The X-Files #143: Sense and Antisense

"Control of third world populations designated secret national policy." - National Security Memo 200 (1971)
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Frank and Watts uncover a conspiracy in the Human Genome Project.

REVIEW: We're definitely much more in X-Files territory this season, and I'm not sure I like it yet. The conspiracy uncovered even has some elements of the X-Files mytharc, namely secret human experimentation. It does come from a different place, however, using real world events to fuel its conspiracy theory. It IS strange that the Department of Energy is in charge of the Human Genome Project, and connecting it to actual genocides since the HGP was started - while it makes me a little uncomfortable - distances Millennium's take from its parent program, which uses vaguer, more wide-reaching, more fantastical, and let's say it, more generic conspiracy types to achieve its ends. But then, we probably won't see this conspiracy again; it's just a threat of the week.

While I've checked and the various elements ARE connected for real, if you don't really know, it all seems a bit random, just like Frank's invitation to investigate a possible plague outbreak. I'm happy to see the Seattle PD hasn't been forgotten, but what does Geibelhouse think a profiler can do here? The fact that Frank gets results thanks to his insights doesn't make me question it any less. Then you have an over-helpful cab driver who brings Frank to speak to madmen living in the underground, shadowy men who play a long con on the police, and Patient Zero turning out to be the scientist in charge of the experiments. Plenty of body horror, a fake plague, and genetically engineered violence thanks to chemicals that activate genes in full grown adults and affect behavior. A lot of it works, especially the madmen's poetry in trying to explain what's happening to them (essentially metaphors for not being in control of their actions), but it also has a slightly haphazard feeling. Too many characters shout and rant and scream, and things frequently feel wrong, from the hospital's poor quarantine protocols to the glossy color pics of genes, not to mention the unresolved mystery of Patient Zero's creation (see The Truth).

In the middle of all this are the anonymous crank calls made to Frank's house, and an inordinate amount of time is spent on them, while Catherine and Jordan do not physically appear. The balance is off in Frank's life, but in the viewer's experience too. This subplot means we get to see Brian the Millennium Group's annoying IT guy some more instead. Bleh. I suppose the calls are setting up a new uber-villain for Frank, now that the Polaroid Man is dead. It's meant to be another slow-burning, sinister presence looming over him. Crank calls aren't quite as creepy as pictures of your family sent in the mail though.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Here's one theory about Patient Zero. The man we're seeing at the end of the episode is just as much under sinister influence as the madman was. Yes, he must've started out as a willing participant (in Rwanda, etc.), but perhaps he tried to blow the whistle on the Project, and ended up getting the same "gene therapy" as his homeless patients in retribution. But he knew too much and escaped the facility, tried to carry out his plan by going to the newspapers. Feeling he was still a problem, the Project recaptured him. And this time, they activated genes that made him docile, allowed him to be brainwashed. His lack of emotion and reaction to Frank at the end makes sense in that context. But if this conspiracy already has the means to do this...

- The writing is frequently brilliant, especially in the way it obliquely treats mind control, but it occasionally takes wrong turns that pull you out of the experience.