The X-Files: “3”

Curing Mulder’s Insomnia

by Sarah Stegall

copyright ©1994 by Sarah Stegall

Writer: Glen Morgan and James Wong

Director: David Nutter

David Duchovny should be a controlled substance.

Now I understand why Chris Carter, executive producer and creator of “The X-Files”, has been so adamant about Fox Mulder being “a monk”. When Duchovny unleashes the sensuality hiding behind those sleepy eyes, he overwhelms everything else on the screen. As a dues-paying, card-carrying member of the David Duchovny Estrogen Brigade, I am not sure I can be objective about “3”. There is just too much here to overwhelm the critical judgment: David himself finally performing up to his potential, a compelling story, the excellent special effects, the ratcheting tension that just gets tighter and tighter.

The opening scene, where Fox Mulder rips the plastic dust covers off the X-Files, was one of the most emotionally satisfying scenes I’ve had from this show. To follow that bittersweet triumph with the opening of X-File Number 73317, “Scully, Dana”, shows a sophisticated grasp of irony. Every act, including the teaser, built up to a scream: the older businessman in his hot tub, John “the Son” on the jail cell floor, the Asian man on the floor of the restaurant. Little touches I liked: Mulder wearing Dana Scully’s cross as a keepsake; Club Tepes, recalling the real name of the “original Dracula”, Vlad Tepes; the movie “M” playing in the club. There are some wonderful Mulderisms in this one: “I never sleep anymore” (although Kristen seems to have found the cure for his insomnia; in Act Three she has to wake him). “Normal is not what I think,” seems to be a definitive Mulderism. I loved Fox Mulder’s conversation with the coroner: “You’re upsetting me, on several different levels.” Without Dana Scully to play angel’s advocate, Mulder has to be his own skeptic: how refreshing to see him agreeing with a police officer that their “vampire” isn’t what he seems.

The production values of “The X-Files” continue to meet the highest expectations. Director David Nutter and Art Director Graeme Murray use chiaroscuro with the sure hand of a Caravaggio: the scene in Kristen’s bedroom–where she attacks not Fox Mulder but the vampire we never suspected, standing in the shadows–was masterful. A flashlight beam cutting through the darkness like a knife of light, Mulder moving through the half-lit Club Tepes in striking contrast to its denizens, the sterile beauty of Kristen’s house, the hellish glow of the Malibu Canyon fire were all part of the visual feast this show is becoming. Coupled with Mark Snow’s Emmy-quality music, this has to be the outstandingly produced show on television.

My only real problem with this episode is the confirmation of a disturbing trend lately in “The X-Files”: showing us the monster. In “Little Green Men” and “Duane Barry” we have been shown actual aliens, albeit in a manner which left it open to question as to whether they were real or hallucinations. But in “3” there is no doubt remaining: not only does John, “The Son” come back from the dead, but Fox Mulder wrestles with and subdues him, a man whose corpse he was examining only hours ago. There can be no doubt we are dealing with actual supernatural phenomena here, and it was that room for doubt that gave the show its air of mystery and cool suspense. In a world of half-truths and nested lies, “The X-Files” appeals to us because of its double meanings, its teasing ambiguity, its sleight-of-hand. To drag an actual vampire literally into the light is to kill the mystery, and I hope it doesn’t happen too often.

Pop quiz, folks: tall, dark, and sultry, with bedroom eyes, a strong jaw, a prominent nose, and a full sensual mouth. Who am I describing? Ten points if you said David Duchovny, fifty points if you said Perrey Reeves. I looked forward with great interest to seeing David Duchovny’s real-life girlfriend: I never expected her to physically resemble him so closely, right down to the fine, silken voice. And she is just as good an actor, too: her final scene, holding the match and confronting the Son in an heroic act of self-destruction, was excellent. What a classic Morgan and Wong twist: to destroy a vampire, she must become one, yet does so in a way that leaves her essential innocence intact. Kudos to Ms. Reeves for her talent and her incredible luck.

It is difficult for me to achieve any kind of distance on the shaving scene: I couldn’t untangle Perrey and David from Kristen and Fox in my mind. For me, it was a pure sensual delight to see that slow, sexy smile come out of hiding, to see David shot from below, highlighting that jaw and mouth, to see those drowsy eyes catch fire, to see Mulder’s tight control break when Kristen kissed him. I had wondered how the writers could involve a grief-stricken Mulder in a sexual situation without making him callous. Morgan, Wong, and Ruppenthal did it the only way that made sense–by calling on his sympathy for a victim and his own unacknowledged need for comfort. Mulder was intrigued by the alluring Kristen, but what really undermined his defenses was her own vulnerability. She appealed to Mulder’s deep-seated need to protect and defend, and opened him up like an oyster.

David was definitely at the top of his form in this episode. (How does he make his eyes change color on cue?) In Act Three, there is a moment when Mulder decides, for perhaps more than one reason, to stay with Kristen. She tells him to get cleaned up, and he reacts to her suggestion with humor, acceptance, seductiveness, and weary acknowledgement. He does this solely through facial expression, showing all of them at once in a second or less. Duchovny makes no secret of his preference for making movies, but the intimate medium of television is more suitable for highlighting his extraordinary expressiveness.

This one gets a full five sunflower seeds out of five, with extra salt for the seduction scene.