"Modell?" "Cerulean blue."
REVIEW: I'm okay with bringing back a villain we thought dead - I mean, I had to be told he was fatally shot by Mulder, and I'm watching these in close proximity to one another - and the coincidentally-named ROBERT PATRICK Modell was featured on a rather strong episode. You remember the one where a mind controller plays Russian roulette with Mulder? And all the clever tricks are there - people committing suicide in fantastical ways because they've been "pushed" to it, our heroes seeing things that aren't there as the Pushers (twist: there's more than one!) turn signifier into signified, and of course, Modell dropping crazy clues like he's a Batman villain. So I ever think his shtick is really about the Bushido code? Not really. It didn't work in "Pusher" either. Guy's just as likely to be Cerulean Blue Man as "Ronin".
The episode does a good job creating a mystery, and we discover Modell wasn't really the main villain, and that the new Pusher was playing a deeper game. As the episode proceeds, we have to keep updating what we think is happening, right up to the end when "Pusher"'s finale looks to be reversed, with Scully under the villain's control, but that tuning out to be an illusion as well. We're sometimes a step in front on Mulder and Scully, but never much more than that. Even the relationship between the Pushers isn't what's expected - though I'm not sure making them long-lost twins with matching tumors is exactly kosher - and it makes the original essentially being "killed with kindness" properly creepy.
While I can understand people not exactly believing in the villains' powers, they've shown what they can do, and my main complaint about Kitsunegari (or "Fox Hunt", geddit?) is that the Pushers are consistently underestimated, even after key people have been told not to. So what's up with the rookie prison guard not being told Modell has those powers, even though the veteran obviously knows he does. Vague allusions to danger don't cut it. I can better understand Skinner and Scully thinking Mulder's been compromised when he starts ranting about a second Pusher; at least they give credence to the original's power. But in the climax, I wish the show had been a little bolder. They shoot the second Pusher - as usual, Scully doesn't mess around when it comes to dropping a perp - but don't kill her. She gloats that she can't be held. And we have to agree. After two episodes of this, is the production team really thinking about doing a third? Unlikely. So why not go edgy and let Mulder or Scully agree too and put her down. It would be self-defense, really, and I don't think we'd hold it against them. Too dark? Throw one last illusion at them. Even make them miss while the Pusher escapes invisible. She'd be out there, but our heroes would have been tainted. As it is, the ending is merely ordinary.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - While it's got lots of cool twists, I can't help but think we've been down this path before. If only the show had pushed the envelope a bit more here...