Drive 6×2: At this point, I want to see him alive even more than you do.


Space: The Final Frontier

You should know that before I wrote up this review I spent my morning watching a longwinded interview of Vince Gilligan by the Archive of American Television, the joy of which may be found here.

I want to upfront about this because yes, watching this may have slightly elevated my bias, but I want to assure you that this highly favorable and unbalanced accounting of my thoughts has in no way been altered from it’s original intent which was already decidedly favorable and unbalanced. Thank you for understanding.

———————-

 I love this episode, and I may even love it a little bit harder knowing that I’m somewhat alone in my regard for it; someone has to make up the fan slack. All I can say is that between “Drive” and Breaking Bad, when writer Vince Gilligan and actor Bryan Cranston get together good things seem to happen.

True to his unofficial title on The X-Files as the King of Continuity, Gilligan opens on Mulder and Scully this episode by cluing us in to the fact that our two leads are working Domestic Terrorism now. This (belatedly) explains the entire beginning of Fight the Future and why Mulder and Scully were in Dallas searching for a bomb in the first place. Since Mulder and Scully haven’t earned reassignment on the X-Files, they’re still stuck in this department. And, unfortunately for Mulder in particular, most of their work isn’t as exciting as combing federal buildings for bombs. However, why are Mulder and Scully being sent places like Dallas and Iowa? The local field offices can’t handle that? Think of the expense! No wonder our government’s in debt.

Another one of the more clever ideas used in this episode is that not only are Mulder and Scully investigating separately as they sometimes do, but they’re stripped of the crutch of constant communication with each other. Mulder’s cell phone dies a painful death on the highway and Scully is forced to figure out what Mulder is up to from a distance based on vague clues in his behavior. Not only does this highlight the different ways that Mulder and Scully have of getting to the truth, with Mulder intuitively piecing together clues as to how to keep Crump alive and Scully using her science to find the source of the problem, but it also shows just how great a team Mulder and Scully are even apart and how far they’ve come to trust each other that Scully is so easily able to interpret Mulder’s puzzling actions from afar.

I’m also impressed that since the move of the entire production to L.A., the crew at 1013 has been able to keep the interiors dark and the aesthetic of The X-Files intact even though the blinding California sunlight is hard to ignore. There’s also a great, otherworldly scene where Scully and a group of scientists go investigating Crump’s trailer at night, a great way to avoid the issue of glaring sunlight altogether. Between the eerily lit anti-contamination suits and the myriad flashlight beams the trip to the trailer looks like a walk on the moon. And if we have to be in California, they might as well put California to good use which they do by taking us all the way to the Pacific Ocean in that lovely finale to Mulder’s roadtrip with Crump.

All of these things are good things and already more than sufficient for an enjoyable episode, but the real heart and soul of “Drive” is Patrick Crump himself, played by the then relatively unknown Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle wouldn’t premier for over another year).

His character is an odd mix of red neck and patriot and provides an interesting foil to the East Coast ease of Fox Mulder, not that the two men are completely different. In fact, there are times when Mulder doesn’t sound much saner than Crump himself. But when even Fox Mulder rolls his eyes at your conspiracy theories, you know a hard line has been crossed. The unlikable Crump makes for an unlikely character to drive (no pun intended) the story, but he successfully does this for a couple of reasons.

First, despite Crump’s overt racism, you get the feeling that underneath the garbage he’s been taught beats the heart of a true man. Why? Because of his determination to live, and more than that, to live with dignity and without interference from outside forces. It’s not the same desire to survive that we see in the Syndicate, a sort of sinister selfishness. Crump wants to live because it’s his American, scratch that, his human right to do so. Just like it’s his right to let trash spill out of his mouth if he so chooses.

Second, Crump’s philosophies aren’t all that dissimilar to our beloved Mulder’s which creates a chemistry and connection between the two men, despite their overt antagonism, that’s fun to watch. They have a certain mutual understanding and respect by the end of the episode, a bromance, if you will. Despite their obvious differences in lifestyle and opinion, both men have attitude in spades and both men possess a fierce determination to survive and by doing so, stick it to a government that invaded their lives and tore them apart.

Yet, Crump doesn’t seem to get much love on the internet and a guest spot that probably deserves legendary status in retrospect is largely ignored. Could it be that Bryan Cranston does so good a job that some in the audience take his racist rantings seriously? I don’t think that’s the spirit in which it was intended. You’re meant to roll your eyes at his nonsense, not shake your fist.

For me, it’s the strength of character, the determination in this otherwise offensive man that gives him enough recognizable humanity so that I can’t help but sympathize. By the end I’m rooting for him wholeheartedly and the moment when both Mulder and we realize that he’s not going to make it is unexpectedly heartbreaking.

At least Scully bravely standing up to Kersh, who proves in this episode to be just as inflexible and unsympathetic as his expression promises in “The Beginning” (6×1), lightens the emotional load in the final moments of this episode. I can’t wait to see what other plans he has to make Mulder and Scully’s lives miserable.

