I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t we already see this episode and didn’t they call it “Blood” (2×3)?
Admittedly, the two episodes are similar in premise. Both are “Half-Caff”, pseudo mythology type episodes (Which, by the way, we haven’t had all Season 3. Believe it or not, there hasn’t been one since “Soft Light” (2×23) and I’ve missed sensing CSM’s shenanigans behind these technology and science driven conspiracies). Both involve technology based mind-control experiments secretly carried on by the U.S. government.
Or do they? In “Blood” the trigger was actually a pesticide, the result was that people saw messages in all sorts of mechanical devices that drove them to violence. “Wetwired” addresses the T.V./Violence correlation specifically and doesn’t bother dragging other modes of communication into the picture. By now I’m sure you can smell the irony; a television show prone to violent images is pondering whether images on television can lead to violence in real life. Talk about self-conscious.
But when you consider the source, the subject makes sense. This episode is written by Visual Effects Supervisor Mat Beck who presided over the show’s first 5 seasons as well as both movies. Is it any wonder he’s interested in the effect of the image on the American public? But most importantly, why didn’t he write more??
Believe it or not, I actually enjoy “Wetwired” more than all the world-class mythology episodes this season. (Shock!) There’s something meaty about it. We have the Lone Gunmen, X, CSM, mind control, a paranoid Scully, and some great emotional beats on the M&S front to boot. It’s so chock full of X-Files goodies that I find myself wondering why Chris Carter didn’t add Mat Beck to the writing staff.
But enough about background and concept and on to the episode itself. You would expect that if anyone on The X-Files would go psycho it would be Mulder. And in fact he’s done it before and under similar circumstances when CSM’s forces drugged him nearly into paranoid oblivion in “Anasazi” (2×25). Mulder also trashed his apartment looking for bugs in “E.B.E.” (1×16) the way Scully does here, but she does it with more flair, don’t you think? Mulder’s always so close to the edge of insanity as it is that it’s more fun to watch cool, calm and collected Scully lose her mind for a bit. It’s more satisfying. In particular, there’s a great moment when Gillian Anderson leans into the camera, wide-eyed and chomping on ice. Classic.
That’s all fun and games but the real meat is what Scully’s paranoid about. It makes sense that Scully’s deepest fear would be Mulder’s betrayal. She’s devoted her life to this man. She’s made her quest her own and has suffered in the process. It’s not like she’s the one looking for a “white whale.” She’s still here, working on the X-Files, because she believes in Mulder, not because she believes in little green men. What a nightmare it would become if she suddenly found it was all a lie. Mulder didn’t trust her. He didn’t depend on her. In fact, he was out to get her. It’s like that moment in “End Game” (2×17) when the Bounty Hunter morphs into Mulder and attacks Scully. It’s horrible because it shouldn’t be. Mulder should be the last person, save Maggie Scully, who would ever hurt her… er, purposefully anyway.
This is definitely one of my favorite episodes of Season 3. It might not be as inventive as some, but it has all the necessary ingredients of a good X-File and is always, always fun to watch.
Both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny turn in some great emotional performances on this one. And it’s nice to have the mutual importance of Mulder and Scully’s relationship confirmed at the close of a season that features a lot of loss and tension in the partnership. The Shipper in me is satisfied.
But I especially love how it ends, with that short but memorable scene between X and CSM. Now we know that X is one of CSM’s hired guns and it’s him X has been undermining in order to feed Mulder information. How long can the apprentice work against his master without being found out? When X looks into CSM’s cold, dead eyes and lies I still get an ominous chill.
Even after the Lone Gunmen’s short and pithy explanation of the magic of television, we still never learn exactly how CSM & Co. are creating paranoia in the viewing public, just that something must be being transmitted through the signal. And for that matter, how far did this experiment reach? And for how long? They wouldn’t have stopped at a handful of murders.
Surely this episode calls for a follow-up with some exploration of X’s background. So what happened to it? Mulder confronts him on being too much of a coward to fight the power himself, CSM glares at him with thinly veiled suspicion… His character is just begging to be revealed at least a little.
He’s red-green colorblind. Finally, an explanation is given for the atrocity of Mulder’s ties.
Did I mention the teaser is awesome? ‘Cause the teaser is awesome.
Mulder: It’s just you, me and the drug dealers.
Plain-Clothed Man: Well, this area’s always been known for its criminal element.
Mulder: Especially when Congress is in session.
Mulder: I just watched 36 hours of Bernard Shaw and Bobbi Battista. I’m about ready to kill somebody too.
Mulder: All I know is television does not make a previously sane man go out and kill five people thinking they’re all the same guy. Not even ‘Must See TV’ could do that to you.
Mulder: What do you think, Scully?
Scully: I think television plays a large part in both of these murderers lives.
Mulder: As it does in almost every American home. But television does not equal violence. I don’t care what anybody says. Unless you consider bad taste an act of violence.
Scully: I was so sure, Mulder. I saw things and I heard things, and… it was just like world was turned upside down. Everybody was out to get me.
Mulder: Now you know how I feel most of the time.
Smoking Man: Have you completed your work?
Mr X: All the personnel and hardware has been removed. But Mulder still has one of the devices.
Smoking Man: That proves nothing. What about Mulder’s source?
Mr X: He’s been eliminated.
Smoking Man: And his source? Who’s he working with?
Mr X: That person remains unknown.