Tag Archives: 2Shy

Leonard Betts 4×14: I think I got the toy surprise.


"Did I mention that Mr. Betts had no head?"

This is what I’ve been longing for the past seven episodes or so now, a formidable MOTW horror tale.

Not that the main plot here is something we haven’t heard before: A genetic mutant comes along whose strange evolution requires that he kill/feed off of other human beings. Leonard Betts is the most recent in a long line of Mutant Monsters going all the way back to Eugene Victor Tooms in “Squeeze” (1×2). “Leonard Betts” has two main differences from your garden variety Mutant tale, however.

First, we have a mutant that kills only reluctantly. He certainly doesn’t enjoy his position in the food chain the way that Tooms or even Virgil Incanto does in “2Shy” (3×6). This adds a certain pathos to the proceedings. Second, and most importantly, this episode reopens a mythology plot line that had been all but forgotten and reintroduces it in the most memorable way possible.

To Leonard Betts’ credit, he’s a gentle man, who apart from a Darwinian mandate would rather save people than hurt them, choosing to survive on discarded cancers until circumstances force him into a corner. But I wonder, would his behavior be excused if, say, he was a starving man who killed someone for their food? Does needing something give you the moral clearance to take it? To be sure, Betts apologizes before a kill. But the fact is he’s hardly a self-sacrificing man even if he is the most compassionate of the “Genetic Mutant” Monsters of the Week. He could, of course, choose to die rather than become a serial killer. But I guess death is less frightening when it’s someone else’s.

As interesting of a character as Betts is, he’s more of a means to an end in this episode. The writers needed a circumstance they could use to bring our minds back to this:

Scully: I went to go see those MUFON members to find out about that woman, Betsy Hagopian.
Mulder: And what did you find?
Scully: I found out that she’s dying, along with a lot of other women who claim to be dying too. All of them who say that they’ve had these implanted in them. It’s the same thing that I had removed from my own neck.
Mulder: But you’re fine aren’t you, Scully?
Scully: Am I? I don’t know, Mulder. They said that they know me, that they’ve seen me before. It was freaky! They know things about me, about my disappearance.
Mulder: That is disturbing. But I don’t think you should freak out until we find out what this thing is.

This moment in “Nisei” (3×9) was the last word we had on the potential connection between Scully’s abduction and cancer. As far as we know, she never delved any deeper into the mystery of what happened to those MUFON women. Now, suddenly, and with one of the most memorable lines ever delivered on The X-Files, Scully is forced to remember.

“I’m sorry, but you’ve got something I need.”

The look of realization on Scully’s face is beyond memorable. Not only does she know exactly what he’s talking about, but it’s clear that despite all her protestations to Mulder, she believes in what Leonard Betts is whether science can explain him or not.

And as if that shocking moment weren’t enough, we launch immediately into Scully’s first ever real fight scene. Scully kicks butt and she does it in heels. It’s almost enough to bring a fangirl tear to my eye.

I could keep going but I won’t because I’ll just end up gushing over every funny and memorable moment in this episode, of which there are legion. This is one of those episodes, like “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) that are hard to watch without a blissfully empty head and a smile on my face. It’s just great television.

Conclusion:

This episode is definitely one of the highlights of Season 4, if not one of the series’ all time best. It’s the first in a long line of memorable episodes penned by the trio of Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz. The “John Gilnitz” crew will continue to create some formidable X-Files together.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Spotnitz was probably responsible for this episode’s mythology elements, Shiban for the science and Gilligan for the characterization and physical writing. But, hey, with magic like this I don’t care who did what, I’m just glad they kept going.

“Leonard Betts” was famously aired out of production schedule in order to be shown after the Super Bowl. Whatever the consequences this had on the story that would come next, can you blame them? I can hardly think of an episode that’s more quintessentially The X-Files. This is what the show does best; an inkling of scientific truth, gross imagery, gorgeous shots and dark humor. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

I wonder if Scully ever told Mulder what really happened. Doubtful. As then she’d have to admit that she believed in what Leonard Betts was. Maybe she’s not such a die-hard skeptic deep down. After all, she couldn’t cut into that head now could she?

A+

Random Thoughts:

Something about Elaine Tanner’s slavish devotion to her son has echoes of Mrs. Peacock in “Home” (4×3).

Are we sure Betts is dead? Are we supposed to assume that Scully killed him while he was too weak to regenerate?

