Over the course of nine seasons and 2 feature films, The X-Files transcended its cult status, becoming a phenomenon and cultural touchstone. With a new series on the way, special agent Rick Shingler has accepted the assignment to rewatch the entire series from the beginning and provide detailed reports about his findings. Come with us now, as we explore the mysteries of the complete X-Files. S1E16: Young At Heart (w: Scott Kaufer & Chris Carter/ d: Michael Lange) Sometimes, big sci-fi ideas are a little hard to turn out in an hour of television. This episode was written and pitched to Chris Carter by Scott Kaufer, a former colleague from his days as a magazine writer. Carter took the script and doctored it a little before going into production. It moves along fairly briskly, offering glimpses of Mulder’s early days as a rookie agent, but never quite seems to cohere into a complete package. It’s a Monster of the Week episode, and ultimately serves as something of a stumble. It opens in a flashback to 1989 and a prison in Pennsylvania where inmate Joe Crandall sees the prison doctor chopping off the hand of another inmate, one John Barnett. Dr. Ridley tells him that Barnett is dead. The problem is, Crandall clearly sees Barnett blink his eyes while lying on the table. Leap ahead a few years, and Agent Mulder is contacted by his former supervisor, Reggie Purdue. Someone has robbed a jewelry store and left a note to bait Mulder. The note’s handwriting matches that of John Barnett, who was supposed to have died in prison years ago. Barnett’s capture was the end result of Mulder’s first case as an FBI agent. Mulder hesitated in shooting Barnett, resulting in the death of a hostage and another agent. Mulder had acted according to protocols, but he still carried the burden with him. What follows is a game of cat and mouse (or Fox and hound, if you will) in which the presumed-dead Barnett keeps leaving clues for Mulder. Barnett is able to get to Purdue, strangling him with a lizard-like hand. Wha-huh? Just in time to lay some exposition on us, Dr. Ridley, whose medical license had been revoked back in the late 70s, by the way, turns up at Scully’s apartment. He tells the agents of his experimentation surrounding the disease progeria, which causes its sufferers to age at an accelerated speed. He also admits that Barnett was a success story for him, in that he was able to actually reverse his aging process and also regrow his hand with salamander DNA. Again, wha-huh? So, now the agents are pursuing someone who has grown four or five years younger with a salamander hand. Deep Throat meets with Mulder and confirms the whole thing, adding that the government was in negotiations with Barnett to purchase Ridley’s research from him. Setting up a sting at a concert hall, Barnett poses as a piano tuner, passing unnoticed because of his newfound youthfulness. When he’s caught, he gets a shot off, hitting Scully in the chest before Mulder shoots him, this time without hesitation. It turns out that Scully was wearing a bulletproof vest and is fine. Barnett is rushed to the hospital so that an attempt can be made to save him from the gunshot wound under the watchful eye of a lone CIA agent (the same mysterious smoking man in Blevins’ office waaaaay back in the pilot. Remember him?). Barnett dies without revealing where Ridley’s research is stashed away. The closing shot is of a locker in a train station. This one really just sort of creaked under the weight of its ambition. While the cat and mouse game between Barnett and Mulder was effective, it could have been much more tense. The threat level just never quite developed fully. When the sci-fi element is introduced late in the second act, it feels sort of shoehorned in. The story never quite falls apart, but it feels as if it will several times throughout the hour. The most critical and welcome part of the episode in repeat viewing was the return of Cigarette Smoking Man (billed in the credits as simply “CIA Agent”), who we hadn’t seen since the beginning of the season. S1E17: E.B.E. (w: Glen Morgan & James Wong/ d: William Graham) If it were possible (or even necessary) for this series to get a Pilot do-over, this would be that other Pilot. With all of the preliminary introductions out of the way, this story launches the rest of the series. Of course, it could also make one heck of a season finale. This is the point in the first season where all the pieces have come together, and it feels very much like the payoff we’ve been building toward since the beginning of the season. So, to review: It’s sort of a beginning, and sort of an ending, but it’s right in the middle of the season. What have we been saying about rules with this show? Oh, and this episode marks the addition of The Lone Gunmen to the supporting cast. In the skies over the Iraq/Turkey border, an Iraqi fighter pilot shoots down a UFO. It lands in Turkey near an American military outpost. Later, in Tennessee, a truck driver has an encounter with a large cigar-shaped vessel on a dark road. The next day Mulder and Scully investigate the site of the encounter and find enough unusual evidence to support questioning the driver. He isn’t exactly cooperative and changes his story with the agents from what he had reported to the local authorities the night before. He also seems to be suffering from Gulf War Syndrome, even though he (a veteran) claims to have not been in the Gulf War. On their way out of Tennessee, a strange woman at the car rental desk asks Scully if she can borrow her pen, which seems inconsequential but… Anyway, back in DC, Mulder takes Scully to meet his friends Langley, Byers, and