Tag Archives: Leonard Betts

Hungry 7×1: I don’t believe in monsters.


The New Atkins Diet

Leave it to Vince Gilligan to give us a mutant with an eating disorder.

I swear, I don’t know how I watched unaware of these patterns back in the day, but this rewatch has gotten to the point where I can think ahead to episodes I haven’t even rewatched yet, the credits of which I’ve never before paid attention to, and successfully match up the writer to the story. Their signatures are that distinctive sometimes and Vince Gilligan is by far the quirkiest of them all. (Love you, Vince.) In “Hungry” he gives us something that The X-Files has been threatening to give us since “Leonard Betts” (4×5): A Monster of the Week episode from the Monster’s point of view.

“Leonard Betts” was the first episode to show us a reluctant mutant, with the camera occasionally choosing to follow the eponymous monster and his story instead of Mulder and Scully. Later on, “Terms of Endearment” (6×6) would half-heartedly attempt to make its audience identify with villain Wayne Weinseider. But the episode’s perspective waffled too much between Wayne’s point of view and, well, everyone else’s. That schizophrenia made it less successful than it could have been. Combine the reluctant killer of “Leonard Betts” with the decisive camera perspective that “Terms of Endearment” was looking for and voila, “Hungry”.

I have to take my proverbial hat off to Chad Donnella of the charming voice crack for being able to carry this episode all on his skinny shoulders as Rob Roberts. That’s a hard enough job when the fill-ins for Mulder and Scully are familiar and beloved characters like Skinner or the Lone Gunmen or even the Cigarette-Smoking Man. “Travelers” (5×15) is largely ignored by fans for daring to replace Mulder with his spiritual progenitor, Arthur Dales. For a stranger and a villain to fully take over the role of protagonist is unprecedented on this show and Donnella does a great job. I wonder if it’s merely a coincidence that he goes on to star in famous X-Files alumns Morgan and Wong’s Final Destination. Hmm.

And I must say, maybe it’s because of Vince Gilligan’s now infamous skill when it comes to characterization, but probably the best thing about this episode is how recognizable Mulder and Scully are even when viewing them from the outside. I get a smug satisfaction from being able to tell what they’re thinking, and successfully surmise what kind of conversations they’ve been having at the coroner’s office based purely on their expressions. If Season 7 has an angle, it’s that it openly celebrates the glorious routine of Mulder and Scully’s partnership. “Hungry” starts that trend in a quiet way by highlighting how by the numbers their investigations have become, and well it should because routine has its own charm.

Speaking of the way we see Mulder and Scully, I’ve never appreciated how frightening it must be to be on the wrong side of them. Mulder especially is more than a little intimidating and the camera highlights that fact. For instance, there’s a great moment in Rob’s apartment building when Mulder and Scully seem to gang up on him from either side of the stairs, one above and one below him. It has the effect of watching two Jack the Rippers slowly advance toward you – there’s no escape. And later on in the scene where Mulder and Scully interrogate Rob Roberts they’re shot from right over Roberts’ shoulder. I don’t know if we’ve ever seen both of them, in the same shot, head on like that before. It’s almost startling to see them so clearly from someone else’s point of view. Usually the audience is more of a fly on the wall, that is if we’re not seeing things clearly from Mulder and/or Scully’s perspective, so this is a fun departure for me.

I quite like this episode, but I can’t seem to love it as much as I do respect its uniqueness. Despite this episode’s best intentions and my best attempts to stay open minded, fifteen minutes into the action and the inevitable always happens. I can’t help it. I miss Mulder and Scully. I said above that Chad Donnella carries this episode well and I meant that but… I still miss them.

Really, The X-Files is just doing what it’s done for the last couple of seasons right after an emotional season premiere – it takes a step back from the Mulder and Scully dynamic, possibly to give the audience a breather. Since Season 5, we usually have to wait a couple of episodes until we get a sort of emotional coda to the events of the premiere. Season 5 it was “Detour” (5×4), Season 6 it was “Triangle” (6×3), and this season it’ll be “Millennium” (7×5). Me, personally, I don’t need a breather. Go ahead and suffocate me with Fangirl emotion.

Still, my viewing of “Hungry” would work out perfectly if not for one thing. Maybe if I could I could fully sympathize with Rob Roberts the way I’m supposed to. Maybe if he had shown enough control not to kill Sylvia, or even if he had struggled with it more, if he had cried right before he killed her instead of looking determined and unapologetic. Maybe then I could have felt bad for him when he died and I could love “Hungry” the way I want to.

Everyone he kills previous to Sylvia is a jerk so I don’t begrudge him those moral lapses. But Sylvia was warm, friendly, and relatively helpless. Outside of the therapist, she’s the only person we see show Rob some genuine kindness. And whereas the therapist is somewhat vapid in her Hallmark Card sweetness, Sylvia is engaging and somewhat vulnerable thanks to that hilarious little snippet she shares about her ex-husband. After that last kill, I agree with Mulder and with Rob himself. He can’t help himself. He has to go.

Verdict:

Ostensibly, this episode’s message is that you can’t be something you’re not. Ostensibly. Rob Roberts is what he is and nothing can change that. This makes Mulder almost villainous in his determination to stop this man who’s only following nature’s orders.

Yet in the end, doesn’t Rob prove that he’s more than merely his biological drive with his dying act, his suicide by cop? Whatever his instincts, his conscience, his humanity is what won out, causing him to prefer death to fighting a losing battle against his impulses. It’s more honorable to die a righteous man than live to be an evil one, right? If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better to enter heaven with one eye than sink down to hell with both.

Rob’s death is ultimately an act of self-control, ironically a character trait he’d been desperately seeking this entire episode. And if we do have sympathy for Rob, it’s for this reason. If he had accepted who he was from the beginning and relished his killer instinct a la Tooms, we wouldn’t be able to identify with him at all. “You can’t fight Bi-o-lo-gy,” he says. But it’s Bi-o-lo-gy he overcomes in the end.

I guess after all he’s his own man, and he controls everything he does.

