Monday, September 14, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E23 "Wetwired"

[ S3:E22 "Quagmire" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E24 "Talitha Cumi" ]

This is a unique sort of episode. Just when I was starting to think that The X-Files was settling in to a rather more strict demarcation between the monster-of-the-week and the mythology episodes than it's had in the first two seasons (thus making my "one cigarette" rating obsolete), we are given Avatar. And now this. It doesn't feel like a traditional mythology episode - as in F. Emasculata, the emphasis is on conspiracy rather than extraterrestrials - and yet many of the major recurring mythology characters are assembled here (including Mrs. Scully!). (Also, the Smoking Man is referred to directly in this episode for the second time as "Cancer Man"). Plus, like late season 2's Soft Light, it gives us some sorely needed development of the character X (albeit precious little), who has been largely and conspicuously absent for the majority of this season. I fear, however, that, much like in Sleepless, the final scene is but an ominous set-up for something that is about to befall (more on that when it happens).

In this episode, Mulder and Scully investigate the case of a man who appears to be insane, after killing several people he thought were someone else. They find a treasure trove of taped news programs in the perpetrator's house, linking his crimes to reports on a particularly heinous war criminal. Scully suspects a homicidal reaction to violent impulses in the media (though as a skeptical scientist, she should really know better), but Mulder's doubts lead him to search for a less natural stimulus that could trigger such an outburst. Similar cases begin to turn up, and Mulder witnesses a strange device being installed in the telephone poles near the unlikely killers' homes. The Lone Gunmen identify it as a kind of sophisticated transmitter of mind-control signals. Its effects induce paranoid visions in Scully that lend a surreal - almost Lynchian - feel to the proceedings. She goes off the wire, like Mulder did in Anasazi, resulting in a tragic shock and tense standoff. I'm surprised I didn't have a better recollection of this episode, as it's quite good.

Memorable quotes:

Source: This area's always been known for its criminal element.
Mulder: Especially when Congress is in session.

Scully: Recent studies have linked violence on television to violent behavior.
Mulder: Yeah, but those studies are based on the assumption that Americans are just empty vessels ready to be filled with any idea or image that's fed to them - like a bunch of Pavlov dogs - and go out and act on it.
Scully: But they believe that the causal connections are there, Mulder.
Mulder: Studies have also shown causal connections between cow flatulence and the depletion of the ozone layer. What you're talking about is pseudo-science used to make political book.

Scully: I saw things, and I heard things, was just like the world was turned upside-down. Everybody was out to get me.
Mulder: Now you know how I feel most of the time.

Mulder: Why kill them if you wanted me to expose them?
X: Those were always my orders, Agent Mulder. I was just hoping you'd get to them first.
Mulder: Where will they stop?
X: That's where you failed, Agent Mulder.
Mulder: Don't lay this off on me, you sneaky son of a bitch. You pulled me into this situation because you didn't have the courage to reveal the truth yourself.

(This is an excellent example of the way X works. He's not gone so soft as to compromise the brutality of his own work for the enemy (whatever Deep Throat may have been responsible for, we never witnessed him murdering somebody in cold blood). He just leaves it all up to Mulder to make things right. And yet he still suffers the consequences).

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