The X-Files #55: 2Shy

"The dead are no longer lonely."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A predator goes around dissolving lonely women.

REVIEW: Wow, Season 3 is all about gross-outs, isn't it? I can't believe any of this stuff was ever on network TV - Fox was the new kid on the block, not seen in every market, and its shows could get away with more - it's Cronenberg-level stuff! Digesting people from the outside leads to really disgusting effects - gooey, melting bodies and so forth - even if the mechanics of it aren't too clear (he slimes the inside of their mouths and it somehow spreads?). But while the horror effects still seem avant-garde, 2Shy is dated in other ways. Most obviously, its use of chat rooms is quaint, and it has a plentiful lack of computer savvy. I just don't remember law enforcement alerts breaking in to your Internet usage back in '95, nor does it feel right for people to log on and off, willy-nilly, without a modem sound. Now make it about the terrifying dangers of talking to people on the Internet and you know for sure you're in the mid-90s.

But it's the episode's tone deafness when it comes to gender issues that really does it in. It's about victimizing women who, because they are overweight, are naturally insecure "unwanteds". Virgil Incanto's landlady is so desperate for a man that she ignores the fact he's both rude and creepy, something (oh, irony!) her blind daughter has no trouble seeing. There's this sexist cop who gives Scully a hard time because he doesn't think female agents should be handling gory cases like this, even though she seems to have a stronger stomach than he does; he was dated even then. And his prophecy that Scully would come to harm comes true, though only after he's been killed and partially dissolved in stomach acid himself. Her fight is pretty violent, but she gives as good as she gets, and is saved not by Mulder - twist! - but by the killer's would-be victim. But if this is meant to be a feminist fable, it's very awkwardly done.

Don't get me wrong, it moves a good clip, and Timothy Carhart gives an effective performance as the monster, but its head is in the wrong place. It makes us squirm for the wrong reasons. The last scene, however, redeems it at least some of the way. Scully confronts Incanto and discovers he really is a monster, one without remorse, who justifies the things he's done by saying "they asked for it". In some ways, then, "devouring women" was all a rape metaphor, and means, in these final moments, to show us the ugliness of the rapist's (and rapist apologist's) rhetoric. I would agree with the show's conclusion that it is the worst kind of aberration. If only it didn't just spend 45 minutes exploiting it as a plot.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Way back in "Squeeze", I theorized that aliens might be the source of the "mutants" our FBI encounters, products of experimentation done on people in the past. There's actually a connection between Virgil Incanto and Eugene Victor Tooms; they both devour people to get nutrient they're deficient in. Tooms eats livers, Incanto eats fat. Were aliens stimulating mutations by imposing such deficiencies? Or are the deficiencies an unwanted side-effect of the mutations the test subjects were given?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Certainly has its moments, but today feels dated and misogynistic.

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