Tag Archives: Oubliette

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.

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War of the Coprophages 3×12: Dude, that’s some good crap.


"Waste is a Terrible Thing to Waste."

First of all, that opening monologue from the exterminator about the wonders of cockroaches is more satisfying than any purple prose ridden voiceover Mulder or Scully ever delivered. Once again writer Darin Morgan plays off of what we’ve come to expect from The X-Files by giving it to us and then flipping it over. But unlike the previous two Darin Morgan penned episodes, I’m not sure the underlying purpose/theme here is so clear.

Humbug” (2×20) juxtaposed normalcy versus otherness and “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) covered fate versus free will. “War of the Coprophages”, while it hints at the fine line between reality and insanity, doesn’t explore the themes so much as it mocks them. Since we can’t be sure of what happened, it’s hard to condemn the people of Massachusetts for panicking when they very well may have had reason to. Overall, I’d have to concede that this episode isn’t quite as successful as his other ones. But it’s still incredibly fun.

The whole episode is an exercise in glorious repetition. Mulder seeks Scully out for her insight, Mulder hangs up on Scully. Mulder comes upon another body that was attacked by cockroaches, Scully comes up with another reasonable explanation. Mulder quotes Planet of the Apes… Bambi quotes Planet of the Apes. Not only that, as I said earlier, Morgan deftly plays with X-Files stereotypes. Mulder’s always ditching Scully and leaving her hanging, well, here it’s an almost compulsive ritual. And no matter how absurd and inexplicable the death Mulder stumbles upon, Scully comes up with an even more random and infinitely more plausible explanation.

So now for the oft discussed question: Is Scully jealous? To which I answer: It’s there, ever so slightly. It’s all in the way Scully says “She?” when she finds out Dr. Berenbaum is a woman. Dana Scully, M.D. surely wasn’t surprised at the idea that a scientist could be a woman. No, never that. Instead I think there was a sudden realization of what Mulder was actually up to while she slept restlessly with her phone on her pillow. Not that there’s anything to go overboard about. Any woman would be annoyed by that. And when Mulder asks to confess something to Scully, something both she and we as the audience suspect is going to be sexual in nature, she looks worried she’s about to be grossed out. She doesn’t look jealous, sad or angry. As for Mulder, once again, he’s flirting with another woman while confessing his fears and insecurities to Scully. It’s sort of like “Fire” (1×11) all over again. Poor Mulder. Like his relationship with Phoebe Green, he should’ve known it would never work; she’s not haunted, abandoned or misunderstood. With the exception of Scully, he doesn’t have an easy time connecting with well-adjusted women.

Not that I’m on his side. I myself want to kill him for leaving Scully hanging in a state of near panic but I’m so busy laughing that I can’t stay mad. She’s thinking he’s been attacked by killer cockroaches and meanwhile he’s macking on an entomologist named Bambi. I’d say you can’t make this stuff up but Darin Morgan apparently can.

Conclusion:

If this episode has a weakness it’s the lack of resolution. I know that’s one of The X-Files’ signature moves, but here we finish watching completely unsure whether the events even really happened. There are too many cockroach swarms for it all to be a coincidence, yet all the deaths have normal explanations. More importantly, where did the metal insects come from, why did they converge on this town and what made them leave? Who created these mechanical marvels? In the end, the unanswered questions are no big deal because it’s such a jolly ride.

It’s fun to see how Scully spends her evenings for one thing. She cleans her gun, eats dinner while watching the news, gives Queequeg a bath, reads a little Truman Capote and eats a tub of ice cream by herself. It’s so hilariously domestic considering she spends her working hours chasing flukemen and such. Scully had a few off episodes not too long ago, “Oubliette” (3×8) comes to mind. But between this and “Revelations” (3×11), her character is on the fast track to respectability again. Morgan’s version of her is both loveable and feisty. What a relief.

I’ll admit that the last moment between Mulder and Scully still annoys me a bit. He has his nerve. So Mulder loses the girl and Scully rubs his nose in it. But you know what? He deserves it.

A-

Random Musings:

The area is in a panic. The townsfolk are raiding the convenience store. There’s a Sailor stocking up on… pantyhose??

Bill Dow AKA Dr. Chuck Burks is back, only this time as Dr. Newton.

Ken Kramer AKA Dr. Berube AKA Dr. Browning is back too, only this time as Dr. Ivanov.

