The X-Files: Unrequited

Case: A seemingly invisible Vietnam vet is killing military top brass for their abandonment of POWs.

Destination: Washington D.C.

Mulder: “Is that what you believe? Is that what you really believe?”

The X-Files is good at bringing commentary on current issues into their stories. The popular idea that there were American POWs left behind after the end of the Vietnam was central in this episode. There was also considerable belief that there was a government conspiracy to cover this up and there were several commissions to investigate this. The writers use these ideas and an innovative Monster of the Week, one of these POWs who can disappear from view, to comment on the military, the government and the treatment of veterans.

While I appreciated the basic premise of the episode which was pure X-Files (no one can trust the government, even four star generals), I found its execution a bit wanting. Teagher was an interesting threat but I think the explanation for his ability was full of holes. I could suspend disbelief but I didn't find Teagher himself all that interesting. His story was skeleton and all mixed up with para-military groups. This reflected the work of similar non-governmental groups (who at the time were working to find POWs who might have been left behind) but it shoe-horned too much into the story.

Perhaps I was also put off by the constant shots of military protocol and American flags. For an anti-government show, it appeared very patriotic. And there wasn't much interaction between Mulder and Scully beyond meaningful looks. The one bit I did particularly enjoy was when Scully posited a conspiracy and Mulder gave her a bit of a smile.

I didn't really like the repeat of the final scene at the beginning of the episode. This can be used effectively when you view an event at the beginning of an episode and then the episode explains how you got to that point, adding in information and other perspectives. Here it just felt like a rerun but it's quite possible that I missed something more meaningful. Generally, it was an interesting message but not my favourite episode.

Other Thoughts

It was kind of fun to see Mulder and Scully doing ordinary FBI work.

Another factor in my dislike for this episode could be my aversion to war. I was appalled by the death card used by soldiers in Vietnam to mark their kills.

I was glad that Mulder and Scully ran rather than trying to shoot the dogs.

How exactly did they get those teeth? Wouldn't the fact that they'd been pulled be kind of suspicious?

While there was never any conclusive proof that live POWs remained in Vietnam, it is quite clear that South Vietnamese collaborators were abandoned, left to die.

Quotes (all Mulder all the time)

Mulder: “You mean there’s no procedure outlined for an invisible assassin?”

Mulder: “I found his story compelling personally, but then again I believe the Warren commission.”

Mulder: “There goes the neighbourhood.”

Mulder: “They’re not just denying this man’s life, they're denying his death and with all due respect sir, he could be you.”

1 comment:

ChrisB said...

This episode could have been so much more. Vietnam was so divisive, so challenging to both the hawks and the doves. There was, and arguably still is, a lot to say on both sides of the debate.

Which is where, I agree with Doc, this episode falls short. It tired to tackle a big issue and couldn't decide which side to come down on. Pity.

The final scene always moves me, however. I have been to the memorial several times. I always leave it in tears. A more fitting tribute to the men and women who died over there, it is impossible for me to imagine.