Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): The X-Files - "Fallen Angel" (season 1, episode 10)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The X-Files - "Fallen Angel" (season 1, episode 10)


Welcome to my viewing diary for The X-Files. Every day, except Saturday, I will offer a short review of another episode until I finish the first season. Future entries will cover the remaining seasons, breaking to review the feature films where chronologically appropriate, and eventually reach the recent miniseries. I have seen very few X-Files episodes, though I was utterly fascinated with the concept as a child, so for the most part this will be a first-timer's perspective. There will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on November 19, 1993/written by Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, directed by Larry Shaw): Meet Max Fenig (Scott Bellis). It takes the episode eleven minutes to put him onscreen inside a detention pen, following a mysterious crash in Wisconsin, a fatal attack on a sheriff's deputy by some unseen creature, and Mulder's rogue infiltration of the crash site before he's captured. As Mulder's temporary cellmate, the shaggy-haired, conspiracy-minded Max seems like he might just be a one-scene character, indicative of the wider alien obsession that possessed America at this time, the flip-side of Mulder's more official investigations. Instead, Max keeps showing up, parking his silver trailer - full of high-tech spy equipment - in the lot outside the FBI's motel room (Scully shows up to scold and then reluctantly collaborate with Mulder). Mulder notices some strange markings behind Max's ear, matching several alien abductees in his files. He takes a protective, even tender, stance toward the young epileptic - and possibly schizophrenic - man, believing that he may inadvertently help them discover the invisible extraterrestrial force terrorizing the area, burning several soldiers to death as Col. Calvin Henderson (Marshall Bell) tries to track it down. Sure enough, Mulder and Max are attacked by this being in a warehouse, with Max eventually raised in the air, glowing and convulsing before both he and the other life form disappear. Mulder is harshly reprimanded, and an expulsion from the FBI is imminent. Instead, a powerful force intervenes on his behalf: Deep Throat. This intervention is not due to a rugged insider/outsider's affinity for the rebellious agent but to a more pernicious calculation. Not a secret turncoat at all, Deep Throat has been using Mulder, believing that it's safer to feed him some limited information and keep him working for the Bureau than to have him on the outside. "Keep your friends close," he tells another frustrated official, "and your enemies closer."

My Response:
Mulder himself seems to be the subject of this episode, in a way he hasn't been since "Conduit." Specifically, the question at hand is "What is Mulder's place within, and relationship to, the FBI?" Episode 10 takes him out of his suit and way out of his jurisdiction; even his ally Deep Throat is exposed as an enemy in the end. Throughout the episode he's treated more like an inconvenient outlaw than a law enforcement agency, and frequently he seems to have more in common with the marginal Max than with his colleagues, even Scully. No episode has better revealed, or reveled in, Mulder's status not just as an FBI but a genuine iconoclast who just happens to have found a place within the system. We learn that he's even a cult figure among UFO enthusiasts who request Freedom of Information filings not to expose the machinations of The Man but to celebrate their representative on the inside. Where would a Mulder character have found himself twenty-five years earlier or twenty-five years later? This is interesting to consider; he's both a postwar figure, cleancut and straight-shooting in his individualist pursuit within a hegemonic institution, and a post-sixties figure, skeptical of authority, conventional wisdom, and often the very government he works for. Max, meanwhile, gives us access to the more countercultural aspects of the UFO community that sprang up in the U.S. throughout the late twentieth-century - we can almost imagine a midnineties parallel X-Files with a lone rootless individual, or perhaps a crew of Twister-like hippie UFO-chasers, pursuing mysterious sightings around the country, divorced from any anchoring in central authority or institutional legitimacy. That said, it's the inside/outside quality of The X-Files that gives it such special appeal.

Next: "Eve" • Previous: "Space"


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