Scully’s vehement defense of the theory of Evolution feels slightly odd coming straight off of “Revelations”.

Best Quotes:

*Editor’s Note: You know the drill. It’s a Darin Morgan episode. Quotes won’t suffice. Break out your DVDs or pull up Netflix and get started.

Scully: Hello.
Mulder: I think you better get up here.
Scully: What is it?
Mulder: It appears that cockroaches are mortally attacking people.
Scully: I’m not going to ask if you just said what I think you just said because I know it’s what you just said.

———————-

Mulder: I see the correlation, but just because I work for the federal government doesn’t mean I’m an expert on cockroaches.

———————-

Mulder: Well, that all makes perfect sense, Scully, I don’t like it at all. Did you know that the federal government, under the guise of the department of agriculture, has been conducting secret experiments up here.
Scully: Mulder, you’re not thinking about trespassing on government property again, are you? I know you’ve done it in the past but I don’t think this case warrants…
Mulder: It’s too late. I’m already inside.

———————-

Mulder: They’re conducting legitimate experiments. I met an entomologist, a Dr. Berenbaum, who agrees with your theory of an accidental importation of a new cockroach.
Scully: Did he give you any idea of how to catch them?
Mulder: No, but she did tell me everything else there was to know about insects.
Scully: She?
Mulder: Yeah, did you know that the ancient Egyptians worshipped the scarab beetle and possibly erected the pyramids to honor them? Which may be giant symbolic dung heaps?
Scully: Did you know the inventor of the flush toilet was named Thomas Crapper?
Mulder: Bambi also has a theory I’ve never come across…
Scully: Who?
Mulder: Dr. Berenbaum. Anyway her theory is…
Scully: Her name is Bambi?
Mulder: Yeah, both her parents were naturalists. Her theory is that UFOs are actually nocturnal insect swarms passing through electrical air fields.
Scully: Her name is Bambi?
Mulder: Scully, can I confess something to you?
Scully: [Wincing] Yeah, sure, okay…
Mulder: I hate insects.
Scully: You know, lots of people are afraid of insects, Mulder. It’s a natural instinctive…
Mulder: No, no, no. I’m not afraid of them. I hate them. One day, back when I was a kid, I was climbing this tree when I noticed this leaf walking towards me. It took forever for me to realize that it was no leaf.
Scully: A praying mantis?
Mulder: Yeah, I had a praying mantis epiphany and as a result, I screamed. And not, not a girlie scream, but the scream of someone being confronted by some before unknown monster that had no right existing on the same planet I inhabited. Did you ever notice how a praying mantis’ head resembles an alien’s head? The mysteries of the natural world were revealed to me that day but instead of being astounded I was repulsed.
Scully: Mulder… are you sure it wasn’t a girlie scream?

———————-

Dr. Ivanov: Anyone who thinks alien visitation will come not in the form of robots but of living beings with big eyes and grey skin has been brainwashed by too much science fiction.

———————-

Mulder: Scully, if an alien civilization were technologically advanced enough to build and send artificially intelligent robotic probes to the farthest reaches of space, might they not have also been able to perfect the extraction of methane fuel from manure? An abundant and replenishing energy source on a planet filled with dung-producing creatures?
Scully: Mulder, I think you’ve been in this town too long.

———————-

Scully: Let me guess… Bambi.
Dr. Berenbaum: Fox told me to wait out here while he checked inside first.
Scully: [Mouths] Fox.
Dr. Berenbaum: Should I come along with you?
Scully: [Loads gun] No. This is no place for an entomologist.

Oubliette 3×8: I guess she’s not too big on confined spaces.


Flash Forward or Back?

Ah, “Oubliette.” I realize I should probably love this episode and yet… a knot formed in my stomach just as my thumb touched the play button.

That’s silly, I suppose. Here The X-Files takes a brave step forward by giving us an episode slightly outside its typical formula. But it’s not the formula that concerns me, it’s the tone.

Here we have a Monster of the Week who is perfectly human and decidedly not paranormal. Since the success of Donnie Pfaster in “Irresistible” (2×13) I’m sure the writers were itching to try it again, only this time they take it a step further in that Donnie Pfaster had at least a smidgen of paranormal aura. Whether it was all in Scully’s mind or not, at this point, we don’t know. This new villain, Carl Wade, is as typical an unsupernatural pedophile as he can be. The paranormal element is introduced in his victims instead, the currently kidnapped Amy Jacobs and Lucy Householder, his former victim.