B+

I’ll Have Fries with That:

I don’t know how it took me so many years to recognize this dude, but this rewatch my subconscious just wouldn’t let go until I Googled. The actor who plays Donald Pankow, the customer service nightmare who’s killed in the teaser, is Chase Hampton formerly of The Party fame. I know I’m not the only one here who was watching The All New Mickey Mouse Club back in the day. MMC like what.

Speaking of the teaser, this is one of my favorite openers of the season. I love that creepy Lucky Boy mascot.

Mulder’s intuition is in overdrive… again. A proboscis? Really?

I know I don’t usually go there, but Scully looks amazing this episode. I’m digging the longer hair after all this time. It makes me feel nostalgic for Season 3 Scully.

Meanwhile, does Scully always look this bored?

Lingering Questions:

Wouldn’t there have been surveillance cameras that captured the entire attack at Lucky Boy’s?

If Mulder knows Rob Roberts is the killer and he knows he kills out of compulsion, why in the heck does he keep putting himself in a position to be alone with him? Has Mulder gotten that cocky? I know he baited Tooms back in “Tooms” (1×20) but that was in public, not it the privacy of the killer’s apartment where he could take you without anyone seeing.

How much blood could Rob Roberts possibly have gotten on that shirt?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: What if this man’s brain was eaten? It’s not sociologically unheard of. There are certain tribes in New Guinea that consider human brains a delicacy.
Scully: Yeah, but Mulder, we’re in Orange County.
Mulder: Yeah, what’s your point?

———————–

Mulder: Oh. Hello. Look at this. Does that look like blood to you?
Scully: Yes, looks like it.
Mulder: What is that? Next to it. Is that, uh… oh my… ugh. Is that brain? Is that brain matter there?
Scully: No, I’d say that’s ground beef.

———————–

Derwood Spinks: Uh, since this is farewell, when nobody was looking… I used to dip my boys in the cole slaw. Bon appetit!

———————–

Rob Roberts: I’m sorry, but this is like good cop… insane cop.

———————–

Rob Roberts: I, I guess it’s the taste I respond to the most, salty and juicy… kind of buttery. The, the texture of it inside of your mouth… You know you, your teeth just sink into it like this juicy cloud, and it tastes so good you don’t, you don’t even want to swallow it. You just want to work it around your taste buds until your eyes roll right back into your head… Anyway, it’s a real problem.

———————–

Sylvia: He said I was too fat to ride in his sports car, that I’d just mess up the springs. So, I sat on the hood and I bounced. And I didn’t stop until the police showed up.

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Terms of Endearment 6×6: Hey, come on, you’re makin’ me feel weird.


Sympathy for the Devil

This is one of those episodes, and it won’t be the last this season, that I’m not really sure how I feel about. The issue isn’t that I don’t enjoy it because I do. It’s that “Terms of Endearment” is somewhat schizophrenic; this episode isn’t sure whether it’s an homage to Hitchcock, a Rosemary’s Baby knockoff, a comedy, a tragedy, or an X-File. It’s also undecided as to whether its protagonist is an F.B.I. agent with an uncanny mind, a demon with an identity crisis, a naïve wife or a diabolical one.

Yes, the point of view changes so often in this episode that rather than what evil the demon villain is up to, the main mystery is which character is actually the protagonist. Whose perspective are we supposed to be seeing the story through? Ultimately, I believe the protagonist is meant to be Wayne Weinsider. In a twist on Rosemary’s Baby, the story is told from the viewpoint of the devil rather than that of the hapless female. However, the references to Hitchcock’s Suspicion, such as the glowing glass of poisoned milk Wayne carries up the stairs to his wife, and consequently the audience’s identification with the wife who doesn’t know if her protector is actually her destroyer, causes some confusion. Throw scenes with Mulder and his uncanny intuition into the mix and it’s hard to hold out for a hero… as there isn’t one. This is almost an ensemble piece.

The main source of confusion, however, lies with the demon character of Wayne Weinsider himself. This is one of the rare X-Files where the guest star is actually the protagonist. Actually, it may even be the first depending on how you think of previous episodes such as “Leonard Betts” (4×14). Yes, it’s a joy to have Bruce Campbell, previously of Hercules, Xena and now Burn Notice fame, on board for an X-Files adventure and as much as lies within him, he does an excellent job with the role. But there’s weakness in the Wayne Weinsider character that has nothing to do with how he’s played.

The way the character is written it’s hard to either hate him or love him. He’s neither an underworld nemesis worthy of an exorcist nor is he a sympathetic soul in his quest for normalcy. He’s doing the unspeakable, killing his own children, and yet he’s so harmless a few mere bullets can incapacitate him. Tell me, what kind of demon is felled by bullets?? They’re not even silver bullets! You just shoot the devil’s minion a couple of times and he goes down? That’s all it takes? Where’s the holy water? Yegads.

It’s inevitable that the devil loses his impact when there’s no God for him to rebel against. Rosemary’s Baby pulls this off, depicting a fight against the king of evil without claiming any standard of good, but it can do that because the claustrophobic nightmare of its heroine, her rape and the ongoing violation of nourishing within her own body a monster not of this world, is enough to convince anyone of the evil of her enemy. Here Mulder is so unimpressed by Wayne Weinsider that he baits him, teases him, and initiates a campaign of harassment against him all without any fear of being pulled into the lake of fire.

I also wonder if the homage to Rosemary’s Baby, the decision to depict Wayne’s true demon identity in a distinctly 1960s style, may have been lost on the audience. Those horns, those rubbery looking hands, they’re hardly the stuff of horror in recent years. The demon that a 1990s audience would nightmarishly conjure up at the food of their beds wouldn’t be so… Harryhausen-esque. The demon baby too, with its claws peeking out over the car seat in a direct reference to the earlier film, I fear isn’t as impactful as it could be. Perhaps this is all too stylized for primetime television. Perhaps the elemental horror of the Rosemary’s Baby storyline keeps the special effects from being perceived as hokey and “Terms of Endearment” doesn’t have that built in fail-safe.

