The X-Files: Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose

Case: Someone is killing professional (and amateur) prognosticators.

Destination: St. Paul

Only The X-Files could make an episode about a psychic killer killing psychics and make it funny.

Mulder and Scully barely hold their own against Mr. Bruckman, a real psychic who can foretell people’s deaths. Not coincidentally, he sells life insurance. This is the only way that he feels he can intervene positively in people’s deaths. Peter Boyle owns this episode as Mr. Bruckman. He nails the crusty, world-worn personality that would develop in a ‘normal’, intelligent man who can see the future but can’t predict winning lottery numbers. Mr. Bruckman knows he has a gift but just wishes that people would leave him alone. It’s not a gift that he wants or thinks anyone else would want even though we can see that Mulder is fascinated and jealous. I think mostly because of Mulder’s fascination, Bruckman isn’t above messing with both Mulder and Scully and we often can’t tell when he only sees partialities and when he just doesn’t share all that he knows.

The humour in this episode comes from many places, most of them very clever and subtle. Boyle as Bruckman is perfectly deadpan and has all the great lines. Mulder (and possibly Duchovny) is sent up in various ways. First, when Detective Cline is talking about asking for a kook to help them out, we expect that, of course, they are talking about Mulder, but as Mulder makes his entrance the detective asks “Who are you?” Then the Stupendous Yappi sends him out of the room for creating “negative energy”. My favourite bit is when Bruckman mentions dying by autoerotic asphyxiation in relation to Mulder and then just basically says - oh never mind. All I could think about was Duchovny’s work in Californication and his reported sex addiction. The Stupendous Yappi is hilarious as well with his over the top ‘predictions’. It is interesting that the ‘real’ psychics are portrayed as much more serious, normal-looking people than the fakes.

On the serious side, this episode explores what it might mean to really be able to foretell the future. Could you interfere? Would it be a moral obligation to do so or would it actually be more responsible to sit by and watch terrible things happen? I think that Bruckman has pondered these questions for a long time. Is the psychic killer just a puppet or is he actually a homicidal maniac? The most interesting questions come up when Bruckman tells Mulder about how he will be stalked by the killer. He foresees Mulder’s death but intervenes by telling him about it. The psychic killer says as he is dying that things were not happening as they were supposed to although the tarot card that predicts the card reader’s death was also obviously meant for the killer as well. I wondered if Bruckman lied to the killer when he said that he wasn’t meant to kill him then. And if he did was it only to make sure that his neighbour was found before she was totally defiled by her dog? Did he then kill himself to restore balance? The X-Files makes us think about such things and is one of the main reasons I love it.

Other Thoughts

The Stupendous Yappi was played by Japp Broeker. He was usually David Duchovny’s stand in.

Bruckman knows exactly where the bathroom is in the doll collector’s house.

It was heartbreaking at the end when you realize that Bruckman saw the way he would die and it sounded quite beautiful but it wasn’t at all.

I also found the juxtaposition of the decaying body and the red tulips beautiful, if also creepy and weird.

I must join the 'treat Scully with respect' rant that for me and others on the blog is part of being a woman and watching this show. Women’s intuition my ass. Excellent observational and analytical skills is how Scully figured out that the bell hop was the killer.

The sketch from Laurel and Hardy was a nice call back to the skeleton piece. I actually thought for a moment that Scully might call Yappi but was much relieved when she threw the phone at the screen instead.

Quotes

Killer: "Don’t apologize. You’re a better dancer than my last date."

Killer: "And I’m sorry but you’re a fortune teller. You should have seen this coming.”

Police Photographer: "They say the eyes capture the last image a murder victim sees before they’re killed."
Detective Cline: "So what do they say about the entrails?"
Police Photographer: “Yuck.”

Scully: “I can’t take you anywhere.”

Mulder: “Mr. Yappi, read this thought.”
Yappi: “So’s your old man.”

Bruckman: “I’m supposed to believe that’s a real name?”

Bruckman: “Sometimes it just seems that everyone’s having sex except me.”

Mulder: “Do you receive any other impressions of it?”
Bruckman: “It’s ugly. Next.”

Bruckman: “I’m not smiling. I’m wincing.”

Scully: “We can’t come up with suspects by having visions.”
Bruckman: “Jealous?”

Scully: “Mr. Bruckman, there are hits and there are misses and then there are misses.”

Scully: “Chantilly lace?”
Mulder: “You know what I like."

Bruckman: “Don’t you understand yet, son? Don’t you get it? You do the things you do because you are a homicidal maniac.”
Psychic Killer: “That does explain a lot, doesn’t it?”

9 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I'm not doing a rewatch right now, but I remember how much I loved this weird and wonderful episode. Wonderful review, Doc.

Josie Kafka said...

Ditto to everything Billie just said.

Juliette said...

Such a fantastic episode, an amazing central performance, funny, touching... I could go on. I love it!

Jess Lynde said...

I really, really love this episode. It is one of my top favorites from the entire series. It is so funny, but has such a wonderful core of melancholy. Peter Boyle gives an absolutely unforgettable performance here, and as you say, Doc, he absolutely owns the episode. Your review has me even more stoked to rewatch it in the next few days!

One of my favorite bits is Bruckman telling Scully about her death: "Alright, how do I die?" "You don't." It felt like either a touching nod to her faith or possibly some subtle foreshadowing. Either way, it was a lovely moment.

ChrisB said...

Like everyone else, I love this episode. Peter Boyle plays the part brilliantly and, as often as I have seen it, makes me laugh out loud more than once.

My favorite scene is when Mulder and Scully discover that Bruckman has committed suicide. The look on Scully's face as she realizes that everything Bruckman told her is the truth is both heartbreaking and telling. This woman just keeps getting her world rocked by things that her science can't explain.

Jess Lynde said...

Finally got some time to rewatch this one. It was really delightful to sit down with an episode that felt like it didn't waste one second. So many of these old episodes feel like they have extended fighting, searching, or wandering around in the dark sequences that just fill the time, but here all those bits just flowed wonderfully. Every moment counted. Darin Morgan was such a wonderful talent on this show. I wish we'd gotten more from him than just the few gems we did.

Some other subtle highlights from the episode: Bruckman has the “dead man’s hand” --- aces over eights --- when playing poker with Scully. And they snuck in an absolutely brilliant callback to Season 1's ‘Beyond the Sea' with Bruckman guessing that the small bit of fabric was from Mulder's New York Knicks t-shirt. (In the prior episode, Mulder debunked an elaborate psychic reading from Luther Boggs by telling him the fabric he was "reading" was torn from Mulder’s own t-shirt.)

I've also always wondered if Bruckman's reference to auto-erotic asphyxiation being an undignified way to go was a reference to his own impending demise, but he decided to play with Mulder a bit on it. I know it seemed more like he just put a bag over his head, popped some pills, then drifted off to sleep and death. But the bag on the head always made me wonder, especially with him sadly bemoaning that everyone got to have sex but him. Can we be sure he took sleeping pills and not happy pills? After all, if coincidence is just coincidence, then why does it feel so contrived? :)

Heather said...

Awww. This review and the ensuing comments are making me so happy. This episode yielded my favorite quote perhaps of all time from this series...
"Why does anybody do anything?"

Heather said...

Eek! I've failed, philes.

Correction to my quote: "Why does anyone do the things they do?"

I beg everyone's forgiveness! Especially Darin Morgan!!

Billie Doux said...

This is a practically perfect episode of television: clever, funny, interesting, smart, touching. Excellent writing, an amazing performance by Peter Boyle.