The X-Files #112: The Thin White Line

"A man's past is not simply a dead history... it is a still quivering part of himself, bringing shudders and bitter flavours and the tinglings of a merited shame." - George Eliot
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Frank tracks a copycat killer imitating a murderer who almost killed him 20 years ago.

REVIEW: We flash back to Frank's FBI career in this, but no way can Henrikson sell that he's 20 years younger in those sequences, even though he at least tries to pitch his voice differently. But we can't expect that to work on the production's means. Perhaps I'd be more enthusiastic if it actually revealed something about him aside from the origin of a nasty scar we've never seen before on his hand. Okay, that's not strictly true. They do claim his almost fatal run-in with the "Death Card Killer" has haunted him ever since, and his duality - is there a monster lurking inside him? - is at least in part informed by this moment. But that's not a revelation so much as it is a continuing exploration of that theme. It didn't need an origin story, not does this feel like one.

The Death Card Killer, Hance (evokes Manson readily) evidently brainwashed his cellmate and turned him into a version of himself. Osmosis is an important element of Frank's duality, the profiler who "becomes" his prey. Hance has the same powers, but in reverse. A worthy nemesis. And their scenes together are excellent, a cat and mouse game where both participants are, in reality, cats. Exciting stuff. It's with the younger killer than the director shines however, showing us, without the crazy "Millennium-vision" effects, what the killer sees and hears, as if it were the objective truth. It's strange at first to have people volunteering for sacrifice and following his apocalyptic script, then darkly humorous as magazine covers expose his paranoia.

Thing is... the two killers are SAID to have the same modus operandi, even the same MIND, but they don't act the same at all. Hance doesn't use any of the "script", not even in the flashbacks, so there's no direct link there that would justify Frank knowing it by heart. The use of playing cards is only revealed later, so that wasn't the trigger. So I wonder what happened there. And does Hance really deserve a reward for his cooperation? It looked to me like he didn't give stuff up willingly; Frank was just good at reading him.

- Some very interesting direction, and excellent acting show pieces, but the three parts (present killer, past killer, flashbacks) don't connect as well as I'd like them to.


Anonymous said...

If you're talking about the lights being turned out as a reward, IIRC that wasn't a reward but rather the signal to show Hance that his acolyte was killed.

Siskoid said...

You're reading something into it. This was something he wanted, and when his other self was stopped, he got it. Even if it wasn't meant as a reward (Frank specifically made no promises), it sure feels like one.

Anonymous said...

Not reading into it. Just reading it differently, I think.

"But for every second these lights burn, that tells me that's another second that he's out there. That's not murder - that's love."

Stage directions, end of episode:
"Now in silence, Hance begins to weep."

I always interpreted Hance's line as a sneer at Frank. But at the end when the lights go out, he knows his partner is dead. He lost. He's devastated. I took it as a punishment, not a reward.

Siskoid said...

Cool. Yeah, I think you're right.


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