The X-Files #213: Rush

"Too much teen spirit." "You think? Smells like murder to me."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder and Scully investigate a superfast teenage killer.

REVIEW: Since the season opener, we've had... one episode almost entirely in character's head, one episode from the perspective of a guest star, one episode where the focus was pulled by the lead of another series, and now this, an episode where the leads don't have very much agency. The procedural elements of their investigation are well done, and they do get some nice interplay where Scully hopelessly clings to some semblance of the scientific method, but for the most part, they're there to witness the story. It would probably all have happened without them there. And their now sustained lack of agency is a problem for the show. Even Mulder's hare-brained theories get it wrong several times, because it doesn't really matter what he thinks. The audience is way ahead of him on this one, which makes the investigation nearly pointless. Especially since the Speed Cave is never really explained.

So we're left with a Smallville-like Flash vs. Professor Zoom w/special guest-star Jesse Quick, as teenagers. Zoom is a one-dimensional villain sustained through patented jerk acting, who uses his super-speed for crazy stunts and to kill authority figures. He's motivated by bitterness for his single father, the town sheriff, and the "rush" of the power, without which life is impossibly boring. A metaphor for being at that age? The impatience of youth? Or is it all supposed to be about drugs making one feel invulnerable even as it dismantles one's life? The two ideas blur together and neither comes off as in focus. Much like the power itself, actually. Notoriously difficult to do right - characters invariably start to move at the speed of plot - the tricks sometimes seem more like invisibility or have a character stand there while the effects of what he's doing are still going on. Look at the sequence where the teacher gets pushed by a table. It just doesn't work. The murder-suicide is better, but the best superspeed sequence for my money doesn't feature any speed effect at all. It's when Flash and Jessie Quick are trying to outrun Zoom to the Speed Cave, sans powers, because they know whoever gets there first will gain complete control over what happens next. There's some good suspense in that idea.

The episode also has some nice attention to detail, at times. Zoom's collection of shoes goes unmentioned but makes complete sense, for example. The music at the end of the episode recalls the running sound of the Bionic Man and Woman. The sheriff is a strong character only shielding his son within reasonable norms for a father (though this is at odds with Zoom's general privilege). Even Scully's pang of jealousy at Mulder checking a girl out adds some texture. But then, this is also an episode where the kids don't have their parents' accents, so y'know, your mileage may vary. (Can I just say? This last one is, I think the best speed pun in the review, and it's the one I didn't do on purpose.)

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low
- If we're going to fold comic book super-powers into the supernatural world of the X-Files, let's at least make Mulder and Scully the stars of the episode.

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