Did Betts really have to start killing? Couldn’t he have gone a ways down the road to where no one knew him and snuck a few more brown bag lunches of cancer out of a hospital’s disposal system?

For that matter, if you were going to regenerate and live under an assumed name, wouldn’t common sense tell you to move far away from the people you knew before? So your mother’s sick. Move her too.

I know I said I wouldn’t gush over every single lovely moment, but that scene where Mulder and Scully go digging through bio-waste never quite gets old.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Let’s get a slice to go.

———————–

Mulder: Chuck, would you believe that this man’s head had been decapitated?
Dr Burks: [Laughs] Oh, come on. No way.
Mulder: Way.

———————–

Mulder: [Holds up Betts’ detached thumb] Siskel or Ebert?

———————–

Scully: But what you’re describing is someone so radically evolved that you wouldn’t even call him human.
Mulder: On the other hand, how evolved can a man be who drives a Dodge Dart?

———————–

Mulder: What did your examination uncover?
Scully: I haven’t actually performed an examination yet.
Mulder: Why not?
Scully: Well, because I… experienced an unusual degree of post-mortem galvanic response.
Mulder: The head moved
Scully: It blinked at me… I mean, I know exactly what it is. It’s residual electrical activity stored chemically in the dead cells.
Mulder: Blinked or winked? You’re afraid to cut into it. Scully, you’re not saying that it’s alive are you?
Scully: I am certainly not saying that at all.
Mulder: But has it crossed your mind that it is not quite dead, either?

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Teliko 4×4: Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate.


There's a Michael Jackson joke in here somewhere...

Airplane bathrooms are scary enough without a Monster of the Week attacking you.

Unfortunately, this is the scariest moment “Teliko” has to offer. Once the “monster” reveals himself, it’s downhill from there.

I’ve mentioned before in “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) and in “Hell Money” (3×19), that so-called “ethnic” legends often don’t translate well to a mainstream American audience. (I can’t really speak for the response of other countries). The problem is that the viewer has to be convinced that they should be scared in the first place; there’s no built-in point of reference as there is for say, the bogeyman that hides under your bed. The advantage an overused conceit such as The Wolfman has over The Teliko is that the audience already knows what they’re scared of and why, all the writers have to do is take advantage of their anticipation and manipulate their adrenaline. The Teliko, in comparison, is such a vague notion that it takes getting used to before you can inch your way over to being afraid of it.

All that could be overcome, however, if the monster at hand were actually frightening. In this instance, the sad fact is that he has a few things standing in his way. A few… or maybe two.

Two main problems:

  1. Samuel Aboa isn’t scary.
  2. “White Face”

In short, the X-File itself sucks.

On the problem of our villain, Samuel Aboa, is awkwardness, something the other characters don’t seem to notice, forcibly reminds me of Eugene Victor Tooms. Only he’s traded a willfully idealistic psychologist for the naïveté of an immigration counselor. Again, the benefactor only exists to be the ultimate victim. Not to mention, both monsters can squeeze themselves into small, dark places.

Alas, The X-Files keeps trying to repeat the success of “Squeeze” (1×2). “2Shy” (3×6), while it had it’s faults and in some ways wasn’t as good of an episode of television, is oddly more successful. The “Tooms Quotient” usually means that the Monster of the Week is more or less a man, an evolutionary mutant that has to kill to survive; invariably there’s something he’s… missing. We’ll see it again later on; Season 4 is kind of a 2-for-1 package deal. The motif starts to slow down after Season 5.

But enough about that. Back to Samuel. He’s just not convincing. Tooms radiates evil. Virgil Incanto in “2Shy” is sadistic and cruel. But Samuel Aboa? He’s blank. His whole set up just isn’t effective. Not to mention, if he needs melanin to survive, he very well should have kept his butt in Africa. Surely he was aware of the fact that blacks are a minority in the U.S.; picking off a small population was bound to draw attention, for all Mulder cries conspiracy.

All that being said, I could have gotten over Samuel’s generic attitude if his crimes had been sinister enough. What could undermine something as evil as paralyzing someone and then picking through their brains as they look on helplessly? “White Face.” Sigh.

Black men covered in baby powder do not albinos make. Or is it chalk? Either way, Scully’s comment, “I’m sorry, I thought you said that Owen Sanders was black”, is an eye-roll inducer. The body in the photo, the body before and all the bodies thereafter, are so obviously black that to allow for the premise that these men were unrecognizable requires a suspension of disbelief that I apparently do not possess.

