Monday, August 31, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E8 "Oubliette"

[ S3:E7 "The Walk" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E9 "Nisei" ]

This is a bit of a frustrating episode. The subject is abductions - but not the alien kind. It starts out in a Washington state high school. A photographer's assistant gazes at a pretty teenage girl (the radiant Jewel Staite) for a moment too long, as if to let the audience know that he's a creep (groan). And, sure enough, he proceeds to kidnap the 15 year old little girl (make sure you say "little" a few times so the audience gets the point -ed) from her bed at night, right in front of her terrified younger sister.

Mulder joins the case when a previous kidnapping victim starts experiencing "empathic transference", linking her to the most recent abduction. For once, he is more sensitive than Scully towards the plight of a woman in a man's world. But when Scully brings up the issue of Mulder's sister (in a perfect example of writing that's "too on the nose"), he rightly argues that it's a bit of a leap in this case. This is a rare example of Mulder and Scully being out of phase - not just disagreeing about what conclusion the evidence points to; they're nearly at each other's throats here. It's not fun to watch.

Neither are the episode's protagonist, nor its antagonist. The kidnapper is an uncommunicative subhuman with no clear motive (beyond animal instinct - except all he does is keep girls locked up in his basement) who serves only to put an innocent girl in jeopardy. The previous survivor has the potential to be a morally complicated character, as Mulder has to balance his sensitivity toward the victim of a serious trauma, with the possibility that if he pushes her a little, she might be able to rescue another girl from harm. But her reticence to help goes largely unexplored, and so she comes off rather unsympathetically, as a textbook definition of "damaged goods".

The episode has some creepy moments, but altogether it feels too contrived, like a case of forced sensitivity to the issue of kidnapping, almost as an apology for the show's questionable approach toward the issue of rape in last season's Excelsis Dei. In conclusion, Oubliette is best forgotten.

Memorable quotes:

Kidnapper: Nobody's gonna spoil us.

Lucy: So what's your point?  All of us kidnap victims gotta stick together?
Mulder: No.

(Actually, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what the script is saying).

Scully: I hate to say this Mulder, but I think you just ran out of credibility.

Scully: You don't see what you're doing, do you, Mulder? You are so close to this that you just don't see it.
Mulder: What don't I see?
Scully: The extreme rationalization that's going on. Your personal identification with the victim - or in this case, the suspect. You're becoming some kind of an empath yourself, Mulder. You are so sympathetic to Lucy as the victim - like your sister - that you can't see her as a person who's capable of committing this crime.
Mulder: You don't think I've thought of that? I have, and not everything I do and say and think and feel goes back to my sister. You of all people should realize that sometimes motivations for behavior can be more complex and mysterious than tracing them back to one single childhood experience.

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