The X-Files #25: Little Green Men

"We wanted to believe. We wanted to call out."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder suffers a crisis of faith until clues lead him to a Puerto Rican observatory that's soon assailed by aliens.

REVIEW: Watergate as a stand-in for government conspiracies had crept into the show through the obvious reference Deep Throat, of course, but it looms large in this episode which not only features a car park meeting under the Watergate hotel, but also sets the abduction of Mulder's sister during a news report about the Watergate scandal. This, more than anything else on the show, speaks to the era it was made in. There's a  lot of Cold War SF prior to the 90s, and people are fond of talking about "post-9/11" programming, but if the 90s gap is about anything political, it's a loss of faith in the government. Before and after, the enemies of America are outside its borders. In the 90s, they're inside. This "quake" started with Nixon and Watergate, but so long as patriotism was inflamed by those danged Communists, Americans weren't really allowed to doubt their own government. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, things are different, less certain, and this is represented in Mulder's own shaken faith.

With the X-Files shut down, he's been put on mind-numbing duties that are quite clearly killing his soul. He's like a lost boy, and Scully becomes a kind of mother figure to him, her kindness manifesting in various ways - running her fingers through his hair, squeezing his hand, and most of all, trying to reignite his passion and make him reconnect to his faith. The reversal is almost absurd. She's always been the one pulling on the reigns, telling him he's wrong, that he believes too readily. Having taken Deep Throat's dying words - "Trust no one" - to heart, Mulder is actually at a point where he refuses the evidence of his eyes, where he questions what he sees as Scully always has, and it's destroying him. He NEEDS to believe, but his paranoia is getting in the way. And both characters are right to be paranoid. Their phones are tapped, they're being followed, and as the program embraces paranoia as one of its core elements, it'll be interesting to see the agents solve X-Files covertly. Because no, their department ISN'T magically restored at the end of the season premiere, though Skinner (now a regular) does kind of go to bat for Mulder against the Smoking Man. An indication that he's a straight shooter and not part of the Conspiracy.

There's more osmosis between the characters too. Mulder conducts a rudimentary autopsy, for example, and Scully is called "spooky" by her Academy students. Signs of a well-constructed script. The episode is also notable for actually showing us Samantha's abduction, which will become accepted fact though it has a couple of small differences with the way it's been told before (the kid playing Fox has a voice with a Mulderish quality too!). The opening monologue is excellent. Scully, though not for the first time some kind of seer-like password diviner, shows some real smarts in outmaneuvering the Conspiracy agents who are trying to find Mulder. And while we no longer have access to Deep Throat, we do meet one of Mulder's defenders on the Hill, who has much the same function, except he's a believer too, not as D.T. was, a participant. A strong season opener on many levels, I must say.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: But how much of what we see is real? Cancerman will later be known to say Mulder is crucial to the "project". So is there a faction invested into dangling carrots in front of Mulder's nose to keep him in the game? On the one hand, he has an experience much like his sister's abduction in this episode - same details except he wasn't taken, though who knows what was done to him in the "missing time"? -which seems to confirm it happened. On the other hand, the events surrounding Samantha's abduction aren't at all clear, and could have been staged. Is Mulder's senatorial patron to be trusted? ("Trust no one.") Since aliens have obviously been coming to Earth for decades if not longer, does their use of the "Voyager handshake" here make sense, or is it just a convenient lure? Mulder is right to doubt the evidence.

- A mission statement wrapped in strong character drama, Little Green Men continues the show's paranoid story without tacking on an easy resolution.


LiamKav said...

I remember this episode getting a bit of flack back in the day. With hindsight, that might be because between season 1 and 2 the X-Files went from "popular" to "phenomenon". I remember thinking it was pretty good.

Plus, now we get to play the season 4 How I Met Your Mother game of "what inappropriate clothing are they wearing to hide the pregnancy THIS week?"

Siskoid said...

It's luck early 90s fashions included giant trenchcoats with enormous shoulderpads.

LiamKav said...

Just like it was lucky that Crusher was the only TNG character to regularly wear a lab coat over her form fitting uniform.

Siskoid said...

Worked for Crusher. Did NOT work for B'Elanna over on Voyager.

My favorite solution is still Kira's.

LiamKav said...

I kinda had to admire the ballsiness of what Frasier did. "Oh, Daphne's just eating lots of food and has gotten fat."


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