"Dear Diary, today my heart leapt when Agent Scully suggested spontaneous human combustion."
REVIEW: Pinker Rawles is one of the coolest one-off villains/monsters we've had in a while, in no small part because he's so entertainingly crazy (see? this is the kind of texture Andy Robinson should have been given in Alpha). He's dangerous, unrepentant, a gleeful bully, naked half the time(!), and yet, soulful when it comes to the son he wants to find. A brutal sociopath who nonetheless thanks a woman for having been a good mother to his kid, and who struggles to keep the violence under control when little Trevor is around. Oh, and he has the power to phase through solid matter, corrupting whatever material he passes through and making it brittle. The effect on human flesh is some seriously effective body horror. And he thinks his powers come from divine providence - God HAS been known to manifest as a tornado - lending him a twisted (ha!) righteousness as well.
Mulder and Scully follow the clues and manage to explain both the how of Pinker's powers and the why of his rampage through Mississippi, a well-structured thriller and double mystery. The how of his powers is actually pretty well thought-out, connecting the storm and electrostatic repulsion in a scheme that creates a reasonable weakness for Pinker that can be exploited later. Of course, even without his powers, he's still plenty dangerous. The why is what provides the episode's pathos, but at the same time, no one will resent Trevor's mothers (his biological mom and her sister who unofficially adopted him) for fighting Pinker and eventually killing him.
It's a story about backfiring second chances. Pinker's powers let him escape and find his son, but he can't really escape the violence in his soul and when he seems to realize he'd be no good to this boy, he's killed or possibly embraces death. For Trevor's mother June, who took Pinker's stolen money and built a new life for herself, there's only heartache as well. She might face charges (depending on the statute of limitations here), but even if she doesn't, her current fiancé who's been lied to all along, is seen to divorce himself from the whole situation, and likely from her.
I haven't talked about Mulder and Scully much, but they're as good as ever here, and the episode is worth watching if only for Mulder's look of shock and pride when Scully suggests a paranormal explanation to the initial mystery.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A strong monster-of-the-week story, with nice mysteries and a villain with personality making this one rise above the standard.