The X-Files #277: Improbable

"The killer is driven by an impulse we believe is numerological." "Of course, he's a serial killer."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Burt Reynolds haunts a numerological serial killer.

REVIEW: A kooky, offbeat Chris Carter penned and directed episode? Uh-oh. He doesn't have the best track record when it comes to comedy, shall we say, but this is better than his usual fare. At least, the light-hearted tone of it. But otherwise, Improbable is largely a mess. Now, I do appreciate the premise, and New Agey Reyes is the perfect character to do an episode about numerology and coincidence with. The episode plays with the numbers 3, 6 and 9 especially, and Carter has as much fun slipping them in visually as we do spotting them. The FBI task force leader in charge of tracking the killer Reyes "found" through unconventional means is a bit of a cartoon, someone who simply can't see the X-Files point of view and who is happy to note the serial killer corresponds to the basic average for such things. He's comically obtuse. But if the episode's message is that coincidences are actually cosmic/divine code, if only you'll allow yourself to see the pattern, it might explain some of the stretches we've seen on the series. Hopefully, Carter isn't trying to justify his and his team's lazy plotting with this.

A lot of the charm of the episode comes from its main guest-star, Burt Reynolds. He plays God, and I can tell you this because that's what Carter says he plays, though that wasn't particularly clear to me as I was watching Improbable. This idea of God is a player of games, and seems to be helping a serial killer, at least through his non-intervention. Of course, he does intervene, just never in a direct way. I like the idea of a God that unequivocally forgives and allows free will to play itself out even in such a gruesome manner, a God that loves his creation's creations (music, for example, and while there's a fun "music of the universe" sequence, this still doesn't justify Carter using tons of French, Spanish and Italian songs, definitely not the bizarre musical number at the end, which just seems indulgent to me). But again, this comes from Carter's commentary. As the episode was playing out, I was too busy wondering if Reynolds was actually playing the Devil, or some kind of prescient man, or one who affected probability, etc. The clues are there, and the character does end up being benign, so perhaps a second viewing is required to really get it. That's not necessarily a weakness.

What IS a weakness is Carter's out-of-character portrayal of Scully. I don't think there's any other instance of her pulling a gun on a civilian, and keeping them hostage for no reason. She knows what the killer looks like; this isn't it. And yet, she mistrusts "God" and pulls a gun on him several times. When asked why, she can't find an answer. It makes her look stupid. And her inability to accept Fate as a force in her life is absurd given how much of the mytharc has relied on this very idea, and on Scully accepting it as fact. This is simply inexcusable writing from the person who should know Scully better than anyone save perhaps Anderson by now.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Amusing and you get more out of a second viewing, but perhaps Carter was having too much fun at clarity and character's expense.

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