We open with something also against formula when we see Mulder already at the crime scene without so much as a strand of Scully’s titian hair in sight. It becomes clear quickly that this one is Mulder’s story. The parallels are obvious: Amy Jacobs was taken from her bed at night and spirited out the window while her little sister looked on from the other bed helpless to stop it. This sounds strikingly similar to Mulder’s account of Samantha’s abduction that we heard in “Conduit” (1×3), another episode where Mulder’s ability to relate to the case is both his strength and his weakness.

We’ve already seen in “Conduit”, “The Jersey Devil” (1×4) and even “3” (2×7) that Mulder has a soft spot for any “little girl lost” that stems from the scars of Samantha’s abduction. Even Scully agrees with me:

Scully: You don’t see what you’re doing, do you, Mulder? You are so close to this that you just don’t see it.
Mulder: What don’t I see?
Scully: The extreme rationalization that’s going on, your personal identification with the victim, or in this case the suspect. That you’ve become some kind of empath yourself, Mulder. You are so sympathetic to Lucy as a victim, like your sister, that you can’t see her as a person who is capable of committing this crime.
Mulder: You don’t think I’ve thought of that? I have. And not everything I do and say and think and feel goes back to my sister. You, of all people, should realize that sometimes motivations for behavior can be more complex and mysterious than tracing them back to one single childhood experience.

Oh, Mulder. Methinks thou doth protest too much. While I know Mulder’s right about the case, I agree with Scully. Even if he were wrong, Mulder would have a terrible time admitting that Lucy was guilty. He clearly identifies with her because of Samantha, so I don’t know who he thinks he’s kidding. He didn’t even bother to deny it in “Conduit” and I don’t know why he does here. It’s an interesting element to his character that he’s constantly trying to save all the other “Samanthas” out there since he hasn’t been able to save his own. The problem is, I’m rarely interested in the women he’s attempting to help.

Lucy Householder isn’t an exception to that rule. Mulder is going to bat for this woman and it’s hard not to feel like she doesn’t deserve it. Of course, she does, but it doesn’t feel like it. Here’s a woman that may not be living a perfect life but she’s living. And considering all that she’s been through you’d think there’d be some spark of fire in her, something that’s kept her going all these years but there’s nothing. I can see Scully’s irritation at her attitude and I find myself having the same reaction. Maybe as a woman I have a harder time seeing her as a damsel in distress.

What bothers me most is that Lucy is so devoid of hope. A woman used to believing she’s powerless. She couldn’t help herself when she was kidnapped and kept prisoner for years, she can’t help herself now in her dead-end life, why would she be able to help anyone else? Even her final sacrificial act isn’t one of empowerment but of defeat. She dies not to save Amy, but because it’s not worth it to fight anymore. That’s what Mulder is trying to explain to Scully at the end of the episode: he didn’t save her at all, she gave up. “Finally, it was the only way she could escape.”

…And the Verdict is:

As good as the acting is in this episode, and it is good, and as good as the pacing and direction is, and it’s also good, I think part of the reason I dreaded having to watch it is because it’s no fun.

I should explain. Here’s what I don’t mean when I say “fun”: something that isn’t sad or something that’s humorous. It can be scary, meaningful, thoughtful, tearful even and still be “fun.” The Godfather II isn’t exactly an uplifting film but it’s one of the most fun movies in existence. I can’t help but get excited about it.

“Oubliette” is emotionally almost oppressive. It’s not that it’s dark the way The X-Files typically is as far as its subject; not that kidnapping and pedophilia isn’t a dark topic, but this is a show that’s covered child murder and entity rape so I think its audience isn’t afraid to “go there.” No, it’s not the subject that bothers me it’s the tone and the outcome. There’s nothing to balance out the sadness and despair. Is there a single joke or sarcastic line in this episode? Any brief moment of levity?  There’s just nothing to get excited about, nothing funny or scary or otherwise.

Mulder tries to reach Lucy, to gift to her some of his strength, but he fails. Thank heavens Mulder is a Mulder and not a Lucy. The X-Files would be a very different place if he were a despairing rather than proactive individual. Heck, we wouldn’t have a hero.