There was a golden opportunity here to turn an insurance salesman into something more nefarious than his job already makes him, but I suppose that wasn’t the point. The point was to have a sympathetic villain. The problem is, since when is the devil sympathetic? How do you make him a well-rounded character? He loses all his power that way. He’s supposed to be the devil, dang it. Turning him into a sentimental family man is laughable. And yet, this isn’t a comedy. Neither is it a horror story despite the brooding gothic manor Wayne resides in. It falls into the nether regions in between – a fate that also awaits first time writer David Amann’s sophomore attempt, “Agua Mala” (6×14).

I say this isn’t a comedy, but I don’t mean to say that it isn’t funny or that the laughs are all unintentional. I enjoy watching David Duchovny and Bruce Campbell play in the same sandbox. And I can’t deny that my 14-year-old self and her best friend giggled for days over Wayne being blindsided by wife number two and the cool factor of her subsequent joy ride. The use of the band Garbage’s music in the soundtrack didn’t hurt either.

And the Verdict is…

Too bad the devil isn’t so easy to identify with. If he had been, this could have been a rousing success. Turning his nefarious plans back on him in a twist ending isn’t quite enough to create sympathy for the devil, though his decision to give life back to his victimized wife comes close. Then again, I would have preferred it if it had been completely, well, devilish. If he had been an unapologetic villain along the lines of Eugene Victor Tooms I could have relished the story more.

But now that I’ve poked my fingers in all of this episode’s open wounds, let me also attest that I do enjoy it and I find most critiques of “Terms of Endearment” to be unduly harsh. This isn’t the first X-Files episode to fall slightly short of its promise and it won’t be the last, that doesn’t mean it’s a dismal failure. By no means is it “Teso Dos Bichos” (3×18).

We have a very talented guest lead, some memorable visuals, funny moments and taboo subject matter – All the makings of an X-File. The disparate elements are here, if only they worked in concert.

B+

Demon Seeds:

How would you prosecute a demon for killing his demon spawn? Is that even a crime?

I realize much has been made about Mulder’s “I’m not a psychologist” comment and it’s hard to defend since Scully introduces Mulder to the audience as an “Oxford-educated psychologist” way back in the “Pilot” (1×79). But though this offhand comment may smack of discontinuity, it doesn’t bother me in the least. I can’t excuse it by claiming that Mulder was being sarcastic since his tone doesn’t bear evidence of that, but does it really matter? Besides, it’s not like he went to graduate school in the field.

How does Betsy know just where to find Mulder and Scully in the middle of the night? If demons read minds, surely Wayne would have better avoided detection… and would have picked up on his wife’s duplicity.

I see you, Mark Snow, throwing in that Gregorian chant.

Maybe Bruce Campbell’s just too funny. It’s hard not to interpret his actions as comic because he’s so naturally hilarious.

Best Quotes:

Deputy Stevens: I know this went right into your caseload but I never imagined you would get here so soon, Agent, uh…
Mulder: Oh, Mulder. Fox Mulder. Though I ask you not to make that known to anybody. The F.B.I. likes to keep our work on these cases very hush-hush. [He holds a shredded report that’s been taped back together]
Deputy Stevens: Sure, of course. But I would like to thank Agent Spender.
Mulder: Oh. No, no, no. I’ll thank him for you because I have to call in my, uh, progress report.

——————–

Mulder: Scully, this is a classic case of demon fetal harvest, what they called in the middle ages “atum nocturnem,” the impregnation of an unwitting woman by a dark lord of the underworld…
Scully: As host for his demon seed.
Mulder: Exactly.
Scully: I saw Rosemary’s Baby on cable the other night, Mulder.

——————–

Mulder: [Carrying out a large container of dietary fiber supplements] Whatever else we find, I know everybody in this house is regular.

Detour 5×4: That’s pretty sophisticated for government issue.


All the boys and girls...

We’re going to skip over the issues of preserving the environment and encroachment upon nature in this episode because, well, they already speak for themselves and we have more important things to attend to. Save the earth later, philosophize about Mulder and Scully now.

From the moment we open on our two leads, this episode is already memorable. After many, many days of angst, the team is back together and they’re both very much alive! There isn’t a dark rain cloud hovering conspicuously over their heads either.

That doesn’t mean they’re not in immediate danger, however. They’re on the road headed toward an F.B.I. team-building seminar and if their destination weren’t bad enough, their companions ensure that this will be the road trip from hell. Seeing Agent Stonecypher and Agent Kinsley together, we realize how lucky we are to have Mulder and Scully.

If I were to compare the humor of this scene in the car where Mulder and Scully exchange conspicuously knowing glances to, say, the hilariously underplayed scene in “EBE” (1×16) where we first meet the Lone Gunmen, or even to the entire episode of “Humbug” (2×20), it’s certainly a little more exaggerated and self-conscious than humor on The X-Files used to be. Not that I’m necessarily complaining, because it is funny and at this point, The X-Files is pretty much at the height of its popularity so if they indulge their audience a little bit by playing up Mulder and Scully’s partnership, so be it. It’s been well earned.

This was the meat and potatoes episode I was craving as an emotional resolution to Scully’s cancer after “Redux II” (5×2). Not only is it classic in every sense of the word, it harkens back to The X-Files’ early era. Think of those rag tag team adventures out in the middle of nowhere that Mulder and Scully used to go on in episodes like “Ice” (1×7) and “Darkness Falls” (1×19). We haven’t had one of those since “Firewalker” (2×9), which is a sad shame when you think about it. Then there’s the blessed fact that there’s a lot of  “Scullay!” and “Mulder!” being bandied about which instantly makes for quality entertainment. And finally, where I was looking for a post-cancer “conversation on the rock” a la “Quagmire” (3×22), we get the now famous “conversation on a log.”

God Bless Frank Spotnitz.

Now, here’s the thing about writer Frank Spotnitz: up until Season 8, he rarely ever (officially) wrote episodes by himself. He was Chris Carter’s right hand man when it came to the mythology, so much praise is due. And he was also a member of the “John Gilnitz” trio along with John Shiban and Vince Gilligan, the three of them together penning some of the most memorable episodes of the series including “Leonard Betts” (4×14) and “Dreamland I/II” (6×4/5). But you’ll notice a trend… he was a team player.

