The X-Files #21: Tooms

"If you're resistant because you don't believe, I'll respect that; but if you're resistant because of some bureaucratic pressure, they've not only reeled you in, they've already skinned you."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: The amazing stretchable Tooms is back. First appearance of Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

REVIEW: The X-Files has its recurring villains, but only rarely will it bring back a "monster". Tooms is the first of these, and it's perhaps too soon to do so. It even creates problems in the show's time line, seeing as the building Tooms built his nest in only some months ago has been quickly demolished so a fancy new building could be built on the site, just so the production could stage a climax under an escalator. I can't help but be a little disappointed at how fast and loose the writers are playing with their own material (Morgan and Wong also wrote Squeeze). Things established in that first episode don't track smoothly into the second. The 1930s murders lose a victim so Scully can go on her own investigation and dig up a body. Her report in Squeeze about Tooms' physiological differences is forgotten and all the evidence of his four contemporary murders lost so he can be released from the sanitarium and Mulder can look crazy trying to pin decades-old murders on him (when only the last four need matter). Tooms stalks people in broad daylight, which isn't his modus operandi, and what's with his strange triggers in this episode? Rhythmic noises and the color blue seem to make him "turn", but it's never actually remarked upon. So a lot of inconsistencies, which doesn't speak highly of the script.

The direction still manages to get some juice out of its various set pieces though. Tooms is dead creepy, and his contortionist tricks - and the dialog surrounding it - offer some fun black comedy. He frames Mulder by violently disjointing his own body, almost comes up through a toilet, and is killed by an escalator (complete nonsense, but the sequence where a greased, bilious Tooms crawls after Mulder is memorable). And regardless of the plot's problems, the leads still fare rather well. Mulder becomes obsessed with preventing Tooms from completing his cannibalistic cycle and spends day and night in sleepless surveillance, foiling the monster at (almost) every turn. Some might find his murder of Tooms a bit extreme though. Was that really necessary? As for Scully, the episode features some great examples of her loyalty, whether it's gritting her teeth at FBI brass who don't like Mulder's methods, or covering for him when he's caught conducting unauthorized operations.

And let's talk about that FBI brass, because this marks the first appearance of Assistant Director Skinner, who will becoming a fixture on the show from the second season on. And you can see why they asked him back and kept him forever. He's the first FBI boss to leave any kind of impression, and I love his angry impatience with the X-Files. Within a single scene, Mitch Pileggi's performance immediately sets him up for bigger things. Coming towards the end of the season, Skinner's irritation is layered in the bureau's agenda to close the X-Files down, a subplot brewing since Fallen Angel. It's not that Scully's reports aren't complete enough or that her methods aren't orthodox enough - they've been getting better results than most of the bureau's sections! - it's that she's been "turned" by Mulder. They put an agent close to him and they can't use her against him. They've, in fact, created a second Mulder. At Skinner's shoulder is the Cancerman who gets his first line of dialog in this episode. It's a little anti-climactic, frankly, if only because they delay it for so long, making us thing he'll never speak. That he reveals he's a believer should come as no surprise - after all, he knows more than we do - but Skinner's question indicates he isn't, and doesn't. Does that mean we can trust him?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Walter Skinner's introduction aside, the episode coasts by on black comedy and memorable moments, but its plot is disappointing hogwash.


LiamKav said...

I agree it was too soon to do a return, but both this and Squeeze made a lasting impression amoungst my contemparies. If you asked most people my age (at least in the UK) to name an X-Files monster, almost all of them would say "Eugene Victor Tooms".

LiamKav said...

Also, Skinner is awesome. Apparently he'd tried to audition for earlier roles and had always been turned down, partly (according to Chris Carter) because he'd been shaving his head and it didn't look right. When he auditioned for Skinner his small amount of hair had grown back and he was in a bad mood, which apparently worked really well for Skinner. Lucky going there, Mitch!

American Hawkman said...

Tooms and the Flukeman are the most memorable of the X-Files monsters, personally. (They'd also make a heck of a band name...)

Siskoid said...

I'd be hard-pressed to name any others, myself.


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