The X-Files #138: The Pine Bluff Variant

"If you don't hear from me by midnight, feed my fish."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder goes undercover in a terrorist group using flesh-eating bacteria to achieve their goals.

REVIEW: An episode that eschews the supernatural entirely to provide a nicely paranoid thriller, it nevertheless finds a way to tie into the program's themes and interests. The "militia" approaches Mulder because he's just as much a conspiracy nut as they are, and they use an illegal bioweapon that may well be part of the experiments the U.S. government is conducting domestically (like others we've seen, though this is less about mind control than it is population control). It makes good use of locations, and director Rob Bowman's camera choices are both efficient and tense, with a number of cool oners.

The paranoia is such that you're never too sure who or what to trust. Initially, you're with Scully and unaware that Mulder is actually going undercover. But that's easy enough to deduce. The US Attorney seems dirty from rather early on, but then there's this mysterious figure listening in on Mulder. He shows up as the militia's big boss, Bremer, and eventually betrays Mulder, but turns out he's the militia's mole and frequently, if covertly, saves Mulder's bacon - eliminates the need for Mulder to shoot a civilian, sends people away or kills then to cover Mulder's escape, etc. - but the smokescreen is sometimes a bit too thick. I suppose we're meant to understand Bremer is using the militia to try the flesh-eating toxin on wholesome Americans, but would he go so far as to infect thousands of dollar bills? Or what THAT all for the militia's benefit? Why is the US Attorney in on all this? Just for the militia arrests and the publicity? Why does he comply with the Conspiracy's lethal agenda? Why can't Mulder be written off as a militia casualty? Why help him in the end? There are too many questions as to Bremer's motivation in the end, questions that really needed further appearances to be answered. According to my research, we never see him again. Bah.

Still, the episode has great atmosphere and shows The X-Files CAN work off its conspiracy element alone. The bank heist is especially fun thanks to some crazy monster masks - perfect for the show. Oh, and full props for making the mid-level militia man somehow sympathetic in the end. Did I just get Stockholm Syndrome?

- A tight conspiracy thriller, it just leaves us with too many unanswered questions.



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