The X-Files: Little Green Men

Case: A potential alien transmission detected by a closed SETI listening station.

Destination: Washington, DC and Arecibo, Puerto Rico

In the wake of the X-Files shutdown, Mulder and Scully have been toiling away in relatively mundane assignments. A depressed Mulder has begun to question his commitment to pursuing the paranormal, when he gets word from a high-placed ally that evidence of extraterrestrial contact may be close at hand. After Mulder subsequently drops off the grid, Scully attempts to find her friend while eluding his other pursuers.

They’re baaack! Welcome to Season 2 of The X-Files. We’ve got your alien abductions! Your government conspiracies! Your mysterious cigarette-smoking baddies! Paranoia up the wazoo! And, as ever, we’ve got our beleaguered heroes, united in their seemingly futile search for The Truth.

The unnerving freakiness of ‘Little Green Men’ is what has stayed with me through the years, but I had forgotten what a strong character episode it is, and what a great vehicle it is for bringing viewers back into the X-Files fold. It brings us up to speed on the status quo, serves as a great reintroduction to the basic elements and themes of the series (see above), effectively immerses us in the show’s eerie tone and visuals, and highlights the strength and importance of the central relationship.

When last we saw our heroes, Mulder swore to Scully that he wouldn’t give up his search for the truth. But now we see that, a few short months after losing his passion project, his secretive source, and his partner, Mulder is floundering badly. Deep paranoia and the daily drudgery of electronic surveillance has begun to take its toll on him. He’s isolated, depressed, and beginning to have a serious crisis of faith, questioning whether his raison d’etre --- his sister’s abduction --- ever really happened at all.

Scully: “And you’re worried that all your life you’ve been seeing elves?”
Mulder [resigned]: “In my case, little green men.”

I was rather surprised to see Mulder succumbing to this level of doubt and despair after such a short time. Yes, feeling as though he’d lost everything would be quite a blow, but he’s been searching for the truth practically his whole adult life. Would he really start to question himself so quickly? He seems to be clinging awfully hard to the idea that government conspirators are out to get him, so why wonder if the reason for that pursuit is false?

Interestingly, even as she tries to reach out to her partner, it seems to be Scully’s influence and friendship that has caused him to sink so deeply into bitterness and self doubt. She’s the one who taught him that you need solid evidence to make your case. “Seeing is not enough. I should have something to hold on to. Some solid evidence. I learned that from you.” More importantly, she’s the one who showed him that he doesn’t have to go it alone. After spending so many years relying mainly on himself, an object of derision, he managed to find someone he could trust to help him in his search. Someone who would keep him honest and force him to see things clearly. And then she was gone.

“Deep Throat said trust no one. But it’s hard, Scully. Suspecting everyone, everything. It wears you down. You even begin to doubt what you know is the truth. Before I could only trust myself. Now I can only trust you, and they’ve taken you away from me.”

At least from Mulder’s persecuted and self-absorbed perspective. Because Scully was never really gone. She may have been reassigned to Quantico, but she was still there for her old partner, reaching out to him in the limited ways he would let her, and doing her damnedest to protect him from his enemies and himself. Just like always.

By the end of this episode, Mulder is once again without evidence and is seemingly right back where he started. But the status quo has subtly shifted. He may be stuck working his wiretap detail, but he no longer feels alone, and he’s got a renewed sense of purpose. “Well, I may not have the X-Files, Scully, but I still have my work. I still have you. I still have myself.” And the search for The Truth continues.

Other Thoughts

Seriously, could the Brandenburg Concertos be more unsettling in this episode? Combined with that mild, accented voice? “Greetings from Planet Earth …” Ack! And the sequence at the SETI station freaks me the hell out. When the reel-to-reel starts spooling backwards and suddenly echoes Mulder’s “trust no one” --- aaahhhh!!! I’m surprised it still got to me after all these years (especially given some of the stuff I watch now), but it did.

Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy is very noticeable now. The giant coats and t-shirts aren’t really concealing it.

We got our first view of Samantha’s abduction, which was very memorable. The floating sister, the blinding light on young Mulder’s face, and the elongated silhouette in the doorway. (Plus, Stratego!) But is this what really happened, or just some twisted nightmare version of events that’s evolved over the years?

The kid they cast as young Mulder was a very good fit.

One of the best things about revisiting these episodes so many years later is that I’ve come to know many of the guest actors for more recent roles. This week we get to meet Mulder’s senator friend, played by Raymond J. Barry, better known ‘round these parts as Arlo Givens (Justified). What a difference!

