The X-Files #29: Duane Barry

"Lost everything. Wife, kids, house." "The fine thread of sanity."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A hostage crisis is initiated by a crazed victim of alien abduction.

REVIEW: It's a bottle show, really, but also X-Files' first two-parter that extends and expands on the action. It certainly doesn't FEEL like a cost-cutting measure. It's got C.C.H. Pounder in a supporting role (so it's part of Warehouse 13 continuity and we don't know it, right?). It's got aliens in full view. It's got flying saucers. It's got tests on cool light-up tables. It's got disturbing images of laser dentistry... Am I the only one who thinks it's all too good to be true? Well, that's part of the episode's conceit. Is what we see real, or is Duane Barry hallucinating it? And in fact, can we have it both ways? Because yes, former FBI agent Duane Barry was shot in the head and was brain damaged. I believe Scully when she says he's lost his moral compass and is prone to both violence and delusions. Certainly, the fact he talks about himself in the third person speaks to some dissociative state (oh, and there's the taking of hostages). But then there's the matter of implants that cause UPC code scanners to go crazy (ridiculous, I know, the bar code is the wrong scale, but still a cool moment) and white light disrupting electrical systems. That happens.

Real or not, the episode was written and directed by Chris Carter himself, so when Mulder describes the abduction experience in great detail, we can take it as a sort of "bible" on such things. The episode in fact trains us to, with the rather more-involved-than-usual procedural bit about wires. You could say Mulder feeds him the information, which then becomes part of Duane's delusion, of course you could. It's meant to be ambiguous even though it's also giving us all the money shots. Carter has his cake and eats it to. As a director, I didn't notice much a style (the house style will do), but if you're epileptic, you might be careful with this one. It strobes a hell of a lot.

But yeah, one of the things shutting down the X-Files has done is allow Mulder to get involved in more varied FBI activity. As a hostage negotiator, he's a bit of a maverick (but like he says, why bring him in on this if they just want someone to read a script; damn, see The Truth on this), and while he really wants to believe Duane's story, he also gets the job done, using his profiling skills to manipulate the man into a position where snipers can disable rather than kill him. That he then can escape the critical care unit is part of the craziness you'll just have to swallow, along with yet another villain finding Scully's house (stop giving out those addresses, FBI!). Don't you want to believe, though?

Yes, why bring Mulder in on this case? The answer may lie in who goes to fetch him (at the pool, ladies!), and that's Smoking Man's butt-boy, Alex Krycek, who is otherwise a bit of a spare part in this episode. If the Smoking Man's faction wants Mulder to believe certain things, then funneling him to Duane Barry, a man who is probably lying/deluded - are they GIVING him these hallucinations? - makes sense. They also want to deal with the Scully problem -  and who shows up to tell Mulder Duane isn't to be trusted? - so it's perhaps not as far-fetched as it seems that Duane knows where she lives, and kidnaps her. Hasn't he be saying the aliens can take control of him? Part of his dissociative condition, or the Smoking Man whispering in his implants?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Do we see too much? Is there too much spectacle? Questions I asked even while being taken on a tense, intriguing ride.


LiamKav said...

I think the pool scene is another example of the X-Files being slightly ahead of it's time, in that it realised that the Female Gaze is just as important as the Male Gaze.

Those were tiny swimming trunks though, weren't they?


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