Verdict:

Would “Drive” make my top 10 list of favorite episodes? Probably not. But that’s not because I can find anything wrong with it. And I absolutely do get a kick out of it, several in fact. From Mulder’s classic impatience in the beginning to Scully’s deliciously gross autopsy and one heck of a guest star, I can’t see where it makes a misstep. Well, except for maybe that hokey newscast it opens with. But that’s easily forgiven, especially as I suspect it was meant to be cheesy.

Both the sense of urgency here and the, well, head-explosions remind me forcefully of “F. Emasculata” (2×22) and that’s a good thing. But I hesitate to call this a Half-Caff episode because while there is a dangerous science involved, the government isn’t seeking to control it but instead may have accidentally and unknowingly unleashed it. The jury is still out as to whether Crump and his wife were unofficial or inadvertent test subjects for the Navy.

Either way, this is an unexpectedly poignant story about citizens losing their dignity at the hands of a government that’s supposed to preserve it.

A

Sugar Beets:

Fun Moment – When Virgil Nokes opens the door for Mulder and Scully only to let it slam back on them.

Am I the only one that gets a kick out of the fact that Mulder says “stoopid” rather than “stupid?”

When Crump first notices his nose bleed a high pitched ringing is cleverly inserted into the score, mimicking Crump’s symptoms for the entire audience. That’s brilliant. Except that I’m surer than ever that tinnitus could drive a person mad.

The scene where Scully calls Mulder when Crump has him at gunpoint and he calmly answers as if nothing’s wrong forcefully reminds me of “Herrenvolk (4×1). But that time it was Scully being held hostage by the Alien Bounty Hunter and Mulder calling her on the phone, oblivious.

Oh, how I begged Scully to stop poking around in that dead woman’s ear.

I’m digging Mulder’s knew haircut. The Elvis look was wearing thin.

There are clear echoes of the movie Speed here, which makes me want to take a trip down pre-adolescent lane and go rewatch it.

How about that needle Scully’s sporting is the stuff of nightmares?

Best Quotes:

Scully: Uh, Virgil Nokes? I’m Agent Scully. This is Agent Mulder. We’re with the F.B.I.
Virgil Nokes: Jehovah’s Witness?
Scully: No, sir, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Mulder: But we do have a free copy of the Watchtower for you, if you’d like.

———————-

Mulder: If you stop moving you die? I think I saw this movie.

———————-

Mulder: Crump? Crump, what else can you tell me about what’s happening to you?
Patrick Crump: Mr. Crump. You call me by my last name, you say Mister in front of it.
Mulder: Mister. I got you.
Patrick Crump: Not Crump. Mr. Crump.
Mulder: I can think of something else I’d like to call you. I could put Mister in front of that too if you’d like.
Patrick Crump: You know, what kind of name is Mulder, anyway? What is that, like… like, Jewish?
Mulder: Excuse me?
Patrick Crump: Jewish. It is, right?
Mulder: It’s Mr. Mulder to you, you peanut-picking bastard.

———————-

Mulder: Well, on behalf of the international Jewish conspiracy I just need to inform you that we’re… almost out of gas.

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25 responses to “Drive 6×2: At this point, I want to see him alive even more than you do.

  1. I love this review, I really do. You are not alone in your regard for it, if anything this is exactly what The Beginning should have been. Great on paper and great on screen. I’d even go one step further than you and say that I even love the fake newscast teaser, showing Gilligan playing with toys he would come back to with full force in X Cops.

    You’re right in your assessment that this should be more celebrated than it is, right down to its pre-fame guest star who on top of appearing in one of television’s best shows right now (shamefully only the first two seasons have only ever been broadcast on British television so I and many others have yet to see seasons three and four) is also appearing in just about every movie being greenlit in Hollywood at the moment.

    PS-When Malcolm in the Middle started, I was oblivious that Malcolm’s very hairy dad appeared in this episode, now that’s the hallmark of a great actor.

    • Oh, Eamon. I’m so sorry. Only the first two seasons?? Well, I guess the good news is that you still have three seasons left to look forward to whereas we Americans just have one.

      P.S. I’m going to try to like X-Cops this time, I swear.

  2. I have always been a fan of this episode for the reasons you list here. It is just so tense and fast and atmospheric. It is one of the great stand-alone epsiodes that manages to tie in with the rest of the series in that the truth of what happened will never be clear but is clearly out there. 😉

  3. Oh, a great moment that deserves a mention is simply Mulder walking away from the car after Mr. Crump meets his end. David Duchovny really did some wonderful acting with very subtle choices.

    • I hadn’t thought about it but you’re right, this is one of those episodes that like the early seasons leaves a lot unsaid and unexplained. And, absolutely, I really feel for Mulder in that moment at the water’s edge. No wonder he snaps at Kersh.

