The X-Files #214: The Goldberg Variation

"So basically, what we're looking for is Wile E. Coyote."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder and Scully investigate a supernaturally lucky man wanted by the mob.

REVIEW: An amusing, but also somewhat touching episode in which a man called Weems uses his uncanny luck - possibly gained through the power of numerology, but let's not examine that too closely - to try and save the life of a sick kid, The Goldberg Variation wins us over with its cleverness. At first, the luck effects are simple or absurd slapstick, imitating Weems' cause and effect playsets, but the truth is that his plan to win 100,000$ so he can send Richie to a hospital in Europe is flawed. It ISN'T the best outcome. And because the big picture is too big, he doesn't realize he's a cog in a more complex playset, as is everyone in the story. So what seems to be bad luck is actually a means to get to the best possible luck where Richie inherits the perfect donor's organs. Smartly done, and with some pizzazz, like a fortuitous electrocution causing Chicago's light to flicker and switch off certain sign letters so they read RICHIE.

So yes, I guess that means Mulder and Scully again DON'T have agency, since their choices are manipulated by pure luck, but then, it's something of a metaphor for what fictional characters are always going through. Extreme and absurd, sure, but they never really do have free will. Within that structure - dictated by Fortune/the script - they do have agency. Mulder very much uses the structure by choosing a location at random in the Yellow Pages, leading him to where Weems and the mobsters are, though hm, yeah, Weems didn't actually need his help. Whenever the agents intervened before, they were integral to the living "playset", at least as distractions, which perhaps goes to show that Mulder could tap into Weems' web of coincidence, but wasn't, in that instant, actually a part of it. At least it seems Richie wasn't sick BECAUSE of Weems' karmic balancing rules, or perhaps he was, and the bad luck had to be transferred to the mobsters. I don't know.

I do wonder, however, if there wasn't another way to play this. Weems' interest in cause and effect puzzles (à la Mouse-Trap) could have indicated that his luck was actually a sort of impossible analysis of all factors, of seeing cause and effect in a way most people can't. Doing a simple thing at point X would result in something useful at point Y. That's why he would not have been able to win the lottery (too random for a person to put into motion). A more manipulative Weems might have been more interesting than the foolish victim of circumstance seen here. It's a comedy, which allows the leads to play it light and bantery, but I feel like The X-Files needs to go back to its roots as a horror-thriller program now. It's been away too long.

- Amusing and heartfelt, but is there real jeopardy when coincidence is the overt driving force of the episode?



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