Monday, August 10, 2015

The X-Files - S2:E13 "Irresistible"

[ S2:E12 "Aubrey" <<< Season 2 >>> S2:E14 "Die Hand die Verletzt" ]

"It's been said that the fear of the unknown is an irrational response to the excesses of the imagination, but our fear of the everyday, of the lurking stranger, and the sound of footfalls on the stairs, the fear of violent death and the primitive impulse to survive, are as frightening as any X-File, as real as the acceptance that it could happen to you." - Agent Mulder

Now this is a very different sort of episode. It feels more like CSI or Law & Order: Special Victims Unit than the X-Files. In fact, with a writing credit by Chris Carter, I wouldn't be surprised if this were a catalyst for the creation of The X-Files' grittier cousin, Millenium. When a mangled corpse is unearthed in a graveyard, only the slimmest pretense of UFO involvement hooks Mulder and Scully into working the case of a by-the-books "death fetishist" in the process of escalating to the level of a serial killer. Nick Chinlund is delightfully chilling as the soft-spoken maniac at large, whose symbolic interpretation as the devil in a button-down shirt makes this one of the scarier episodes yet.

I have mixed feelings about it, though. I wasn't bothered at all by Carter's misanthropic preachiness in The Jersey Devil or Darkness Falls (for example), but here we have a veritable smorgasbord of cliches sung to the tune of "pure evil is a sexual pervert". I mean, Mulder - an expert criminal profiler - even goes so far as to tick the box on Freudian psychoanalysis (it probably started with his mother!) while brainstorming the perpetrator's headspace. It's very black-and-white, with no room for shades of grey. Granted, the criminal we're talking about is a real creep - a definite sociopath - but what bothers me is when his behavior is reduced to a profile that is often generalized to all sexual deviants, most of which are not amoral monsters who would resort to murder to get what they want.

It's also an uncomfortable episode because Scully is in a rare position of vulnerability. She's clearly experiencing some fallout from her recent disappearance, and losing faith in her ability to protect herself (let alone innocents) from the violent criminals it is her job to pursue. I understand that the case we're dealing with in this episode is particularly dehumanizing, but it's still unsettling to see Scully - a medical doctor trained to perform autopsies - turn away from a corpse. One of her character's most admirable features is her unstereotypical strength and confidence, and so it's devastating to see her breaking down in this episode. Regardless of any or all of my complaints, however, it's a powerful and harrowing episode that sticks with you.

Memorable quotes:

Agent Bocks: You're saying some human's doing this?
Mulder: If you wanna call him that.

Scully: Why do they do it?
Mulder: Well, some people collect salt and pepper shakers. Fetishists collect dead things - fingernails and hair. No one quite knows why. Though I've never really understood salt and pepper shakers myself.

Scully: Once he begins to murder, it is the killing that draws attention away from a deeper motive. A motive which most people, including law enforcement professionals, dare not imagine. It is somehow easier to believe - as Agent Bocks does - in aliens and UFOs, than in the kind of cold-blooded, inhuman monster who could prey on the living to scavenge from the dead.

Scully: Death is a recorded event. For reasons natural or unnatural, when a body ceases to function, the cause of the effect can be clearly reconstructed - a body has a story to tell. ...It may be an irony only understood by those of us who conduct these examinations, that death - like life itself - is a drama with a beginning, middle, and end.

Professor: The necessity of the story - myth - in a culture is almost universal. We think of myths as things that entertain, or instruct. But their deeper purpose is often to explain - or make fanciful - desires, wishes, or behavior, that society would otherwise deem unacceptable. Because they are conveyed in a wrapping of untruth - the story - these thoughts become harmless fiction.

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