The X-Files #233: Patience

"I have to admit, Agent Scully, I'm at a loss." "Well, that's a good place to start."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Scully and Doggett track a killer man-bat.

REVIEW: Chris Carter writes and directs a simple monster of the week story himself to develop the Scully-Doggett dynamic. As such, the plot is really secondary to how the characters work with each other, but the human bat is nevertheless not the show's best creation. A throwback to Season 1 "mutants" is certainly welcome, but the bat looks rather cheesy once it strikes (shots of it hanging upside down are more successful), especially that bit in the equally cheesy-looking cemetery. And while it's the kind of creature you could expect from cryptozoology, it's really kind of ridiculous. It flies against all the laws of physics, but can't follow someone to an island. It can track the scent of one person lingering on a burned dead body that came in contact with it, and then on everyone who came in contact with that corpse. Ok fine, but stop telling us how bat-like it is because scent isn't the sense principally associated with bats. And then there's story about how bats are really close to apes so of course humanoids evolved from it--what?! You can dismiss all that. It's function is really to create odd "unexplained" murders for the FBI duo to investigate.

Letting go of Mulder is hard to do for Scully, but it's something she needs to do. At the start of the episode, she makes sure Doggett knows they're only borrowing Mulder's office, and throughout, she tries hard to BE Mulder. Doggett calls her on it, but he really didn't need to. Of course, she's always turned into Mulder when left to her own devices, but here she's trying to force the sort of leaps her old partner used to make. But does she have the right instincts. There was a case to be made that Mulder was a little psychic, remember. But as she turns out to make some pretty good assumptions, and in fact, Mr. By the Book Doggett takes his own more timid leaps, and they follow the clues to something of a resolution. (Doggett'll just have to get used to the open-ended nature of these things.) But taking the Mulder stance does bring her into conflict with others, and with herself. At the end, either because she needs to shed Mulder, or because she's assimilated him so completely, or possibly even because Doggett has proven to have her back in a number of ways, she puts Mulder's name plate away and breaking from tradition, orders Doggett a desk. Mulder's FBI badge wasn't in the opening sequence this week, did you notice?

Unfortunately, the way Carter manifests Scully's Mulderization doesn't quite work. As a metaphor, I see what he's trying to do: Scully is suddenly treated like a "spooky" loon whose conclusions irritate law enforcement and scare the locals, someone Doggett needs to apologize for. The "Patience" in the title isn't just about the man-bat waiting 40 years to get revenge for its brethren's death, it's also what Scully needs to call on throughout. As a reality, it fails because the people around her are too antagonistic. Doggett's friends coming down to the X-Files office to chuckle at the weirdo outfit makes sense. Office jerks and all that. But out in the field, it's like the detective decided ahead of time that whatever the Scully told him would piss him off. It comes off as sexism, quite frankly, not as an incompatible world view. Everything the cops do seems like obstruction of an FBI investigation. When he dies, for example, the other coppers blame Scully and deny her access to his body. How does any of this make sense? Now Scully knows how Mulder must've always felt, sure, but isn't acting enough like Mulder for them to treat her this way, and Doggett's acceptance of her theories and methodology are much more relatable. And perhaps that was part of Carter's agenda too.

- Strong character work, but the monster of the week is something of a groaner, and the guest characters are motiveless obstructions.



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