“Detour” is his first solo effort since Season 3’s “731” (3×10) and if you can believe it, setting aside the group venture of “Leonard Betts”, his first Monster of the Week episode since Season 2’s “Our Town” (2×24).

Well, we waited long but we were not disappointed. In some ways, “Detour” resembles “Our Town” in its use of dark humor. Where Scully once nibbled on greasy chicken wings while surrounded by boiled human bones, now she and Mulder team-build by piling up corpses rather than office furniture.

Oh, yes. Such hilarious shenanigans would have been enough. But Spotnitz doesn’t stop there. Instead he delivers one of the most memorable scenes between Mulder and Scully that The X-Files ever graced us with. You all already know where this is going.

Just like the writer was brave enough to stop the story and give Mulder and Scully a few minutes to have at it over nothing for the audience’s sake, I’m about to stop in the middle of this review to post this little conversation in the entirety of its glory… because it deserves it… and because I’m about to discuss it at length.

Prepare to scroll.

Disclaimer: The following is not intended to encourage sleeping bag nakedness in any way. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Scully: You were an Indian guide, help me out here. [Trying to light a fire]
Mulder: Indian guide says maybe you should run to the store and get some matches.
Scully: I would but I left my wallet in the car.
Mulder: What are you doing?
Scully: Trying to open my gun. If I can separate the shell from the casing, maybe I can get the powder to ignite.
Mulder: And maybe it’ll start raining weenies and marshmallows.
Scully: Do I detect a hint of negativity?
Mulder: No! Yes. Actually. Yeah.
Scully: Mulder you need to keep warm, your body’s still in shock.
Mulder: I was told once that the best way to regenerate body heat is to crawl naked into a sleeping bag with somebody else who’s already naked.
Scully: Maybe if it rains sleeping bags you’ll get lucky.
Mulder: ……
Scully: You ever thought seriously about dying?
Mulder: Yeah, once, when I was at the Ice Capades.
Scully: When I was fighting my cancer… I was angry at the injustice of it, at its meaninglessness. And then I realized that that was the struggle, to give it meaning, to make sense of it. It’s like life.
Mulder: I think nature is supremely indifferent to whether we live or die. I mean if you’re lucky you get 75 years. If you’re really lucky you get 80 years. And if you’re extraordinarily lucky you get to have 50 of those years with a decent head of hair.
Scully: I guess it’s like Las Vegas. The house always wins. Oh! [Separates the shell from the casing] Taa-daa!
Mulder: Go girl. Hey, who did you identify with when you were a kid, Wilma or Betty?
Scully: I identified with Betty’s bustline.
Mulder: Yes! I did, too.
Scully: Could never have been married to Barney, though. Their kids were cute.
Mulder: But where are they today?
Scully: [Powder flashes but doesn’t ignite.] Moth Men. Really?
Mulder: Yeah. But there seem to be only two of them.
Scully: [Scully maneuvers Mulder into her lap.]
Mulder: I don’t want to wrestle.
Scully: Come over here, I’m going to try to keep you warm. [Strokes his arm]
Mulder: [Winces]
Scully: Sorry.
Mulder: One of us has got to stay awake, Scully.
Scully: You sleep, Mulder.
Mulder: You get tired, you wake me.
Scully: I’m not gonna get tired.
Mulder: Why don’t you sing… something?
Scully: No, Mulder…
Mulder: If you sing something I’ll know you’re awake.
Scully: Mulder, you don’t want me to sing. I can’t carry a tune.
Mulder: [Mumbling] Doesn’t matter, just sing anything.
Scully: …Jeremiah was a bullfrog.
Mulder: [Slowly and silently looks up.]
Scully: Was a good friend of mine. Never understood a single word he said… but I helped him drink his wine…
Mulder: Chorus.
Scully: Joy to the world… All the boys and girls…. Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea… Joy to you and me…

Oh, dear. Now I feel a little teary eyed.

If I had one wish for The X-Files in retrospect, it would be that we could have had just a smidgeon more of moments like this. In fact, if some subsequent seasons lacked anything it was a chance to listen to Mulder and Scully shoot the breeze with each other for more than just a line or two. Scenes like the one above, where Mulder and Scully just sit back and kick it in conversation, should’ve happened at least once a season.

“Detour” is one of the best examples of why I love Season 5. This is tense, this is scary, this is touching, this is imaginative, and above all else, this is fun. Not even fun just for us as the audience, but for the characters too! There they are, lost in the woods with no food and water, one of them injured, and being hunted by Moth Men. And yet, I’ll be darned, Mulder and Scully are enjoying themselves.

Fundamentally, here is what makes The X-Files great. Some shows try to be scary and succeed. Some try to be funny. Some try to be mysterious. But how many can work in all the elements with such balance to give you 42 minutes of television that leave you grinning the whole time? Somebody tell me. Most lean too hard in one direction or the other. The X-Files knows just what to do.

Verdict:

You can put me down as one very satisfied customer. I’ll even sign the guestbook for this one.

Is the X-File itself that compelling? Well, the Moth Men are about as interesting as boogey men ever are, but the episode isn’t so much about how freaky they are as it is creating a threat that pushes Mulder and Scully into a precarious corner because that’s where we can watch them shine.

Make no mistake, “Detour” is a post-cancer arc celebration. It’s written all over Mulder and Scully’s faces how glad they are to be back in form. Maybe that’s why being lost in the woods doesn’t bother them so much. And the truth is, they’re only reflecting what the audience is already feeling. This episode is a really satisfying way of acknowledging that sentiment.

And Chris Carter, if you’re reading this and there’s an X-Files 3, a mere five minutes of Mulder and Scully shooting the breeze wouldn’t hurt anybody. Much love. Peace.

A+

Musings:

Scully’s “How could you leave me here??” face when Mulder ditches her in the car with the Geek Squad = Awesome.

