The X-Files #206: Nostalgia

"I'm angry that it's no different here than it is everywhere else."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Frank and Emma travel to a town she once lived in to investigate a serial murderer.

REVIEW: The best throwback to Season 1, with an investigation into sexually-motivated murders, is perhaps a good idea as the show reaches its final sunset. It certainly helps that it's good. The procedural elements aren't undercut by magical visions. The trail of clues is easy for the viewer to follow. They pull some nice twists by finding the culprit early - so in TV terms, he HAS to be innocent, right? - but then having to prove it as conflicting evidence comes to light. The motivation is perverse, and the episode skirts the borders of what is acceptable on television with the killer's masturbatory inclinations. And though it's a stand-alone episode, there are personal stakes. Before her sister died, Emma lived happily in this small town, and is now witness to its ugly underbelly. It taps into the overall theme of Millennium, of an ordered past falling prey to chaos, a portent of what is to come.

If the mystery works despite the script showing its hand early, it's that everyone in the town seems to have something to hide. Like Emma, we'd be hard-pressed not think Sheriff Tom guilty of something, even though he's the one who called the FBI on this. The way all the uniformed gents act, you're almost expecting some kind of Murder on the Orient Express situation. But guilt, not the verdict but the feeling, is a strong motivator, and though they didn't kill that girl six years ago, they all think they contributed to her accidental death or possibly her suicide. So they covered things up. They just didn't know they were covering up her murder. And so that murder became a template for more murders, with the real killer hoping to be caught each time so he could be punished for that first one. Emma runs up dead alleys, but Frank stays on track and finds all this out, and he does it by offering sympathy and understanding. And yes, we do kind of feel sorry for the killer, which is always a feat. We become profilers ourselves, in those moments.

So it's all rather well made, give or take a line where Emma offers too much exposition as is her wont, and I was all set to give the episode a Medium-High rating. And then that final moment pushed it over the top. In the SUV before they drive away, Emma muses about her now stained memories of this place, and compares it to going on vacation and it starting to rain there, and the feeling you get that you brought the rain with you. And a laugh erupts from Frank. He knows that feeling, better than anyone. And that he can laugh about it is part of the sea change we saw in him in the previous episode. It's awful, because the rain that follows him is usually serial murder, but he mocks it, he won't be dragged down with it. Genuinely one of my favorite moments in the entire series.

- If I were to recommend a single "standard" Season 3 episode, this would be it.



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