’t actually BEEN aliens this whole time, and it was just the secret government using alien technology for nefarious, “world saving,” eco-terrorist reasons, but oh, wait, Scully’s magic junk DNA will save the world with a vaccine thought up, tested, and manufactured in two hours…and *takes breath*…”. Yes. We haven’t so much taken a long strange road as the road we’re on now is just plan strange.

  2. Have you ever read NITPICKERS GUIDE FOR X-PHILES? If you haven’t, you should. It only covers through season 4 but it is fun & helpful.

  3. These few eps are what turned the X-Files from being jst another sci-fi show to the blockbuster and game-changer that it did. I just love the Duane Barry story-line; although I was aware when I first watched it that Scully would be out of the show for most of the next couple of eps ;( The Gillian Anderson pregnancy issue I was already vaguely aware of. I’d started watching the show well after all this background stuff had already entered TV legend, and this meant that quite a lot of the plot didn’t come as a huge surprise to me.

    • By the time I watched Duane Barry, and I was watching reruns as I wasn’t a primetime viewer yet, I hadn’t yet become a “Phile” per se, I was just a regular viewer. So I wasn’t up on any of the show’s background info. BUT, I remember it being very clear to me that GA was pregnant (how could they possibly have hidden that obvious a baby bump?) and so I figured Scully would be conveniently gone for a bit. I just hoped it wouldn’t last long.

      • I had the advantage of having read some magazine articles about GA and how she’d coped with doing the show while heavily pregnant and all that stuff about how CC had woven her absence into the storyline was mentioned then. I don’t remember being at all interested in the show at the time, just in her mainly. I think at the time, GA had recently moved to England and was becoming a doyenne of the West End stage, so there was quite a lot of media interest in her over here as an actress per se. Still is, for that matter!

        • I’m still amazed at how she completely reinvented her career!

          • You should see how she looks/sounds as Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. The Beeb is currently running a trailer for the show with GA prominently featured as part of its Xmas programming adverts. Wow – you’d never recognise her. Even her voice is different (and I don’t just mean her accent!)

  4. Two words: RED SPEEDO!

  5. Agent Venkman

    The aliens could be all in Duane Barry’s mind, or the could be real. Any of the two options is valid. Like many of the better episodes of the mythology, Carter lets the audience to choose. It’s possible that Barry had been tasted by aliens in the past, but this partiular time it’s the human conspirators (CSM) that are manipulating him. In my opinion, the aliens in Barry’s flashbacks are real, because Carter hid them in shadows as best as he could (if they looked cheap, blame it on budget limitations). When they wanted us to know the aliens were fake (Jose Chung’s From Outer Space) they lit them well and REALLY showed us how fake they were.

    CSM and the Syndicate people would most certainly have the technology to stop time, given that they have access to space ships and all kinds of alien tech, thanks to their collaboration with the invading forces.

    This episode is excellent. The script is tight, the directing keeps things tense, and the cliffhanger is a shock. Performances are great all around. Hard to believe the same man that would later write and direct “Fight Club” or “Improbable”.

    • I think GA’s pregnancy lit a fire under Chris & Crew. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. The show had lost its urgency by “Fight Club.”

  6. Mulder acts like a total idiot in this episode. A dangerous man holds him at a gunpoint and he thinks it’s a good idea to make him recall the most traumatic memories. Isn’t that like adding fuel too the fire?

  7. I love the ambiguous nature of the aliens here, just as it is in real life 😛

    Also, I’m guessing the Syndicate/Shadow Gubment didn’t take the implants before Scully got her hands on it because CSM planted them in Barry in the first place. Otherwise that’s a bit sloppy. And at first I thought the information Mulder was told about Barry’s implants being there was for dis-information/misdirection purposes.

  8. I mean right at the end of the episode when the woman confirms it. I thought that was a lie at first.

  9. I will never forget watching this for the first time years ago, and the horror of the metallic fragment causing the scanner to go haywire. So spooky! A great effect, and fits perfectly in to the myth-arc!

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