Scully is openly flirting. Now we can be sure she really did have a near death experience.

Mulder clearly wasn’t expecting a response to that line about sleeping bags. Who here thinks the look on his face spoke volumes? Just us shippers?

That little factoid Scully delivers about ticks really freaks me out.

Mark Snow does a particularly great job with the score in this one. Those primitive drums…

Fact: Mulder picks up on things no normal human should.

Best Quotes:

Agent Kinsley: I couldn’t believe how hard it was not to use the word “but!”
Mulder: I’m having that same problem right now!
Agent Stonecypher: Have you ever been to a team seminar, Agent Mulder?
Mulder: No. You know, unfortunately around this time of year I always develop a severe hemorrhoidal condition.

———————-

Scully: Mulder. We’ve got this conference. They’re waiting.
Mulder: Yeah. How do I say this without using any negative words, Scully?
Scully: You want me to tell them that you’re not going to make it to this year’s teamwork seminar.
Mulder: Yes. You see that? We don’t need that conference. We have communication like that, unspoken. You know what I’m thinking.

————————

Scully: You know, Mulder, sometimes I think some work on your communication skills wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
Mulder: I’ll be back soon and we can build a tower of furniture. ‘Kay?

————————

Scully: It sure is beautiful, though.
Jeff Glaser: That’s what happens. People get to looking around, next thing they know something eats them.
Scully: What do you think killed those men?
Jeff Glaser: Nature is populated with creatures either trying to kill something they need to survive or trying to avoid being killed by something that needs they to survive. If we become blinded by the beauty of nature we may fail to see its cruelty and violence.
Scully: Walt Whitman?
Jeff Glaser: No, When Animals Attack on the Fox Network.

————————-

Mulder: Witnesses described them as primitive looking men with piercing red eyes. Became known as the Moth Men. I got an X-File dated back to 1952 on it.
Scully: What would that be filed next to? The Cockroach that ate Cincinnati?
Mulder: No, the Cockroach that ate Cincinnati is in the C’s. Moth Men is over in the M’s.

————————–

Mulder: Too bad we don’t have any office furniture. [Piling up corpses]
Scully: I can see us now.
Mulder: Go team! There’s plenty more bodies, we may have won the honey-baked ham.

Never Again 4×13: You’d break my heart over a cheap redhead?


Walking in Memphis.

Before we start, let’s take a moment to consider what could have been:

“They had long wanted to write a story about Lincoln’s ghost haunting the White House, and thought this would work splendidly on The X-Files; finally, Mulder and Scully go to the White House! But their disappointment over the changes they were forced to make ‘Musings of Cigarette Smoking Man’ caused them to withhold the ghost story and look for something else. ‘I had done a lot of research and I had always wanted to write a feature about Lincoln’s ghost,’ Morgan said, ‘But I felt they didn’t want my heart and soul anymore, so I wouldn’t give this one to them.’

Why cast pearls before swine? Instead of Lincoln’s ghost, we got Jodie Foster’s disembodied voice. It’s a pretty even trade.

I don’t like this episode. And I know that just as much as it was hated when it first aired it’s become something of a critic’s darling over the years. Even so, I still can’t see it. I think most of this praise stems from the fact that the episode and the content thereof is admittedly daring for The X-Files. But showing us a new side of Scully’s character, while a worthy goal, isn’t merit enough for me considering the side the side of Scully they decided to show.

I think the fairest way to look at this episode is the way that writers Morgan and Wong intended it, outside of the shadow of “Leonard Betts” (4×14). These two episodes were shown out of broadcast order because The Powers That Be felt that “Leonard Betts” would be a better episode to air directly after the Super Bowl. I have to say they were right. “Leonard Betts” is a better representation of what the show is all about. “Never Again” not only could potentially alienate a large segment of fans (the Shippers), but it could leave the new audience that Fox was trying to recruit a little confused. After all, unless you know the history of Mulder and Scully’s day-to-day relationship this episode loses a lot of its power.

So for the majority of this review, I’m going to consider the episode as written: Scully has no idea that she may have cancer. Her actions have no impetus or inspiration outside of her own psyche.

There’s an interesting assumption subtly put forth here in the beginning of the episode that Mulder and Scully have a lot more cases, most of them mundane and unfruitful, than we as the audience get to see. It’s actually a great idea and would explain why Scully’s skepticism still holds sway even in the face of all that she’s seen if she’s actually seen more that can be dismissed than that can be proved. The problem is, as late as “Teliko” (4×4) Scully is typing up case report #74, which is the same as the episode number give or take a combined abduction arc or two. That would mean that up to this point in the series, what we’ve seen is all there is to see. And if Scully’s seen exactly what we’ve seen, her petulant ennui seems rather misplaced. At the very least, she shouldn’t dismiss Mulder and his informant so easily. What was that she said to Mulder way back in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23)? “I should know by now to trust your instincts.”

Sometimes I think Morgan and Wong were reading from a completely new playbook.

Not that their unfortunate characterization of Mulder is completely out of left field. He is rather self-righteous and self-absorbed. But he’s certainly proven that he can be selfless when it comes to Scully. Episodes such as “End Game” (2×17) and “Paper Clip” (3×2) are evidence enough of this. Sure, when he says obnoxiously obtuse things like, “You don’t want it to be?,” in response to Scully’s complaint that his work has become her life, he’s rather asking for a slap. But then again, hasn’t she already affirmed in episodes like “Herrenvolk” (4×1) that they’re in this thing together? Hasn’t he given her escape routes that she refuses to take in episodes like “Tooms” (1×21) and “End Game”? If Mulder is presumptuous when it comes to Scully, it’s only because she’s set herself up for it by being so faithful.

What’s more, this line always raises my eyebrow:

Scully: Refusing an assignment? It makes it sound like you’re my superior.

Reality check, Scully. I believe he is.

Oh, I don’t know if he’s technically her superior, but he’s certainly the Senior Agent having graduated from Quantico 4 years before Scully even began at the Academy. Not to mention that he’s way ahead of her in this whole paranormal gig. And as far as her holding down the fort while Mulder’s on vacation, isn’t that her job? Is she even allowed to refuse an assignment except that her close relationship with Mulder gives her leave to do so?

