The X-Files #6: Shadows

"They're hee-ere!" "They may be."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A secretary haunted by her dead employer is the key to uncovering a terrorist plot.

REVIEW: There's no real ambiguity in Shadows regarding the existence of the paranormal, which may be its weakness. One might question whether Lauren Kyte is a psychokinetic who manifests her dear departed's presence, or if it really is Howard Graves' ghost as it's left at the end. If it's NOT a haunting, we'd have to believe Lauren has a few other powers she's unconsciously using, like ESP, postcognition or even telepathy. If sit IS a haunting, then we have to admit the writing is trying very hard to make it LOOK like psychokinesis at times, just to create a false impression. Is that playing fair with the audience? I'm not entirely convinced. Graves (great name, of course) is a ghost that's sometimes a poltergeist, sometimes a visible; it's not in keeping with the folklore on the matter, not in any coherent fashion.

Once again, authority figures act as antagonists. The CIA or NSA or whoever are investigating a plot to sell weapons parts to a terrorist group, and Lauren is the key. They're the ones who invite Mulder and Scully for a consultation, but can't have expected them to overstay their welcome. It's an ill-fitting plot, which seems orphaned from another show. After its few couple episodes where no resolution is really possible, something like Shadows, which REQUIRES a resolution, if not in the paranormal arena, then at least on the crime/terrorism front seems a throwback to an older kind of television. We spend so much time with Lauren, there's no real paranormal mystery - the mystery is all about the terrorists, which isn't what we want to be investigating on the show. The episode is also marred by some fairly bad acting (the kids who discover the bodies are truly awful), though some of it is hidden in what is meant to be creepy performances. The alt-agency people just look blankly on as if they waiting for their Secret Masters to beam in instructions, for example, but there's no follow-up, so they're just sinister for no reason. The coroner with the dead eyes and lack of empathy, and the gravedigger who knows every detail of his "tenants'" lives and deaths do a little better, but aren't quite convincing either.

And yet, I can't say I dislike the episode. It's got some good paranormal tricks - people choked floating in mid-air, mysterious blood in the bathtub, faces appearing in pictures - and even a little action - a car crash, a tornado of paperwork. Love how Mulder secretly gets the corpses' fingerprints. Scully is now the one talking pop culture, so maybe she's seen plenty of horror movies, while Mulder's thing is classic SF. There's perhaps one too many script manipulations to prevent Scully from seeing paranormal activity at work, because this early in the series, she must ALWAYS been the non-believer, but they're not ready to blow the premise up yet. Ultimately, this is the first episode that doesn't really do anything with the characters outside the case, and the lack of personal lives, or even metaphorical content that relates to their characters and situation (unless you're telling me Mulder wants to see the Liberty Bell at the end because Lauren is finally "free" of the ghost?) robs it of something.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - It's fine, but it should be more than fine.


Jeremy Patrick said...

Before I started re-watching, my blurry memory from having seen these episodes as a kid was that they always left the existence of the paranormal/supernatural ambiguous, so that one never knew for sure whether Scully's or Mulder's view was the correct on.

On re-watching, Mulder is obviously 100% right on everything and Scully's usually a skeptic that turns out wrong. I don't think the show has a healthy approach to critical thinking skills, but I enjoy it anyway . . .

Siskoid said...

I had the same expectation! Either 1) it's the approach we all thought they SHOULD have taken, 2) later episodes do take that approach, or 3) such is the power of Scully that she convinced us in our memories.


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