The X-Files: Syzygy

Case: Three high school boys have been found dead in three months, and the local townsfolk are convinced they're being sacrificed by a satanic cult.

Destination: Comity, New Hampshire

Back when I was about 12 or 13 and my best friend and I were obsessed with The X-Files and Mulder was on my pencil case - I may have mentioned this once or twice before - this was one of our favourite episodes. My memory is a bit fuzzy at this point in time, but I think we may actually have gone around school quoting the "Hate him", "Hate him", "Wouldn't wanna date him" lines on occasion.

One of the reasons we loved it so much is that what the episode is really about is the intense friendships that often form between girls in high school (I have no idea what boys do - they may do exactly the same, but I'm a girl and I went to a girls' school so high school boys are pretty much a mystery to me!). Teenage girls often seek out a best friend and form an intense connection with them, and this special status may be quite jealously guarded, so it's no wonder that teenage girls might feel a real connection with this episode.

On a more superficial level, teenage girls often start to develop interests in vaguely gothic things as well (Point Horror when I was a teen and this episode aired - I'm guessing it's vampire romance now). The episode embraces a collection of common issues and preoccupations of teenage girls, right down to saying creepy things in the mirror (when I was a teenager, it was saying 'Candyman' in the mirror five times, from the movie. Which I refused to do, because I am a superstitious wuss).

The reason the episode is able to dwell on all these common emotions is that the cause of all the weird goings-on in the town turns out to be a very rare astrological alignment that's heightening pre-existing emotions (mainly negative ones) and fears. It's having a particularly strong effect on two girls whose shared birthday falls on the day of the alignment, giving them Carrie-style super-powers, but it has some effect on everyone. The local detective throws herself at Mulder, while the townsfolk's obsession with hunting down the supposed satanic cult in a manner worthy of those mobs in The Simpsons ("won't someone please think of the children?!") is also a deliberately exaggerated portrayal of their fears and their anger.

Best of all, Mulder and Scully are just as affected by the astrological alignment as everyone else. You don't have to be a teenage girl to enjoy this episode, because the primary effect of the localised weirdness on Mulder and Scully is that it causes them to bicker with each other ceaselessly and very entertainingly. Just check out the quotes section - and those were only the highlights. This episode isn't as broad as some of the later 'comedy' episodes of season six, but it clearly takes a deliberately light tone in portraying Mulder and Scully's relationship, while fully justifying all the snark through the plot.

For those who like that sort of thing, this is also a pretty good Mulder/Scully shipping episode, considering the nature of their bickering. They start out sniping at each other over the their professional differences, but it quickly turns to arguing over Mulder's obvious interest in Detective White. Mulder's disappointed expression when he realises it's not Scully who's wearing his favourite perfume is one of his best kicked-puppy faces in a while.

Obviously, Terri and Margi's friendship in this episode gets taken to rather extreme levels and they end up committing several murders (this, thankfully, is not normal teen behaviour). The episode leaves the extent to which they are responsible for their actions fairly unclear, though it is implied that the cosmic forces affecting them were largely responsible, considering the way they break down weeping at the end of the episode once the stars have moved again (and their head teacher's assertion that it was the devil after all isn't entirely implausible in context either). One thing that is clear is that, unlike the season's earlier teen culprit Darren Peter Oswald, who was a creepy stalker anyway, these two girls would not have become violent if the astrological hoojamaflip hadn't exaggerated their unstable teenage emotions.

Other Thoughts

 - The cold open, ending with the girls sitting above a jock's hanging body giggling and playing 'He Loves Me/He Loves Me Not' is nicely creepy.

 - She may be jealous, but Scully has a point about Detective White, a detective so incompetent she interviews key witnesses in pairs.

 - Mulder claims he doesn't drink, which... does not seem true. Scully smoking, on the other hand, is definitely a surprise.

 - This week in not-yet-famous X-Files guest stars: Ryan Reynolds is the quarterback murdered by the girls in the cold open.

 - Scully shows off her positively sadistic side when she happily steps aside to allow Detective White into the small room with the psychopathic, super-powered teenagers.

 - Oh, the 1990s: check out the scrunchies! I used to wear my hair like that.

 - The episode's title, the Internet informs me, is an astrological term for the alignment of three astronomical bodies.


Mulder (re White): You don't suppose she's a virgin, do you?
Scully: I doubt she's even a blonde.

Mulder (to White): I was hoping you could help me solve the mystery of the horny beast.

Scully: I didn't expect you to ditch me.
Mulder: I didn't ditch you!
Scully: Fine, whatever.

Mulder (to Scully): I know how much you like snapping on the latex.

Mulder: This may not be any time to mention it, but someone is wearing my favourite perfume.

Scully: Why do you always have to drive? Because you’re the guy? Because you’re the big macho man?
Mulder: No. I was just never sure your little feet could reach the pedals.

Final Analysis: I still love it. Four out of four rounds of 'He Loves Me/He Loves Me Not'.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.


Billie Doux said...

"hoojamaflip"? I love that word. Is it a real word?

ChrisB said...

I love this one, not so much for the story, but for the Mulder and Scully bickering. It's so silly and, therefore, so realistic.

One of your great reviews, Juliette. I laughed out loud more than once.

Juliette said...

Thank you! :)

I've heard hoojamaflip a few times but as I came to write this I realised I'd never seen it written down, so I had to make up the spelling!

Heather said...

I loved your own recollection of your teen girldom interspersed!

Juliette said...

Thanks Heather! I was worried I shouldn't be so personal about it, but there are some episodes of Star Trek and the X-Files that I can't separate from the experience of when I watched them and who I watched them with, and this one more than ever! :)

drnanamom said...

I agree with Heather. I think it is more difficult with the retro reviews to untangle the personal and comments on the time period. I thoroughly enjoyed a peak into your teenage years. I was a bit older when I watched X-files but not so old that I didn't remember the way high school felt.

NomadUK said...

Syzygy: not really astrological, but astronomical. (Astrological only in the same sense that astrologers manage to use the word 'planet' more or less correctly.)