The creative team was fairly heavy-handed with the repeated imagery and references this week. We had several shots of Mulder’s face bathed in blinding light, strange silhouettes in doorways, and numerous uses of recording devices throughout. Obviously, I found the reel-to-reel recording machine at the listening station the creepiest.

Love Skinner starting to buck against the Smoking Man’s authority, first by taking digs at his nasty habit (“I don’t smoke”), and later by kicking him out of his office. Don’t illegally wiretap Director Skinner’s agents and expect a pass!

Good old, Mulder. Never one to let a locked fence stop him. Or a padlocked door. Have bolt cutters, will travel.

Mulder’s password is TRUSTNO1. I find the simplicity amusing. Given his level of paranoia, he seems far more likely to use a complex system of random letters, numbers, and symbols.

The escape from the listening station was a fairly exciting chase sequence. Although Mulder looked a little silly bouncing in the driver’s seat and jerking the wheel back and forth.

So, are we supposed to doubt what Mulder saw at the SETI station? Or are we supposed to take everything at face value, with the obvious surveillance and cover-up effort as our own proof that Mulder’s right?

I absolutely adore Scully giving Mulder the sympathetic hand squeeze at the end. It is such a lovely gesture of support from a friend.


Mulder: [Voice over.] “I wanted to believe. But the tools had been taken away. The X-Files had been shut down. They closed our eyes. Our voices had been silenced. Our ears now deaf to the realms of extreme possibilities.”

Mulder: “What am I looking for?”
Senator Matheson: “Contact.”

[Scully spills fish food.]
Scully: “Damn.”
Agent: “Just dump it in the tank.”
Scully: “That would be bad for the fish.”
Her matter-of-fact delivery cracks me up.

USNO Guy: “The Wow Signal is the best evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence. This --- this is better.”

Mulder: “Again, Scully, nothing but evidence, and again no evidence at all.”

Scully: “Evidence is worthless if you’re dead!”

Final Analysis: A solid introduction to the current status quo, with a creeptastic “case” to reignite Mulder’s paranormal passions. A good start to the season.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.


ChrisB said...

And, we're back! Yippee! This show is one of my favorites of all time and I am so excited to watch it again.

This episode changed how I viewed the series the first time I watched it. Until now, I had enjoyed the Mulder/Scully partnership and thought they made a great team. It was at this point that I crossed the line to avid shipper.

The chemistry between these two is so, so strong and I love the subtle way they interact with each other. From Scully tousling his hair at the beginning to clasping his hand at the end, she touches him a fair amount.

On his part, he is not afraid to tell her that she is one of the three most important things in his life and that he trusts her. Sigh...

A good episode that always makes me happy.

Jess Lynde said...

Interesting. I don't think I ever shipped Scully and Mulder romantically. I really loved the closeness of their partnership, and I felt pretty strongly that they were the two most important people in each other's lives, but I didn't root for them to become a romantic pairing. I did kind of adore the physical intimacy that came along with that connection --- hence my note about loving the hand squeeze --- but I was perfectly happy with that intimacy staying in the "friend zone." It's kind of weird, actually. It's like I was perfectly fine with them being "significant others," but never wanted to see them kissing or getting horizontal. I'm not sure that even makes sense.

With several of us tackling the reviews for this season, it will be interesting to see the way our "rooting interests" in that relationship come out in the reviews. :)

Billie Doux said...

I remember shipping Scully and Mulder, but I think I was just more in love with Mulder himself than in the two of them. And I also really enjoy it when we do rotating reviews. It's fun to see how perspectives differ. Or stay the same.

ChrisB said...

I was (and am, really) completely in love with Mulder, although he is not really my type.

I just think the two of them belong together. I can't remember another television pairing, before or since, I felt so strongly about.

Mark Greig said...

Like Jess, I never shipped Mulder and Scully romantically. Mostly because I was head over heels in love with Scully myself didn't want to imagine her with anyone else.

drnanamom said...

Lovely review. You really notice the details in this show which are what make it such a great one. I think that Mulder probably had a pretty good password for the time. It's only now, with the development of more and more sophisticated hackers that we need to be so careful. I always appreciated that Mulder and Scully were good partners and friends. It showed that this could be a possibility. I grew up in an era when everyone said that a boy never really wanted to be your friend, they just wanted sex but I had some really great friends who were boys.