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X-Files Episode Guide: E.B.E.

One aspect that Will outlast the series
One aspect that Will outlast the series

X-Files: Season 1, Episode 17


Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong
Directed by William Graham

Leave it to our good friends Glen and James to get us back on track after three straight episodes that had us wandering in the wilderness. This episode is a refreshing back to basics, stripping the story down to Mulder & Scully and the pursuit of the truth. There are many promising signs for the future in this episode, but there is also a pretty critical flaw, though maybe only it seems like one in retrospect.
This episode gets us a lot closer to the mission statement that Carter formalized way back in Deep Throat. Mulder and Scully spend the episode following evidence of a UFO trail, only this time it's more abstract than what we've gotten before, holding mainly on hearsay. What save us from drowning in the mythos is the fact that, for once, E.B.E. seems to demonstrate that our heroes are on the right track from the start and just have to get from Point A to Point B, even if they have to go through the rest of the alphabet in order to get there.

And herein lies the fundamental problem: E.B.E can been seen pretty clearly at the fundamental flaw in the mythology told in a single episode. Mulder and Scully get proof that they are on the trail of a U.F.O. They received information from a confidential source that verifies it, then they are misdirected, then they find evidence that they are being monitored by foreign sources. They spend the remainder of the episode trying to work around the government's dragnet, and seem to get right up to their goal, only to have it snatched away at the last minute. Nothing personifies Mulder's quest more than finding the evidence of a U.F.O, only to pulled away at the last moment, by Deep Throat telling him that the extraterrestrial biological entity (and God, do we get sick of hearing that mouthful by the time the episode is over) has been killed. No wonder Mulder is less than grateful towards this benefactor near the end.

The episode also demonstrates the fundamental problem with Deep Throat, and its one that Jerry Hardin had for his entire time on the series--- he never got a clear idea what his character, and how much of what he was telling Mulder was true. He seems beneficial to Mulder, but there's never any clear reason as to why he has decided to help Mulder and Scully. We gets hints of it in his story to Mulder near the end, where he says that the main reason is to make up for a sin in his past of being one of three living men to have killed an alien. It's a noble statement, and it's blinding in its promise, but it's come in an episode where Deep Throat has openly been lying and trying to manipulate Mulder, and doesn't shy away from that fact when Mulder calls him on it. It's no wonder at the episode's conclusion that Mulder says one of the most hurtful things he will ever say to his source.

The question that therefore leaps to mind is why this episode, despite the shell game that our heroes seem to play during it, seems so satisfying. Part of it comes with the introduction of one of the few elements that will last the entire length of the series--- the Lone Gunmen. In their initial appearance, it's clear that they seem to be here for a one-shot appearance--- their behavior and attitude is creepy and unsettling, rather than as the comic relief and utter loyalty that they will demonstrate to Mulder and Scully during their quest. We don't even get their names until the credits, with the exception of Langley. And we know that it's hard to trust them considering that make Mulder's theories seem positively mainstream. But it's a good effect that Morgan & Wong use by making them seem to paranoid for Mulder to take seriously---- and then showing that there's a listening device in Scully's pen.

Admittedly, we're still feeling our way around even in this episode. The mythology at this point still seems comprehensible at this point, but it's not going to really demonstrate its ability until the second season when it's given emotional weight. As it is, E.B.E probably seems more like what an outsider's view of the X-Files is than what the series actually can be about.---- Mulder and Scully chasing down some obscure element of 'the truth' for forty minutes, being led down one blind alley after the other, and arriving at their destinations moments after it has left the building. After three episodes where they have trying to personalize the series by having elements from Mulder and/or Scully's past, and basically ending up with lackluster results, this seems like a step forward. The episode is suspenseful, clever, and amusing at times--- but there are definitely troubling concerns for the future, if this is what the series will be like. Perhaps the fault is not in the stars, but in the writing. Morgan and Wong seem to understand this. Their successors will not.