Frohike who produce a conspiracy-laden underground newspaper called The Lone Gunmen. They bounce ideas around a little and Frohike makes an observation regarding Scully’s hotness that does not go unnoticed by Mulder. Looking for answers, Mulder reaches out to Deep Throat, who supplies him with a transcript from the Iraqi pilot’s encounter at the beginning of the episode. Meanwhile, Scully has been doing some digging of her own and learned that the truck in Tennessee had cargo registered at a ton less weight than it registered at weigh stations along the highway. What’s more, the trucker they spoke to had given them a false name and was, in fact, a Gulf War veteran. Mulder puts the pieces together and theorizes that the truck was hauling the downed UFO that the US military had salvaged in Turkey. At that moment, Scully accidently discovers the surveillance device hidden in her pen (remember the grandmotherly lady at the Lariat Rental counter? For that matter, do you remember Lariat Car Rental? Is that still around?). Deep Throat turns up in Mulder’s apartment, attempting to send him on what turns out to be a wild goose chase using a doctored UFO photo. Knowing that they’re being watched, and that they can no longer trust anyone else, Mulder and Scully make their way to Las Vegas, being careful to not leave any trace of their destination. Scully is able to gather enough information to trace the location of the truck to a northwesterly heading along I-90 in the Pacific Northwest. They are able to intercept the truck and follow it, but a flash of light and their car stalling disorients them briefly. When they regain their senses, they discover that the truck had been hauling unusual cargo as evidenced by the gurney with restraining straps and medical equipment hidden behind the auto part boxes in the back of the truck. But whatever had been occupying the table was now gone. Mulder determines that whatever they had encountered was not extraterrestrial activity, but an elaborate ruse staged by the military in order to mislead them while they extracted the E.B.E. (Extraterrestrial Biological Entity). By contacting several fringe UFO groups, Mulder is able to track the most recent UFO sightings, leading the pair to a facility a hundred miles from their “encounter” with the truck. Langley back at the Lone Gunmen is able to provide them with fake clearance to gain entrance to the facility, but they are soon discovered and Mulder is confronted by none other than Deep Throat, who explains to him that a pact was signed by most of the world’s powers after the Roswell crash in 1947 agreeing to see to the extermination any E.B.E.s that might happen into their territories. He also confides that he is one of only three men to have ever had to carry out the terms of this pact. Because of this act, he tries to steer Mulder in the direction of the truth, so that it can eventually be outed and thereby alleviate some of his guilt for his heinous act. Unfortunately, he feels the need to protect Mulder as well, which is why he fed him misinformation (relationship status: it’s complicated). When Mulder tries to look into the chamber where he believes the alien corpse is being held, he finds it to be empty. Deep Throat lets Mulder and Scully walk free from the facility even as he disappears into the foggy night. This one had everything anyone could hope for in an X-File and more. Perhaps most importantly, we witness Mulder and Scully working as an independent team, their trust and mutual respect fully established and unwavering. Scully even tells Mulder at one point that he’s “the only one she trusts”, a slight deviation from the series’ other tagline “Trust no one”. They settle into clandestine movement like Steed and Peel. Of course, I couldn’t possibly discuss this episode without fanboying over the introduction of the Lone Gunmen, which was supposed to be a one-off thing. Fan demand for the characters elicited their return in the second season and they would go on to become infrequent series regulars before being granted their own (admittedly short-lived) spinoff show during the X-Files’ eighth season. One of my favorite bits of X-Files lore is the story of Tom Braidwood’s casting as Melvin Frohike. The story stands that the casting directors were having trouble filling the role. The other two Gunmen had been cast, but Frohike was proving elusive. They were discussing this casting problem outside of a bathroom on set, observing that they needed someone who was sort of sleazy-looking, with an unsavory sort of charm. At that moment, Braidwood, an assistant director on the production, emerged from the bathroom. And with that real-life Lenny and Squiggy entrance, Tom Braidwood’s star was born. S1E18: Miracle Man (w: Chris Carter & Howard Gordon/ d: Michael Lange) First off, at the risk of seeming unkind, it’s really funny when Canadian extras try to do a Southern accent. Shooting Tennessee tent revival scenes in Vancouver led to some unintended chuckles. Other than that, this episode is an X-File in fine form. Creepy henchmen, sketchy religious types, and a seeming innocent with supernatural healing powers? Sign me up. This case somehow strikes a personal note for Mulder, as he keeps seeing visions of his long-missing sister Samantha. It begins in 1983, when young Samuel approaches the scene of a car accident and brings the victim back to life with a touch of his hand. It’s now ten years later, and his father has built up a tent revival ministry around his son’s miraculous ability, complete with impassioned sermons from Leonard Vance, the man Samuel saved from the body bag a decade earlier. Vance’s skin is riddled with