The X-Files #180: Alpha

"So, what's he going to do? Come in here, skitter across the linoleum, and pee in the corners?"
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder and Scully investigate vicious dog attacks that may be the work of a shapeshifter.

REVIEW: I have some fairly strong memories about this episode (been a while since I could say that), and it's all due to Andrew J. Robinson' s guest appearance. Garak from Deep Space 9? That would have left a mark. Unfortunately, it's also one of the things that doesn't work about Alpha. Robinson is entirely too conspicuous as the kind of character actor you'd expect to be proven the villain/monster, and no matter how much mud they try to fling at another possible suspect, there's absolutely no twist in his turning out to be the man-dog (really? no one even starts to say the word "werewolf"?). At the same time, either because he's a shape-shifting wolf half the time, there's so room for the actor to breathe, and so he feels wasted. Detweiler (even sounds like a breed of dog) is cursed, and tries to stop what's happening, but he's not tortured enough, not remorseful enough, or if you want to go the other way, not crazed or evil enough.

Our other suspect, Mulder's source Karin Berquist, is likewise underwritten. First, she's one of those TV "activists" I hate so much, whose character is much too easily reduced to a single overriding issue. In this case, she loves dogs. So like some kind of Arkham inmate, she thinks dogs are more intelligent than humans, more worthy of life, and even bleakly jokes that she can't feel sorry for the people this particular dog has killed. There's eccentric, and then there's being written just so Scully is justified in suspecting her. Or else we'd have to infer that she really IS jealous of this woman because she lured Mulder there as a kind of awkward online meetcute. Good thing she admits it, because there's very little in the performance to indicate it otherwise. I understand Karin is meant to be this asocial, even feral, woman, but it deadens her presence in almost every scene. Throw in the bizarre ending where she commits suicide by man-dog because... why? It's senseless and pointless, and there oughta be an easier way to give Mulder his "I Want to Believe" poster back...

Among the episode's redeeming qualities are some good banter between the leads, especially early on, and some properly savage animal attacks. I suppose the territorial (alpha) theme represented by the animal plot is carried over into Scully's territoriality re: Mulder, but there's more intent than execution on that front. The monster of the week is fairly well realized, and I did like its trickster attributes, how it fooled its hunters, etc. It's just the rest - the meat of the episode - that tastes rancid.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - It's watchable, but the production makes too many wrong decisions, including thinking its mysteries are in any way mysterious.



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