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X-Files Episode Guide: Sleepless

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X-Files: Season 2, Episode 4

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Written by Howard Gordon
Directed by Rob Bowman

The series is taking on a fresh bit of momentum, which is particularly remarkable considering that, at it's core, this is little more than another Howard Gordon supernatural revenge story, which even at this point in the series is starting to seem a little, ahem, tired. Indeed, the idea of building a superior soldier was already mentioned in last year's Eve, and will get done to death in the series final seasons. But what gives this story depth in a way that many of Gordon's scripts lack is that this revenge story is about something--- Vietnam, the wound on America's soul that is no closer to healing even twenty years later. Making the men that are being tracked down victims as well as dangerous is one thing, but the killer himself, is a very sympathetic one. 'Preacher' Cole is one of the more empathetic villains we've met so far on the series (a haunting performance by Tony Todd helps immensely) and it's clear that he's doing this not so much out of a need for vengeance, but out of a personal pain. Gordon does such an effective job, especially at the end of the story, of making Cole ultimately a man whose quest isn't as much for revenge as it is for peace--- as it witnessed by his final words.
If it were just for the basic plotline of the story, Sleepless would be an effective episode. What makes it more notable is how important is as far as introductions go. This is the episode, after all, which introduced us to Alex Krycek (aka Ratboy). His character would be so contorted by the machinations of the writers over the years that he was ont he show that it's particularly unsettling just to see him when he introduces himself to Mulder, fresh-faced, overly friendly, and wearing a suit that looks like it's at least a size too big for him. Considering how bristly and unpleasant his character would become as the years rolled on, it's also rather amazing to see just how sympathetic he is at first, and how utterly outraged he is when Mulder attempts to ditch him when he begins his investigation. It's also rather refreshing considering how many times over the series that Scully will be ditched by her partner, and do nothing but bristle. Indeed, when he kills Cole at the episodes climax, we have no problem believing that it was just one last demonstration of Cole's mental manipulations rather than the possibility that it might be something deeper. Indeed, one of the few flaws of the episode is that it shows it's hand a little too soon revealing Krycek to be yet another player in the mythos. It might have been more effective to not reveal it until a time when it could have had more impact (and a golden opportunity would've come just two episodes later.)
On the other hand, the shows puts a better foot forward when it introduces the next bit of continuity. The information on the case is literally left on Mulder's doorstep, and that brings forth a series of events that finally puts him face to face with his next major source, X. (How exactly we are supposed to identify him as such is a question the series never answers, considering that he is never identifies at any point in the series run, and the show's only literature ID's him alternatively as Mr. X and X. I've chosen the latter, simply because it's used more often.) X seems to be far icier than he did earlier, and he makes it clear early in their relationship that this is not a path that he would've chosen voluntarily. He seems to have been a colleague of Deep Throat, but his warnings are more direct, especially considering how determined he is not to duplicate that man's fate.
Scully's role, by comparison, seems far more limited. She doesn't even seem to leave her lab during this episode, but it's clear even by this point, that closing down the X-Files has done nothing to keep them separated. If anything, their bond seems to be deepening. What makes this seem even more remarkable is that we're barely into the series second year, and already our heroes are looking back on their time together as simpler and more fun. It's certainly true that after this episodes things are going to get a lot more personal for both agents, but it's interesting that even by now, the two of them are considering the 'good old days'.
Then again, considering what we witness in the episodes final scene, they have every reason to be worried. For the first time, we see the Smoking Man meeting with someone outside the corridors of the FBI, and it's clear that he has not taken being tossed from Skinner's office in the premier as any sign that he's outside their purview. And his deliberation that "every problem has a solution' when it comes to Scully is one of the most chilling things he will ever say. It's a dark and crisp end to what has already been a superb episode.

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