Thursday, 8 October 2015

X-Files Rewatch | Blood & Sleepless

Mulder and Scully still aren't back together professionally; but that isn't stopping them from maneuvering their way through cases together.

‘Blood’ is one of the rare episodes within the X-Files canon that focuses more on the procedural and paranoiac elements rather than character development between Mulder and Scully. It’s reminiscent of a later episode in the seventh season, ‘Hungry’, where the story focuses on the monster rather than the heroes. It’s an episode where the writers begin to toy with this idea by giving more of a focus on the victims/suspects of the alarming messages through electronic devices, whilst also giving an interesting insight into procedural elements through Mulder investigating the crimes and his knowledge of violent crimes.  

Paranoia is the central grip of ‘Blood’. Mulder and Scully’s – although mainly Mulder’s – investigation is focused around the premise of a small group of citizens from a small town community are receiving alarming ‘messages’ through electronic devices (LED readouts, ATMs, elevator and microwave displays, televisions, cell phones and watches). The messages give each victim receives personalized messages that tap into their inner fears; with all having one thing in common. The messages telling the victims to kill, and then preceding to murder whoever is around them. 

There are several victims/suspects for Mulder to investigate, but the main pull of the story is in the form of a postal worker named Ed who has an intense fear of blood. It’s the intense fear that these victims/suspects harbor that seems to be the catalyst for the killings; but Mulder believes there’s got to be something more to it than that.

Mulder still isn’t back on the X-Files, but he close to home. He’s back on the Behavioral Science Unit, as Scully suggested that he turn back to in the previous episode. Mulder doesn’t seem to be too happy to be back on said unit, however. He’d much rather be investigating X-Files. But this gives us an insight into his knowledge of killing sprees, with a fascinating insight into the differences between mass and spree killings: 

Perpetrators of mass murders are divided into two classifications, the spree killer and serial. The sudden violent outburst in a public locale and the suspects disregard for anonymity or survival define the Franklin incidents as spree killings. The confounding element of these profiles is that given their background, the perpetrators would be statistically more likely the victims of violent crimes rather than the originators. The killers were all middle income, responsible people. None with a history of violence. Relatives and friends reported only minor displays of dysfunctional behavior. Sleep disorders, headaches, eating difficulties. But witnesses did report the last suspect displayed a claustrophobic reaction. I’m convinced an outside factor is responsible, but I must concede frustration as to a determination of the cause. A residue discovered on the fingers of the most recent perpetrator was analyzed and reported to be an undefined but non-toxic chemical found on plants, perhaps remaining from gardening. There have been reported abductee paranoia in UFO mass abduction cases--

(Scully interrupting through reading along with what Mulder has written from her laptop) I was wondering when you’d get to that. 

I find no evidence of this to be the case. The single connecting trace evidence to the killings is the destruction of an electronic device at the crime scene. A pager, a fax machine, a cellular phone, a gas pump digital display. In all honesty Scully, I’ve never had a more difficult time developing a profile. There is no way to know who will be a killer, or who will be killed. 

Much like in ‘Little Green Men’, Mulder is directing his findings to Scully. Whereas this time it’s more venting at how he’s struggling to come up with a profile. Before he was speaking to Scully to keep record of medical findings, which goes to show that that although they aren’t officially working together, they still help each other out on cases, especially those on the BSU. 

Mulder eventually comes to the conclusion – after witnessing the spreading of what seems to be pesticide/insecticide around town – that the local government are spraying some sort of toxic pesticide that seems to be effecting the people of the town, especially those with heightened paranoia and phobias. It’s particularly terrifying that this is happening unbeknownst to the town, and has been for decades in other small towns across America through what the Lone Gunmen show Mulder. I really liked this idea, as it fits in nicely with The X-Files as a whole, that the government – even small local governments – cannot be trusted. They feed of the fear and paranoia of their populations, and will do anything to enhance this fear to get their way. 

Even though ‘Blood’ is extremely insightful in terms of America’s history with the spraying of toxic pesticides, the differences between mass and spree killings and how the government can latch onto the fear-induced public – the episode as a whole just doesn’t feel the same without both Mulder and Scully investigating the case the entire way through. 

Mulder with a huge print out camera/instamatic. I really want one.

One of the things I love about X-Files is its attention to detail. They make sure that the audience can see that Mulder has had his arm wound tended to by having his sleeves rolled up, revealing a bandage.
MULDER: Hey Frohike, can I borrow those?
FROHIKE: (Holding night vision goggles) If I can have Scully’s phone number.