Verdict:

With the exception of the actual X-File itself, this would be a solid episode. “Home” (4×3) was a welcome departure but this has all the hallmarks of a happy return home to the normal routine. It should be comfort food, and at moments it is, but ultimately, it’s like finding out your mac and cheese is soggy. The idea behind it is tried and true, but it’s not so compelling this reheat.

It’s not quite the bomb that I remembered, however. It’s nice to see Scully called in for her expertise instead of Mulder. And something about that first scene as we watch her walk into Skinner’s office makes me smile. I’m home.

Oh, and this episode contains my favorite Agent Pendrell scene of all.

I want to love it, and my estimation of its charms has improved, but it still could have been better. I’m not so sure this one deserved the honor of a changed tagline. In fact, it didn’t.

C+

Questions:

Mulder just happens to stumble upon the right construction site because of the asbestos clue? How many construction sites are there in Philadelphia I wonder?

Why is Mulder the only victim that can move his eyes?

What is this alien among us crap? What does that have to do with this story? The CDC seemed to be genuinely trying to help. The Minister tries to hide what happened in hopes that it would disappear, not out of any sinister motive. It’s like writer Howard Gordon was trying to turn this into a message on race relations, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how race actually plays a role outside of the melanin issue.

Comments:

I’m not sure what Marita Covarrubias is doing here except to remind the audience that she exists and is supposed to be important.

Mulder is at least aware of Pendrell’s feelings. What about Scully?

Ah, a welcome return to the field journal.

It’s a good thing they were near an opening in that vent. Mulder is twice Scully’s size. Modern woman or no, there’s no way she could have carried him.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: There’s a Michael Jackson joke in here somewhere but I can’t quite find it.

———————

Mulder: Scully, has it occurred to you that this might just be a little PR exercise?
Scully: I’m sorry?
Mulder: To divert attention from the fact that young black men are dying and nobody seems to be able to bring in a suspect. The perception being that nobody cares.
Scully: Mulder, not everything is a labyrinth of dark conspiracy and not everybody is plotting to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate.

———————

Agent Pendrell: Shouldn’t we wait for Agent Scully? I just don’t want to have to repeat myself.
Mulder: She’s not coming.
Agent Pendrell: Why not?
Mulder: She had a date.
Agent Pendrell: [Looks dejected]
Mulder: Breathe, Pendrell! She’s with a dead man. She’s doing an autopsy.

———————

Scully: Where are you going, Mulder?
Mulder: Off to water the seeds of doubt. Bye bye.

———————

Scully: Mulder, even if you’re right, I mean especially if you’re right, why would he leave his own country to come here?
Mulder: Free cable.

Season 3 Wrap Up: Are you sure it wasn’t a girly scream?


On the Big Picture Front

Season 3 is a perennial fan favorite, for obvious reasons. It’s during this era that The X-Files went from a cult hit to a primetime sensation. Far from being a specific genre show, it proved it was capable of changing styles from week to week and still maintain consistency and continuity. One week Mulder and Scully are on the brink of discovering alien life, and the next they’re being overrun by mutant cockroaches. Season 3 is at turns a sci-fi show, a psychological drama, a comedy and a parody.

And more than anything else, it’s the Season of Darin Morgan. Sure he debuted back in Season 2 as the writer of the landmark “Humbug” (2×20) and even earlier than that he provided the story for “Blood” (2×3) and even donned a body suit to play The Flukeman in “The Host” (2×2). But three out of the four episodes he officially wrote for the series aired in Season 3. That’s not even counting his uncredited contributions to episodes like “Revelations” (3×11) and “Quagmire” (3×22), two episodes that delve deeply into the psychological background of Mulder and Scully, laying the basis for years to come for other writers who would take their characters even further.

His presence on the staff actually transformed the show into something that was pliable and therefore viable. How long would The X-Files have lasted if things had stayed as serious as they did in Season 1 and most of Season 2? I daresay there’s an audience for that, myself included, but Darin Morgan introduced an era where The X-Files could lovingly poke fun at itself; this meant that the audience didn’t have to. After all, if you bring up your faults before anyone else can, it serves as a first level of defense. “Fox Mulder is off his rocker, you say? We already know. We called him on it ourselves and beat you to it.” Once that’s out of the way, everyone can sit back and enjoy without their being an elephant in the room.

