Friday, December 11, 2015

The X-Files - S8:E4 "Roadrunners"

[ S8:E3 "Patience" <<< Season 8 >>> S8:E5 "Invocation" ]

Spoiler Warning: No big myth spoilers here, but if you want to be surprised by the freak that turns up in this episode, you might want to skip this review. I can tell you that this is as good an episode as you can expect to watch from the Robert Patrick years, in case you'd prefer to experience it yourself. It was written by Vince Gilligan, if that helps you decide.

I'm getting flashbacks to the first half of season 6 with all these desert landscapes we've been seeing the past few episodes - but the remote atmosphere suits this episode's story well. In the opener, a hitchhiker in Utah boards a bus driven by Large Marge, only to find himself caught in the middle of some seriously weird cult activity, involving an old-fashioned stoning, and, as we later find out, a literally spine-tingling example of total gross-out body horror. Scully heads out on location to investigate, while tasking Doggett back at headquarters with searching the X-Files for details on a similar case (didn't Mulder have Scully do that once? It's good to be king, isn't it, Scully?). It's interesting to see Scully take point on investigating an X-File, considering how many times she acted bored and reluctant to be dragged into a case by Mulder. My, how things have changed. But I guess with Mulder gone, Scully has no choice but to "cowboy up" and shoulder the burden. She's good at it, though.

Anyhow, Scully wanders into a creepy small town with a secret (that's trying to keep the modern world at bay - not unlike the residents of Home), just like in a classic X-File (but unlike Our Town, it's not cannibals she will have to face). She gets stranded, and it really starts feeling like the setup to a slasher movie - but one of the good ones, with a solid grasp of tension and atmosphere. I swear, the layout of the boarding house reminded me of the home in the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I wouldn't be surprised if that wasn't just a coincidence. And the townsfolk do an immaculate job of luring the stranger in - never once breaking character. It's to a point where you could almost believe that they're just uncommonly kind - albeit a little backwoods - to strangers, and that Scully's big city paranoia is unwarranted. Almost.

And when the shit does hit the fan, the episode is uncommonly effective at making the peril feel real. It's hard to care on this show when somebody's life is in danger - on the one hand, the guest actors won't be back the next week either way, and on the other, you know (almost) nothing serious is going to happen to the main characters. But whatever tricks are in use here are working. I'm glad to see that Vince Gilligan is back to writing serious episodes. I always liked his serious episodes better, even if he was one of the better comedy writers to follow in Darin Morgan's footsteps. But between this, and Chris Carter's straightforward freak-of-the-week episode last week, it looks like this whole Robert Patrick business was good for the series, after all. It would be a little shameful, but not entirely surprising to me, if season 8 shaped up to be better, overall, than season 7 was (or at the very least, more consistent in quality). I guess I'll just have to wait and see - two or three or even four episodes doesn't quite make a trend. Yet.

Two words: spinal slug (just thinking about it makes my skin crawl).

Memorable quotes:

Scully: You're gonna wanna wash this out, put some iodine on it - you don't want it to get infected.
Gas Station Man: You sound like my mother.
Scully: Yeah, well, I also sound like a doctor.

Hank: This is a lot to take in.
Scully: No kidding.

Mr. Milsap: That last man just wasn't a suitable tabernacle. The thing of it is, there's always the chance that your body won't fail him. That he'll be in you forever.

Doggett: Just talked to a guy had a gun in his pocket, and I don't mean he was happy to see me.

(Nobody can replace Mulder's dry wit, but Doggett's deadpan delivery is not unwelcome).

No comments:

Post a Comment