burn scars and he wears large sunglasses and a suit and hat to cover most of his disfigurement. The catch is that a woman that Samuel supposedly healed went away from the meeting and promptly died. Scully presents the case to Mulder, and he’s game to check it out. When they get to Tennessee, Minister Calvin (Samuel’s father) tells them that his son is missing. They find Samuel drunk in a bar and pull him in for questioning about the death of the woman he “healed”. At his hearing, the courtroom experiences a small taste of Old Testament wrath as a swarm of grasshoppers fills the chamber. Mulder and Scully find that the grasshoppers were led into the building’s ventilation system through the roof by persons unknown. Samuel returns to the tent where he attempts to heal a woman, who has a seizure and dies instead. The sheriff arrests him again, this time letting his deputies beat Samuel to death in his cell. Mulder, who believes Samuel to have been innocent in all of this, is not surprised to find that the second woman died of cyanide poisoning. An apparition of Samuel appears to Vance, who confesses that he is embittered by the fact that he was brought back only to have to walk around horribly scarred and disfigured. Mulder and Scully arrive in time to hear his confession, but not quickly enough to save him from the cyanide he drank. Meanwhile, the District Attorney has the Sheriff arrested for his part in the death of Samuel. The agents get a call saying that Samuel has been seen wandering on the outskirts of town, bruised but very much alive. Throughout this case, Mulder has been seeing visions of his sister Samantha, and he sees her one last time as they are leaving town. Howard Gordon enlisted Carter as his collaborator for this episode, and the two of them created a story that made the network censors uncomfortable enough that they had to cut a couple of scenes, mostly involving religious iconography. Specifically, Samuel, the faith healer, was originally to have been beaten to death while in a cruciform pose. One of the most interesting things about this episode to me is that it presents the all-too-rare occasion of Scully bringing a case to Mulder instead of the other way around. After the events of recent episodes, it would seem as if Scully has entirely bought into the work that they’re doing, rather than riding along as a sort of active audience to Mulder’s whims. Not that it ever felt as if she accepted her role as a mole placed to debunk or discredit the program, but now she’s not even pretending to play along. Not that she has become a true believer like her partner, but she’s become aware that there is work to be done and people to help by taking on these fringe cases, and she’s determined to pursue them with the best of her training and abilities. S1E19: Shapes (w: Marilyn Osborn/ d: David Nutter) Once again, network executives stick their noses in, resulting in a largely lackluster episode. The men with the Fox lanyards suggested that the X-Files present some of the more traditional movie monsters on occasion. The writers landed on the werewolf legend, except with a twist: the werewolves are tied to the Native American legend of the shape-shifting Manitou instead of the more traditional European werewolf roots. Not a bad concept, but the suspense of the episode is built around elements that can be found in just about EVERY OTHER WEREWOLF MOVIE EVER MADE. The FBI steps in to investigate when a Native American named Joseph Goodensnake is shot and killed by Jim Parker, a Montana rancher who has been involved in a dispute over land with the local reservation. In his defense, Parker claims to have fired his shotgun at some sort of wild animal, and not a man. Mulder tells Scully that a similar incident in the same area happened forty years earlier, prompting J. Edgar himself to label the first “X-File”. At the scene, Mulder finds footprints that seem to transform from animal to human. Scully finds a skein of human skin. Ew. Parker’s son Lyle has a scratch on his shoulder that helps to lend credence to the rancher’s story of the animal attack. The locals on the reservation are, at best, unwilling to cooperate and at worst, downright hostile to the agents. The reservation’s sheriff tries to help and gives them access to Goodensnake’s body for examination. Scully finds extended animal-like canines and a scar from a wound very similar to that suffered by Lyle Parker. Yeah, we’ve travelled this road before, right? Remember on Buffy when Oz realized he was a werewolf and called his aunt to confirm it? I digress. On the night of Goodensnake’s funeral (and subsequent cremation), the elder Parker is ripped to shreds by a creature similar to the one he claimed to have defended himself from previously. The next morning, Lyle wakes up naked in the field adjoining the ranch. One of the village elders (I think his name is Ish or Eesh or something) tells Mulder about the legend of the Manitou, a creature which can transform its victim into a beastly meanie. It surfaces in the region about every eight years and guess how long it’s been? Parts of Lyle’s dad are found in Lyle’s stomach, and Scully ends up cornered in the attic of the ranch house by feral Lyle. She shoots it. When Mulder arrives, Lyle’s body is lying on the attic floor. Honestly, the only notable thing I can mention about this episode is that it serves as something of a primer for the later usage of Native American traditions and folklore, which will become an integral part of the show’s mythology arc later in the series (beginning with the season two finale, “Anasazi”). The performances are solid, and the atmosphere is established