The X-Files #57: Oubliette

"I hate to say this, Mulder, but I think you just ran out of credibility."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A girl is kidnapped and a woman who was kidnapped by the same man when she was a girl feels everything she feels.

REVIEW: Wow it's Firefly's Kaylee, Jewel Staite, when she was 13 years old! When she's kidnapped by the guy from One Hour Photo (more or less), the FBI obviously gets involved, Mulder and Scully in tow because at the exact moment of the kidnapping, a woman called Lucy collapsed in a diner repeating the kidnapper's words (and as we'll find out, spraying Kaylee's blood out of her nose). She was kidnapped by the same man when she was a child, and went through a 5-year ordeal that still has its grip on her. In a sense, she never really escaped, which is what motivates, at least on a metaphorical level, the sympathetic bond she instantaneously develops with the new victim. It's a story that could easily have become unbearable if it had suggested physical abuse and pedophilia, and if the new victim had been 8 years old, as the original was. Instead, we're still in Creep City, with Staite's character 15 years old and the kidnapper having a strange photography fetish that keeps him at arm's length. We're left to imagine spending years in a dark hole with a camera's whine and flash as one's only company. You'd go mad, which is very nearly what happened to Lucy.

Oubliette has more impact than other "typical" X-Files because Mulder takes it so personally. He's has a sister abducted, and he can protest all he wants, Scully is correct when she calls him out on this. That he would want to recover a kidnapped girl is normal, mind you, but it's his relationship to Lucy that's most interesting. This damaged, obstructive woman doesn't immediately inspire sympathy, but he sees someone who could be Samantha today. And thematically, his need to save the 13-year-old is transferred to a similar need to save Lucy, just as damage seems to be sympathetically transferred between the two victims. Everyone else thinks Lucy was in cahoots with the kidnapper, but Mulder draws her out and makes her use her powers to help save a girl and bring an evil man to justice.

So there's another transfer there, as Mulder's heroism inspires Lucy's, who will give her life to save her younger self's (so to speak). Lucy dies in the river in her stead, and Mulder, who was despondent when he thought the younger girl was dead, is just as emotional when it comes to Lucy's demise. (On a side-note, if I'd stopped breathing, Scully would be the last doctor I'd want at my side; she always gives up wayyyyy too soon, unless there's a good chance the person will become an undead as a result of her ministrations.) The last image we have of Lucy is an extreme pull-out of her on a gurney, Mulder at her side, surrounded by black, as if she'd never gotten out of that hole at all. A downer of an ending, but compare to The List, where the agents leave with a big "well, who cares anyway?", and it's clear I'd rather they be invested than detached.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Not a fun or humorous episode by any means, but by making it about Mulder's trauma, it manages to say something about our capacity for empathy. Plus, cool before-they-were-stars casting!



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