This is the first of, well, quite a few episodes in Season 6 that strike me as officially stamped productions of fanfic. Brilliant fanfic, mind you, but fanfic nonetheless. And I mean this as the best possible sort of compliment.
If there’s one common complaint about Season 6 is that it’s largely dominated by “X-Files Light” episodes, episodes in the vein of “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and “War of the Coprophages” (3×12) that are more fluff pieces than hardcore Monster of the Week scare fests. These episodes aren’t always necessarily overt comedies, but they purposefully lack depth in an effort to give the audience a break both from mythology angst and MOTW seriousness.
It’s a far cry from the types of episodes that dominated Season 1 and Season 2, but if you look at the direction The X-Files has taken since Season 3 I don’t see much cause for indignant surprise. And considering the show has just come back after the climax of a hit feature film, a little self-conscious indulgence has been well earned. How could The X-Files pretend that it’s not iconic? That Mulder and Scully aren’t beloved stereotypes? If the show didn’t start poking fun at itself on the regular or throw out knowing winks and nods to its bulging audience it would implode in unvaried solemnity.
“Triangle” is one such wink and nod and it’s quite possibly the best of them. The whole adventure feels like a reward, a thank you card if you will, to a long-suffering audience; as if Chris Carter knows that we love these characters and decided to treat us to a fantasy. Like Mulder we’re having a really cool dream where all our favorite people are transplanted into unusual circumstances, but that’s exactly its charm.
This is why I say it feels like fanfic because it’s usually fanfic that fans have to resort to in order to see their favorite characters loosen up or imagine how they’d behave outside of their usual context. Now, this way of consciously acknowledging the audience and of lovingly nudging itself in the ribs can be a trap for any show, especially for one with such a serious and dramatic premise as The X-Files. But “Triangle” is so well done that I think we can ignore those fears for now and just enjoy the gift.
I can’t get over how gorgeous this episode is, it is absolutely lush. The colors saturate the screen. When I think of how far The X-Files’ production quality… and budget… has evolved from Season 1, I shake my head in amazement.
“Triangle” was shot in a series of especially long takes, which gives it a very fluid, very urgent feel. It forced the Carter & Crew to use some creative staging in order to avoid revealing production details that are normally disguised by cuts, and also to disguise the cuts themselves with creative editing. Visually, I adore this method as I love those moments where the camera conveniently looks away to avoid revealing trade secrets and I particularly I love the smoothness of the camera movement throughout.
But my favorite aspect of this episode has nothing to do with technique. My favorite part of this episode is Scully. In fact, this is my favorite episode of all for Scully’s character. Why? Because she’s so much fun! And how often does Scully get to be fun? You know I love her, but our girl is generally a stick-in-the-mud. Every so often she’s allowed to crack a joke or suppress a smirk and if we’re really lucky, she’ll tell off a madman or two in that impressively authoritative voice of hers.
What a joy it must have been for Gillian Anderson to play a different sort of Scully. Not that she’s out of character here, but how often does Scully get to show us such a huge range of facial expressions in one episode? How often is she flustered? Or angry? On top of that, 1939 Scully is Rosie the Riveter rather than a medical doctor which means she’s allowed to be even more feisty. My favorite part is the entire second act where we follow Scully up and down the halls of the F.B.I. as she tries, yet again, to save her incurably foolish partner.
And, of course, she’s ultimately successful both in the past and present. Scully saves Mulder, literally, in the past and in the present she saves him metaphorically because of the same reason: she believes him. Scully has to believe Mulder; the woman can’t help herself, it’s a compulsion. Whether in an alternate universe, alternate dimension or alternate time stream, it’s in her job description and on her business card: Mulder Believer.
That’s the ultimate beauty of this episode and the reward that I think Chris Carter was trying to give fans, validation of their belief in the Mulder/Scully partnership that at this point beats as the heart of the series. There’s a certain amount of destiny involved in all of Mulder’s relationships as presented because Mulder can’t avoid the people in his life, good or bad but they follow him even in unconsciousness. But when it comes to Scully in particular, her belief in him is instinctive rather than rational which again lends itself to the idea that these are two people with a God-given understanding of each other that was foreordained. This mystery of the unexplained is probably unsolvable, but it’s also worth more than all the other truth Mulder so stubbornly seeks and it’s nice to know he finally realizes that too.
And the Verdict is…
It would have been too much to expect that Chris Carter would allow his characters to kiss at this stage of the game, and I can’t blame him for refusing to indulge his needy audience (of which I was one) quite that far. But I’ll take a kiss between Mulder and “Scully” in shadow any day. The truth is that I’m glad the kiss happens mostly in the dark because I love that romantic air of mystery and I’m even gladder that Mulder and Scully didn’t become a television couple yet. Else what would I have had to look forward to? Besides, Mulder kissed her like a man who had thought long and hard about doing this before. That’s more than enough for me. And with a love confession on top of it? I remember nearly collapsing in shock and joy – I do believe there was screaming.
So does any of what we see on the 1939 version of the Queen Anne actually happen? The split screen moment between the two Scullys and Mulder’s ginger touch to his cheek would certainly have us believe so. Though the references to The Wizard of Oz sprinkled all through the episode and the fact that we see our hero conked out at the beginning would indicate that this is all a very realistic fantasy inside Mulder’s head, or maybe a world that is real but is only real because he created it.
I don’t care, really. I just want this episode to come out in HD so that my life can be complete.
P.S. You know she punched him because she enjoyed that kiss a little too much, right?
Mark Snow’s score is like another character in this episode.
For that matter, so is the camera.
I hadn’t noticed before that the guy who plays Thor’s Hammer in 1939 is the same Agent who overhears part of Scully’s conversation with the Lone Gunmen in 1998.
I can’t figure out how Kersh’s character winds up in the bowels of the ship in 1939. How does that represent his position in Mulder’s life? Well, I suppose no one would have believed he was a Nazi…
I have ransacked my brain and I can only think of two episodes where Scully ever wears a dress, this one and “En Ami” (7×15).
Agent Fowley is absent from this whole play. Interesting. Perhaps that brewing love triangle would have distracted too much from the action. I tend to think so.
I had hoped that Chris Carter’s experimental episodes, you know, the ones he helmed from beginning to end, would be a once-a-year occurrence, but alas. We get a similarly experimental if not quite as ambitious episode later in the season in “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas” (6×8) but the next time Chris Carter gives us a distinctly “Chris Carteresque” episode will be Season 9’s “Improbable” (9×14), so you might want to unbuckle your seatbelt for that wait.
No Germans were harmed in the making of this episode.
Mulder: Well, you… you can relax. There’s no war going on. The world is at peace. There’s a little trouble over at our White House, but that’ll blow over… so to speak.
Scully: I want you to do me a favor. It’s not negotiable. Either you do it or I kill you, you understand?
Spender: You okay, Agent Scully?
Scully: No. I’m not. I’m a gun ready to go off so don’t test me, Spender. Don’t even think about trying to weasel me.
Kersh’s Secretary: I was sent to come get you.
Scully: Yeah, I was waiting for Agent Spender, he was, uh… I’m supposed to pick up a delivery from him.
Kersh’s Secretary: Agent Spender is with Assistant Director Kersh.
Scully: That rat bastard!
Mulder: Hey, Scully.
Mulder: I love you.
Scully: Oh, brother.