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The X-Files: Fallen Angel

Case: Operation Falcon, a covert military operation to retrieve and conceal the existence of a 'Fallen Angel' --- a crashed alien ship and its occupants.

Destination: Townsend, Wisconsin

After a seven episode drought, ‘Fallen Angel’ brings back the government conspiracy to cover up the existence of extra-terrestrial life. As a fan of long-arc storytelling, this return to the series’ main themes should excite me, but I thought the military’s “crash retrieval” efforts were actually the least interesting part of this episode. Perhaps I’ve become jaded by years of X-Files and Stargate fandom, but the hard-ass colonel and his “I suggest you forget what you saw, or what you think you saw---for your own well-being” routine all struck me as pretty rote and ho hum. Even Mulder’s efforts to expose the cover-up seemed a bit blasé after the events of ‘Deep Throat.’ (Although, I will give him credit for being better prepared this time and for cleverly breaching the perimeter by hiding under the military vehicle. I wonder if he actually caused the flat that made them stop in the first place?)

I thought the reappearance of Deep Throat and the introduction of Max Fenig were the better parts of the episode. Not counting Mulder, Max is our first bona fide UFO conspiracy theorist (a beta version of the Lone Gunmen, if you will). He is a very memorable character, both amusing and tragic all at the same time. Moreover, he provides a somewhat scary glimpse into what Mulder could easily become if not for Scully and the X-Files.

As for Deep Throat, for the moment, his true loyalties and goals remain clouded. He initially appears to be an ally, telling Mulder about Operation Falcon so he can presumably get the hard evidence for which he’s long been searching. Then, when Mulder’s actions turn into the perfect opportunity for the FBI to bury him and the X-Files, Deep Throat saves the day. But his cryptic conversation about his reasons leaves us wondering what exactly his endgame is.

Deep Throat: “You and I both know that Mulder’s work is a singular passion. Poses a most unique dilemma. But his occasional insubordination is in the end far less dangerous.”
McGrath: “With respect, sir, less dangerous than what?”
Deep Throat: “Than having him exposed to the wrong people. What he knows ... [laughs] what he thinks he knows. Always keep your friends close, Mr. McGrath, but keep your enemies closer.”

Is Deep Throat only pretending to help Mulder to keep him away from the really dangerous truths? Or are McGrath and the men like him the real enemies he’s keeping close? I tend to think the latter, but it is far from clear at this point.

Other Thoughts

If Deep Throat really is trying to help Mulder expose the conspiracy, did he honestly think Mulder would be able to do anything with the evidence he gathered at the crash site? Surely the government could easily debunk those photographs Mulder was taking. As Mulder himself says, “How can I disprove lies stamped with an official seal?”

I didn’t really dig the partner dynamics in this episode. Scully is overly brusque and hostile when she first shows up, then quickly lapses into nagging, while Mulder blithely dismisses her legitimate concerns. I suppose Scully’s attitude makes sense, considering their partnership and their project are in jeopardy because of Mulder’s selfish obsession. And given how close Mulder knew he was to obtaining tangible evidence of The Truth, I can see why he’d stubbornly persist with complete disregard for his job security. “Don’t worry. It was only a matter of time. I’m surprised I lasted this long.” Still, the episode seemed to portray their relationship as much more formal and distant than the dynamic established in previous episodes, and I didn’t like it.

I loved the brief appearance of the operations center at Cheyenne Mountain. I know that it is the home of NORAD, but I’ll always think of it as the home of Stargate Command.

The alien from the downed spacecraft appears to be a weird translucent energy capable of killing people with ionizing radiation. This type of alien is seems different from the kind we typically see throughout the series. Or maybe there were so many variations over the nine seasons my memory is failing me.

I really liked the contrast between Scully and Mulder’s demeanor at the Office of Professional Responsibility hearing. While I wasn’t keen on their overall relationship in this episode, these scenes perfectly encapsulate the basic differences between the partners.


Colonel: “Negative. What she tracked was a meteor. It’s abhorrent movement was obviously due to instrument malfunction.” Obviously.

Colonel: “We’re trying to contain an ecological disaster.”
Mulder: “That’s a lot of fire power just to protect Mother Nature.”

Max: “Say no more, you’re a cautious man. Trust no one. Very wise. After what happened to JFK, I understand completely.”

Mulder: “What makes you so sure there’s something out there.”
Max: [Laughs.] “Same thing that makes you so sure.”

Mulder (re: Max): “Another intrepid soul in search of a close encounter.”

Mulder: “You really believe that story?”
Scully: “That story happens to be highly classified.”
Mulder: “A highly classified lie.”
Gotta say, I’m with Mulder on this one. Scully’s story about the downed Libyan fighter reeked of bogus.

Scully: “My assignment is to bring you back, not to help you dig yourself in deeper.”
Mulder (with funny voice): “The last detail, starring Dana Scully.”

Max: “This must be the enigmatic Agent Scully.”

Max (re: Mulder’s publishing pseudonym): “You really didn’t think that would fool us, did you?”
Mulder: “I didn’t think anybody was paying attention.”
Max: “Somebody’s always paying attention, Mr. Mulder.”

Mulder: “You don’t seem to understand, Scully. Max doesn’t believe he was abducted by aliens; I believe he was.”

Mulder (at OPR hearing): “You can deny all the things I’ve seen. All the things I’ve discovered. But not for much longer. Because too many others know what’s happening out there. And no one --- no government agency --- has jurisdiction over the truth.”

Final Analysis: ‘Fallen Angel’ may not bring much new to the general government conspiracy theme, but it does introduce a likeable, if tragic, character in Max Fenig. Even better, the episode features the return of Deep Throat, who’s connections and motives remain as mysterious as ever. All told, a solid outing.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.


  1. Great review, Jess. This was a rather pedestrian effort, almost a by the numbers mythology episode; UFO crashes, Mulder investigates, Scully moans, Deep Throat is cryptic, military covers everything up, Mulder broods, goes home, likely watches some porn.

    It’s always great to see Deep Throat back in the mix, he was always one of my favourite characters, but I found Max something of a jittering cliché. Although his appearance did set up a good two-parter further down the line.

    BTW, speaking of Stargate, for the first few seasons I couldn’t get over that fact that Scully’s father was in charge on the SGC. Even to this day I still think of Don S. Davis as Dana’s dad rather than Gen Hammond.

  2. Just over ten years since the last comment on this one. Wow.

    Always had a mixed view of this one. I regard the first half as exciting and brilliant, the second half just not in the same league.

    What a fantastic character Max was.


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