Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): The X-Files - "Shadows" (season 1, episode 6)

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The X-Files - "Shadows" (season 1, episode 6)


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-timers' perspective. There will be NO spoilers.

Story (aired on October 22, 1993/written by Glen Morgan & James Wong, directed by Michael Katleman): This may be less a story of Mulder and Scully than a story of Lauren Kyte (Lisa Waltz), secretary to a Philadelphia businessman who has recently committed suicide. Lauren was very close to Howard Grave (actor - or simply archive photo - unknown), more like a daughter than an employee. This is probably due to the fact that Howard lost a daughter twenty-five years earlier, forgetting to lock the door to a swimming pool in which the toddler drowned. She would have been the same age as Lauren, and so Howard - even from beyond the grave - is determined not to let such tragedy strike again. Lauren is haunted by a protective spirit that uses psychokinetic energy to kill several would-be murderers, wreak vengeance on anyone who threatens her, and expose a treasonous plot involving an Iranian terrorist group's connection to Howard's business (which fulfilled defense contracts until it lost a Pentagon deal and turned toward other sources of revenue). Scully is, as always, skeptical that this national-security intrigue has a supernatural element, but Mulder is present for several poltergeist assaults, including the climactic confrontation with Howard's successor Robert Dorlund (Barry Primus), which reveals the telltale floppy disk hidden behind the executive office's wallpaper and will presumably confirm that Robert actually had Howard killed. Lauren, meanwhile, flees to the Midwest in the hope that Howard's presence won't follow her. When a supervisor's coffee cup trembles on her desk after she's snippy with Lauren, the relocated young woman has to wonder if her old boss has followed her to a new job...and whether she really minds after all.

My Response:
Something about this narrative feels a little different, apparently because the network wanted more episodes in which Mulder and Scully help a relatable character. Though the creators were apparently irritated by this request, it works pretty well for me. Waltz is an intriguing performer, and it was surprisingly refreshing to see our leads inserted into what's essentially, as already mentioned, someone else's show. I'm not sure how much of this format I'd want in the long run, but I like it every now and then. This is also another urban episode; between Baltimore, Atlantic City, and Philadelphia, The X-Files is eagerly covering the mid-Atlantic seaboard, an unusually concentrated geography for a series that readily travels across the country in its rural episodes. This is also, if I'm not mistaken, the first time the series has dabbled in international affairs. Its identification of the terrorist group as Iranian feels like a bit of an embarrassing holdover from the eighties (although I wouldn't be surprised if modern shows like Homeland have carried on this water-carrying tradition). However, "Shadows" also introduces a tentative element of corporate critique, with Lauren's respectable-seeming boss greedily colluding with a foreign power. Meanwhile, the presence of a nonplussed, deeply uncooperative rival agency represented by Agent Webster (Deryl Hayes) - it's never clear if it's NSA, CIA, or what exactly - continues the show's fascination with bureaucratic rivalry. Nonetheless, these enigmatic agents have more respect for Mulder's area of expertise than his own organization does; when they remark on his reputation for cracking paranormal cases, he chuckles, "You're not FBI, are you?" Along those lines, how much longer can Scully conveniently avoid Mulder's direct confrontations with aliens, ghosts, and other monsters, or bend over backwards to ignore all the fishy stuff that happens around her? Not to sound like a broken record on what is probably a matter of dramatic necessity - I'll never pose this question again if it's still pertinent after a dozen episodes, I promise - but at a certain point her skepticism feels like more of a leap of faith than Mulder's credulity.

No comments: