The X-Files: Roadrunners

Case: A missing backpacker has been found stoned to death in the desert. Scully is called in to investigate when they find some unusual health issues.

Destination: Sevier Desert, Juab County, Utah

Gas Station Man: “We’re not really a town. Just a few like-minded people trying to keep the world at bay.”

Scully takes off alone to Utah in answer to a call for an unusual autopsy. While she is investigating the crime scene which is in the middle of nowhere, she sees a bus go by. Being the curious (and silly) person that she is, she follows the bus into a small, abandoned-looking town.
You can't help but wonder why Scully would wander off into the desert with a quarter tank of gas and no cell phone reception but if she hadn't we wouldn't have had an episode, so... In fact, it's these little bits of implausibility that annoyed me with this episode. Would Scully really give her gun to a civilian, an ill and out of it one at that? And the second coming as a particularly ugly parasite seems a bit far-fetched, even if you bring religious fanaticism into the equation. Despite these shortcomings, there were some good things in this episode.

The lighting was well done and there were some suitably creepy bits like Milsap on the stairs and the villagers gathering by lamp light at night. Scully could tell that something was off almost immediately and probably would have walked away, even if it was many miles through the desert, if it hadn't been for the backpacker needing her help. It was impressive that she figured out the villager's ruse quickly because it was obvious that they had been lying to strangers for quite some time. They were pretty good at it. Scully keeps her head through the whole experience even to the point of starting a fire to get Doggett's attention. The whole rescue at the end undercuts her fierceness, but I was still impressed.

The episode makes some ham-fisted comments on religion, isolation and cult mentality. Some very nice religious village folk are jointly psychotic and go out of their way to pick up and murder strangers in order to keep their messiah alive. The culty village is a somewhat common horror trope and without some lovely acting by the 'townspeople,' this episode would have been campy rather than scary. It was a close call.

Doggett shows his skills as an investigator in this episode. He methodically goes through the files and finds other instances of glycoproteins and strange wounds. He trusts his instincts with the villagers and just when we think all is lost as the Gas Station Man puts out Scully's fire, Doggett saves the day. As others have said, he is very different than Mulder, calm, quiet and understated.

Other Thoughts

Lessons I Learned from 'Roadrunners:'

The kindness of strangers isn't always kind.
Don't hitchhike or take weird buses in the desert — also don't follow them.
Don't accept free gas from gas stations in deserted towns or at least smell it first.
If you start to get creeped out, walk away and take your gun — even if it is through 18 miles of desert.

Very nice people have always made me nervous. I guess that is a good thing.

I'm not sure why the title of the episode is 'Roadrunners' (maybe someone else can help) but the theme song from the Looney Tunes show kept going through my head.

The little piece at the end where Doggett talks about the 47 townspeople complaining to the grand jury about religious persecution was a nice touch.

Quotes

Doggett: “Well, I don’t have a great memory for mucus, but I’ll be happy to look.”

Scully: “It takes a very tight-knit group to murder together.”

Hank: “Your life is about to take a wonderful turn. You're going to become a part of something much, much greater than you are. You’re going to be so loved.”
(I'm sure Scully is pretty tired of being part of something that is bigger than her.)

Scully: “Him?! That thing in my spine is a him?!”

Two out four ugly second coming parasites.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Doc:
Great review. This episode always bugged me. Ha! I kid. Really though, it's so gruesome and weird and, imo, it doesn't really work as an episode of The X-Files. That said, there are some nice touches that are all Vince Gilligan -- like the dialogue. Robert P is kind of a standout here, as well.