D.P.O. 3×3: No, man, not the cows again.


Thor: The Prequel.

“D.P.O.” marks the first in a series of episodes revolving around adolescent turmoil that continues all the way to Season 9’s “Lord of the Flies” (9×6). Is something so pedestrian as teenage angst the right choice after the mythology has whipped The X-Files’ audience into a fan frenzy?

Personally, I’m not averse to it. With this episode the series slips right back into the status quo, only taking a brief moment from the mouth of Scully to acknowledge the events immediately preceding it. That might irk some and I can understand why it’s hard to accept it when the adrenaline stops pumping. But unlike later shows like Lost, The X-Files never intended for the mythology to evolve every episode but gives us breaks in between; not to mention there are several different genres contained within one series here and the episodes fluctuate between types. I admit I’m biased because I love Monster of the Week episodes and while this one may not be as memorable as earlier ones such as “The Host” (2×2) I do find it’s surprisingly good at times.

For that, I have to give credit mostly to guest stars Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black, both of whom play younger versions of the types of roles they’ll later become famous for. Ribisi gives us a frighteningly convincing Darren Oswald, a brooding loser seemingly passed over by a life he was never interested in living in the first place. Jack Black is, well, Jack Black. Here they call him “Zero” but that’s merely a formality. Thankfully, he gives us a hint of his dramatic capabilities and, even more thankfully, he doesn’t sing. Actually, my favorite scene in the episode is Zero’s death scene which is surprisingly tragic. I actually pity the anti-freeze addled adolescent as he begs for his life in a voice edged with real panic.

Not that Darren cared. Darren didn’t care about anything or anyone besides the object of his obsession, Mrs. Kiveat. In fact, he’s so disconnected from reality that he doesn’t evoke the sympathy that underdogs typically do. He’s greasy and gross and one look at him almost compels you to snub him. One gets the feeling that before lightning transformed him into something out of X-Men, he got his kicks through porn and cow-tipping. Did it matter to him that Mrs. Kiveat was teaching him remedial math? He resents being thought so little of by his mother, but not with any sense of drive to prove her wrong but with the cold knowledge that he could zap her like a fly.

Darren kills just like he’s killing insects, without any more regard. Or maybe, more accurately, he kills as though he were defeating a video game opponent and with just as little expression. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t rank up there will villains like Tooms; he kills for amusement rather than for evil, like a bratty two-year-old who just learned how to annoy the cat.

Consequently, his obsession with Mrs. Kiveat doesn’t hold much emotional punch either. After all, it’s not as though he’s clinging to the one person who gave him hope or some such drivel; she’s hot and he’s coveting his neighbor’s wife and that’s that. The actress who plays Mrs. Kiveat is perfect for the role because she’s lovely enough that you can understand Darren’s teenage obsession but you can also feel her physical revulsion to him and her guilt as a teacher for feeling that kind of repulsion toward a student. She goes with him in the end at least in part to prevent him from being shot, but she goes as a lamb to the slaughter and ultimately can’t go through with it.

And who could blame her? For once, here’s a teenager who isn’t absolved of his guilt by parents being blamed or by casting aspersions on a neglectful society. Darren Oswald was just nasty to begin with and there’s no sense trying to rehabilitate him; his brain is already fried like an egg. The lightning is really a physical manifestation of his rebellion and anger, anger that empowers him and gives him confidence not to take part in society, but to act out his Mortal Kombat fantasies.

So…what?:

This is a very solid episode. Maybe it’s not what most were hoping for during the series’ initial run, but I think that looking back, without the urgency of solving the mystery of the mythology, it can be appreciated for what it is.

Darren Oswald may not be the most strikingly evil villain, but he’s memorable just the same. He causes destruction because it amuses him, as if he’s channeling every negative teenage impulse along with that lightning. And, really, what would be more frightening than a teenage boy with superhuman powers? A teenage boy who isn’t Clark Kent?

Come to think of it, I wonder if that’s how this started; maybe writer Howard Gordon thought about what would happen if wholesome farm boy Clark Kent were actually a hick pervert with too much boredom on his hands. Antifreeze: The New Kryptonite.

In the end, like a video game, he self-destructs, and it is a little unsatisfying that Mulder and Scully are powerless to stop him. That last shot at the end is one of the most creative final shots the series ever gave us, however, with Darren mindlessly changing channels as Chris Carter’s name pops up on the screen. At this point The X-Files was quickly becoming a phenomenon and it shows. The production value is better and Scully’s suits actually fit her at the waist.

If it wasn’t for the fact that the climax fizzles out so abruptly I’d grade it even higher.

B+

Questions:

Why is EMS about to jump-start a man’s heart when he hasn’t stopped breathing yet?

