Thursday, 21 May 2015

X-Files Rewatch | Shadows

After all the chaos that was last week in The X-Files fandom, things have finally begun to die down. That is until June 8th, when they officially begin filming through the summer. I don't think my heart is going to be able to take it. 

In the meantime, let's enjoy some poltergeist action in the form of the latest episode in my rewatch, 'Shadows'.

'Shadows' is another one of the handfuls of MOTW episodes that are littered throughout the first season. Actually, I don't think there's another mythology episode until 'E.B.E'. Which is understandable for the show at the time, especially since this was its first year on air. Carter and the team behind the show were trying to get its feel just right, and what vibe they wanted the show to give off. 

Which does mean they'd have some hit and miss episodes occasionally. 'Shadows' being more of a miss.

Although, this is the first ghost story of the series. Mulder and Scully are asked for their "expertise in extraordinary phenomena" to consider into the deaths of two muggers by an unknown agency - with the two muggers being found to have an electrical charge post-mortem and their throats crushed from the inside. Through these corpses, they encounter Secretary Lauren Kyte who believes she is being haunted by the spirit of her dead boss, Howard Graves.

In terms of plot, the episode is written intelligently. It not only involves a protective poltergeist in the form of Howard but one of the muggers belonged to an exiled extremist group - the Isfahan - introducing some corporate espionage into the mix. But it manages to drift into the same direction that 'The Jersey Devil' did, that the episode never really amounts to anything. There isn't a satisfying climax to the story. At least with 'The Jersey Devil', there was an underlying message throughout the episode. The only thing that 'Shadows' has is that it's one of the first episodes where Mulder and Scully are focused on helping one person throughout the story. 

 (via carlithiel)

This episode is a goldmine for film references, though. It's known that the writing team always manage to slyly incorporate references here and there and that Carter was inspired by shows such as The Twilight Zone and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. But here, we're obviously given the vibe from Poltergeist, with Scully quoting the main line from the film whilst Mulder is explaining what he thinks caused their car to crash. Then there's the scene in which Howard's spirit shows Lauren how he was killed in the bathtub, which eerily echoes that of Hitchcock's Psycho with the camera slowly panning up to the shower curtain, and the blood circulating the drain.

Mulder is extremely hot headed in this episode, I forgot how early on his short temper is displayed in the form of getting more than angry with the unknown agency detectives - who asked Mulder and Scully to be there in the first place - not answering their questions. But that doesn't stop him from lying about not seeing this sort of case in the X-Files before. Which Scully can see straight away through his face (and let's be honest - Mulder has literally everything in the X-Files), but as Mulder says, he "willfully participated in a campaign of misinformation". I need to use that excuse more often. 'Shadows' is also the first time that we see Mulder's Elvis obsession come to fruition, where Mulder jokes that Elvis was the only man ever to have successfully faked his own death.

But many of the humor comes from Scully in this episode, with her movie references and quotations, such as the gem of rationalizing Mulder's belief of psychokinetic manipulation with "you mean how Carrie got even at the prom?". It's refreshing to see Scully like this, it really solidifies Mulder and Scully's dynamic, showing that can both equally be as witty as each other, as it's usually Mulder that comes out with these remarks.

How Scully cannot believe in half the things happening in this episode though is beyond me. Granted, for two of the poltergeist appearances she's not there to witness it, but she is literally in a possessed vehicle with Mulder, and can clearly see it's not Mulder operating the brakes and the locks. Yet she still comments on the fact that "someone must have tampered with it" when she and Mulder are at the garage. C'MON SCULLY.


Although, even though Scully is there when this happens but is still skeptic of the situation lends itself extremely well to their relationship. When Mulder and Scully get Lauren in for questioning, they seem to have a good cop/bad cop vibe going on. Mulder seems to be more of the good cop in this instance, as he's able to sympathize with Lauren more than Scully can because of what he believes, and what he's already seen up to this point in the episode. Then Scully cleverly manipulates Lauren into cooperating, explaining herself to Mulder that she "believes that (Lauren) believes". Her priority is to get Lauren to help them solve the case, which Mulder wasn't getting close to doing. Mulder is more concerned about being able to see the poltergeist of Howard rather than solving the case itself. 

This is why they work so well together - they're polar opposites. Mulder and Scully want two different things out of the situation. Scully is there to stop Mulder from going after something that doesn't really warrant further investigation into the case. Whereas Mulder brings sympathy to the table and can humanize the situation, opening Scully's eyes to things that she wouldn't normally open her eyes to in the first place. This becomes a staple routine throughout the series, that they manage to exercise not just early in the series, but early on in their partnership.

'Shadows' is a watchable episode, but not one that really sticks out when you think back to Season One, and especially not in terms of the series. Although, it is an episode that manages to scare with very little, which is extremely hard to do in terms of horror. But 'Shadows' does pull this off, whether it's from the creepy photographs of Howard's poltergeist or the bathtub filling with blood.

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