Self-parody is also a sign of success. “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20) could never have happened in Seasons 1 or 2. The X-Files wasn’t set it its ways enough to exaggerate its own image. The audience could laugh at Mulder and Scully being ridiculous because they already take them seriously. And even though it’s not one of my favorites, this is a turning point in the show because from here on out, anything was game. Starting in Season 3, you can see how later episodes like “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6) would evolve from this series. The writers could stretch The X-Files and it wouldn’t break.

On the Relationship Front

If you’ve been reading and watching along, you’ve probably already guessed what I’m going to say. I’m no sentimentalist, but the tension that was written into Mulder and Scully’s relationship for much of this season isn’t exactly my bag. It’s true that they couldn’t go on in the hyper-idealized way that they were in Season 2, where the other could almost do no wrong. And it’s also true that a certain amount of tension and drama creates interest, and I’m all for that. But there were moments this season where I wondered why they were even partners at all since they didn’t seem to work well together. Heck, at moments they were downright antagonistic.

The good side of this is that when Mulder or Scully are divided, it almost invariably means that one or the other is about to benefit from some serious character development. Mulder moves beyond Samantha in “Oubliette” (3×8), even if he doesn’t move beyond the “Samantha Protocol”, and he shows off his criminal profiling genius in “Grotesque” (3×14), a skill that Scully can’t possess at the same emotional and psychological level. For her part, Scully matures in issues of faith in “Revelations”, a spiritual journey you’d think that Mulder would be able to relate to but instead is surprisingly antagonistic toward. And dividing them up for the mythology episodes was a wise decision. More information gets disseminated to the audience for one thing. And for another, Scully begins to develop her own methods of investigation. It’s a nice contrast watching them stumble upon parallel bits of information and come to wildly different conclusions. Neither one of them would get to the truth alone.

But after all that division, the writers reel it back in toward the end of the season and I’m forever grateful. “Pusher” (3×17) and “Wetwired” (2×23) remind us that Mulder and Scully still do have an almost spiritual bond that’s survived the losses and divisions of Season 3. It’s a sweet but brief respite, however. Season 4 will bring Mulder and Scully both closer and further apart than ever before, a rollercoaster I’m currently bracing myself for emotionally.

On the Whole

Season 3 is arguably when The X-Files hit its peak. Looking back, I’d say that it is… but it’s not when The X-Files hit its prime, a point of semantics that I’ll get into much later.

I say this is its peak because at this point, the mythology still feels as though it’s heading somewhere, that the answers we’re waiting for are just around the corner. Anticipation is at its highest point, I believe. Will Mulder lose his mother and soon be the only Mulder left? Will Scully be able to face the details of her abduction? Will they get to the bottom of this Smallpox vaccination drama? Stay tuned.

On the New Tip

I’ve decided to start handing out awards this season. So without further ado…

“Most Improved”
Revelations

“Desperately in need of a rewrite”
Syzygy

“Victim of too many desperate rewrites”
Teso Dos Bichos

“The Copycat”
2Shy

“The Sleeper Hit”
Wetwired

“It doesn’t matter how many times I see it I still won’t like it”
Oubliette

So now my question to you, dear reader, is which episode out of the Darin Morgan era is the one that speaks to you the most?  Is one the best but you hate it? Is one the worst but you love it? And if you have any awards of your own to hand out, please do so below!

Hell Money 3×19: I’m more haunted by the size of my mortgage payment.


Boo.

I mentioned in the last episode the fact that The X-Files had nary a success with stories that relied on an ethnic/cultural myth. There will be others that fail similarly, “Teliko” (4×4) and “Alpha” (6×16) come to mind, but none is a better example than “Hell Money”. The reason is that “Hell Money” takes what would actually be a frightening premise for your typical police procedural and attempts to turn in into an X-File by clouding it in Chinese ghost stories only to present the whole thing to an audience who isn’t actually frightened by Chinese ghost stories.

There’s a cultural disconnect when it comes to the cursed remains of ancestors in “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18) and fake money paid to ward off spirits here in “Hell Money”. Most often, someone who isn’t raised on these myths and legends has a hard time taking them seriously. So not only does the episode first have to educate and explain the significance of the myth, something that already takes away from it’s ability to frighten, but then it has to convince us why we should be scared. That’s a rather discouraging combination.

