The X-Files #216: The Amazing Maleeni

"The great ones always know when to leave the stage."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder and Scully stumble on a magicians' long con while investigating a mysterious decapitation.

REVIEW: They had me at Ricky Jay. His very presence recalls a number of Mamet's great con films, and that's very much relevant to what's going on in this episode. Ricky Jay is the great explainer in many of those films, using that deadpan voice of his to instruct in a way that's at once flat and bombastic. Same here, and though there's a noisy heckler in the crowd who doesn't think highly of it, I would definitely enjoy the Amazing Maleeni's act on presentation alone. But of course, the heckler isn't really one; it's all part of the con. An episode about magic, by which I mean stagecraft, should, by definition, be about misdirection, and it totally is. You'll spend the better part of the episode trying to figure out the "trick", think you're sure you have, only to question your assumptions once again. It engages viewers intellectually, and amuses them as well.

It's a nice change of pace for the solution to be relatively mundane as well. Scully's world view is so rarely "correct". Not that there aren't unexplained elements, but you should expect that of the best magic tricks. Mulder is nevertheless the episode's MVP, and though it's not framed in terms of his profiling skills, it's fun to see him get into the head of criminal magicians, indulging in sleight of hand and oneupmanship himself. This is a sort review, by my standards, because I have no real interest in spoiling its various twists and convolutions. The con is so convoluted as to be preposterous, to be sure, but that's where the enjoyment comes from. Have fun with it. It looks like everyone involved in the production did.

- I'm biased because I'm a big fan of the grift, but even if you aren't, this dense and light-hearted episode deserves your attention.



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