For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
– Romans 7:18-21
I had no earthly recollection of this episode.
It has the dubious distinction of being the only episode of The X-Files that I ever missed when it aired. It was my freshman year in college and I woke up in my dorm room with a start and realized that I’d missed my show. It was a sad moment because it was a blemish on my perfect record of fanservice. It was made sadder still because I knew I probably hadn’t missed anything interesting.
And those were the days when you couldn’t run to the internet the day after a show aired to watch what you missed. Sleeping through The X-Files that night meant I had to wait until the DVD set came out to see it, and there was a relatively long turnaround time on that.
So I watched it… eventually. But for the life of me, it didn’t take in my head. I only remembered bits and pieces as I rewatched it for this review.
And you know what? I was wrong that night. I had missed something interesting.
Now, it could be that I find it unduly interesting coming off of the first half to a season that has been alternately aggravating, boring, laughable, and occasionally mildly entertaining. After all, I had completely forgotten the content of “Underneath” so it couldn’t have been that great either. And it probably still isn’t that great.
But for whatever reason, I was invested from the teaser this time and I found myself more entertained than I’ve been all season. My heart hurts a little for Robert Fassl, aka The Cable Guy, because he looks truly innocent and tormented. I really, really want to know what’s happening to him. Quick! We need some paranormal investigators to figure out what happened to the victims and clear his name.
Unfortunately, half the X-Files team is working to prove his guilt. That would be Doggett, who as it turns out was one of the arresting officers that night thirteen years ago, when Fassl was found looking guilty as sin in the house of the deceased.
You have to admire Doggett’s integrity in this episode. Yes, he’s as resistant to extreme possibilities as ever and one has to wonder when he’s ever going to open up a little bit. After all, he’s seen his fair share of the inexplicable now. But he genuinely wants to get to the truth of the matter, which is more than can be said of the District Attorney charged with seeking justice on behalf of the people.
And even Reyes proves herself genuinely useful! She’s not just a sidekick with a crush on Doggett, she’s actually an intelligent woman whose background in Religious Studies offers her unique insight into this case. For once, her leap in logic isn’t based on her feelings but, in echoes of Mulder, a unique ability to connect the seemingly disparate dots.
And wait for it… even Scully isn’t dead weight! That dark cavern that has opened up before you is my mouth gaping in shock.
Could it be they’ve found a way to utilize all three characters believably on the same case? Are we getting more insight into who Doggett is and who he used to be? Is that Reyes walking around in a Matrix coat? Gee golly willikers.
Between the three of them they solve this case, but it turns out that for all the compassion the teaser inspired in me, Fassl was the one responsible for these gruesome murders. My compassion wasn’t completely misplaced, though. This is a man trapped in the endless cycle of his own sin and who hasn’t been there?
In many ways, this reads like a classic X-File to me – a man so in denial, unable to face his own evil, that he accidentally creates a monster he can’t control. Yes, parts of it are a little standard, but I like standard. I miss standard. This case could have easily fit in the Mulder and Scully era, yet it perfectly fits our little duo plus one. So thank you, John Shiban, for bringing us back to basics.
One has to wonder what they would have done if they had merely caught Fassl instead of having been forced to kill him. Is there a treatment for split-body disorder? Is there an app for that? Or is recognition and repentance the cure? I find Fassl’s story interesting. And for Season 9, this is the most I’ve enjoyed myself so far.
But, Krycek, what are you doing here?
How would Fassl have replaced the cover over the cable access hole behind himself?
The actor who plays Fassl with such pathos, W. Earl Brown, graduated from The Theatre School at DePaul University one year before Gillian Anderson. He’s been in lots of things, most famously Deadwood. Actress Lili Taylor who guest starred in “Mind’s Eye” (5×16) is also a fellow alumnus.
John Shiban has been a writer on the show since Season 3, but this was his first directing effort.
Giving Doggett a close former partner who breaks his heart through his lack of integrity is a good choice. It reminds me of how the audience learned more about Mulder in Season 1 through his relationships with former co-workers – “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6), “Fire” (1×11), “Young at Heart” (1×15).
That beard, tho.
Doggett: A cop I know, a man I respect deeply, he told me one time, “You don’t clock out at the end of your shift unless you know you did everything you could.” That’s what this is about. Me not clockin’ out.
Bob Fassl: I pray all the time. I pray even when it looks like I’m not praying.