Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The X-Files - S4:E16 "Unrequited"

[ S4:E15 "Kaddish" <<< Season 4 >>> S4:E17 "Tempus Fugit" ]

Unrequited features one of the more compelling openers I've seen in a while. Obviously, all of these episodes try to catch your interest in the first few minutes before the opening credits roll - to get you invested in watching the rest of the episode. But after seeing so many episodes, you tend to familiarize yourself with the general formula. Yet this one is kind of unique, using the "in media res" technique (I swear, critics are as irrationally opposed to this technique as they are to found footage - like as if every time they criticize it they earn a gold star from their un-creative, standards-oriented English Major teachers (I'm looking at you, Dolores Umbridge)) that we've mainly seen in a few mythology episodes (Colony and Tunguska spring to mind), to create suspense. The agents themselves are involved - Skinner included, which is always a treat - in tracking a possible terrorist through a crowd celebrating the re-dedication of the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial. They have a hard enough time finding him in a bustling crowd of people, but then he appears to vanish into thin air!

The would-be assassin (an uncannily memorable Peter LaCroix, who played the truck driver in season 1's E.B.E.), who seems to be taking advantage of a "floating blind spot" in a remarkably literal interpretation of the stealth tactics of guerilla warfare, is seeking retribution against a government that left him for dead behind enemy lines. In this he is supported by the leader of a violent revolutionary group (Larry Musser, whom you'll likely remember as the colorfully-spoken Detective Manners in Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'). But when he starts targeting key members of the U.S. military, Skinner - a Vietnam veteran himself - understandably begins taking it personally.

Also appearing is Marita Covarrubias, whom we've seen very little of since her introduction in the season premiere. She provides an intriguing conspiratorial twist that recalls the mind games of F. Emasculata (also penned, perhaps not surprisingly, by the combination of Howard Gordon and Chris Carter), and that confirms what a smart and subtle series this is (no doubt for some people too subtle). I'm not sure I can speculate why - although maybe it's because military cover-ups and internal government conspiracies are more this show's bread-and-butter than racial tensions and environmentalist creeds - but the social commentary in this episode is more effective than usual. It's more subtle, less forced, and feels less insincere. This is one of those great episodes where you just get lost in the story as it unfolds - an unexpected hit.

Memorable quotes:

Skinner: I've already seen more dead soldiers than I ever wanna see.

Markham: The Right Hand believes in empowering the individual over a corrupt and corrupting federal government. We're prepared for the time when armed resistance will be necessary. Lives will have to be sacrificed. But that day has not yet come.

Scully: This guy's a one-man threat to national security. I'll bet he's got more weapons and ammo than most third world armies.

Mulder: Given the facts of the case, and Private Burkholder's polygraph test, it's the closest thing to an explanation that we've got.
Scully: Or, it's just a clever story being proffered as a cover-up for what is actually an elaborately orchestrated conspiracy.
Mulder: Well, there is that possibility, too.

Scully: That's beyond my capabilities here to make that kind of analysis.
Mulder: I think it's beyond all our capabilities, but somebody's got to explain how a four-star general could be shot and killed in what is symbolically the best-guarded military base in the country.

General Bloch: I am here because people are dying - soldiers, who dedicated their lives to the defense of this country.
Markham: I guess that's one way of looking at it.

General Bloch: I just need to know what he wants.
Markham: You know what he wants. And we both know you can't give it to him. Not without dragging that nice, clean uniform of yours through the mud.

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