Destination: Cleveland, Ohio
The perils of meeting someone over the internet are now so widely understood that this episode feels a bit dated. At the time, however, meeting someone online was novel and not everyone was as careful as she should be. This episode drives home that idea, in about as creepy a way as the writers could get away with.
Virgil Incanto is, indeed, creepy. On the one hand, he is incredibly adept at seduction. He manages to convince a myriad of women to put aside their fears and insecurities and dare to take a chance on love. On the other hand, draining victims of their body fat and leaving horribly disfigured corpses is gross and leaves an impact of us as viewers. We are instantly repulsed by the murders at the same time as we are fascinated by the man.
Virgil is one of the great standalone monsters this show did. Unfortunately, the message of the episode negates what should have been an outstanding hour of television.
The writer, Jeffrey Vlaming, makes the assumption that all single women, especially those who are not as thin as they may wish to be, are vulnerable and lonely. Unless, of course, that single woman is Scully.
The first victim, and ironically her roommate, are both examples of single women desperately trying to find a man. Lauren’s roommate tells Mulder that one of the reasons 2Shy and Lauren connected was that “it was not about sex.” The implication being that, if it were about sex, 2Shy would not be talking to someone with a weight problem. He would be talking to the thinner roommate. It’s a completely creepy moment when we realize that the roommate has not only read, but saved, all of 2Shy’s emails to someone else. The implication is even more troubling. She is as desperate as Lauren; she is alive because she is thin.
Even Holly the prostitute is seen as “less than” because of her weight. Cross says that “she wasn’t most John’s first pick,” the implication being that a man searching for sex under a bridge is going to pick someone who looks like a model. I wonder how many of these poor souls really look all that good to begin with.
Monica, although she is not overweight, is horribly annoying and pushy. She tries too hard to get Virgil to notice her, going so far as to snoop around his apartment while he is away. The implication in this death troubles me as well. I feel as though Vlaming is blaming Monica for her death. If she had been less pushy, she would still be alive.
Jesse, on the other hand, is more perceptive than her mother even though she is blind. The metaphor is a bit heavy handed, but effective. Monica is “blinded” by Virgil’s looks and what he writes. Jesse “smells” trouble and it is she who finally gets Mulder and Scully looking in the right place.
Unfortunately, the right place is another vulnerable woman. Ellen, at least, has some good instincts. Some part of her knows that this guy is too good to be true, but she can’t help but hope that her instincts are wrong. When she realizes just how bad he is, she does her best to protect herself.
Watching this episode, it is impossible not to compare all these women with Scully. She is not overweight and not pushy, but she is a woman and is forced to deal with Detective Cross and his attitude that would have felt out of place even in the 1990s. Scully is wonderful in this episode, not rising to Cross’ bait and eventually earning his grudging respect.
It is Scully who understands the real crime depicted in this episode. It is not only that these women were victims of a serial killer, but it is that he stalked them by preying on their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The message is clear -- if you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you put yourself at risk. The final scene makes it clear that Scully doesn't buy it and, I would hope, neither do we.
We often talk about it in these reviews, but the images of twenty year old technology are fun. The chat rooms shown look silly now.
This episode takes place at the end of August, yet other than the women under the bridge, everyone seems dressed for much cooler weather. Mulder and Scully are even wearing coats.
The partnership between Mulder and Scully is becoming more physical. They touch each other frequently and, at one point, Mulder puts his arm around Scully’s shoulders and then leaves his hand on her arm.
The final image of Virgil, with the dead eyes and the decaying skin, is incredibly scary.
Cross: “It’s nothing personal, Agent Scully. I’m just old-fashioned in certain regards.”
Cross: “The truth is, I question the wisdom of assigning female law enforcement officers to certain types of cases.”
Scully: “Like this one?”
Mulder: “OK, it’s not yet the finely detailed insanity that you’ve come to expect from me.”
Virgil: “When you look at me, you see a monster. But, I was just feeding a hunger.”
Scully: “You’re more than a monster. You didn’t just feed on their bodies; you fed on their minds.”
Virgil: “My weakness was no greater than theirs. I gave them what they wanted. They gave me what I needed.”
Scully: “Not anymore.”
Final Analysis: A great monster but a bad message.
ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.