That’s all too bad because it takes away from an episode that could have worked wonderfully, just probably on a different show. This is one of the few X-Files episodes where absolutely nothing paranormal happens outside of a few anesthesia induced hallucinations. Like “Grotesque” (3×14) earlier in the season, the story is about human evil, except that in “Grotesque” evil possesses a man almost against his will while in “Hell Money” evil takes the form of men consciously preying on the desperate. I don’t have to tell you which picture of evil is more disturbing.

Which is why on a lot of levels this episode does work. Despite the overabundance of exposition there are moments that are frightening, just not in the paranormal sense. Certainly this idea of a lottery where kidneys and eyeballs are at stake is fabulous. (I can’t quite believe I just typed up that sentence.) And the corruption of authority, in this case, police corruption, is never too old a tale. Not to mention if the cruelty and callousness of the game doesn’t grab you there’s the whole burning men alive in the incinerator bit.

The Verdict:

This episode feels like a script from Law & Order was cut and pasted into an X-File with random lines about ghosts thrown in. With the possible exception of a frog crawling out of a corpse, there’s no moment where I say to myself, “This must be an X-File.” Why were Mulder and Scully called in to begin with? There was nothing supernatural/abnormal about the initial murders other than that they were gruesome serial killings so I don’t see why they would have peaked even Mulder’s interest. The ghost symbol wasn’t even known about till Mulder and Scully arrived on the scene.

It’s a good story and a scary story, it just suffers from being presented on the wrong platform and with an unnecessary excess of cultural baggage. I can’t say I don’t enjoy it more than a few other episodes this season.

I also have to give this episode credit for having one of the most horrific endings ever on The X-Files. It’s truly terrifying, more than enough to bump it up a grade.

B

The Comments:

This was writer Jeffrey Vlaming’s second and last episode on the show. His first was “2Shy” (3×6).

That a man being burned alive would be able to write anything at all, let alone anything legible, let alone that his last message would be some vague reference to Chinese lore…

Hsin’s motivations never completely make sense to me. Just from the nature of the game, it’s only a matter of time until you lose something more valuable than a spare kidney. Risk of death aside, if he loses both eyes, for instance, he could end up spending as much on his own care and rehabilitation as he needs for his daughter’s surgery. The same goes for everyone else in the game. But I don’t suppose we’re meant to ruin this whole schtick by imposing logic on it.

You can win a lot more than 2 million dollars in the Powerball and you don’t have to risk life and limb. I’m just sayin’.

I can’t let this episode pass without mentioning the appearances of a young Lucy Liu and a young B.D. Wong. Consider them mentioned.

The Questions:

Does Mulder purposefully skip days between shaves?

Detective Chao bled out all over the place when the “ghosts” kill Johnny Lo in the teaser, that’s why they had to replace the carpet. So why is it that he failed to replace the carpet padding? If you’re going to do it, do it right.

The Best Quotes:

Scully: His name was Johnny Lo. He moved here about six months ago from Canton, still in the INS application process. He was a dishwasher in Chinatown.
Mulder: How many dishes do you have to break before your boss tosses you in an oven?

——————-

Scully: So now we’re chasing ghosts?
Mulder: “Who you gonna call?” Ghosts or ancestral spirits have been central to Chinese spiritual life for centuries.
Scully: So you’re saying the ancestral spirits pushed Johnny Lo into the oven and turned on the gas?
Mulder: Well, it sure would teach him to respect his elders wouldn’t it?

——————–

Scully: Do you know how much the human body is worth, Mulder?
Mulder: Depends on the body.

Grotesque 3×14: You never fit your own profile.


Art Therapy

“Grotesque” is a unique episode and admirably ambitious, yet I can’t help feeling that it takes itself a little too seriously at moments. And that, of course, just makes me want to roll my eyes at the most inappropriate times. I appreciate the plot and the concept and while it’s mostly successful, I feel slightly disengaged when I watch it. It’s sort of Mulder’s answer to the Scully-centered episode “Irresistible” (2×13) where the line between the paranormal and natural human evil is blurred, but this one is psychological rather than emotional. Good, and admirably ambitious, but not great.