nicely, but the story just never really takes off and feels like it could have just as easily been a plot for a creepy Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk episode or a Quantum Leap Halloween episode. It’s not terrible, but… S1E20: Darkness Falls (w: Chris Carter/ d: Joe Napolitano) This was yet another attempt at a budget-saving “bottle episode,” but the weather and the need to film in a relatively remote location (to say nothing of one of the stars’ relentless morning sickness) conspired to drive the budget up and over the anticipated amount. By all reports, the only saving grace of filming this episode is the brotherly camaraderie between David Duchovny and his long time acting buddy Jason Beghe, who was Ranger Larry Moore in this episode. With this episode, Carter is able to make some ecologically sound statements while telling an engaging story. Deep in Washington State, a group of workers for a logging company are fleeing through the forest, but are eventually overtaken by green glowing bugs. The agents join Forest Ranger Larry Moore and Steve Humphreys, the logging company’s head of security to drive up to the work site and determine what happened to the loggers. Along the way, they hit a spike in the road, presumably placed there by a group of ecoterrorists who have been attempting to sabotage the work of the loggers. Walking the rest of the way to the camp, they find the place abandoned and the radio equipment destroyed. They also find a body wrapped in a large cocoon hanging in a nearby tree. Humphreys captures one of the eco-terrorists, a man by the name of Doug Spinney. Spinney and Humphreys bicker even as Spinney tells them all about the strange bugs who only swarm in darkness. Their presence corresponds to a mysterious growth ring in one of the older trees that the loggers had cut down. Humphreys hikes down to the truck, but the swarm attacks him as soon as it’s dark. The rest of the group remains at the camp and stay in the perceived safety of the single light bulb in the cabin. The next morning, Spinney convinces Mulder to let him take the rest of the gasoline and go get his friends and their Jeep, which causes much vexation on the part of his partner and the ranger. The day passes and Spinney does not return, forcing the three of them to stay in the cabin and pray that the generator can maintain the light bulb throughout the night. They make it to morning, and Spinney shows up later in the day to take them to safety. Unfortunately, Spinney’s Jeep hits one of his own road spikes and they are attacked by the swarm as the night falls. Rescuers arrive soon after, but Mulder, Scully, Spinney, and the Ranger have been encased in the cocoons. Luckily, they have not yet been entirely consumed by the creatures. They are transferred to a federal facility where they are revived and informed that the part of the forest that was infected is being slashed and burned. The resolution of this episode serves a dual thematic purpose. First, we are able to see just how vulnerable Mulder and Scully are to everything that’s going on around them. Ultimately, they are powerless, subject to the whims of the forces that surround them. Second, the powers within the government cannot be trusted to act with either honor or good sense. Their shock and awe approach to dealing with the infestation may be effective, but it will hardly serve any purpose should such a threat arise in a more populated area. Gillian Anderson’s real-life pregnancy and resulting morning sickness would only result in delays in production at this point. By next season, it becomes incorporated into the plot in a couple of notable episodes. We’ll get to that later. S1E21: Tooms (w: Glen Morgan & James Wong/ d: David Nutter) Well, this one is just one great big juicy bite of X-Files goodness. It’s a follow-up to one of the strongest episodes of the first half of this season (and one of those rare storytelling instances in which the sequel improves upon its successor). It’s also a further exploration of the dynamic of Mulder and Scully’s partnership. Not only does it reintroduce a menacing figure who has been lurking in the smoky corners of the show since the first five minutes of the pilot episode, this episode also serves to introduce a new character who will become easily the most integral component of the show’s mechanics after Mulder and Scully. And, as if all that wasn’t enough, it serves as a dark augury of what’s in store for the show. Eugene Victor Tooms, the stretchy, human-liver-eating mutant serial killer from the season’s third episode (“Squeeze”) is visited by his psychologist, Dr. Monte. Monte informs him that things are looking optimistic for him at the next day’s hearing to determine whether he should be released from the facility where he’s been held since his capture. The next day, Scully is forced to endure a mirror image of the scene which introduced her back in the pilot episode. Specifically, she has been called into the office of a superior while that damnably menacing Smoking Man lurks silently in the room. This time, instead of Director Blevins giving her the new assignment of “debunking the X-Files”, it’s Assistant Director Walter Skinner berating her over the lack of proper procedure in she and Mulder’s pursuit of their cases. It is impressed upon her that all of their cases in the future must be carried out strictly by the book. While she’s being upbraided, Mulder sits in a courtroom listening to experts explain to the court how Tooms was an innocent victim who was pushed to act upon poor judgement when he attacked Scully in her own apartment before the agents caught him. That assault