Considering the nature of their working relationship and the precedents she herself has set, Mulder’s annoyance at Scully’s sudden shift in behavior is somewhat justified.

“I thought Scully gets jerked around a lot by Mulder, and this is time for her to stand up for herself,” Morgan said… Sometimes friends suddenly seem troubled and you don’t know why and they won’t tell you. I think he is concerned, even though they get into a little fight… Scully doesn’t do a good job at telling him what’s wrong. She’s inarticulate about it, and I don’t think he understands what she’s trying to say. Mulder should have said, ‘Well, what’s making you feel this way?’ or ‘I don’t understand.’ But in the case of a lot of friends, he just gets frustrated, and sort of blows out. He’s a psychologist, but when it comes to his own life, it’s a forest for the trees type situation. It’s just too close to him.”

Ah, yes. The fight.

The fact that Scully doesn’t have a desk makes Mulder look like a jackass. But frankly, “Why don’t I have a desk?” is a silly question. “Why haven’t I asked for a desk?” is a better one. I’m sure she can requisition one without Mulder’s assistance. (In Morgan and Wong’s defense, this argument was inspired by internet fans whose hawk-like eyes had noticed that Scully still hadn’t earned a place to sit in 4 years).

This sudden wedge between them feels slightly artificial, especially since we know that Scully takes over the desk any old time she pleases. Without the context that “Leonard Betts” gives, it seems as though the writers are looking for an excuse to drive a wedge between our two leads.

“My understanding at the beginning of the year was that we were going to drive to a point where Mulder and Scully didn’t trust each other,” Morgan said. His own scenario for plotting out the season was somewhat different from what Carter and the other writers came up with this year, but the fundamental issue was the same: trust. “I would have slowly split Mulder and Scully up over the course of the season, then in the last episode have Scully put Mulder away for his own good, which he would perceive as the ultimate betrayal,” Morgan said. “And then the next season, they would have had an entire year’s healing to go through.”

And there it is. Yet another example of why it was so important that Chris Carter hold tightly to the reigns of his own creation. It’s not that Morgan’s plan wouldn’t have made for a good drama. And certainly, the 1013 crew did create some tension between Mulder and Scully to keep the audience on their toes. But I dare say that if such a plan had come to fruition, The X-Files would have been The X-Files no longer but some kind of sci-fi soap opera (a fate that it wouldn’t teeter close to till much later in the series).

What if Morgan and Wong’s other plans had gone through? What if Melissa Scully had become Mulder’s love interest? What if CSM had killed Frohike? What if Scully had had sex with Ed Jerse, not just permanently altering her characterization but forever changing the tone of the series? Objectively, I can see why stories like that would be more fun to write. But as a fan, they potentially would have killed my love for the show.

Speaking of sex…

I’ve said before that Mulder and Scully are heroes in the Romantic literary tradition. Humanizing them is one thing. Even Odysseus had his faults. But there’s only so, well, “gritty” you can make a hero before they lose their status altogether. If we had witnessed the same Scully who once famously said, “Hard to imagine in this day and age someone having sex with a perfect stranger,” do the deed with a perfect stranger after only a few drinks to numb her inhibitions, she would have lost her dignity.

Look at the reaction the Detectives have to finding her in Ed Jerse’s apartment the morning after. Do they take her seriously in that disheveled condition? Hardly. And as a woman in the F.B.I., Scully would have had to work hard for her reputation and for respect. A woman with so much to lose would be more cautious. To not do so could put her career at risk.

“As to why it was cut, Morgan said that Carter and the other writers felt that every other woman on television was jumping into bed, and they had worked very hard to differentiate Scully from other female television characters. Morgan’s response: ‘She’s different, but the way she is now, she’s not human.’”

It’s not human to be celibate? Or to at least hold out for a while? Scully doesn’t have to be realistic a la The Sopranos to be believable. Besides, Scully is a sentimentalized vision, as is Mulder in his own way. Scully represents an ideal of intelligent, unexploited womanhood. Taint that at your own peril.

Scully: Sometimes I wish I were that impulsive.

Ed Jerse isn’t even Scully’s type. Judging by her past and future track record in episodes like “Lazarus” (1×14) and “all things” (7×17) she’s more into the intellectual sort as a rule. This is rebellion. Pure and simple. That said, unlike Mulder and Melissa in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5), their chemistry is believable, even if it’s not of the life long sort. Besides, he doesn’t seem to be bothered when he essentially tells him that he’s nothing more than a proverbial giant pack of cigarettes to her.

But, why Ed Jerse and why now? She sees the picture in his apartment with his face burned out. She knows this man is troubled. Such reckless behavior is unlike Scully who here-to-fore has been rational to a fault.

“My gut feeling is that Scully does see Mulder as a father figure,” Morgan said… “In ‘Never Again,’ I don’t know if she’s rejecting the message, but she’s rejecting the father. At times their relationship becomes so oppressive. When I was married and unhappy, I would just go through these things where things would build up, and then I would just do something stupid. And I’d go, ‘What the hell is that? That’s not even me.’”

I’ve already made an argument for why I don’t think the comparison between Bill Scully and Mulder is on point. The details are in my review for “Quagmire” (3×22), but to summarize, just because Scully called her father “Ahab” does not mean that he was actually an Ahab-like figure the way that Mulder is. Bill Scully was no post-modern Don Quixote, unlike Mulder who wears his hopeful neediness on his sleeve. Rather, I believe that Scully sees Mulder as this tragically heroic figure, one whose quest she’s drawn to at least partially out of her own sense of awe and adventure. Again, this is why stripping Mulder and/or Scully of the Romantic aura that surrounds them would disrupt the whole course of the show.

Scully: I’ve always gone around in this, uh… this circle. It usually starts when an authoritative or a controlling figure comes into my life.