Last time we actually saw Mulder care about someone’s negative opinion of him we were still somewhere in Season 1, when the memory of his former glory days at the F.B.I. weren’t far behind him and you could tell that the occasional dig still hit a nerve. Skepticism directed at Mulder’s abilities/sanity is nothing new. “Squeeze” (1×2) and even “Lazarus” (1×14) give us a glimpse at how often there’s sniggering behind his back. But every time we meet one of Mulder’s former colleagues, Jerry in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and Reggie in “Young at Heart” (1×14), they have a healthy respect for Mulder’s capabilities. Heck, later on there will be Diana Fowley, another former partner who, er, recognizes Mulder’s strength. Between what we know of these characters’ relationships with him and his current partnership with Scully, to know Mulder is to love Mulder, or at least to learn to appreciate him despite himself. This is the first time we’ve seen someone who worked alongside Mulder actually dislike him. And it’s the first time in a long time that Mulder has reacted to anyone’s dislike. So what is eating Agent Patterson?

We never really find out why Mulder irritates Patterson so. But I remember having this genius friend in High School who aced Latin even though she spent 99% of every class passing notes with me, when she even came to class that is. Our teacher couldn’t stand her. I suspect something similar is going on with Patterson and Mulder. Either that or he’s the stereotypical 1950’s father who can’t tell his son how proud he is of him but put a few drinks in him and he’ll have no problems telling the rest of the world. I’m leaning towards the former as his venom toward Mulder denotes both admiration and jealousy.

His relationship with Scully in this episode isn’t much better. The further down the rabbit hole he goes the more he consciously shuts her out. Season 3 has seen the writers as a whole putting distance between Mulder and Scully in quite a few episodes. Things were too perfect between them in Season 2 to continue that way; they’d lack depth in the long run. But maybe there’s too much distancing going on now. Too often only one of them has enough of a personal connection to solve a specific case. Whatever happened to them figuring it out together? That hasn’t really occurred since “2Shy” (3×6) or possibly “The Walk” (3×7). Even “Nisei” (3×9) and “731” (3×10) saw them going down different investigative paths and drawing different conclusions. I submit that such a device makes logical sense in mythology episodes where the writers need to disseminate lots of material to the audience, and it allows both Mulder and Scully to grow as characters. But at some moments this season I’m left wondering why they’re even partners when they’re not working together.

I think soon the collective writing club at 1013 Productions comes to realize the Mulder and Scully seesaw is tilting too far in one direction and they start adding weight to the other side for the last half of the season, a development which I’m forever grateful for. It’s not that I don’t agree that Mulder and Scully should have independence, autonomy and interests apart from each other and even apart from the X-Files. That was part of what I enjoyed about “Revelations” (3×11) was that Scully had a supernatural niche all her own. I just miss seeing them work as a team rather than acting as an antagonist of sorts in each other’s individual drama.

The Verdict:

Besides the less than inspirational interpersonal dynamics, my other bone to pick with this episode is that the solution is too clear from the beginning. Only someone from the crime team knew the ins and outs of the murders? Then someone from the crime team committed the murders. And it’s certainly no shock when Patterson, obsessed with finding the killer, turns out to have found his killer’s obsession instead. In fact, we’re expecting it. With the 1980’s/1990’s rise to prominence of Criminal Profiling, the tale of an investigator becoming what he hunts isn’t exactly fresh and new. I couldn’t say for sure, but I don’t believe it was fresh in 1995 either.

I don’t think “freshness” is a concern here regardless. It’s a vehicle to let David Duchovny strut his emotional stuff, which he certainly does a solid job of. This episode is about exploring more of the tragic side of Mulder’s nature and his ability to intuitively understand people, the gift that’s actually a curse. Writer Howard Gordon, even more so when working with partner Alex Gansa, has a propensity toward the solemn and the serious when it comes to giving us X-Files. His previous offerings include “Conduit” (1×3), “Born Again” (1×21) and “Sleepless” (2×4), all episodes with a rather grim sense of loneliness, a theme echoed again here. He also successfully adds poeticism into the mix in “Dod Kalm” (2×19). “Grotesque” reminds me a lot of “Dod Kalm” in tone and theme; both show us a man slowly turning into what he hated and both are continually swathed in blue light.

After all that tepid to cold praise, I do like this episode. It’s a brave departure from the norm. I just wouldn’t turn it on to have a good time.

B

Peanut Gallery:

It’s a little difficult to believe Mulder went that crazy that fast, but then, they only have 43 minutes.

I kinda dig the exploration of insanity vs. demon possession. Which is which and how do we know? Like “Irresistible” before it, we don’t get a straight answer in the end.

