Case: While investigating bizarre and threatening behaviour from an office worker called Gary Lambert, Mulder gets caught up in a hostage situation and finds himself leaning towards the point of view of the hostage-taker.
Destination: Oak Brook, Illinois
"The delusions of one can be passed on to the other."
This case starts with a hostage situation, which The X-Files always did very well, then moves into a story about paranoia, which of course they do very well, and ends up with an affirmation of the core relationship between Mulder and Scully. It's classic X-Files in the best sense from start to finish.
I love the ambiguity of this episode. Of course, by the conclusion it certainly seems like there's something pretty freaky and supernatural going on, but the exact nature of it isn't necessarily so clear, and you can never be entirely sure whether giant bugs with zombie slaves are taking over, or whether this is a spreading madness that Mulder has caught from Gary. Scully's reaction to that ambiguity is also fascinating, as years of working with Mulder have left her more open-minded than she used to be towards the weird and wonderful.
The story works as a parallel to the series as a whole, with Mulder insisting he can see a truth hidden to others, and only Scully believing him because she loves him so much that she can share his madness. Have Mulder's delusions about aliens, telekinetics, sewer monsters and the rest been passed on to Scully because they're so close? Or is she simply having a rational reaction to overwhelming evidence? Like many of the best episodes of the show, there's no clear answer here, though of course it leans heavily towards the paranormal explanation.
What this episode is really memorable for is the Mulder/Scully stuff, which stops just short of being outright romantic, but only just. Whatever the nature of their relationship, one of the strengths of the show is how much they love and rely on each other. At several points in this episode, Mulder seems to be pushing Scully away, and of course, it's only when they work together that she's able to save him. They may share madness, but they're always stronger together than apart.
- There's a really nice directorial touch early in the episode when Mulder rubs his head for a minute or so and his splinted fingers are front and centre of the screen, reminding the audience that he was tortured last week, which is one reason he's being extra pissy (the other being part of his slow deterioration and crisis of faith in his own convictions that's been taking place across seasons four and five).
- I love the greyed-out effect on the bugs'-slave-zombies. Simple but effective.
- The giant bug costume itself is cleverly digitally manipulated to hide the slightly cheesy design, making it look genuinely scary.
Scully: You're saying 'I' a lot. I heard 'we.'
Mulder: Scully, you have to believe me. No one else on this whole damn planet does or ever will. You're my one in five billion.
Creepy nurse: Sleep tight! Don't let the bed bugs bite!
Mulder: What did you tell him?
Scully: The truth, as well as I understand it.
Mulder: Which is?
Scully: Folie a deux. A madness shared by two.
Final Analysis: An episode that highlights all the things The X-Files did really well. Four out of four giant bug zombie slaves.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.