The X-Files #83: Paper Hearts

"A dream is an answer to a question we haven't yet learned how to ask."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: A recurring dream makes Mulder reopen a cold case about a child murderer who may have abducted his sister.

REVIEW: Like in Unruhe, Vince Gilligan here crafts a serial killer mystery where the essential clue is supernatural in origin, but keeps that origin vague so that, while you're watching it, various possibilities occur to the viewer and to the agents. Mulder communicating telepathically through dreams is quite consistent with what we've seen before. He and Scully are linked this way - he's seen her in the abduction room and she's seen him on his Native American quest - so he's a little bit psychic. Perhaps that even explains how he can make deductive leaps like he so often does. And if the premise here is that he "got into the killer's head" as a profiler and it somehow forged a (belated) link with this Roache, well, maybe a form of telepathy is what makes him a good profiler in the first place. He literally gets into other people's heads. Maybe all it took was a killer with his own psychic potential to make it go the other way, which is what Roache uses to manipulate Mulder through the episode.

Roache is, of course, more disturbing than a simple serial killer. He molested and killed 16 little girls, and once he's made Mulder get him a day pass, he wastes no time chatting up the nearest child. His nonchalance and his relish also contribute to making him a memorable creep. His contention that Samantha Mulder was one of his victims is, of course, patently ridiculous knowing what we know. We've seen Bill Mulder and Cancerman discuss the abduction, the Samantha clones on the Albertan farm, etc. Does Mulder now think he dreamed (ha!) it all? How COULD this man be her abductor and killer? That's the sticking point in this episode. It seems to fly in the face of everything that's come before so Mulder can go over the edge. (See The Truth for what might have been running through Mulder's head.)

That said, I do like Mulder's reaction to finding out at least one of the girls isn't his sister, a mix of relief and sadness, and quite rightly, he sheds tears for whoever the victim really was. That's the proper reaction, human but heroic. Another great reactor is Skinner who is SO pissed off this episode, a real joy to behold, as usual. Also, props for a great location used for the climax. The abandoned tramway lot looks amazing, I've never seen anything like it. Well used in a tense showdown with one of the show's real monsters.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Let's say Mulder hasn't gone completely crazy and forgotten important pieces of the mytharc, how can he believe Roache abducted and killed his sister. Well, how about this? Could the Conspiracy have used Roache to abduct children, then cut him loose when he started not showing up to the pick-up? Samantha would have been a very early abduction in his career, so perhaps he did deliver her, but never killed her. If his part in the abduction proves true, he could lead Mulder to the conspirators and perhaps to his sister's whereabouts. He just never explains his train of thought...

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Mulder's motivations are a little strange at times, but this is the superlative serial killer tale Silence of the Lambs-obsessed Chris Carter seems to like. He can green-light Gilligan's all season long as far as I'm concerned.

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