Case: Sailors and sewage workers are being attacked by a mysterious Thing which may or may not be a giant blood-sucking worm.
Destination: Newark, New Jersey
Mulder and Scully are still working for separate departments, but Scully decides to help Mulder with his latest case in an attempt to reinvigorate his interest in his job, which is distinctly on the wane.
My first X-Files review and I'm faced with a tricky issue - an episode well liked and widely praised that, I'm afraid, has never really done that much for me. It's certainly not a bad episode - there's nothing actually wrong with it. I've just never been that bowled over by it.
Largely, I think this is because this episode plods through the motions a bit without offering anything really special. There's some body horror, given the nature of the episode, but not much. There are some cute Mulder/Scully interactions, but nothing out of the ordinary. The Jaws moment when one man falls into the sewer is telegraphed a mile off, which rather drains it of tension. Having said that, the prosthetics on the Flukeman are great, and Mulder gets wet, which is always a bonus in my book.
The main job this episode needs to do is introduce Mulder's new contact, following the death of Deep Throat at the conclusion of the first series. Our as-yet-unnamed source is desperate to get the X-Files re-opened, so he helps Mulder and Scully to solve the case of the mysterious sewer deaths, demonstrating the usefulness of a department that specialises in the weird and wonderful. Skinner turns out to be of a similar opinion - after appearing largely as an antagonist in the first season, this is where we start to see that deep down, Skinner is on our guys' side.
Meanwhile, Mulder is still threatening to leave the FBI, and Scully is determined to keep him. We know Mulder's really depressed when he leaps to the obvious, mundane conclusion that the first body was dumped by drug kingpins or some such. Scully's insistence that if there's a dead body, there's something interesting to be found, is ghoulishly cute.
There are some nice touches in this episode, like the tiny bit of humour and personality allowed to the Russian sailors before they inevitably cop it. But overall, there are a few too many scenes of sewage tanks driving around for my taste, and not enough fresh character material.
On Mulder, Scully and shipping - I'm trying to remember how I felt about this when watching as an impressionable teenage girl in the 1990s! I think basically I liked them together, I wanted them to be together at the end, but I didn't necessarily want them to be together during the show. I loved that they were the most important people in each other's lives. I think that is the thing many of us really want out of a relationship (says the old maid in her 30s). We want to be the most important thing in the world to someone - and as long as that was true, I didn't necessarily need them to be doing the nasty, though I did want to imagine them going off into the sunset together when the show was over. Basically, I'm a Mulder/Scully shipper who wants to drag out the UST as long as possible. And I was totally in love with Mulder. His picture was plastered all over my Friends pencil case.
The Flukeman was played by one of the great X-Files writers, Darin Morgan.
The closure of the X-Files is a help in the tricky issue of needing to hide Gillian Anderson's pregnancy, as she can plausibly spend most of her scenes sitting at a desk or behind an autopsy table, wearing a lab cost or one of those glorious huge trenchcoats that were all the rage in the early 90s and that I coveted so badly. It's not that you can't tell, exactly, but it's hidden enough to suspend disbelief. I've seen worse.
Over the course of The X-Files, Mulder and Scully travel the length and breadth of Vancouver-pretending-to-be-America (and later LA-pretending-to-be-other-parts-of-America). Sad to say I have seen hardly any of America, so I was quite excited that this episode took place in one of the two places I've actually been to - I landed at Newark airport for my trip to NYC!
I also liked the little bit of location filming in DC, which reminded me I need to get back to The West Wing...
Mulder: They don't want us working together Scully, and right now that's the only reason I can think of to stay.
Mulder: I didn't want to tell Skinner that his main suspect is a giant blood-sucking worm.
Mulder: It looks like I'm gonna have to tell Skinner that his suspect is a giant blood-sucking worm after all.
Skinner: We all take our orders from someone, Agent Mulder.
Scully: Mulder, nature didn't make this thing. We did.
Scully (to Mulder): I hope you know that I'd consider it more than a professional loss if you decided to leave.
Final Analysis: Some sweet moments, and it moves the season's story arc along, but I just can't get that excited about this episode. Two out of four giant blood-sucking worms.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.