The X-Files #124: Detour

"I was told once that the best way to regenerate body heat was to crawl naked into a sleeping bag with someone else who is already naked." "Maybe if it starts raining sleeping bags, you might get lucky."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: On the way to a workplace seminar, Mulder and Scully stumble upon woodland camouflaged humanoid predators.

REVIEW: Detour uses British Columbia's lush forests to create an unusually colorful world of greens, chocolate browns, blue and (monsters!) red that seems to clash with the program's natural murkiness. Not that that's a complaint. My actual complaint is that it throws a lot of things into the mix, tone and plot wise, but nothing actually feels "finished". In its best moments, it's a comedy, with lots of great lines, and a terrific hook that has Mulder and Scully going to one of those awful psychobabble work seminars. Unfortunately, the comedy agents going with them disappear and reappear without much motivation (which is too bad), and while I enjoyed our leads' night in the woods, we've kind of seen that stuff before.

The monsters in the woods often benefit from cool effects, and the suspense works, but again, something is missing. The creatures are just too ill-defined. They seem to be living trees, or living mud, but there are scenes where it just seems like magical camouflage. But as invisible men, how exactly are they turning people around? "The woods are alive", with trails turning into a maze à la Mirkwood, seems much more interesting, and would have worked better with the whole deforestation/encroachment angle, and moved it away from the plot of The Jersey Devil. Not much of a link to the Moth-Man myth either. And then there's the whopper - Mulder believes these guys are Ponce de Leon's crew, 450 previously having found the Fountain of Youth, which would have turned them into these primitives... I'm with Agent Kinsley, he's just making stuff up so he can have the X-Files budget pay for his room. And something that also bothered me throughout the episode: How much Mulder and Scully rely on firing their weapons at the creatures as a solution. It's gauche and thoughtless, and a little bit out of character for the former. They kill one, but are still left without an explanation?! And why were the Moth-Men keeping their victims alive anyway? Because this is a comedy and too much death would have killed the laughs?

What pure drama there is isn't followed through either. There are some nice moments for the wife and son of a captured hunter, but like most scenes, it doesn't feel "of a piece" with the rest of the episode. Scully, for her part, has just survived a cancer, but nothing is ever referenced. Anderson, to her credit, seems to modulate her performance to at least show us a Scully that's more tired than usual, less feisty. I'm not convinced it's her hope that there's a scientific explanation for the monsters that's half-hearted, or the script's, but it'll do. She's in no shape to argue with Mulder, and I choose to believe it's because she's still convalescing.

- Recommended only for the zingers, because I don't think the episode works all that well on its other merits.



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