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X-Files Episode Guide: Tooms

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X-Files: Season 1, Episode 21

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Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong

Directed by David Nutter

About the only thing that's really wrong with Tooms is the fact that we have a sequel the same season as the original aired. Bringing back a popular villain is not an uncommon ploy for any series, but one wonders, given how soundly Eugene Victor Tooms was locked in his box that it makes a lot of sense to have him released. But then again, when one considers (as no doubt the writers did) that there was no guarantee the series would be picked up for a second season, maybe they considered they might not get another chance. So the last script written by Morgan & Wong turns out to be something of a mirror for the first episode they did. But consider how good they were at it, one must admire all the flourishes they managed to put on it.

Of course, twenty years in the future, one is more inclined to see this episode overly crowded with all the continuity points that tend to weigh down lesser stories of the series. For one thing, this episode introduces a character who will eventually become, with the exception of the Lone Gunmen, Mulder and Scully's most vital ally. AD Walter Skinner makes his debut in the episode, and frankly, given his attitude in this episode, and what we've seen of the Bureau hierarchy during the first season, he seems to be just another heavy determined to weigh down the agents--- appearing to sound false whenever he tries to be an ally, and menacing the rest of the time. It doesn't help the fact that (in another vital part of continuity) the Cigarette-Smoking man is back in the room looking on ominously. The episode is also noted for being the first time we hear the Smoking man utter a single sentence of dialogue; it will also be the last time he does until the start of Season 2. The fact that the line seems to be an affirmation of what Mulder and Scully have been doing, makes his ultimate role in the Bureau seem even more blurred, which is no doubt how the writers would like it.

Whatever the reasoning, Scully is called in, more or less, to be officially reamed out for not reining in Mulder. At this point, it's relatively clear that, while Deep Throat may have saved Mulder from dismissal back in Fallen Angel, the powers that be are still trying to bring down the X-Files. (I have raised the question many times, and I'll raise it again: why not just bring them in on procedural matters? At one point, Scully says that she and Mulder have maintained a 75% clearance rate, which makes me wonder is she counting the same cases we are? How many episodes this season have basically been left as unsolved? I count at least six, and that's without going anywhere near the mythology which never seem to get solved. Are there other cases that Mulder and Scully investigate that we never see? Maybe in the comics?)

If nothing else, Tooms seems to demonstrate just how ludicrous it is to try and even talk about these cases to normal people. When Mulder is sworn in to talk about whether Eugene Tooms should be released, every single thing he tells about him is true... and he's the one who comes off seeming like a lunatic. It's a very funny sequence, but it does make the point just how far outside the Bureau's procedures Mulder and Scully are.

Part of the reason Tooms doesn't seem like a retread is because we know all the bits of the first part so well, Morgan and Wong spend most of the episode subverting them, often for comic effect. For once, no one dies in the teaser, and the only extraneous stretching we see Tooms do is when he crosses his fingers, Mulder twice manages to thwart him just he seems to be locked in on his victim, and when Tooms sneaks into Mulder's apartment, it's not to make him victim number five but to frame him for assault. It's so well done that when he finally does choose his final victim, we're almost rooting for the guy-- let's face it, Dr. Monte is the ultimate tool. At this point, the only thing left for them to do is kill the mutant off like every other monster, but Morgan & Wong even managed to add some color to that sequence.

All this, and we finally get a scene where Mulder and Scully, for what is probably the first time in the series, swear what amounts to a blood oath to each other, masked under the guise of casual flirting. One can't help imagine that this is where all those shippers who started show up on the net, began their long waiting game.

The metaphor of the chrysalis, which looks just like the first nest that Tooms was building seems to be a little too far, but we do get the idea that Mulder and Scully are now flirting with danger. They may have dodged a bullet with this particular case, but like Briggs did earlier in the episode, Mulder has a hunch that trouble is on the horizon. The X-Files being under assailment is a card that the writers will end up playing a bit too frequently the longer the series stays on the air, but like so many other things in the series at this point, it feels vital and fresh. That helps by far make Tooms by a fair margin, the best sequel the X-Files will ever do. The fact that Morgan and Wong have done it so well make it feel fresher than the original.

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