"Pictures don't lie."
REVIEW: A creepy serial murderer story where the only clues are on photo-sensitive material imprinted with the killer's thoughts, certainly an interesting premise and well executed too. It's all the more creepy because he murders only to get his real victims' protectors out of the way. His real intent is to abduct and lobotomize young women who remind him of his sister whose personal demons caused her to commit suicide. There's a rich back story to this guy to explain what he's doing, what clues he might accidentally leave in picture, and where the FBI might track him next. Not altogether sure why he speaks German to his victims though, could be a detail that got lost in a rewrite.
Writer Vince Gilligan does like to add a lot of detail to his characters - the kids in the opener have their own story, the chemist has a foot brace, the madman's stilts and the crazy resulting chase scene - but the back half of the episode wouldn't work as well as it does without Pruitt Taylor Vince in that madman's role. Vince has perfected the ability to move his eyes in an unsettling way (which he also used on Murder One, but I've seen him in other roles were he didn't, so it's not his own affliction), giving him a lot of pathos, but also a believable pathology. He's insane, but he thinks he's helping, and though he can't exactly be reasoned with, Scully does get through to him long enough to make him turn a camera on himself, where his darkest thoughts prophesy his death.
That she retains such agency even as a captive is crucial to making this overused trope palatable (and that crazy abduction with Gerry under the van!). The fact that Mulder shoots Gerry and saves her is mostly notable because lately SHE'S been doing all the shooting. This is definitely not a one-sided thing with these two. I also appreciate how, despite the clue's supernatural nature, this is an episode where Mulder gets to use his profiling skills (something Scully touches on thematically in her report, analyzing the empathy she felt for her captor, and wondering if understanding monsters takes us closer to being monsters).
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Scully's unrest is apparently behind the bridge of her nose. What he says to all the girls? Or something about an implant or cancer left from her abduction experience?
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A watchable one-off with good performances, a strong mystery, and creepiness without vast amounts of cheap gore.