was the only charge that could be brought against him, as no true evidence could be found to tie him to the four murders which Mulder knows he committed. Further, Mulder knows that as soon as he is released he will murder one more in order to extract and eat the fifth requisite liver before going back into his thirty year hibernation. Despite Mulder’s expert testimony (or, more likely, because of it), Tooms is released and remanded into the care of a couple who operate a halfway house. Scully tells Mulder about her meeting with Skinner, emphasizing to him how important it is that neither of them step out of line with regard to bureau protocols. Mulder responds by beginning an unauthorized one-man surveillance of Tooms. Scully visits former Sheriff Frank Briggs, who had been on the case during Tooms’ killing spree in the 30s. He tells Scully that one of the victims was never found. Following Briggs’ hunch, Scully unearths a skeleton buried in the concrete of one of Tooms’ known hidaways. Upon examination, the only distinguishing thing about the victim is a bite mark on one of the ribs. While Scully is being all CSI before CSI was cool, Mulder makes a pest of himself as Tooms desperately searches for his next liverwurst sandwich. Perhaps in a fit of frustration, Tooms attacks and kills Dr. Monte when he comes to check on him. Scully, meanwhile, has matched the bite marks on the skeleton to Tooms’ dental records, giving them the first real evidence against him that they have yet to find. Finding Monte’s body in Tooms’ bedroom, Mulder and Scully race to find his lair. Tooms’ home on Exeter Street has been destroyed and replaced with a shopping mall during his time of incarceration. Mulder climbs under the escalator to find a bile-encrusted papier mache cocoon. Tooms, for his part, is a tad cranky when forced to wake up just as he’s settling in for a three decade nap. He goes feral, defending his nest with determined savagery. Unfortunately for Eugene, savagery is no match for an active escalator. He is trapped and dragged under by the moving stairs, leaving a trail of blood on the emerging steps. Back at the office, Scully sticks her neck out to defend Mulder and his actions to AD Skinner. After they are dismissed, Skinner asks The Smoking Man whether he believes the things written in Scully’s report. He replies “Of course I do”. Afterwards, Mulder tells Scully that there are changes coming to the X-Files. It should be noted again that this episode and the earlier “Squeeze” would not have been quite the successful productions they were without the performance of Doug Hutchison in the role of Eugene Victor Tooms. His quiet, uber-creepy stare can be hungry, lost, and menacing all at the same time. And his choice of performing the climactic scene under the escalator au natural helped to bring out the fear factor in Duchovny’s performance. Also, this episode marks the beginning of a new era for Mulder and Scully’s partnership. She is now ready to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of their work, even defying the direct orders of her superiors. As a sort of funhouse-mirror image of this functional, trusting relationship, we are introduced to what appears to be an unevenly strained working relationship between the mystery Smoking Man and FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner. Skinner’s impact on Scully is nearly that of a disappointed parent, and she is temporarily cowed by his discipline. Her better judgement wins the day over bureaucratic policies. Mulder, in turn, wants nothing more than to protect Scully from any professional backlash that may result from what he considers to be his work. What he hasn’t yet awakened to is the fact that Scully now fully considers the X-Files to be as much her work as it is her partner’s. Don’t worry, Scully. He’ll come around. S1E22: Born Again (w: Glen Morgan & Alex Gansa/ d: Jerrold Freeman) Well, here we go with yet another vengeful ghost story… Nah, this was actually a pretty serviceable supernatural mystery. Howard Gordon, David Duchovny, and even the perennially supportive Chris Carter were pretty blunt about their disappointment with this episode, and I will admit that I went into this viewing with absolutely no recollection of it, despite an embarrassing amount of previous runs through the entire series. What I found while watching this time around was a decent little mystery steeped in the weirdness of the X-Files. Considering the story was first and foremost a police drama and a supernatural mystery as a necessary evil to drive the plot (and get Mulder and Scully involved), it likely echoed much of what populated the television landscape at the time it aired, which would make it seem trite at the time. Looking at it now, as a part of the first season of the X-Files and lacking the background noise of its time period, it’s a perfectly enjoyable hour of television. A little girl named Michelle Bishop is discovered in an alley outside of a police station in Buffalo, NY. She appears to be mostly non-verbal, so Detective Sharon Lazard brings her into the station in order to learn more about her. Once inside, Lazard asks Detective Rudolph Barbala to help talk to the girl. Lazard leaves Barbala in the room with Michelle, but rushes back when she hears the sound of Barbala flying through the window to a four or five story fall. Lazard has a friend in Baltimore PD who recommends that she contact the X-Files office for help with unexplainable circumstances like the one she’s involved with. Michelle claims that another man was in the room and is responsible for Barbala’s death. She supplies a description of the other man, resulting