"Please explain to me the scientific nature of the 'whammy'."
REVIEW: Ooh, nice cameo! No, I'm not talking about Roger Cross (24, Arrow, Continuum). I'm talking about the Flukeman who makes an appearance on a Weekly World News-type rag! But seriously, folks... This episode shines thanks to its villain who, given some of Mulder's Adam West clue-solving, is very much a Batman villain. He's psychotic, he leaves clues for the law to decipher, he's bored with normal law enforcement... He's even got a code-name (Pusher - his real name is ROBERT PATRICK Modell, which is eerie if you know what happens in later seasons). His mind control power is used to good, horrific effect - making people commit suicide or turn on each other, causing a heart attack (nobody listens to Mulder as he screams for the out-of-shape agent to hang up the phone), making a young girl kick Skinner's ass (when it appears he can't be easily be pushed, so that's awesome), the gag with the fake FBI pass, and of course, the tense game of Russian roulette - only his fascination with Japanese martial culture seems an element too many, but it's not uninteresting. Oh, and Breaking Bad fans take note. This was written by Vince Gilligan, who not for the last time gives a character a cancer that makes him turn to crime!
If it's not a total home run, it's that it features a lame hearing scene where Mulder gives crazy testimony and is voted down by the judge. He can blame it on the Pusher's powers all he wants, the truth is, Mulder seems dumb to think his "evidence" is at all admissible, and a lot of the evidence that WOULD be, isn't mentioned at all. The X-Files doesn't do court scenes well at all, and it probably shouldn't try. Meeting office girl Holly in this episode and then making her one of Modell's pawns is likewise obvious and clunky.
But though not perfect, that harrowing climax where Mulder himself is under Modell's control and will either act as the instrument of his own suicide, Modell's, or Scully's murder is great indeed. Scully's close-ups ooze suspense and raw emotion, and her final solution, though simple, doesn't lead to a simple resolution, as Mulder pulls the trigger on Modell over and over, despite the bullet having already been shot, like a brainwashed Manchurian candidate. That's great, edgy television.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Vince Gilligan creates what might be his first great villain!