Transition to Mulder sitting in a field with said night vision goggles. My favourite transition of the whole show. It’s so smart comedic wise.

LSD: Lysergic acid diethylamide is a psychedelic drug well known for its psychological effects – which can cause altered thinking processes, closed and open-eye visuals, synaesthesia, an altered sense of time, and spiritual experiences. It is also known for its key role in the 1960s counterculture. It is used mainly as an entheogen and a recreational drug. It is non-addictive, but can cause acute adverse reactions such as anxiety, paranoia and delusions. 

It was first synthesized by Albert Hofmann in 1938 from ergotamine, a chemical derived from a grain fungus that typically grows on rye. Hoffman discovered its psychedelic properties in 1942, and it was introduced commercially in 1947 by Sandoz Laboratories under than trade-name Delysid as a drug with psychiatric uses. 

In the 1950s, the CIA believed that the drug might be used for mind control and chemical warfare, the agency’s MKUltra research program propagated the drug among young servicemen and students. 

MKUltra: MKUltra was the name given to an illegal program of experiments on human subjects, designed and undertaken by the CIA. It was often referred to as the CIA’s mind control program, were experiments on humans were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations and torture, in order to weaken a suspect to force confessions through mind control.

DDT: DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is a colourless, tasteless and almost odourless organochloride known for its insecticidal properties. It’s insecticidal properties were first discovered by Swiss chemist Paul Hermman Muller in 1939. It began to be used in World War II to control malaria and typhus among troops and civilians. 

However, the 1962 book Silent Spring by American biologist Rachel Carson cataloged the environmental impacts of DDT spraying in the US and questioning the logic of releasing large amounts of DDT without actually understanding its effects on human health. The book claimed that DDT had been shown to cause cancer and its agricultural use was a threat to wildlife. It’s agricultural use was eventually banned in 1972.

AGENT ORANGE: Agent Orange or Herbicide Orange was one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961-1971. It was a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. It was given its name from the colour of the orange-striped barrels in which it was shipped. 

The government of Vietnam says that 4 million of its citizens were exposed to Agent Orange, and as many as 3 million people have suffered illnesses because of it. These figures include children of those who were exposed. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to one million people are disabled or have health problems due to contaminated Agent Orange. According to a study by a Vietnamese scientist, Dr Nguyen Viet Nhan, children in areas where Agent Orange was used have been affected with multiple health problems, such as cleft palate, mental disabilities, hernias, and extra fingers and toes. 

Contaminated soil and sediment continue to affect citizens of Vietnam, poisoning their food chain causing illnesses, skin diseases, and cancers in the lungs, larynx and prostate. 

The nurse buzzing the doorbell at Ed’s house was buzzing ‘Kill’ in Morse code. 

The penultimate scene of the episode in which Ed climbs the college campus tower as a vantage point for his shootings is based on a real life incident. On 1 August 1966, Charles Whitman opened fire on the 27th floor of the clock tower on the University of Texas – Austin campus. He began a 92-minute shooting spree which left 16 dead and dozens wounded. The shooting ended once Whitman was shot by police. The observation deck was eventually closed in 1974 due to a combination of this incident and several suicides. It was eventually reopened in 1999, after heavy security and safety measures were put in place. 

SCULLY: I’d love to tell you that I flew three-hundred miles in the middle of the night to perform tests that prove that you’re about to become the next Charles Manson…

Charles Manson is an American criminal who led what became known as the Manson Family, a quasi-commune that originated from the Californian desert in the late 1960s. He ordered several of the ‘Family’ members to carry out mass murders, with one of his most prominent victims being actress Sharon Tate. He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the murders of seven people including Tate and four other people at her home; and the next day a married couple, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Manson was given the death sentence in 1971, which was reduced to life in prison.

Manson can also been seen on the television in the scene in which Ed is asked to donate blood in a department store and he sees violent images, including a video of the 1993 Waco Siege burning, flash across a sales display of television sets, followed by a message to get a gun from the neighboring department.

And funnily enough, Duchovny is now portraying the lead detective in the hunt for Manson on NBC’s Aquarius.  

Scully retrieves the body of Mrs. McRoberts to autopsy:

Several anomalies were discovered during post-Morten analysis that were undetected in previous autopsies. Levels of adrenaline are known to be high in cases of violent death, twice as much as in victims of natural death. This subjects levels were two hundred times normal. The adrenal gland displayed extensive adrenal hemorrhage, yet not from disease but rather from wear. Other psychological evidence present indicated episodes of intense phobia. Analysis of the vitreous humor extracted from the eyeball indicated a presence of high concentration of an undetermined chemical compound. This compound at its base is similar to the substance analyzed earlier on a perpetrators finger. Although further quantitative analysis must be performed, it is my opinion that this chemical, when reacting with adrenaline and other compounds secreted during phobic episodes creates a substance similar to Lysergic acid diethylamide. LSD.