in the face of one Detective Charlie Morris. The problem is that Detective Morris had died nine years earlier in an apparent gang execution. A visit to Michelle’s mother leads to Michelle’s psychiatrist, who shows Mulder her collection of Michelle’s creepy mutilated dolls. Every one of them had its left arm removed and the right eye blacked out. Soon after, they learn that Morris’ execution had consisted of having his right eye gouged out and the left arm cut off with a band saw. So, at this point Mulder is practically foaming at the mouth with a reincarnation theory. Michelle would have been conceived just after Detective Morris’ death. Mulder and Scully attempt to interview Morris’ former partner, Tony Fiore, but he offers little assistance. However, as we are made privy to Fiore having a secret meeting with Leon Felder, we learn that there is a safe deposit box with a significant amount of money stored inside. And now, thanks to Barbala’s death, it’s a two-way split as soon as they remove it from its resting place. They all vowed to wait ten years before dividing the money. It’s never made entirely clear why this delay was agreed to, but it’s probably something to do with a statute of limitations of some sort. Felder chills Fiore, cooling the detective’s panic somewhat. Later, Fiore’s scarf gets caught in the door of a bus and strangles him. Surprisingly, Michelle is sitting on the bus during the entire incident. While this is happening, Mulder and Scully discover that Fiore, Felder, Barbala, and Morris were once closely connected as detectives. What’s more, Fiore is now married to Morris’ widow. Mulder convinces Michelle’s mother to allow her daughter to endure deep regression hypnosis, wherein Michelle claims to be 24 years old before panicking over the people who are planning to kill her. Her mother and psychologist put a stop to the proceedings when Michelle begins screaming, unable to calm down. The recording of the session, upon review, exhibits a burst of static. Mulder examines the static and the agents find embedded in it the last thing Morris saw before his death. The image shows the scuba diver figure in his wife’s saltwater fish tank, leading Mulder to the conclusion that Morris was drowned in that same tank. Realizing that Fiore and his wife may be in danger, the agents rush to the house, where Mulder finds Michelle engaging in a raucous session of telekinesis against Morris’ former partner. Fiore admits to stealing a large sum of money, and that those involved had all vowed to leave it tucked away for ten years before dividing it. Morris had learned of their plan and threatened to expose them, which is why he was drowned in his fish tank before being mutilated to make it look like a gangland slaying. Once Fiore is brought to justice, Michelle stops being weird and starts acting like a normal little girl. While I will admit that this episode wasn’t the best of the first season, it certainly wasn’t the worst and actually kept me engaged during this repeat viewing. One interesting thing to note is that David Duchovny was dating Maggie Wheeler, who guest starred as Detective Lazard at the time this episode was filmed. Perhaps his personal distaste for this episode was a warning sign for this relationship. I suppose only Wheeler and Duchovny know for sure, right? A random observation occurred to me while watching this episode. At one point, Mulder splits off to pursue the investigation on his end and asks Scully to go back and examine Barbala’s corpse, to her visible annoyance. This is one of the earliest times this happens, but it will go on to become an ongoing arrangement of their investigations. In fact, Scully’s autopsies (among other things) become the subject of parody in the season 5 episode “Bad Blood.” I always dismissed her umbrage in these circumstances as Scully being insulted that Mulder is giving her orders like he’s her boss and not her partner. But what struck me while watching this episode is that this petulance runs much deeper than a simple violation of professional courtesy. As we learned in “Beyond the Sea,” which dealt with the death of William Scully, Dana had defied her father’s wishes by joining the FBI. He had always expected her to put her medical degree to use as a doctor. When Mulder sends her to do an autopsy instead of going out in the field, I believe there is a part of her that feels like he’s her father ordering her into a medical capacity instead of allowing her to be a field investigator. She’s able to reconcile that her particular abilities and training makes her uniquely capable to approach the case from that angle, but it must still rankle her that Mulder is the one kicking down doors with a gun in hand while she’s stuck in a morgue with a cadaver. S1E23: Roland (w: Chris Ruppenthal/ d: David Nutter) To be perfectly honest, I’m finding this episode incredibly difficult to write up. It’s yet another vengeful ghost episode. In fact, it’s yet another vengeful-ghost-takes-control-of-an-innocent-person episode. Didn’t we just see that in “Born Again” last week? And “Lazarus” before that? And how about “Shadows” and “Space” (sort of)? That being the case, this story stands as a unique and wholly different approach to what is becoming a well-worn path for this young show, accented beautifully by actor Zeljko Ivanek’s genuinely fervent portrayal of the episode’s title character. I’m unsure what exactly Roland’s diagnosis might be, but references are made throughout the episode to his IQ being around 70. Mulder discusses Roland with Scully with reference to Autism. He seems to display vestibular and motor deficiencies that may indicate some