Maybe this is an episode where my worldview gets too far in the way for me to appreciate it. I’m too hopeful a cynic.

C+

Nagging Questions:

That was some bogus CPR Scully pulled. But I suppose they can’t fit the truth in a 43 minute episode: they would have worked on that child for an hour.

Random Thoughts:

I didn’t mention Jewel Staite. Imagine my surprise when I looked her up for this episode and found out she’s become a star. Apparently everyone knows her from Firefly and Stargate Atlantis. Me, I remember fondly a little show on The Disney Channel called Flash Forwardhttp://youtu.be/LNVE9HWUxiE

Best Quotes:

Myra Jacobs: Who could do such a thing? Who could take somebody that wasn’t theirs?
Mulder: I know you must be feeling…
Myra Jacobs: I’m sorry, but how could you really know how I feel?

——————-

Scully: That’s spooky.
Mulder: That’s my name isn’t it?

——————-

Mulder: Have you ever experienced temporary blindness before?
Lucy Householder: I’ve probably experienced just about everything once or twice. It’s all been pretty temporary.

——————-

Scully: I hate to say this Mulder, but I think you just ran out of credibility.

The Jersey Devil 1×4: I’m not far from where you left me.


I'm hunting wabbits.

This largely ignored episode may never be completely forgotten if only for one reason: We delve into our favorite agents’ social lives… or gross lack thereof. While neither Mulder nor Scully have much of a life outside of the FBI, Scully seems to be faring better than Mulder. Still, her weekend highlight is little more than a kid’s birthday party. I suppose she’s making an effort.

Speaking of the party, Scully’s knee-jerk, “He’s a jerk” in response to her girlfriend’s suggestion of Mulder as a potential love interest shows just how thoroughly she’s ruled him out as a prospect. OK, as Scully concedes, he’s not a jerk. He’s definitely not boyfriend material either. Case in point, the way he ditched her earlier that day.

But might not there be hope? After all, she’s clearly thought about the possibility! Before we shippers tip ourselves into over-excitement, we can’t read too much into this. She considered the possibility of dating Mulder, yes. Most girls consider their prospects in regards to the men in their lives if only in passing, not necessarily with any seriousness. And Scully wisely comes to the conclusion that Mulder is in no shape for marriage or any other serious relationship. Remember that porn fixation of his?

Meanwhile, Mulder blasts Detective Thompson, with all indignation, for protecting the city’s financial interests and keeping this Jersey Devil thing under wraps. But even if that’s exactly what the detective is doing, is he supposed to cause a mass panic by claiming there’s a monster on the loose? Should he have let the Jersey Devil live to kill again or be studied in a glass cage? The Detective Thompson character is deliciously malicious, but it’s a little wasted on such a relatively benign conspiracy. I only wish his motivations had been more sinister and less pragmatic.

As for Mulder’s character evolution, we see an expansion on what we glimpsed in him during Conduit (1×3). Here is the Mulder that empathizes with monsters and outcasts, particularly the female ones. We see more of this identification in later episodes like Oubliette (3×8), yet even here he expresses fascination for this cannibalistic cave woman as if she were a piece of art in the Louvre. Nevermind the fact that she’s killing innocent strangers, why quibble over trifles? What’s a modern human or two compared to the survival of Captain Cave-man? At least Mulder’s psychology is consistent if not altogether reasonable.

Scully brings in a scientist, an anthropologist, to lecture Mulder. It’s nice to delve into the character’s history a little bit. But just like Scully’s godson, her professor goes the way of the dinosaur after this episode. Things get a little expositional at this point, but isn’t the point of The X-Files to force the audience to ponder the possibilities?

Now for one of the best parts, Scully ditches her date. For all her talk about wanting to have a life, Scully apparently isn’t as interested in a normal family life as her friend expects her to be. She enjoys her career. She displays no hankering after children, no biological clock ticking like the Tell-Tale Heart, merely a mild regret at not having time to explore the possibility of having a family. Her friend pounces on it.

Even her date seems to be entered into with some reluctance. She’s just going through the motions with this incredibly interesting accountant. And despite her statement to Mulder earlier, she’s not at all bothered when he calls and interrupts her evening. At the end of the episode, she easily turns down a domesticated day of bliss with her date and his son in order to continue her investigation with Mulder. I said it for the Pilot and I’ll say it again: Mulder, and by extension the X-Files, is the most interesting thing that’s ever come into Dana Scully’s life. At this point, she’s loathe to give it up. Ethans, accountants… they can’t compare. I’m not saying she has a thing for Mulder, I just think Scully’s more of a glutton for excitement than she would even admit to herself.

