First of all, that opening monologue from the exterminator about the wonders of cockroaches is more satisfying than any purple prose ridden voiceover Mulder or Scully ever delivered. Once again writer Darin Morgan plays off of what we’ve come to expect from The X-Files by giving it to us and then flipping it over. But unlike the previous two Darin Morgan penned episodes, I’m not sure the underlying purpose/theme here is so clear.
“Humbug” (2×20) juxtaposed normalcy versus otherness and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) covered fate versus free will. “War of the Coprophages”, while it hints at the fine line between reality and insanity, doesn’t explore the themes so much as it mocks them. Since we can’t be sure of what happened, it’s hard to condemn the people of Massachusetts for panicking when they very well may have had reason to. Overall, I’d have to concede that this episode isn’t quite as successful as his other ones. But it’s still incredibly fun.
The whole episode is an exercise in glorious repetition. Mulder seeks Scully out for her insight, Mulder hangs up on Scully. Mulder comes upon another body that was attacked by cockroaches, Scully comes up with another reasonable explanation. Mulder quotes Planet of the Apes… Bambi quotes Planet of the Apes. Not only that, as I said earlier, Morgan deftly plays with X-Files stereotypes. Mulder’s always ditching Scully and leaving her hanging, well, here it’s an almost compulsive ritual. And no matter how absurd and inexplicable the death Mulder stumbles upon, Scully comes up with an even more random and infinitely more plausible explanation.
So now for the oft discussed question: Is Scully jealous? To which I answer: It’s there, ever so slightly. It’s all in the way Scully says “She?” when she finds out Dr. Berenbaum is a woman. Dana Scully, M.D. surely wasn’t surprised at the idea that a scientist could be a woman. No, never that. Instead I think there was a sudden realization of what Mulder was actually up to while she slept restlessly with her phone on her pillow. Not that there’s anything to go overboard about. Any woman would be annoyed by that. And when Mulder asks to confess something to Scully, something both she and we as the audience suspect is going to be sexual in nature, she looks worried she’s about to be grossed out. She doesn’t look jealous, sad or angry. As for Mulder, once again, he’s flirting with another woman while confessing his fears and insecurities to Scully. It’s sort of like “Fire” (1×11) all over again. Poor Mulder. Like his relationship with Phoebe Green, he should’ve known it would never work; she’s not haunted, abandoned or misunderstood. With the exception of Scully, he doesn’t have an easy time connecting with well-adjusted women.
Not that I’m on his side. I myself want to kill him for leaving Scully hanging in a state of near panic but I’m so busy laughing that I can’t stay mad. She’s thinking he’s been attacked by killer cockroaches and meanwhile he’s macking on an entomologist named Bambi. I’d say you can’t make this stuff up but Darin Morgan apparently can.
If this episode has a weakness it’s the lack of resolution. I know that’s one of The X-Files’ signature moves, but here we finish watching completely unsure whether the events even really happened. There are too many cockroach swarms for it all to be a coincidence, yet all the deaths have normal explanations. More importantly, where did the metal insects come from, why did they converge on this town and what made them leave? Who created these mechanical marvels? In the end, the unanswered questions are no big deal because it’s such a jolly ride.
It’s fun to see how Scully spends her evenings for one thing. She cleans her gun, eats dinner while watching the news, gives Queequeg a bath, reads a little Truman Capote and eats a tub of ice cream by herself. It’s so hilariously domestic considering she spends her working hours chasing flukemen and such. Scully had a few off episodes not too long ago, “Oubliette” (3×8) comes to mind. But between this and “Revelations” (3×11), her character is on the fast track to respectability again. Morgan’s version of her is both loveable and feisty. What a relief.
I’ll admit that the last moment between Mulder and Scully still annoys me a bit. He has his nerve. So Mulder loses the girl and Scully rubs his nose in it. But you know what? He deserves it.
The area is in a panic. The townsfolk are raiding the convenience store. There’s a Sailor stocking up on… pantyhose??
Bill Dow AKA Dr. Chuck Burks is back, only this time as Dr. Newton.
Ken Kramer AKA Dr. Berube AKA Dr. Browning is back too, only this time as Dr. Ivanov.
Scully’s vehement defense of the theory of Evolution feels slightly odd coming straight off of “Revelations”.
*Editor’s Note: You know the drill. It’s a Darin Morgan episode. Quotes won’t suffice. Break out your DVDs or pull up Netflix and get started.
Mulder: I think you better get up here.
Scully: What is it?
Mulder: It appears that cockroaches are mortally attacking people.
Scully: I’m not going to ask if you just said what I think you just said because I know it’s what you just said.
Mulder: I see the correlation, but just because I work for the federal government doesn’t mean I’m an expert on cockroaches.
Mulder: Well, that all makes perfect sense, Scully, I don’t like it at all. Did you know that the federal government, under the guise of the department of agriculture, has been conducting secret experiments up here.
Scully: Mulder, you’re not thinking about trespassing on government property again, are you? I know you’ve done it in the past but I don’t think this case warrants…
Mulder: It’s too late. I’m already inside.
Mulder: They’re conducting legitimate experiments. I met an entomologist, a Dr. Berenbaum, who agrees with your theory of an accidental importation of a new cockroach.
Scully: Did he give you any idea of how to catch them?
Mulder: No, but she did tell me everything else there was to know about insects.
Mulder: Yeah, did you know that the ancient Egyptians worshipped the scarab beetle and possibly erected the pyramids to honor them? Which may be giant symbolic dung heaps?
Scully: Did you know the inventor of the flush toilet was named Thomas Crapper?
Mulder: Bambi also has a theory I’ve never come across…
Mulder: Dr. Berenbaum. Anyway her theory is…
Scully: Her name is Bambi?
Mulder: Yeah, both her parents were naturalists. Her theory is that UFOs are actually nocturnal insect swarms passing through electrical air fields.
Scully: Her name is Bambi?
Mulder: Scully, can I confess something to you?
Scully: [Wincing] Yeah, sure, okay…
Mulder: I hate insects.
Scully: You know, lots of people are afraid of insects, Mulder. It’s a natural instinctive…
Mulder: No, no, no. I’m not afraid of them. I hate them. One day, back when I was a kid, I was climbing this tree when I noticed this leaf walking towards me. It took forever for me to realize that it was no leaf.
Scully: A praying mantis?
Mulder: Yeah, I had a praying mantis epiphany and as a result, I screamed. And not, not a girlie scream, but the scream of someone being confronted by some before unknown monster that had no right existing on the same planet I inhabited. Did you ever notice how a praying mantis’ head resembles an alien’s head? The mysteries of the natural world were revealed to me that day but instead of being astounded I was repulsed.
Scully: Mulder… are you sure it wasn’t a girlie scream?
Dr. Ivanov: Anyone who thinks alien visitation will come not in the form of robots but of living beings with big eyes and grey skin has been brainwashed by too much science fiction.
Mulder: Scully, if an alien civilization were technologically advanced enough to build and send artificially intelligent robotic probes to the farthest reaches of space, might they not have also been able to perfect the extraction of methane fuel from manure? An abundant and replenishing energy source on a planet filled with dung-producing creatures?
Scully: Mulder, I think you’ve been in this town too long.
Scully: Let me guess… Bambi.
Dr. Berenbaum: Fox told me to wait out here while he checked inside first.
Scully: [Mouths] Fox.
Dr. Berenbaum: Should I come along with you?
Scully: [Loads gun] No. This is no place for an entomologist.