form of Palsy or possibly a chromosomal disorder similar to Downs. Whatever the specifics, he is most certainly a developmentally and/or neurologically challenged adult. Roland is the janitor at a jet propulsion laboratory. Dr. Keats is a scientist working at the lab and displays impatience and condescension to Roland, who has trouble operating his key card. Keats is one of three engineers working on a jet engine prototype with the potential to break the mach 15 barrier. He argues with his partners Dr. Nollette and Dr. Surnow about whether to push the engine to reach the goal, but Surnow is reluctant to risk damaging their prototype. Keats and Nollette stomp out of the lab in a huff, leaving Surnow alone with Roland. Inexplicably, Roland traps Surnow inside the wind tunnel and activates the engine. Set blender to frappe. Roland then proceeds to erase and work on the complex dynamic equations on the whiteboard in the lab. As this is the second team member death in a couple of months (the first was one Dr. Arthur Grable), Mulder and Scully are sent by the FBI to take a look. Scully thinks industrial espionage is the reasoning behind the murders. Mulder isn’t so sure. He notes that the handwriting at the bottom of the board is different than the other handwriting, but no one seems to know whose writing it is. They visit Roland in the assisted living home where he resides. He is compliant at first, but experiences a mysterious vision involving Dr. Keats and becomes violently agitated. The agents leave. Later that night, while Keats works in the lab, Roland appears and shoves the doctor’s face into liquid nitrogen, then lets him drop to the floor, shattering his head like an ice cube. He then sits down and logs into the computer to get to work. The next day, the lab becomes a crime scene, complete with chalk outlines for each fragment of Keats’ shattered pumpkin. It’s a twisted image that never fails to make me laugh despite the ick-factor. They are able to discern that the work on the computer was done under Arthur Grable’s account. As it turns out, Grable, upon his death, was placed into a cryogenic chamber for preservation. Nollette takes them to see the facility, explaining the process and telling them that Grable had named Roland as his sole organ donor recipient, should the need arise. Some digging turns up the fact that Grable was Roland’s long-lost identical twin brother. The two had been separated at the age of three when Roland had been taken away to stay at a facility that could better serve his particular needs. Long story short, Grable’s minute brain activity from within the cryogenic chamber is able to psychically connect with Roland to the point of taking over his mind. Grable/Roland goes back to the lab where he successfully breaches the Mach 15 barrier, only to be confronted by Nollette. Nollette had been at the cryogenic facility tampering with Grable’s chamber, raising its temperature. Grable/Roland gets the jump on Nollette and knocks him unconscious. He awakens inside the wind tunnel with Grable/Roland at the controls on the other side of the glass. Mulder and Scully arrive and convince Roland to deny Grable’s influence and shut down the jet engine before it can make another Propulsion Engineer Smoothie™. As the cryogenic chamber’s temperature rises, Grable’s influence over Roland gives way. Roland is taken by police for a battery of psychological evaluations, and it’s left unclear whether Nollette is held accountable for his actions. Jeez, what a downer. Not only does the intellectually challenged man get taken into custody and away from his equally challenged girlfriend, but the bad guy never has to pay for his actions? I mean, we’re willing to accept that true, buttoned-up resolutions are going to be few and far between with this show, but this one just felt like it was left unfinished. Who’s going to get credit for the work that, for all intents and purposes, Roland was responsible for? Why is the douchebag allowed to go free? Will he score a juicy defense contract with the new engine’s specs? When will Roland be able to come home to his beloved Tracy and their jar full of stars? This was a tremendously well-acted episode, with particular regard to Ivanek’s performance. The direction and story remained engaging, even though it was something of a revisit of prior themes. The bleakness of the story’s bummer resolution made it fall somewhat flat in the final act. Maybe next episode (the season finale, no less) will end with a slightly more upbeat tone. Let’s check it out and see. S1E24: The Erlenmeyer Flask (w: Chris Carter/ d: R.W. Goodwin) …And then the doors blew wide open. The first season finale delivered. Like a pizza guy after a six pack of Red Bulls, this episode delivered. Chris Carter’s script takes all the blocks he’s been assembling all season, stacks them into a neat pile, and abruptly knocks that pile into oblivion. This is the first episode to alter the tag line at the end of the opening credits. Instead of the usual “The Truth Is Out There,” the opener ends with “Trust No One.” In this episode, Scully gets the hard science she’s been craving, Mulder gets the visual evidence he’s been seeking, and Deep Throat gets… Well, let’s just say that the upbeat tone we were seeking after last week’s “Roland”? Not so much. A high speed car chase results in a fugitive being shot several times before running up a gangplank to jump into a Maryland river. He leaves behind a trail of green blood. Mulder is awakened by a phone call from Deep Throat, suggesting that he turn on the news. Unable to see what he is supposed to be gleaning from the news broadcast, Mulder and Scully