The X-Files #15: Lazarus

"Just because someone forgets a birthday doesn't mean that he's been possessed."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: When Scully's old boyfriend dies, the spirit of the man he was tracking appears to possess him.

REVIEW: I admire an episode that knows what its theme is and returns to it whenever it needs a bit of texture. In Lazarus' case, one man (and his magical tattoo) are transferred into another. OR the tattoo is crazy POV stuff and Agent Willis, knowing everything he does about the bank robbers he's tracking, has only adopted the guy's personality in an extreme case of psychological transference. Either way - and I certainly like it when episodes are more ambiguous as to the existence of the paranormal (obviously, the show still skews towards it being real) - transference is the theme, and we see it several times over, whether it's the way wannabe Bonnie & Clyde mixed their blood after their wedding (and mixed it with the ocean, a symbol of transcendentalism's Oversoul, which might be used as a conduit to cheat death this way), or Scully momentarily switching partners.

This is a strong Scully episode and not just because she gets more to do than Mulder does, but because we find out more about her past. Jack Willis is an old flame of hers, and was her instructor at the Academy. Well that seems inappropriate! We know she has daddy issues (Beyond the Sea), and they may draw her to older authority figures (Jack is only the first in the history of the show). But Jack has another important characteristic - he's obsessive about his work. Sound familiar? We're very much meant to make that connection, not that the duo's sexual tension will be resolved any time soon. People love a "will they / won't they" couple, but Mulder and Scully aren't even close to that level yet. More like "never gonna happen / of course it won't", and it's up to you to decide how much the two protest too much.

The plot is your typical bank robbery gone wrong story, aside from the possession element, obviously. Mulder gets to be a good detective. Scully is captured for a bit but also puts a man down. Somehow, the situation and dialog prefigure Pulp Fiction, beating Honey Bunny and Pumpkin by a year with the line "Any of you move, I'll execute every one of you" (as close as it gets once you take out the foul language). The texture I was talking about earlier makes it livelier than it ought to be. The writers love to add little details to every character, deviating from the normal stock. Agent Bruskin - who shows Mulder actually does have some fans in the FBI - chews nicotine gum. The experts Mulder calls on are enthusiastic crackpots and savants. The cop who finds the criminals' house poses as a missionary. Lula's brother has a TV with a busted sound system. Willis - and this is one of the few bits of texture that actually impacts the plot - is diabetic. Richness of detail is among the show's best qualities. Trying to be too mysterious is sometimes its downfall, however, and one might have liked a little more background on the transferring tattoo (did it have an interesting story that might explain its role in these events?).

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: This is the second time Scully sees someone being possessed AS the person possessing them. Boggs as her father, and Jack as Dupre. Does she perhaps have a touch of psychic ability herself? Or are these aberrations seeing as, in both cases, a loved one was in the mix?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A strong Scully episode with lots of action, deduction and interesting characters.

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