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X-Files: Season One: Eps. 4-8

by Rob Friesel

Following up on my first X-Files viewing post:

  • Conduit. Season one, episode four. Back to the central alien theme; Duchovny nails Mulder and brings out the combination of quirk and moroseness that is this character’s hallmark. On the DVD series’ first disc, this is by far the best episode thus far. It has nuanced variations on the character archetypes that will become part of the show’s signature but more so than that, this episode has a wonderful rhythm and balance. We keep swinging nicely between the conventional and the fantastic; as if the field report narration wasn’t enough, it becomes apparent in this episode that Scully rules the narrative: bikers have crazy stories and a burned-off ear isn’t “evidence” of UFO shit but you’ll be damned if you don’t witness some creepy and not-quite-explicable shit of your own…
  • The Jersey Devil. Season one, episode five. A Neanderthal (???) “wild man” comes out of the Pine Barrens to terrorize Atlantic City, NJ. It’s a bit jarring to go from “Conduit” to this episode though. “Conduit” is in the central narrative arc; “Conduit” is structurally sound and establishes Scully as our narrator; “Conduit” is emotional. “The Jersey Devil” seems to discard some of this. It’s played a bit flat. Scully-as-narrator seems almost discarded; but we do get some fair characterization with respect to Scully trying to “have a life” and a bit more Mulder’s obsessive tendencies.
  • Shadows. Season one, episode six. A decent rebound off of “The Jersey Devil”; we still don’t get back to the central narrative but we do get Scully-as-narrator back in substantive effect. We don’t mind that there are no aliens because the story is strong on its own. Poltergeists versus terrorists? Hell yes.
  • Ghost in the Machine. Season one, episode seven. Not exactly brushing against the paranormal. Which maybe explains why our principals are involved only at the behest of some estranged colleague of Mulder’s. Narrative structure (viz. Scully) returns rather strongly here, more so than in “Shadows”. But ten or so years after this episode was produced, this one feels oddly dated. It isn’t the DOD involvement (that shit never goes out of style); it’s the modems and the huge honkin’ CRTs and the impossibly sophisticated AI apparatus. At least their AI “death” scene gives the appropriate propers to Kubrick and HAL9000.
  • Ice.  Season one, episode eight.  Core subject matter but not the core story line; all done with ice cores.  I find myself missing the Scully field report here but I suppose it would not work in the overall narrative structure of this particular episode.  Über-hostile ammonia breathing space worms infecting an arctic ice crew and then Mulder and Scully get on the case.  Probably the best-paced episode yet; certainly the most suspenseful.

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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