Mulder? Authoritative? Controlling? “All consuming,” I’ll give you. But despite the fact that he has a very effective puppy dog face, Mulder is certainly no puppet master. And as far as authoritative, Scully’s consistently sarcastic remarks in response to his theories would say otherwise. This is hardly a teacher-pupil relationship. Scully brings just as much to the table as Mulder. And yet, here she is painted as that same, stupid little girl sucking poison into her lungs not because she likes cigarettes, but because some perverse part of her wants to piss off the father she loves and that she knows loves her. It’s rebellion at its silliest.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Scully wants to be her own person. That’s a natural desire and it can’t be discounted. Mulder’s right, they do need to spend some time apart so that Scully can remember who she is and what she wants. If this episode achieves anything, it forces both Mulder and Scully to recognize just how entrenched their relationship has become, such that both are unsure of their identities without it.

“I feel that Mulder had come to respect that there’s more to this than just him, that Scully is now a part of his life and he’s a part of hers. I think that she learned the danger of exploring the rebellious side, and that it has to be accompanied by responsibility. What she did almost got her killed.”

Their communication skills leave something to be desired. But since the very next episode leaves the events of “Never Again” all but forgotten, I think we can safely say that no permanent damage was done. Not that they didn’t come very, very close what with Mulder making cavalier jokes about Scully’s tattoo and all.

“’I hope we helped Chris out,’ Wong concluded. ‘I think we did a good job. It was a lot of work; we basically did a season’s work in half a season, but I hope that didn’t show in the quality of our X-Files and Millennium episodes. We have very fond thoughts of the people we worked with.’”

Morgan and Wong did do an awesome job, even if much of their work on Season 4 leaves me a little wary and grateful that they decided to move on when they did. Some seasons of life are good while they last, but they shouldn’t be artificially enjoyed past their expiration date. Besides, the quality of their work has never been in doubt. It’s their X-Files philosophy that I sometimes take issue with.

Oh, I know that Mulder and Scully aren’t perfect. And they don’t act perfectly toward each other. But imperfect doesn’t automatically translate to dysfunctional. Why do we have to believe that they’re together because of some twisted and unhealthy psychological need?

There’s a far more simple and compelling, if less melodramatic explanation: They’re friends.

Verdict:

Taking this episode as it was aired, after “Leonard Betts”, everything about it is much easier to accept. Scully doesn’t know how long she has to live, so why not throw off any and all constraints? There’s always a risk of infection and allergic reactions with tattoos, not to mention the risks involved in sex with a stranger, all things that Scully, as a doctor, would be more than aware of. But if she’s dying anyway, what’s the use in being the good girl? In the light of cancer, seeing Scully suddenly question the trajectory of her life makes perfect sense. What was satisfactory a week ago when you thought you had all the time in the world to find the things you want in life suddenly looks bland and meaningless.

Yet even considering that, there’s only so “grounded” these characters can be and still be able to function in a series where the fantastic happens on the regular. Like it or not, Mulder is the Indiana Jones of the F.B.I. We can’t hate Indy and cheer him on.

I confess I still don’t understand sending Scully to the dark side without rhyme, reason or impetus. It’s hard to reconcile this new image of Scully with the fact that her biggest rebellion on record is giving up medicine… to work for the government.

B

P.S. The excerpts are from an interview with Morgan and Wong that can be found here: http://etc1013.wordpress.com/1997/10/01/cinefantastique-4/

Running Commentary:

Scully has a fight scene for the second episode in a row. Rock on, Scully.

It’s always more believable when Mulder and Scully seek and discover an X-File rather than when an X-File stumbles upon them.

Scully pieces together that the blood with the strange toxicology found in the victim’s apartment is most likely Ed’s. Ergo, she must realize there’s a good chance he’s the killer, yet she unloads her suspicions on him without any precautions as though a trip to the doctor’s office is all that’s in order. Is she just taking “innocent until proven guilty” to a ridiculous extreme? Woman, you should have had your gun in hand.

It’s interesting to note that there were some reservations about the script of “Small Potatoes” (4×20) calling for a near kiss between “Mulder” and Scully after he plies her with some alcohol. After all, no one wanted Scully to appear easy…

“In December 1996 someone on the old AOL discussion group posted that they wished Scully would get a love interest. Glen Morgan emailed the person and told her that he was writing just that, and for ‘Shippers to be afraid … be very afraid.’ This caused a heated debate among Shippers/Non-Shippers/Shipper Haters and everyone else. As a result, Morgan posted something on AOL to defend himself: ‘Well, this is almost as embarrassing as the recent Chargers-Patriots game. I swear … I have nothing against either side. Mulder and Scully may love each other, they may not. But, as in any relationship, it should be challenged to see if it is strong. Long live the debate! I love this series. I love the fans. I *HATE* Entertainment Weekly (as long as we’re being honest). Jim and I would never write anything with the sole intention of making anyone angry. If that is a reaction to an episode, however, great! It’s better than being boring. The comment that was posted was a joke. And if it was meant to be a public joke, then it would have been. My apologies if anyone was upset. Never again — Glen.’” Source: http://cleigh6.tripod.com/CTP/CTP-neveragain.html

Best Quotes:

Scully: Your contact, while interesting in the context of science fiction was… at least in my memory, recounting a poorly veiled synopsis of an episode of Rocky & Bullwinkle.
Mulder: “Eenie Weenie Chili Beanie, the spirits are about to speak?”
Scully: Rocky and Bullwinkle are looking for an Upsidasian mine. Boris Badenov alters the road signs, which causes them to walk onto a secret military base, where they are picked up by a car with no windows and no door locks, and there are silent explosions from a compound called Hush-a-boom.
Mulder: So you’re refusing an assignment based on the adventures of… [Boris Badenov voice] “Moose and Squirrel?”

———————

Scully: Sometimes I wish I were more impulsive.
Ed Jerse: Careful what you wish for.

———————

Scully: Look, Mulder, I have to go.
Mulder: What? You got a date or something?
Scully: [Silence]
Mulder: You… you’re kidding.
Scully: I have everything under control. I will talk to you later.

