by Sarah Stegall
Copyright © 1994 by Sarah Stegall
Writer: Chris Carter
Director: David Nutter
Maybe it’s too early to worry about the future of “The X- Files”, but I like to get an early start on these things. Glen Morgan and Jim Wong, the best writers for this show, are leaving in January to start their own series, and Ten Thirteen Productions is going to need new blood very quickly. It’s beginning to show.
Friday night’s episode, “Firewalker”, was “Alien” meets “Ice” (which was “The Thing”, anyway) meets “Darkness Falls“. Agents Mulder and Scully find themselves involuntarily quarantined, exposed to a deadly biological menace, locked in with a killer in a remote location with a lot of nervous people. Do we get Mulder and Scully next week chasing a liver-eating sleepless UFO abductee who claims his toaster is talking to him? How incestuous can we get? I don’t want to be too harsh on “The X-Files”, because I have an inkling of the impossible demands of writing for television. But if the writers for Ten Thirteen are getting so desperate for ideas that they are recycling last season already, they would be better off locking the company lawyers in a closet and logging onto alt.tv.x-files.creative.
I don’t want to be overly critical of Chris Carter and company. They have taken a lot of unjustified criticism on the ‘Net: clearly it rankles. And I don’t know what could follow last week’s splendid “One Breath” without being anti-climactic. I only critique this show because I love it passionately and want to see it live up to the high expectations it has set. But I was honestly disappointed with this episode.
It was about some other agents. Mulder and Scully were so far out of character in this one I wondered how much the ransom would be to bring them back. Mulder simply walks away from his murder suspect to save Scully? Doctor Scully callously locks a patient in severe medical distress in an observation room to save her own hide? Mulder lies to protect a murderer and Scully goes along with it? While we all act “out of character” from time to time, we also have certain consistent traits that define us, and when we break from them, I want a good reason for it.
If I wanted to get rich, I would acquire the battery concession for “The X-Files”. Director David Nutter continues to give us the exquisite close-ups and tight pacing that mark his work, but he was working against the script. There was far too much wandering-around-in-the-dark-with-flashlights. Although I like the film-noir twilight of most of “The X-Files”, we need some light and air now and then. And we have returned to the splatter effects. While the cheesy exploding-neck device was not quite as viciously bloody as the one in “Alien”, it was so disturbing it overbalanced the rest of the scene. It was ludicrous. It was like smashing us over the head with a sledgehammer: it left us too dazed to appreciate much afterwards for a while. Finesse, guys, finesse. Use the stilleto of menace, not the blunt object of revulsion.
“Firewalker” had good points. It was well-researched: has Mulder memorized the periodic table of elements or what? Scully’s lab work was believable, her narration crisp. The art direction was fair–Mulder’s manly five o’clock shadow is back and Scully’s suits are better. I am *very* glad the costumers have ditched the damned trench coats for a while. I would like to see this show move out of Vancouver. Enough already with forest/fog/rain: send the agents to Florida or Arizona or Hawaii (now there are some volcanoes!)
I liked the scenes between the main characters very much. It’s not the same taut chemistry Mulder and Scully had last season, but something quieter. Trust, maybe, and deep affection. The sexual teasing is toned down, and I’m not surprised. Mulder and Scully are past that stage, and have evolved a real partnership, where Mulder is not afraid to show his concern for his friend and Scully–although still skeptical–is more willing to listen to Mulder and trust his instincts. The acting is as good as ever, with David Duchovny opening up Fox Mulder more, giving us a more physical law enforcement officer (with a shorter temper!). Gillian Anderson further strengthened the diamond intellect that is Dana Scully with more of her understated finesse. The looks these two actors exchange substitutes for a great deal of dialogue: they ought to patent this stuff.
The chief joy of “Firewalker” was the return of Dana Scully. While I have no complaints about Mulder on his own, to see The Team working together like the two halves of one mind again is a special pleasure. Gillian Anderson has slipped right back into her role seamlessly. I missed her.
I give this one two sunflower seeds out of five: journeyman work, but none of that edgy brilliance that makes the best of “The X-Files”.