The X-Files: Trevor

Case: A prisoner has escaped from prison after a tornado.

Destination: Jasper County and Meridian, Mississippi

"Dear Diary, today my heart leapt when Agent Scully said spontaneous human combustion."

'Trevor' is an episode of The X-Files that quasi-works (concept, directing, guest stars and production value on point), but ends up falling flat because of the story structure. There's a list of episodes along the way where the writers don't quite know how to incorporate the dynamic duo and the two end up chasing the story for the hour, a beat behind in every scene. The result is not altogether unsatisfying, but rather, largely forgettable. Despite the story concept here being pretty cool, the execution isn't that compelling. And it never gets the tone right. It would have been better off leaning into the near-camp vibe, or the super-gritty one it was flirting with. Looking back though, this one gets perhaps unfairly sidelined, because when viewed through the lens of the second half of the series as a whole, it's really pretty good. As ever, the charisma and magnetism of Duchovny and Anderson will continue to be a safety net in moments where all else is failing. (More on that in a bit.)

The episode's writers (Vancouver prop master, Ken Hawryliw and writing partner / composer, Jim Guttridge) didn't have the benefit of logging hundreds of hours writing these stories, as the main stable of writers did. Hawryliw had written several different scripts before pitching this idea to the producers and ultimately, he and Guttridge collaborated on 'Trevor' to bring it to production. But this is the only script of The X-Files these two wrote in the series. To their credit, they nailed some of the great repartee present in the most memorable of Mulder and Scully interactions (including the quote above which remains a huge fan favorite). They captured Mulder's droll view of the world while allowing Scully to question him in her lovingly dry way. The concept really was interesting, too, especially because it subverted expectation in that Rawls' desire to reunite with his son was pure and decent, thus he wasn't the antagonist. 'Trevor' also, miraculously, fulfilled a theme running though the season thus far, one that Mulder and Scully are beginning to come to terms with, themselves. People playing an inauthentic part in their own life will suffer the consequences.

Okay, now let's gaze at agents Mulder and Scully:

Rob Bowman always did know his stuff -- he often shot GA as the noir queen she secretly is.

The always-reliable autopsy shot from below the gurney.

The lighting -- good lord!

But really, aesthetically, this episode belongs to Duchovny's Mulder, and 99% of that is because of his hair.

The lighting -- good lord -- part II.

"Wait, is this doing anything for you?"

Characteristically exuberant.

The lighting -- good lord -- part III.

Do you see what I mean about the hair? AMAZING.

Now for the action shots:

God they look good with flashlights.

Shit's about to go down -- I mean look at Mulder's rolled-up sleeves.


They look like real cops.

Personally, I'm going to be thankful that we get to see Mulder with a shotgun -- because he looks super hard.

So Hitchcock though.

That's some symmetry.

Aw, Lariat! Breaking Bad, we miss ya.

I'm not kidding, you guys, the guest stars were on point, you can't do much better than John Diehl and Catherine Dent (plus Tuesday Weld!):

Aw, I miss The Shield, too!

Catherine Dent manages to pull off the Talbots look amazingly well.


Scully: "Should we arrest David Copperfield?"
Mulder: "Yes, but not for this."

Final Analysis: A good concept whose structure doesn't ultimately serve it. Great guest stars and direction by Rob Bowman.


Mallena said...

Thanks for trying to find interesting things to write about this episode and the pretty pictures. This just was not an interesting story. Scully's hair looked great, though. I tried to bob my hair like hers back in the day, but I have schizo hair that always flips up on one side and down on the other side. Sigh.

ChrisB said...

The "Dear Diary' quip is one of my favorites and, frankly, the reason I sit through this episode during a re-watch. Not the worst of the MotW, but not enough. A very cool concept that never really came together.

Congratulations on finding the positive, Heather. It isn't all bad.