Unrequited 4×16: There goes the neighborhood.


I fold.

If Season 4 was good for anything it was experimentation. Most of it came from the minds of Morgan and Wong who gave us the non-formulaic “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” (4×7) but also the highly unusual teaser in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). In that episode, we open with the end of the story, Mulder standing alone in a field crying, feeling sorry for himself, and reading a poem. It’s not my favorite episode by any stretch, but I always appreciated how striking and memorable that teaser is. It sets up the tone and content of the entire episode very, very quickly.

“Unrequited” tries to experiment with its teaser too, it’s just less successful at it. We open at the climax of the story, but unfortunately the climax isn’t very climactic. And it doesn’t get any better when the episode begins in earnest and we work our way back to that scene chronologically. The sequence drags on to the point where all tension is lost and what’s worse, by then the audience is only watching out of obligation anyway rather than interest, the rest of the episode not living up to the implied “Hey, isn’t this exciting!” message behind the teaser.

Like “Teliko” (4×4), except much more so, this is a political X-File. Oh, there’s an undercurrent of political subtext to the mythology itself, it becoming clear early on that the men behind this show are probably products of the 1970s when Americans progressed from being suspicious of the government to being distinctly jaded. But usually those themes are in the background as implied food for thought. When The X-Files tries to turn undertones into overtones it usually either succeeds marvelously or fails miserably. “Unrequited” is one of the latter.

One of the dangers of this type of episode is finding a really good rationale for why Mulder and Scully are in on a mission like this in the first place. Hunting down militia is not exactly their area of expertise. Which leads me to the next danger: this type of episode has little to do with the paranormal or the frightening. Teager’s ability, which is poorly explored, is almost incidental to the plot. The point isn’t how scary an invisible man would be, it’s how “invisible” our soldiers have become socially and politically. A noble sentiment, but I generally tune in to The X-Files for an adrenaline rush.

Speaking of a lack of adrenaline, or a pulse, it’s official: Marita Covarrubias is useless. They needed to give her a niche, a specialty, some area of government secrets that she had particular access to. Instead Mulder comes to her for a hodgepodge of information of the most superficial sort. Something makes me think that The Powers That Be decided to make Marita Covarrubias the assistant to the Special Representative to the Secretary General of the United Nations because they weren’t exactly sure what role she would play and they thought that having her work for an institution as broad as the United Nations would mean that she could provide Mulder with all kinds of answers. She gives him all kinds of answers all right, but it feels forced and her information is nearly useless. Every time she shows up I get the feeling the writers are trying to remind me she exists, whereas her predecessors, Deep Throat and X, were anticipated and looked for and when they showed up out of the blue it was a gratifying surprise.

Verdict:

For an episode whose scare factor had such an inherently frightening and historically successful motif to fall back on as “The Invisible Man,” this story should have worked much better. Instead, ham-fisted political overtones drag down the pace and the impact that it should have had is lost. Both the message and the story lose their power and nobody wins. The X-Files just isn’t the proper vehicle for this sort of thing. Thankfully, Howard Gordon would go on to write for 24 where politics and action make much better bedfellows. He finally got to put all those ideas to good use.

By way of finding something to put in the plus column, I’d say that at least they took Skinner out of his box so he could play, but while he’s put to practical use his history as a Vietnam veteran only earns a veiled reference at the beginning and a brief mention at the very end of the episode. Yawn and you’ll miss it… and most likely you’re yawning by that point.

If “Kaddish” (4×12) was good but quiet, with this episode the series’ gears are grinding to a halt. The X-Files needs something or someone to shake things up, someone like Max Fenig perhaps?

D

Questions:

How come Mulder and Scully’s eyes never bleed? Teager worked their blind spots often enough.

Mulder calls the circumstances of Teager’s pronounced death “inconclusive.” But dare I say that’s ridiculous? Deaths are regularly declared on nothing more than teeth when bombings and explosions are involved. The marks on Teager’s tooth could have been made in any number of ways.

On that note, the implication is that the Viet Cong staged the scene so that the American government would believe Teager, and the other soldiers, were dead. Which would mean that they planned to take them prisoner and keep it a secret, an odd thing to do in the middle of a war for a soldier of no particular political importance.

Why would Teager agree to work for the men who, while not directly involved, were responsible for leaving him behind in Vietnam? Why would he agree to kill certain Generals, knowing that by doing so he’d be covering up forever what happened to him and men like him? That connection needed much more than a passing mention because to call the situation unlikely would be generous.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Was that for the benefit of the General or have you been able to develop a real strategy?
Skinner: Right now I’m flying by the seat of my pants.
Mulder: You mean there’s no procedure outline for an invisible assassin?