———————-

Mulder: All this because I… because I didn’t get you a desk?
Scully: Not everything is about you, Mulder. This is my life.
Mulder: Yes, but it’s m…

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?

The Walk 3×7: Nobody knows how I feel.


Tread lightly.

“The Walk” marks the first solo offering from staple of The X-Files’ writing team, John Shiban. He teams up with the man who is already arguably The X-Files’ most famous director, Rob Bowman, to give us a story taken straight out of The Age of Aquarius – The 1970s.

Oh sure, it’s the Gulf War these veterans are tragedies of, but couldn’t it just as easily have been Vietnam? What with Astral Projection and backwards recordings making a comeback, I was just waiting for Mulder to make a joke about 8-tracks and John Travolta. It never happens, which is a sad waste, but combined with the distrust of government we see in the mythology episodes that no doubt comes out of the writers having witnessed the Nixon administration, “The Walk” only sharpens any suspicions about what generation the creative heads behind The X-Files are products of.

Everything starts out beautifully with a frightening teaser and some poetically filmed opening shots. The scene where we see maimed and wounded veterans gathered for a group psychology session is notably striking. But things start to devolve from there as we’re introduced to our antagonist for the next forty minutes or so, Leonard Trimble. It’s not a name most X-Philes even remember.

I thought long and hard about why I’ve never really liked this episode despite the fact that it contains some very pleasing moments and I’ve finally narrowed it down, mostly, to Leonard. Here’s a man who has lost not one, but two legs and not one, but two arms in service to his country. Even if the audience doesn’t like him, they should be able to feel for him. Certainly, most of us are unable to empathize with such a dramatic loss, but surely we can sympathize. It would be that identification with his situation that could potentially create a powerful dissonance; we know we shouldn’t side with the villain but part of us does. We want him to have some relief. The problem is, that doesn’t happen here.

Leonard Trimble has one note that he plays over and over. He yells and furrows his brow because maybe if he does it enough times everyone will know how angry he is. He doesn’t want pity, he doesn’t want healing, he just wants everyone else to lose too. But this character needed more than anger, he needed pathos. At no point did it really feel like he was hurt or suffering. As Mulder says, his bitterness has left him devoid of humanity. But as the super soldiers prove in later seasons, an inhuman villain isn’t nearly as interesting as an imperfect one. Instead of being frightening or compelling, Leonard Trimble is a punk.

Mulder: You’re a soldier! You knew what you were getting into when you enlisted. Now you want to blame everybody else. Why do you want to blame your C.O.s?

Leonard Trimble: I blame them for what happened to all of us! You don’t know what it was like. You… you sat at home and watched the war on cable TV like it was a damn video game. You have no idea about the guys that died, about the blood and the sand and what it feels like when a hit comes. The thing is you just don’t care, do you?

Now see, there’s a wealth of emotional material right there waiting to be mined. But alas, that’s as far as the episode goes on the tracks of that train of thought. With a more emotional backstory, that indictment of the American public could have been powerful.

This episode isn’t a lost cause, however. In fact, there are positively great moments that would compel me to put a sticker by Rob Bowman’s name if he were in my Sunday School class. The scene where the phantom Leonard Trimble attacks Captain Draper in the pool is a masterful one. It’s filmed like something out of a movie instead of a 1990s TV show. Then there’s the scene where poor little Trevor learns the danger of playing too long in the sandbox; it’s disturbing but wonderfully done.

And surely all who watch this episode point their fingers at the screen and say, “Hey!” when Roach’s character is introduced. Roach is played by actor Willie Garson who has guest starred on just about every television series known to mankind. In case you thought his guest spot here was too brief, he’ll be back in Season 7 for “The Goldberg Variation” (7×2).

One last note about Scully’s characterization: Now, I love no-nonsense Scully as much as the next fangirl. But some episodes it’s as though the writers scripted lemons into her diet and it’s impossible for her to unclench her jaw or unpurse (It’s a word. I made it up.) her lips. It’s noticeable particularly now because Scully so far has had a lot more color in Season 3 than she had in Season 2, more variation. In the episodes to come she’ll branch out even more.

…And the Verdict is:

X-Files fans are already familiar with mutants and monsters that prey on others out of physical need. We saw it in “Squeeze” (1×2) and even as recently as “2Shy” (3×6). But this is a new sub-genre where we have a monster not created by nature, but from disease or injury; a monster that clings to his ailment and chooses to be a monster. This one was so-so, but The X-Files will blow this concept out of the park in “Pusher” (3×17).

This is another episode where Mulder and Scully are helpless to prevent anything, instead they decipher events as they unfold. Is that bad? Well, it would take The X-Files to a whole new level of fantasy a la Dr. Who if Mulder and Scully always found a way to put an end to paranormal phenomenon. Heck, they’re not even trained in exorcism.

I don’t think we ever really understand why Leonard Trimble’s soul was so destroyed that he would be willing to kill innocent children for the sake of revenge. Maybe an answer to that silent question would have transformed the episode.

Whatever the case, I think we’ve had enough Revenge/I Shall Smite Mine Enemies episodes for one season, don’t you?

C+

Nagging Questions:

I know it’s Mulder’s job to make eerily accurate leaps in logic, but this one is just too much for me. How did he know to look for signs of Astral Projection before he even showed up? What was it that made him think what these men were seeing wasn’t a ghost or some far more obscure paranormal phenomenon?

Random Thoughts:

What’s with the writers giving the name Trevor to young boys? They even go so far as to give a boy named Trevor his own episode. “Trevor” (6×17)

Come to think of it, what’s with the name Leonard? “Leonard Betts” (4×14)

This has nothing to do with anything, but Nick Chinlund just came on my television screen as a guest star on Law & Order: Criminal Intent and my heart went, “Donnie Pfaster! Aww!”

Best Quotes:

General Callahan: I want you to know I’ve had the Captain contact the Justice Department and let them know about the F.B.I.’s gross misconduct here.
Mulder: I guess this isn’t a good time to thank you for seeing us, huh?

——————-

Mulder: Sometimes the only sane response to an insane world is insanity.