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X-Files Episode Guide: Lazarus

Written by Alex Gansa & Howard Gordon
Directed by David Nutter

This is one of the more confusing episodes of a season that has more than a few of them. One can't help but think that Lazarus was an episode where the executives may have been asking for something closer to a traditional law and order type show. 'Cause, let's be honest, there doesn't seem to be much of an X-File here. The theory that a criminal and the FBI agent who's spent a year chasing him go into cardiac arrest in the same ER, and the killer comes back in the agents body. There isn't really much of a supernatural explanation as to how this could be possible, and Mulder drawing the theory from what appears to be a double pulse on an EKG, is one of the more ludicrous leaps he's made so far. Add this to the fact that this is yet another episode where they're trying to shore up the plot by making Willis Scully's former boyfriend, giving her a reason to reject Mulder's theories, and you have an episode that can't decide what it wants to be about.

This is Howard Gordon's first try at a supernatural revenge story, something he will come to specialize in when he starts writing solo scripts for The X-Files. Or maybe it's a paranormal love story, which he'll try his hand at more than once. Unfortunately, neither one of them is a particularly good one. This is because of a fundamental problem with all of Gordon's scripts --- he's not very good at creating very believable character development. Warren Dupree is painted as a man so possessed with love for Lula Phillips that he literally comes back from the dead in order to be with her. He doesn't know, of course, that his wife and partner in crime has betrayed him, by setting him up at the bank robbery, then trying to kill him when he comes back in Willis' body. Which means that the would be romance among the criminals is a complete and utter fraud. But why should we be surprised about that, as neither criminals nor cops come off particularly well in this story --- even though this is one of the rare occasions in the series run that Mulder or Scully is given command of a situation, and he doesn't immediately alienate the people who working for him.

There is more significance in the fact that this is the first time that Scully is abducted--- sadly, this will become something of a theme, for a character who will eventually become one of the strongest female characters in the history of television. Considering how well Chris Carter and other writers will handle this situation, one can't help but think that this is another example of the struggling any first time idea gets on a series. But considering how many women have been and will be abducted in series that Gordon and Gansa write for, one would think they'd be able to make it seem a little more believable. Scully doesn't seem at all equipped to handle the situation--- despite everything that she sees, she can't help but stay to her rational thought. So she spends half the episode trying to persuade Willis/Dupree that he is the man she loved and then tries to save him by giving him insulin rather than trying to run a bluff. Mulder doesn't come off much better in this episode, once again calling her by her first name, and telling the agents who are trying to rescue her "this is important to me." For all his theorizing, Scully is more or less saved by blind luck rather than any skills as an FBI agent.

Lazarus isn't as bad as many of the weaker episodes in Season 1 have been. Christopher Allport gives a mostly solid performance as Willis/Dupree, even though a lot of the dialogue he's given is almost impossible to say, even when it's delivered through audio recording. (Did he really think that Dupree and Philips love was 'operatic?) Anderson continues to show growth as Scully, working through some of the more obvious blinders that her character will be dealing with. But the fault with the episode lies not within the stars, but rather within the script. Gordon and Gansa are far more comfortable with the procedural parts of any show rather than the supernatural gimmicks, and that is perhaps never more made clear than it is in this episode. The police procedural parts work better, and are far better than some of the paranormal work, which would be fine if it didn't mean we've got to spend another week for this series trying to find it's identity. Frankly, it's starting to seem like Gordon & Gansa don't have much of a clue.