go to the waterfront to talk to the local authorities. One of the cars involved leads them to Dr. Berube, one of thousands of scientists worldwide working on the human genome project, a global initiative to map human DNA. While there, Scully frightens the lab monkeys. This fact bears no real significance to the episode at large, but it was sort of a funny sentence to write. After interviewing Berube, Scully convinces Mulder that they have little to no reason to pursue this line of inquiry and they both agree to go home. Deep Throat, however, has other plans for Mulder. He intercepts him outside of his building, telling him that he’s never been closer. Closer to what, exactly? He doesn’t say. Meanwhile, Dr. Berube is confronted by a man with a crew cut, identified in the credits as (wait for it) “Crew Cut Man.” He had been seen at the first crime scene, but no one could identify him after the fact. Now he is visiting Dr. Berube and his increasingly excitable simians. The end result is that Berube is found dead, an apparent suicide. In the lab, Mulder finds an Erlenmeyer flask labeled “Purity Control,” which he promptly hands over to Scully to analyze. Quick, Scully! To the lab! Upon examination, the nucleotides found within the liquid inside the flask is proven scientifically to be of extraterrestrial origin. Meanwhile, Mulder is searching Dr. Berube’s house for clues or evidence or anything. He finds a set of keys for a storage facility when the phone rings. It’s Dr. Secare, who was the man that was shot before jumping into the river at the beginning of the episode. Thinking he’s talking to Berube, Secare tells Mulder that he’s been hurt and spent the last three days underwater waiting for search crews to give up. While on the phone, Secare collapses. An ambulance picks him up, but the EMTs are overwhelmed by blinding fumes when they attempt to tap their patient’s lung to remove fluid pressure. Secare escapes the ambulance and stalks off into the night. Mulder follows his lead to the storage facility and finds six large tanks. The tanks are all filled with liquid and all but one contains a nude human being, somehow resting inside. One of the tanks stands empty save for the liquid. Mulder is pursued by menacing figures when he leaves the facility, but he gets away. Of course, the next day, when he brings Scully back to the storage unit, it’s been cleaned out entirely, so Scully sees nothing. Seriously, Mulder, did you even look at the rule book for this show? However, Deep Throat arrives to explain to them that Berube was infecting terminally ill volunteers with Purity Control, which was an alien virus. All six patients responded to the treatment favorably, and Berube helped Secare (one of the patients) to escape, leading to the chase at the opening of the episode. Mulder returns to Berube’s house where he finds Secare. Unfortunately, Crew Cut Man had the same idea and kills Secare by shooting him in the back of his neck. The tear gas-like fumes emitting from the wound overcome Mulder and he collapses, allowing Crew Cut (conveniently wearing a gas mask) to capture him. In a desperate Hail Mary pass, Scully and Deep Throat conspire to gain Scully entry to a high containment facility (called, according to the title card, the “High Containment Facility”) which is holding the original sample upon which the Purity Control program was based. After navigating the complex security measures of the facility, Scully is able to obtain an alien fetus, which she steals in order to trade for Mulder’s return. Deep Throat, who has arranged the trade, offers the fetus to Crew Cut Man. Crew Cut Man returns the favor by shooting Deep Throat in the chest. Mulder is unceremoniously dumped from the back of the van, even as Deep Throat dies in Scully’s arms. His last words are the same as the tag line at the end of this episodes opening credits: “Trust no one.” Several weeks later, Mulder calls Scully to tell her that he had just come from a meeting with AD Skinner, who informed him that word from high in the Executive Branch had come down, ordering him to shut down the X-Files project and reassign Mulder and Scully. The episode ends with an echo. At the end of the Pilot, Cigarette Smoking Man took a vial containing an alien metal nose implant which Scully had extracted during an autopsy and filed it deep within the heart of the Pentagon. Now, the alien fetus is placed with three others just like it in that same Pentagon storage room, presumably never again to see the light of day. Now that she’s finally been presented with some hard science which would seem to back up Mulder’s theories, Scully is fully on board. Of course, she gets with the program just in time for the program to be shut down, but them’s the breaks, right? This finale opened up the scope of the conspiracy mythology of the series to include human/alien hybrids, some sort of bounty hunters who seem to be seeking said hybrids (for whom is still not entirely clear), and the fact that there are powers that may or may not be linked to the federal government who are trying to control the entire thing. With the shocking death of their sole ally and only line of defense against the forces trying to shut them down, Mulder and Scully will be forced to rely entirely upon one another as they fall deeper into the world they are discovering. That is, if they are ever able to work together again. See larger image The X-Files: Season 1 New From: $13.98 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Dignan July 6, 2015 I think Lariat was a car rental company made up by the show…they always used Lariat. Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.