———————–

Skinner: You heard his story, Mulder?
Mulder: Yeah, I found his story compelling personally, but then again, I believe the Warren Commission.

———————–

Mulder: Don’t let them do this.
Skinner: Let it go, Agent Mulder. You did your job.
Mulder: So did Nathaniel Teager.
Skinner: You found the man that you were looking for, but now he’s dead. It’s over.
Mulder: Is that what you believe? Is that what you really believe? They’re not just denying this man’s life, they’re denying his death. And with all due respect, Sir, he could be you.

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10 responses to “Unrequited 4×16: There goes the neighborhood.

  1. I am a little tired of the in media res gimmick, where we open on the final (chronological) part of the story in the teaser. Especially when the teaser was actually kindof boring (“do you have him? where is he? can anyone see him? what’s going on guys? guys?! hey guys I’m Skinner pay attention to me… GUYS?!”). If that’s all this is leading up to, I don’t have a lot of incentive to watch the rest of the show.

    As much as the politics is heavy-handed in the writing, it’s even worse in the cinematography. Skinner’s Emotion Face at the end of the episode, with the flag behind him, was just too much…

    Not a terrible episode, but about as “meh” as X-Files gets. It is ‘better’ in some ways then super-bombs like Teso Dos Bichos, but at least those failed in an entertaining way. Unrequited just leaves me feeling underwhelmed.

    Finally: Holy Crap, Max Fenig; I am so excited.

  2. “Hey guys, I’m Skinner, pay attention to me! ….. GUYS?!?!” LMAO!!! You nailed it here, Tom! And yes, I too am SO excited for Max Fenig! Salome, I have become obsessed with your reviews and reading what you post and the comments are how I spend my lunch hour!!! I can’t tell you my excitement upon seeing each new review!!!! Thanks for giving us this forum for thinking about and discussing such a great show and the phenomenal characters!

    • Hilarious!! Tom might want to TM that. In the end, I think I enjoy the “harder they fall” episodes like Teso Dos Bichos more. This one just bored me to death.

      Thanks, Emily! You guys are the bestest. It wouldn’t be any fun if I had to make snarky comments all by my lonesome.

  3. The biggest crime here I think is the lack of story going on truthfully. Interesting note of trivia folks, this is the shortest episode of The X Files, clocking in at about 40 minutes, yet the teaser is about three of those minutes and effectively features three minutes that are repeated towards the end to little or no effect, so in actuality this is a thirty seven minute episode. With Colony and Tunguska, there was always the suspense and tease of wanting to know how we got to the point of the story where Mulder is in the ice dying, or how Scully ends up in front of Congress, but this is just basic thriller stuff and you can tell where it’s going as soon at the first scene after the title sequence is over. I will say this, the sequence in the Pentagon is really good, I actually started to think the episode was settling down and about to become a classic at that point, but it’s the lone bright spark here. It’s a noble attempt at trying to do an action movie for the week, The X Files meets In The Line Of Fire so to speak, but it’s just not interesting enough in all honesty. Top marks for giving Skinner a big role, and I love Mulder’s last line, it does hit hard it has to be said.

    • It feels short too! And yet, it still feels so long… “Just not interesting enough” I think is the best summary we can give it. The material just wasn’t compelling enough to build an episode around for this type of show.

  4. Maria Coveraablahah is in it for one reason: she’s hot. And i’m fine with that. Ok, ok, I say that partially in jest just to annoy the annoyingly feminine majority here; I honestly do admit her pieces of insight are weaker than her predeccesors. But still, she’s hot..Scully, yo best be jealous!

  5. I have to agree with Farfolomew on this. Marita may not be not much of a use at this point in the show, but i am always delighted when she makes an appearance.
    She’s delicious.

  6. I always, always hated Marita Covarrubias with a passion. The actress with her bad, bad acting, ridiculous overpronunciation of every word in that stupid, supposed to be sultry, but instead affected, tone drove me so nuts, I used to change the channel whenever she was around. Later, she showed up, without the annoying voice, but still crappy acting & portraying yet another one of the most grating characters to ever exist onscreen as Andrea on The Walking Dead (who is a bad ass in the books, but not at all on the show).

  7. Can anyone explain how General Steffan has his back almost completely turned to Teager as Teager raised his pistol, but when Steffan is shown dead on the floor, he has a bullet hole dead center of his forehead? That’s poor continuity by X-Files standards.

  8. Pingback: Season 4, Episode 16 – Unrequited | The X-Files Truth Podcast

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