Didn’t Mulder already have his tortured soul moment in “Oubliette” (3×8)? Maybe that doesn’t count since this one brought up Samantha and this one has absolutely nothing to do with his sister issues?

Scully’s one moment of glory in this episode, as she cocks her chin in Skinner’s office, is my favorite part.

Best Quotes:

Scully: So you’re not going to tell me when your love affair with Patterson ended?
Mulder: Patterson never liked me.
Scully: I thought you were considered the fair-haired boy when you joined the bureau.
Mulder: Not by Patterson.
Scully: Why not?
Mulder: Didn’t want to get my knees dirty. Couldn’t quite cast myself in the role of the dutiful student.
Scully: You mean you couldn’t worship him.
Mulder: Something like that, yeah.

——————–

Mulder: Patterson had this saying about tracking a killer. If you wanted, uh, to know an artist, you have to look at his art. What he really meant was if you wanted to catch a monster you had to become one yourself.

——————–

Agent Patterson: I have to tell you, I am really disappointed in you.
Mulder: Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint you by not disappointing you.

——————–

Agent Patterson: My advice to you, Scully: Let Mulder do what he has to do. Don’t get in his way and don’t try to hold him back… because you won’t be able to.

——————–

Skinner: Are you worried about him, Agent Scully?
Scully: No, sir.
Skinner: Off the record.
Scully: [Cocks her head]
Skinner: So am I.

2Shy 3×6: Most men don’t know what they’re missing.


Big girls don't cry.

“2Shy” reads like a feminist tract, only one that’s been written by a man… but more on that in a minute.

In the mid-90’s, what with all the relationships being formed over the newly popular internet, the public was a little on edge over the inherent dangers of dalliances with near strangers. So what does that have to do with The X-Files? Well, we all know that this show loves to take relatively mundane fears and ratchet them up a notch or too. But more significantly, The X-Files’ success was largely due to its internet fanbase, a fanbase that is still going strong, hence yours truly. No doubt there were people watching the initial run of this episode while spilling spoilers in a chatroom at the same time. I’m sure it’s no accident that the subject of internet dating was broached, probably in the hopes of scaring the pants off of The X-Files’ internet fans specifically.

Chatrooms can be a scary place because of how easy it is to fall for the virtual without being bogged down by the reality; people become reduced to the words that they type. The thing about words is that they can be so convincing. Truly, that’s what they exist for: to communicate a message, to convince. Because of words we can dupe ourselves into believing we truly know and understand someone we’ve never met. We know nothing about their relationships with others outside of what they tell us, let alone their actions or their manner. Words can’t always be trusted, and what we have here is a Monster of the Week hiding behind love poems.

So back to the beginning; I said this episode is a feminist piece written by a man. I might add, he’s a white American male at that. How would I know? I can read the credits.

But even without the credits it’s patently obvious. There are telltale remarks scattered throughout the script such as:

Roommate: She had kind of a weight problem. But 2Shy didn’t seem to care. It wasn’t about sex with him.

The implication being that if it was about sex, 2Shy wouldn’t have been in the Big and Beautiful chatroom. I don’t think I need to point out the inherent fallacy there.

And then again:

Detective Cross: Her name was Holly MacLean. She’s worked this area for a couple of years now but she wasn’t most Johns’ first pick, if you know what I mean.

Yes, because there are very few Johns in this world with a thing for big girls. Men who frequent crack whores that sell their wares underneath bridges in the dark of night tend to be on the lookout for the trophy wife type. Right.

Okay, so I can’t really knock a man for considering women from a male point of view. What other point of view does he have? It’s just that it would have been nice to see a kindly eye directed toward larger women that didn’t have the glint of pity in its iris.

Overall, writer Jeffrey Vlaming does a good job of depicting various degrees of womanhood. We have the desperately annoying, as depicted in the Monica character. She was so bad I was actually relieved when Incanto killed her. The phrase “He’s just not that into you” comes to mind. Then there’s Ellen, the haltingly insecure. It’s her story that we’re really invited to empathize with. Of course, there are the prostitutes, who are, well, prostitutes.

Finally, there’s the enigmatic Dr. Scully who can still do no wrong. And because it’s hard to elevate women without demeaning mankind, her meager nemesis, poor Detective Cross, isn’t given a single redeeming feature. Somehow, I still like him though. I suspect Scully feels the same way judging from her sympathetic reaction to his death.

