Saturday, November 7, 2015

The X-Files - S6:E10 "Tithonus"

[ S6:E9 "S.R. 819" <<< Season 6 >>> S6:E11 "Two Fathers" ]

This episode is a breath of fresh air. It's a classic freak-of-the-week (in spite of the current events it has to twist itself around) - and one of the darker, more introspective ones. This is Vince Gilligan going back to the nihilistic character studies of Pusher and Paper Hearts (or, more recently, Folie a Deux and Drive), not the light-hearted comedic fare of Small Potatoes and Bad Blood. That it's another story involving paranormal photography recalls Unruhe as well, but this is a different sort of story. The freak is sympathetic, if not outwardly affable (in fact, he is exceedingly grim in his demeanor, but for good reason). I hesitate to reveal too much, as it would spoil the mystery of the episode, but the freak in question is a freelance crime scene photographer who always seems to be on the scene when Death is in attendance.

Despite being what I would describe as a "classic" episode, it does have to twist itself around current events. A.D. Kersh gives the case to Scully, pairing her up with a young hotshot investigator (who is a bit of a Ben Affleck look-alike). It's a wonder that Kersh lets her work on what appears (and turns out to indeed be) an X-File - he claims to have hope in rehabilitating Scully as a proper investigator, but you wonder if it's not the case that he simply wants Mulder to suffer by leaving him out of the loop. In any case, the result is a very Scully-centric episode, but it works well (among other things, you've gotta love Scully coming to the rescue of a prostitute being hassled by street scum). The fact that the freak-of-the-week experiences something like death omens recalls Elegy, but also a more serious Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose, in its quiet, brooding portrait of the downsides of immortality. I enjoyed it very much.

Memorable quotes:

Mulder: Hey, Scully, maybe if we get really lucky, next time they'll let us clean toilet bowls.
Scully: Are you ready to quit?
Mulder: No. That would make way too many people way too happy.

Scully: It's not an X-File.
Mulder: That's not what I'm reading. I'm thinking murder by telekinesis. I'm thinking maybe shamanistic death touch. I'm thinking about the Muslim superstition that to photograph someone is to steal their soul.
Scully (sarcastically): Thank you. All very helpful.

Agent Ritter: Hey, I'm confused. I thought we were trying to bust this guy, not look for reasons to let him go.
Scully: I thought we were looking for the truth.

(It's nice to see that some of Mulder's investigative intuition has worn off on Scully. Other investigators are quick to close a case as soon as an easy answer turns up, but a good investigator looks past the easy answers in order to figure out the truth, even when it's a little harder to piece together).

Agent Ritter: You muck up my case, and Kersh will hear about it. Are we clear, Dana?
Scully (quiet, yet firm): Scully. And we're done with this conversation.

Scully: You're saying that this is a photograph of Death itself?
Alfred Fellig: It's a glimpse. Just...a glimpse.

Scully: Mr. Fellig, I know that you know more about photography than I do, but this is just a lens flare.
Alfred Fellig: You're right, I do know more about photography than you do.

(Well-played, Mr. Fellig).

Alfred Fellig: Love lasts...seventy-five years, if you're lucky. You don't wanna be around when it's gone.

Mulder: Death only looks for you once you seek its opposite.

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