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X-Files Episode Guide: 3

Needs his missing piece
Needs his missing piecePhoto by Rob Kim/Getty Images

X-Files: Season 2, Episode 7

Rating:
Star2
Star
Star
Star
Star

Written by Chris Ruppenthal and Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by David Nutter

The episode opens extremely well, and showing Mulder walking among the dusty basement where the X-Files office is, changing the calendar six months forward, and putting Scully's file in the cabinet is powerful. Duchovny gives a very effective performance as a man hollowed out by the loss of his better half. The tone of mourning plays very effectively through the episode, especially in the scenes between Mulder and the coroner. For all those reasons, I really wish I could like this episode more. But the mystery that's at the center of the story, just isn't worth the trouble.
One wants to give the vampire story more credit, especially after a decade of Twilight and Sookie Stackhouse, of at least trying to make a vampire story where the undead are dangerous rather than sexy. Unfortunately, the episode just can't make up its mind whether the vampires are supposed to be real or not. Mulder starts the episode like he's trying to pursue serial killers and wannabes that think they're vampires, and he certainly spends the first half of the episode proceeding under that presumption. The idea of pursuing a delusional man who thinks vampires are real would certainly have been interesting. But then, the series remembers that its wheelhouse is the paranormal, so John (The Son) is locked into a cell with southern exposure, and burns into a pile of ashes. We never do get a real explanation as to how John managed to resurrect himself (but why should we; he's not that interested when we see him again), because the episode is on to its central problem ---- Kristen.
Even now, twenty years after the fact, I'm still completely unsure what the point of Kristen was. Yes, I realize that her job was to serve as the central focus for the vampires pursuing, and the actual reason for the series of killings that brought Mulder onto the scene in the first place. But her job also seems to be the serve as a literal femme fatale that somehow attracts the broken Mulder, and based on everything we know about him over the past year, he'd have to be psychological damaged to let a woman who may be a suspect in a series of murders shave him
. It's not that he and then girlfriend Perrey Reeves don't generate a certain amount of chemistry together; it's that the script can't determine why this Scully-less Mulder would go to so much trouble to protect her. Mulder has a habit of trying to save women who seemed trapped in these cases--- it'll be demonstrated far more effectively in later season---- but the series seems unable to determine whether he's too shaken to use his usual sense of self-preservation or that there's some part of him that genuinely doesn't care if he lives or dies anymore. That would lead to the kind of wrenching drama we've come to expect from Morgan & Wong scripts, and for once, the writers seem unworthy or unable to follow through on them.
I'll say this for 3. Its tries. Those have accused Mulder of walking through crime scenes expressionlessly and without feeling would certainly be able to point to this script as their prime example. He seems to be sleepwalking through much of the episode. He seems unwilling to argue procedure with the LAPD, we casually hear him mention that he doesn't sleep anymore, and the few one-liners he does make seem like the shell of his wit. It's particularly painful to see him engage in scenes with the coroner, when we all know the only woman that he would trust with an autopsy. And he seems supremely off balance for the majority of the story, as if not having Scully has left him unable to even go through the motions. But it's just not enough to make this shell of a vampire story work--- Joss Whedon wouldn't haven't been able to do anything this po-faced for more than five minutes before injecting something into this static story.
3 does deserve credit --- a fair amount-- for painting an episode far more interesting than any of the ones we would get when Mulder was forcibly removed, but even hindsight can't make this one much better. At the end of the episode, Mulder is sitting alone looking out into the sky, looking miserable, and he should. He's wasted an hour trying to save a woman, and failed just as surely as he did when he tried to save Scully. He's wasted his time, and he's wasted ours. Our only real consolation is that we won't have to go through any more.