The X-Files #13: Beyond the Sea

"I thought that's you'd be pleased that I'd opened myself to extreme possibilities."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Scully's father dies, which makes her more inclined to believe a psychic murderer.

A great episode to drop into the middle of the first season, it has Mulder and Scully essentially switching places, showing how personal tragedy may make believers of us all. We know Mulder's "faith" has been molded by the loss of his sister, but here he's nevertheless the skeptic. When he uses his catchphrase, it's imbued with sarcasm. He wants to believe, but he won't believe everything. He asks questions, he knows there are charlatans out there, and so on. The death of Scully's father makes HER want to believe for perhaps the first time since the series started, and having less experience than Mulder with such things, she might not be able to smell a cold-reading rat when one is near. This is Scully at her most vulnerable, and the psycho-tracking-psycho plot brings her the closest to her inspiration, Silence of the Lambs' Clarice, she's ever been. But is Boggs exploiting Scully, or is his psychic power real, or are both those affirmations true?

Ah Boggs. He's played by Brad Douriff who, like Fire's Mark Sheppard, was a must for all genre shows in this era. He plays the somewhat sympathetic creepy guy like no one else, and here sports his habitual wet look (wet hair, wet eyes). He's monstrous, but someone you want to believe. And as usual, he's eminently watchable. For once, and probably because it's told from Scully's point of view, the truth is almost completely ambiguous. Boggs COULD be working with the second killer; all we have to accept is that distraught Scully us hallucinating her father's ghost, and Boggs himself is hallucinating the family he killed. But what about his warning to Scully about the "devil"? If he were working with the killer, the latter would be unlikely to fall to his death there. And yet, it's not impossible - Boggs might have sent him to that hideout, which he knew well, but the killer didn't. Of course, if the two are communicating, it's never revealed just how they achieve it. And since we know paranormal phenomena are real in this universe, it's easier to skew in that direction.

The point isn't to know for sure, it's to push Scully into a corner where she can't help but admit something is there and force a (momentary?) shift in her character. She's lost her father. She almost loses her partner. And she completely loses her world view. The script starts tearing away at the show's wallpaper early, when Mulder calls her Dana and she reacts. He sees and treats her differently because she's suffered a loss, and so her character begins to unravel. By the end, she'll have believed in things she never thought possible, will have shot at one man, threatened to kill another, and become a weeping little girl before our very eyes. Powerful television, supported by moody direction and excellent, textured acting.

The X-Files have a formula, yes, but this is a crucial juncture that boldly states it doesn't have to keep to that formula. These characters can stretch and grow.


Ryan Lohner said...

I love that Brad Dourif has become such a shorthand for "creepy bad guy" that Agents of SHIELD was able to cast him as a character who literally just sits in a chair for a few minutes saying and doing absolutely nothing before getting killed, just so we'd believe he was the Big Bad the heroes had been hunting.


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