  4. I like this episode a lot more on rewatch than I did the first time around. It definitely delivers on the eerie atmosphere . . . and the first scene where the woman’s ear explodes against the window in the police car is just great. You know something bad is going to happen, and then it’s like BAM, holy crap, where did that come from?

    Also, I don’t remember the dialogue exactly, but I love the scene in the car when Crump tells Mulder to go left, and Mulder’s just like, “Fail, dude. I clearly cannot go left on account of the trees.” His tone is beyond hilarious.

    • That exploding head thing is classic, classic X-Files. I also love the autopsy scene because I know exactly what’s about to happen but I cringe every time Scully goes digging in that woman’s ear anyway.

      I do remember that moment in the car. Mulder argues with Crump like they’re married.

  5. you and the rest of your Jew FBI…

  6. OK… I confess…. There is a certain part of this episode that I rewind over and over again just to hear Mulder utter the phrase “doo-doo”. And, I admit, I giggle like a school girl EVERY. DAMN. TIME!!!!

  7. Can somebody please tell me HOWWWW you can do an autopsy in the dark? This annoys me beyond belief and it isn’t the first time it’s happened on the series. When Scully and the ME look at the wife’s body it’s effing dark in there!!! LORD.

    Anyway. Mulder has some of his best one-liners in this episode. I enjoy disgruntled Mulder. “Well, on behalf of the international Jewish conspiracy I just need to inform you that we’re… almost out of gas.” << I died. LMAO.

    Overall, definitely enjoyed this episode, I think forgot how good this episode was this time around.

  8. I don’t even remember this episode from watching the first time around – but I guess I could say the same for the whole of season 6. We were like two or three seasons behind in South Africa and by the time we got to S6 I had already heard about Mulder’s abduction and the pregnancy and everything and I think I was just far too impatient to get to S7 and 8 that I didn’t really pay attention (boy was I mistaken). Great episode though, and it was wonderful that on my rewatch of the entire series it was like watching it for the first time. Also, agreed, this is one of Mulder’s best hair seasons. Damn.

  9. OK – I know I’m late to this, but I’m hoping against hope that Salome comes back! I just wanted to say that I think I have a theory as to why so many Philes dislike this episode (despite your A rating, other’s votes have given it only 2.5 stars). On first watch, I think I secretly hated almost all of Season 6, and here’s why: This damn show had me shipping so hard by the end of Season 5 – dear God they’re actually going to get together! (I may have repressed all memories of The End at that point in my life) I think part of me knew that they wouldn’t kiss in the movie, but that whole take back thing that Mulder did in The Beginning was too cruel, and too much for my 13/14? year old shipper heart to take. And then this episode came next and I think it set in – no it’s definitely not happening. We’re right back to, Gee-od, Season 3 style platonics.
    I think after this ep, I tried really, really hard to like “the stories” and sure there were “funny” M/S moments through out the season, more so than ever. But the real deep emotional stuff that had built up in season’s 4 & 5 had come and gone – the ship had sailed. And this “compromise” CC seemed to be trying to strike between himself and shippers just wasn’t working for me. I see Season 6 as the tipping point where XF started to go downhill. I also made my exit as a viewer, right along with DD in Season 8 (watched about half the eps, lol). I think it would be very interesting to see what viewers opinions were on the show depending on when they started watching. I started in Season 4 and you started in 5 I believe. Maybe for you, the initial “falling in love stage” hadn’t worn off yet by 6. I, on the other hand, was disappointed.
    That said, I am trying to do my rewatch with an open mind. Maybe because I know that M&S get together, I can focus on the stories for realz. Second time around, I liked Drive.

  10. Hey Salome, you are not alone in your love for this episode. It’s a fantastic thriller, and it’s practically the genesis of “Breaking Bad”!!

  11. Am I the only one here who was reminded of the beginning of the Andromeda Strain when Scully and her band of haz-mat-suited hero’s enter that old woman’s house and find her the only one alive?

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  18. Great episode. Just watched last night for the first time.

    The standout is Cranston of course. His performance is so good and believable. I can see why VG thought of him while casting BB. Probably thought of him from the get go.

    I am not a fan of the LA move after season 5 as I thought the Vancouver climate (rain, cloudiness and cooler weather) was a large part of what made the XF good. As you say in the review, the memorable scenes for me were those at night or darkened indoors (the trailer park search and autopsy).

    Slightly gory and mostly startling effects were fun to watch. I knew something was going to pop on the wife’s head at the start of the show (poor dog) 😦

    The ending was quite sad but perfect imo. It goes to the idea the government is untouchable or unaccountable for the lives it ruins.

    I also was intrigued with the idea that they strayed from the paranormal as succinctly as they did with this episode. Nice change of pace imo.

    Onwards!

    • Vancouver did give the show a natural atmosphere and aesthetic, which is why I’m glad they made the decision to film the revival there!

      But I love this episode. I love this season. So jealous of you right now.

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