And the Verdict is…

This is as close as the series ever got to Big Foot. As the show progressed, they steered further away from urban myths and more toward the straight-up paranormal. Quagmire (3×22) is the only real exception I can think of.

Like in “Quagmire”, here we see Scully questioning the trajectory of her life and whether or not her partner needs a psychological intervention. If she doesn’t come to an ultimate conclusion, she does make a decision and happily trails after Mulder by the end of the episode. Mulder, for his part, is busy as ever writing the book on how to not make friends and alienate people. His hunches hold up, his emotions are on his sleeve. In short, it’s comforting to know that he’s quintessentially Mulder this early on in the series. He even ditches Scully with practiced aplomb.

The Jersey Devil is definitely good for some Mulder/Scully funny. Mulder lands himself in some rather amusing trouble and Scully rescues him with a self-satisfied smirk. Later on, Scully feigns innocent as she mentions her date while Mulder doesn’t feign his inability to care when he assumes she’d want to cancel.

The ending is as vague and open-ended as we come to expect from the first season. Are these Devils truly Neanderthals or a relatively modern family that happened to get lost in the forest a really, really long time ago?

All in all, it’s a little disappointing to find that The Jersey Devil is just a human. Primitively human, maybe, but merely human.

B-

Bepuzzlements:

Why is Mulder willing to infest himself with lice based on nothing more than the crude drawing of a man? Considering this is a homeless colony in a big city, what’s so strange about a wild looking man digging in the trash for food?? No one else would have entertained the possibility of their being anything to it except for Mulder and his (in)famous intuition.

Why would a “carnivorous Neanderthal” occupy a space above us on the food chain? Wouldn’t our advanced intelligence win the day?

The Jersey Devil looks distinctly Caucasian. Yet, supposedly, they’ve been hiding out from the evolutionary chain in these American woods for thousands of years. I smell inconsistency.

Even if the Jersey Devil was killing to protect her young, why cannibalize? And how does that explain the unprovoked killing of the father in the 1940s?

General Observations:

Somebody catch me if I’m wrong, but I believe this is our first glimpse into Mulder’s porn fetish.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Hey, what do you say we grab a hotel, take in a floor show, drop a few quarters in the slots… Do a little digging on this case?
Scully: You’re kidding, right?
Mulder: OK, we can skip the floor show.

————————

Mulder: Don’t you have a life, Scully?
Scully: Keep that up, Mulder, and I’ll hurt you like that beast-woman.

Conduit 1×3: I’ll send him a bundt cake.


They’re heeeere!

If the “Pilot” established that Samantha’s abduction was the driving force behind Mulder’s crusade, “Conduit” takes the idea further by proving that it’s also a deep source of emotional pain for him. While not the scariest or most inventive episode, “Conduit” successfully provides the groundwork for Fox Mulder’s character over the next 9 seasons and so it holds up over time.

There’s something touching about the way Scully, if she doesn’t directly stand up for Mulder, keeps Blevins from breaking his heart. Mulder doesn’t know it, but Scully’s trying to help him by asking her skeptical questions. She’s looking for a reason to defend this case to their superiors. Yes, Scully cares enough about Mulder’s feelings not to tell him what went on with Blevins. Apparently, she hasn’t forgotten their motel bonding in the “Pilot”. Even her later attempt to get him to stop looking for his sister was probably a well-meaning effort to end his suffering. Well-meaning. Misplaced.

Call me over-analytical, but I think this exploration of Mulder’s motivations means that other aspects of the series make more sense as well. Most notably, Mulder’s pain over Samantha’s abduction is easily identifiable with his innate empathy for anything that hurts, be it man or beast. This plays out all the way into Season 8’s “The Gift” (8×11).

In particular, Mulder has the oftentimes irritating desire to rescue maidens all forlorn. No Rapunzels, mind you. They might be in distress but the women Mulder feels drawn to are hardly damsels, they’re damaged. And they are legion… “3” (2×7), “Oubliette” (3×8), “The Field Where I Died” (4×5), “Mind’s Eye” (5×16) and we could keep going. Conduit’s Ruby Morris is the forerunner of all these. Somehow these troubled women are the way that Mulder sees his sister; left to rot, ignored or shunned by the rest of society. I won’t go too much into it here, there are still 9 seasons to go. But it’s gratifying to see the character continuity the show was able to maintain despite the army of writers that came and went.

