The X-Files #64: Piper Maru

"You're in the basement because they're afraid of you, of your relentlessness, and because they know that they could drop you in the middle of the desert and tell you the truth is out there, and you'd ask them for a shovel."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder and Scully investigate a WWII airplane that has given French divers a lethal dose of radiation. An oily entity takes Krycek over.

REVIEW: Oh man, black oil! That's gonna be big, if I remember correctly, and why not, since the smokey eyes effect is so cool? Although to get it into the mytharc seems to require some convolutions. A French vessel called the Piper Maru (after Gillian Anderson's daughter, extra sweet because the episode served as the vehicle with which Anderson got her first Emmy nomination) goes to the UFO crash site from which the Talapus came (in Nisei) and finds a downed plane there supposedly carrying a nuclear weapon, but in actuality a still-living black-oiled pilot. The entity jumps to the diver, then to his wife, and by episode's end, to Krycek. Because yes, as part of the episode's contortions, he's found in Hong Kong trading American secrets just as the FBI is shutting down the investigation into Melissa Scully's murder. And when Scully needs Navy help and goes back to the base where she grew up to talk to an old friend of her dad's, it turns out he was on a sub (with future singer Michael Buble, apparently) that also encountered the black oil at that location! Well, I know Mulder was talking about fate earlier in the season, but this is all highly suspect. And I'm not sure how it all connects. The black oil seems a much more interesting element than human-alien hybrids, and could have stood on its own, with its own dedicated arc. Mashing it into the other long-running plot only confuses the issue and makes it seem like the production is winging it, jumping onto whatever idea it thinks is coolest at the moment.

That said, Piper Maru is a very strong episode. Scully is haunted by her sister's death and resentful that the Bureau is giving up the hunt for the assassin when it has every resource at its disposal. Revisiting her childhood, and being reminded she also lost her father in the fairly recent past, weighs heavily on her, and Anderson is great at underplaying everything so that it doesn't become strident melodrama. Her performance feels quite true to the nature of grief, which comes in waves, rushing away from the shore as one eagerly allows something, anything, to distract them. For Scully, that's work, and Mulder's little quirks, and while she's been crabby with him of late (now we might understand it was because the investigation into Melissa's murder wasn't getting anywhere), here she finds amusement and distraction in his wit and energy. Though split from him for the course of the episode (they keep doing this with mytharc two-parters, and I think it's a problem), Skinner acts as a supportive surrogate, and gets shot for his trouble. Poor guy spends the better part of a half-hour just trying to get some lunch, but keeps getting interrupted by threatening MiBs and lone gunmen (not the good kind, the disgruntled phone company client kind)! And he's a badass as always, give him his own show already.

When Scully goes on an emotional journey, Mulder enters action movie mode. I mean, flying to Hong Kong to track a traitor who just had him covered by an under-the-desk shotgun? Getting chased by French intelligence? Shackling himself to her and getting trapped when a door closes between them and she becomes, literally, dead weight? Beating Krycek up in an airport (it's before 9/11)? That's way outside his jurisdiction. Fun stuff, though it can be contrived at times. Would an FBI agent really send a detainee to the bathroom unattended? It happens just so Krycek can have his encounter with black oil. But as usual, the mytharc episode are crammed with so much - information, emotion, action - that you don't really notice it's not making absolute sense until you sit down to write your daily review. As you do.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Reserving judgment on the Conspiracy elements until the next episode, I will note that the killer flash of light isn't new to this episode, but was previous seen in the until now unique alien tracked in Fallen Angel. Could THAT being have been infected with black oil? Or is the black oil an intelligent nano-weapon normally used by that species?

- A major new "villain" is introduced, and there's tons of stuff to keep one entertained, but I can't forgive the amount of contrivance needed to make it all happen.


snell said...

"But as usual, the mytharc episode are crammed with so much - information, emotion, action - that you don't really notice it's not making absolute sense..."

Truest one-sentence review of the X-Files ever.

Siskoid said...

Had I stumbled across it earlier, I could have saved myself 8 months of writing.

LiamKav said...

I dunno, I'd also go with:

"[it] makes it seem like the production is winging it, jumping onto whatever idea it thinks is coolest at the moment."

Siskoid said...

And I have no problem with that. It's just that it plays havoc with continuity. More of a problem watched in quick succession like this, than the weekly/seasonal format it originally appeared in.


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