Comments:

That car in the parking lot should have/would have been taken away long before Mulder and Scully arrived. For a while there the writers had Mulder and Scully on a semi-realistic timeline, but I see that’s over.

Best Quotes:

Scully: I don’t understand.
Sheriff Teller: That’s as clear as glass.

——————-

Scully: Feel free to jump in any time.
Mulder: Why? You were doing just fine.

——————–

Darren Oswald: Why do you want to watch all that stuff anyway? They’re all a bunch of losers.
Mrs Oswald: Cause they’re on TV. I don’t see you on TV.

——————-

Darren Oswald: Hey, you know, I think you ought to be some place else right now. Cause I’m in the mood for a little barbeque.
Bart Liquori: No, man, not the cows again.

——————-

Scully: Here we go. Well, considering it’s a partial imprint, there’s a lot of information here.
Mulder: That’s great, now can you make me a little cherub that squirts water?
Scully: The tread looks like a standard military boot. Men’s… size 8 1/2.
Mulder: 8 1/2? That’s pretty impressive, Scully.
Scully: Well, it says it right here on the bottom.

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14 responses to “D.P.O. 3×3: No, man, not the cows again.

  1. Wow, I never thought of the Superman thing before, nice one Salome.

    I’ve always had a soft spot for this one actually, I think it suffers somewhat because of its placement more than anything, but it’s a good, well made, well told X File with a great soundtrack to boot. Ring the Bells which is used in the teaser is brilliant and I just adore how confident the show is that it feels it can get away with the Chris Carter credit at the end.

  2. I won’t disagree with anything you said (and I like the defunct Superman angle–it’s an interesting thought!), but this ep will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s the first one I ever saw, and it’s the one that hooked me. It’s not my favorite ep, but it’s definitely got sentimental value. For sheer nostalgia, I give it an A!

  3. In a way the scene where Zero dies and the quarters are spread around his body reminds me of Judas and the 30 “silver pennies” (or whatever it’s called in English), after all Darren believed Zero betrayed him to the FBI. Don’t think this was intentional by the writers though.

  4. I’m pretty sure that this is the first episode I ever saw, back when FX played reruns late at night. I can’t think of any other reason why I would have such a soft spot for it, because it’s not amazing or anything, yet I find myself sighing and thinking, “Memoriiiiees.”

    I was also quite amused to re-watch this and realize who Zero was. Oh hi, Jack Black.

  5. Thank you for noticing the Scully suit fit. I feel like cheering “hallelujah” haha. I feel like this was the obligatory non sequitor episode to lighten things up, and I actually enjoyed it very much.

  6. re-watching this ep, i particularly enjoyed the scene at the beginning after scully performs the autopsy. the local sherriff is supporting the coroner’s observation of a pretty obvious lightning strike, and Scully is raising the questions, hinting at something unexplained going on, while Mulder just watches quietly, letting Scully ask all the questions that raise the eyebrows, leading to the ‘feel free to jump in any time’ quote. fun to see Scully quickly considering an alternate cause, rather than staunchly defending the most probable explanation. also… she sure does look cute in a lab coat and pony tail 😉

  7. This is one of my favorite episodes. For some reason, I always connect this one to Radiohead’s song Subterranean Homesick Alien. Especially the lyrics:

    I live in a town
    Where you can’t smell a thing,
    You watch your feet
    For cracks in the pavement.

  8. I remembered liking this episode before, but upon re-watch I found it really hard to engage with. I think the problem for me is Darren – he’s not a “love to hate him” kind of villain, he’s not menacing or disgusting or scary, he’s just sullen and unpleasant. There are some great images in this episode (Zero in the parking lot with the coins spilling around him is iconic) but I found it hard to actually look at this episode whenever M&S weren’t on screen.

  9. In a series known for having amazing opening scenes, the opener of DPO is among the best. It is shot like a full blown Hollywood movie, and the song “Ring the Bells” adds an element found in very very few X files episodes (“Home” and “Ascension” come to mind others). It works REALLY well and I wish Carter & Co would have used it more often. Later in the show, the hardcore song “Hey Man Nice Shot” is used and it adds a whole new dimension that transforms the scene imprints it on the mind. I’m guessing it must be a rights issue, or they probably would have used more commercially available music. In any case, almost every time a song is used, it makes a scene memorable. Who could forget Scully tied up in the trunk of Duane Barry’s car as “Red Right Hand” plays? I personally would have rated it higher than a B, but I understand the thought process behind the grade. I think the opener sets the bar so high that the rest of the show seems to pale in comparison. And maybe another reason I would have given it a higher grade is because Mrs. Kiveat is probably the hottest guest star of any X Files episode. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Scary Monsters 9×12: I want to believe. | Musings of an X-Phile

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