The X-Files: Patience

Case: Death by either a psychotic killer with a deformed foot, or a monstrous man-bat-thing. I'll give you two guesses which...

Destination: Burley, Idaho

"You're familiar with the principle of Occam's Razor?"

It's an episode about bat-man! But not the cool one. Just a man who's also part-bat. Sadly.

This is a somewhat unmemorable, but nonetheless important, episode. It needs to set up a new paradigm for The X-Files, a new standard template for Monsters of the Week with no Mulder and a dramatic role-shift for Scully from 'the sceptic' to 'the tentatively open-minded one'.

Scully's methods and general attitude haven't changed. She is still a scientist, first and foremost. She still takes a scientific approach to cases, gathering evidence and forming hypotheses. The change, though, is spelled out (rather clunkily) in her conversation with Doggett about Occam's Razor, during which she quotes something Mulder apparently used to say (not that I remember hearing it, since it wasn't relevant to the plot before!). Previously, Scully always tended towards the simplest, most obvious 'rational' explanation, in line with the famous principle. Now, however, with Mulder gone, she finds herself suggesting bizarre, paranormal explanations that fit the evidence, but sound extremely unlikely to anyone who hasn't spent the past seven years investigating X-Files.

The strength of the still-forming Scully and Doggett partnership is that Doggett has a sense of loyalty to his partner and willingness to open himself up a bit that leads him to back Scully up even when he's dubious about her ideas. Scully is defensive, expecting to have to fight him all the way, but while Doggett is sceptical and will argue his point of view, especially in private, he's willing to put up a united front to outsiders, which is what makes him a good partner. By the end of the story, Scully is starting to see that.

Doggett is a character who works far better than I ever expected him to, because he is so very much not Mulder. It's not just that he's more sceptical; he's also better with people, better at working with and dealing with people, calmer, quieter and in some ways more thoughtful. Scully reassures both herself and the audience that Doggett is not replacing Mulder when she pointedly adjusts Mulder's nameplate on his desk, but Robert Patrick's performance does the real heavy lifting. Meanwhile, Doggett assures Scully that she doesn't have to be Mulder either - she can remain herself, and they can work together in a new and different way. The actual Monster of the Week in this episode may not be very memorable, but they way it sets up the new status quo for the show, thankfully, is.

Plus, you know, bat-man. Hehe.

Other Thoughts

 - The bat-man-thing really does look extremely silly. Though I guess it has a Nosferatu-esque charm, in a way.

Quotes

Scully: Agent Mulder used to refer to it as "Occam's Principle of Limited Imagination"

Final analysis: Not a great Monster of the Week, but a decent start for Scully and Doggett. Two out of four bat-man-things.

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

1 comment:

Heather said...

Juls:
You really nailed what was serviceable about this episode. Even the first time I watched it, when it originally aired, it was clear that the story itself was back-burnered in an effort to work on the optics of Doggett and Scully. One thing I've realized in this current rewatch is how consistent the tone is for this season, and 'Patience' set that off.