So we have a smart woman up against a foolish man and some vulnerable women up against a man with inhuman powers. Add the meta-narrative to Scully’s struggle with the backward Detective Cross and you have something that’s a little ham-fisted with its message at moments. It’s hard to believe a detective out of the 1990’s would be so shocked that a woman could be a medical doctor. What’s next? A black astronaut? Gasp!

Whatever the excuse they had to drum up to showcase it, it was nice to see Scully handle herself with such grace and it’s good to see The X-Files infused with estrogen.

Conclusion:

Please excuse my enthusiastic snarkiness above because I actually quite like this episode. It doesn’t reach the level of “Squeeze” (1×2) and “Tooms” (1×20), a story arc it clearly took its cues from, but we can’t really expect The X-Files to hit that mark every time. Besides, “2Shy” adds its own twist by giving us a villain who doesn’t just kill on animal instinct or even out of a vague aura of evil. Virgil Incanto is cruel. He doesn’t have to romance these women and then break their hearts, but he prefers to kill with poeticism than with brute force; definitely an admirer of his own work. “2Shy” is also more graphic than “Squeeze” which is in keeping with the aesthetic of, well, every season past Season 1. I don’t remember “Tooms” giving us a body with a hole in its middle section either.

There’s no intention to be condescending or potentially offensive. In fact, I think this episode was written in praise of womanhood. Out of the three men of any consequence in this episode, one of them is vile, one is stupid and the other is Mulder. The women, on the other hand, represented by Ellen, empower themselves and eventually take revenge on the not-as-suave-as-he-thinks Mr. Incanto. That’s why Scully is left to confront the villain in the final showdown and why Ellen is the one who gives him his just reward. There can be no complaints here about Mulder riding in as the White Knight to save Scully at the end of the episode. In this one, the women save themselves.

“2Shy” isn’t alone in its sensitivities this season as the male-heavy dream team behind The X-Files shows increased awareness of their largely female audience with more XY chromosome dominated episodes. Read: Scully’s time to shine.

B+

Ridiculata:

Where is Scully’s sarcasm at the idea of a fat-sucking vampire coming from? Didn’t she see “Tooms”??

Holly the loveable prostitute draws the line at kissing. Who is this woman? Julia Roberts?

There’s a whole lot of Canadian being spoken in this episode.

I know Jessie’s blind and all, but that doesn’t give her superpowers. How is it she can smell her mother’s perfume hours after her mother entered the room yet the smell of human flesh dissolving in digestive juices didn’t trigger a reaction?

For all the feminism in this episode, would Scully really have gone alone to a potential killer’s house without back up? A killer who spits out stomach acid by the gallon? That’s not girl power, gentlemen, that’s stupidity.

Why did it take so long to figure out where Detective Cross was? There were only thirty-eight names on the list of potential suspects and the list was divided up between at least the three of them. That equals only about a dozen addresses Cross could have been at.

How could anyone possibly have thought “Virgil Incanto” was his real name? I’m going to start calling myself “Dante Alighieri” to see if it sticks.

Virgil Incanto was never destined to be among the great villains. There’s a minimum requirement of three given names: Eugene Victor Tooms, Donald Addie Pfaster, Robert Patrick Modell. The model often applies in real life too: John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy…

Best Quotes:

Monica: I know what you do, Mr. Incanto.
Incanto: What is it you think that I do?
Monica: All your typing and those packages from publishers in New York… you’re a novelist, right? Or an editor? You see I’m a writer too.
Incanto: What a coincidence. Should you be off writing or something?

——————–

Scully: The skin sample contains no oils or essential fatty acid. Well, Mulder, there are any number of factors which could have caused that result. Where are you going with this?
Mulder: Okay, it’s not yet the finely detailed insanity that you’ve come to expect from me, it’s just a theory. But what if he’s not doing this out of a psychotic impulse, but rather out of some physical hunger? Maybe he needs to replenish this chemical deficiency in order to survive.
Scully: From a dry skin sample you’re concluding what? That he’s some kind of a fat-sucking vampire?

——————–

Scully: Why?
Incanto: When you look at me you see a monster. But I was just feeding hunger.
Scully: You’re more than a monster. You didn’t just feed on their bodies, you fed on their minds.
Incanto: My weakness is no greater than theirs. I gave them what they wanted. They gave me what I needed.
Scully: Not any more.
Incanto: I morti non solo piu soli. The dead are no longer lonely.