The X-Files: The Rain King

Case: Mulder and Scully investigate an apparent Rain Man (the literal type, that makes it rain).

Destination: Kroner, Kansas

"He just wants some dating advice."

I want to like this episode. There are so many reasons to like this episode. It's a shipper's paradise, for starters. Dialogue, the actors, the direction and the hammered-home-themes of the plot are all working to make sure the audience spend the entire episode thinking of Mulder and Scully as a couple. Their conspicuous lack of denial of attraction to each other (Scully's exasperated requests for separate rooms aside), combined with Scully's rather lovely speech to Sheila about friendship as the basis of romance, come as close as the series ever has to making their mutual attraction canon.

The episode is also very funny. Like much of season six, it's light and breezy and fun, which makes it an enjoyable and entertaining experience to watch on at least some level.

I'm afraid I've never really been able to like the episode though, even if my sappy shipper side really wants to. It incorporates too many tropes and themes I don't like very much. Much of this is down to pure personal taste, rather than the quality of the episode. For one thing, I have a simple personal dislike for stories about con men, which means the sections about Daryl (who, to be fair, might be sincere) don't grab or interest me, though I'm sure they would others.

I also have trouble getting into stories about droughts and rain makers, almost certainly because I have no personal experience of anything remotely similar and a 45-minute TV episode doesn't go into the issue in enough depth to help me understand it. (We don't have rain makers or rain men in Britain. We haven't had a drought since somewhere around 2006, and the worst that ever happens is that sprinklers and hose pipes are temporarily outlawed. I understand droughts are serious issues for others elsewhere in the world and I don't mean to suggest everything should conform to my personal experience, but I need a bit more context to help me understand the situation).

Other aspects do have a bit more to do with the episode itself. I love the light and silly episodes, but for me, this story is too light and silly. The X-Files started out as a horror show, and while I'm not going to insist that it stick rigidly to a horror format with genuinely scary threats every week, a man whose emotions affect the weather is a step too far into pure and rather fanciful fantasy for my liking.

I'm also not overly wild about the episode's portrayal of love formed from friendship. It's not that I don't believe in such a thing. Scully's speech on the subject is lovely and Anderson totally sells it. It makes sense and is beautifully tender. But the trope behind the guest characters' story gets to me a bit. The nerdy guy pining after the woman who only thinks of him as a friend is rather tired, and why does the woman suddenly fall for him the minute his feelings are pointed out to her? This story can work if it's given enough time and development (see e.g. the first seven years of Frasier) but I'm not sure it does here. If this episode is about implying that Mulder and Scully have fallen in love with each other, in their case it suggests that they have fallen mutually in love as equals, which is much more satisfying than a woman suddenly discovering feelings for someone she has never been attracted to out of the blue.

All in all, this is a fun and fairly inoffensive instalment and I wish I liked it more, but it just doesn't do it for me. It is pretty funny though.

Other Thoughts

 - Dirk Blocker, who plays the Mayor in this episode, plays Hitchcock - police partner of, and frequently mistaken for lover of, Scully - in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. That kept me thoroughly amused for much of the episode.

Quotes

Mulder: I do not gaze at Scully.

Scully: Well, it seems to me that the best relationships - the ones that last - are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.

Final Analysis: Meh. Two out of four unconvincing rain men.

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

3 comments:

ChrisB said...

I agree with everything you say about the silliness and the tired tropes that this episode uses. Yet, there is something charming about it for me. I like the reveal that it is Holman causing the freakish weather and the sappy romantic in me loves that everyone winds up with someone in the end.

I do think the idea that Mulder and Scully have fallen in love with each other is hit a bit hard, but my shipper heart loves it. Scully's speech gives us all hope.

Great review!

Heather said...

Juls,
I really like hearing your thoughts here, thank you. This one's always worked for me. I guess it's got a campiness I can get behind (the baton twirler is woefully under-appreciated, in my opinion). I think the actors sell the tone, particularly the one who plays Holman. Many think this one went off the rails the most offensively, out of the whole season.

Mallena said...

This one is great if you fast forward anytime Victoria Jackson speaks. Besides her awful character, this one has many things to like about it. Holman was funny, crazy weather, great lines. "When was the last time you went on a date, Mulder?" "The blind leading the blind". The way M & S swayed during the dance scene. Good stuff.