This episode contains, for me, one of the most uncomfortable moments in the entire series. Scully crossed a line here. She had no business telling Mulder to stop looking for his sister. Who is Scully at this point, to Mulder, that she can take that kind of liberty? This isn’t her emotional battle and she hasn’t been with Mulder long enough in the trenches for her angry plea to carry any wait. I think she’s aware of it since for the rest of the episode she’s more subdued and less argumentative. The expression on Mulder’s face makes you wonder for a moment if he’ll ever forgive Scully. It’s a testament to the trust they’ve already built that he ever lets her in again. But he does, even before the end of the episode. As much as I love Scully, I hope she felt guilty. (Not too guilty, though. She did allow Mulder that illegal grave dig, after all.)

I must admit, that image of Kevin standing in the woods before the light is quite effective. But the off-roading bikers? How many fake-outs can they give in one episode without anything truly dramatic happening? The note from a mysterious stranger, the men in black, none of it panned out into anything interesting. This is a character piece loosely disguised as a mystery.

In the end, we don’t know anything other than that Ruby was abducted, which is exactly what we learned in the teaser. At least now Scully understands the little boy inside her partner better. Maybe that will cause her to be more sensitive in the future… and maybe not. Should I mention “Sein Und Zeit” (7×10)?

And the Verdict is…

Apparently, this episode had to rely on atmospheric gimmicks; a note on the car, a girl who disappears too quickly to be relieved, g-men knocking down the door, and white wolves out of nowhere. However, none of those things bring to mind alien abductions and maybe that’s why this episode doesn’t really work. It’s just a little too introspective for my taste.

It does, however, give us more insight into the psyche of Fox Mulder. It also shows us that while Scully pities him, she’s also frustrated by his annoying ability to see his sister in the face of every missing girl.

This may be where I officially got sick of Samantha Mulder, and it’s only the second episode her ghost shows up in. The obvious parallels between Samantha and Ruby exhaust rather than intrigue me. The matching swimsuit pictures, well… I must be the most cold-hearted X-Phile in the nation, but I remain unmoved.

Still, it’s good to see Mulder’s character fleshed out and explained. It’s one thing to think your sister was taken by aliens, it’s a much more powerful thing to be so consumed by guilt and loss that the only outlet for your grief is tilting at windmills. And if the series hadn’t laid the foundation early on for Mulder’s angst, this whole search for the truth would have seemed hollow, as though Mulder merely wanted to show-off.

So, is Fox Mulder crazy or crazy like a Fox?

C+

Bepuzzlements:

Why are defense satellite transmissions coming through little Kevin’s TV screen? How does he hear/see all those little ones and zeroes? And what on earth is the connection to Ruby’s disappearance? What good does it do the aliens to read our transmissions and then transmit them back to the American public? And if they aren’t defense transmissions but important pieces of high culture (where was Bugs Bunny?) then how did the NSA mistake them for defense transmissions?

Is the white wolf the new red herring? What was the point other than to freak out the audience? Oh, wait…freaking out the audience….

General Observations:

There are some series continuity errors here in regards to Samantha’s abduction, but we have to cut the writers some slack. They had no idea how big the show would be and once it was popular, they had to spice up the abduction scenario a little bit.

This is the first and probably last time we’ll see Mulder seeking solace in a church. Was the voice he mentions at the end the government, the aliens, or God? And please don’t say CC was already going all “Biogenesis” (6×22) on me.

I do believe this is also Mulder and Scully’s first interrogation. I can’t say I pictured Mulder as the bad cop.

Love the creepy note-giving. But doesn’t their running across the street give away the charade?

The soundtrack when Tessa disappears in the library is classic Mark Snow. It gives the case an element of eeriness even though nothing special is actually going on.

Call me easy, but I really liked tough biker dude.

Best Quotes:

Blevins: In essence, Mulder is petitioning the Bureau to assign a case number to a tabloid headline. (Post-Modern Prometheus, anyone?)

———————-

Mulder: Who, me? I’m Mr. Congeniality.