(Shaking County Supervisors hand) Pardon my rubber.

MRS. MCROBERTS: Is it okay if I have my breakfast?
MULDER: It’s the day’s most important meal.

He’s probably one of those people who thinks Elvis is dead.

As soon as Mulder is in a hospital due to be sprayed with pesticides, Scully is there to make sure he’s alright after being a total idiot. She is his medical doctor, after all. Flown 3,000 miles in the middle of the night to perform tests on him.

On the surface, ‘Sleepless’ is a pure monster-of-the-week. But the episode also brings the introduction of two new characters - Krycek and X – and also a big reveal at the end including one of said characters, subsequently adding an additional layer of mythology on top of the MOTW. 

Since Mulder and Scully still aren’t working together, Mulder is assigned a new partner in the form of Alex Krycek (So innocent, so pure). He’s assigned to him rather begrudgingly on Mulder’s part, as Mulder is originally send a tape cassette of the mysterious death of a doctor in the cold open. Mulder tries to take the case, but finds out that Krycek opened the case before Mulder got the chance to. Mulder states that Skinner didn’t mention anything about a partner, but Krycek actually requested the file two hours before Mulder did. So, it’s technically his case. 

Mulder still manages to work this case with Scully as much as he can, requesting that she be the medical examiner to look at the body of Dr. Grissom. Scully is so funny when Mulder does his usually begging for her to do stuff for him. He wants her to autopsy the body so they can work at least part of this case together, making the offer more enticing by telling her he can get it to her by five. And Scully’s like *sigh* fine, what’s the name. She knows that if she doesn’t, she won’t hear the last of it from him. He’s like a child that way. 

MULDER: (Entering the lab) Spleen or pancreas?
SCULLY: (Smiling to herself) Stomach. I was just about to start on it.
MULDER: Oh, uh, this is Alex Krycek. We are working the case together.
SCULLY: Good to meet you. (Then completely ignores his handshake. BURN.) 

Mulder is clearly apologetic that he has another partner in the way he looks at Scully. Scully looks as though she’s been punched in the stomach, but that doesn’t stop them from theorizing over the body and death in extremely close together with added whispering – true Mulder and Scully style. Whilst trying to butt Krycek out completely.  

(via carlithiel)

Throughout the episode, there’s a nagging sense of suspicion that Krycek is up to something. He doesn’t put it across outright, but it’s his blind sense of devotion to whatever Mulder is doing that puts you on edge, but not Mulder. Krycek manages to lead Mulder to believe that Krycek is also a believer; manipulation at its finest. Mulder falls for this ruse hard, and eventually begins to harbor the suspension that Krycek might just have a hidden agenda. 

I’m beginning to realise that I’m not mentioning much of the sleep deprivation experiment in this review, which in all honesty can’t be helped. Even though the story to this episode has a lot of substance and creativity, it’s the introduction and development of the new characters that hold the episode together more than the X-File at hand. Especially when it comes to the introduction to Mulder’s new informant, X. 

Whilst Deep Throat was a much more fatherly, paternal figure to Mulder; X is quite the opposite. He has a lot more self-preservation for himself that Mulder is wary of, and doesn’t seem to enthusiastic in actually informing Mulder of what dark secrets lie within the case he and Krycek are investigating. He reluctantly gives Mulder top secret information to help him and Scully (rather than Krycek) make leeway with the case. 

X: Closing the X-Files, separating you and Scully was only the beginning. The truth is still out there. But it’s never been more dangerous. The man we both knew paid for that information with his life. A sacrifice that I’m not willing to take. 

Before Mulder gets his first proper inclination that Krycek isn’t what he seems, Mulder and Scully have an adorable phone conversation: 

SCULLY: Where are you going?
MULDER: We’re going to check up on another member of the squad, see if he can identify Cole.
SCULLY: Sounds like your new partner is working out.
MULDER: He’s alright, he could use a little more seasoning and some wardrobe advice, but he’s a lot more open to extreme possibilities than—
SCULLY: Than I was?
MULDER: Than I assumed he’d be.
SCULLY: Must be nice, not having someone questioning your every move, poking holes in all your theories.
MULDER: (Smiling) Oh yeah, it’s great. I’m surprised I put up with you for so long. 

It reminds them both – especially Mulder – not only how well they work together, but how much they need each other. Both are lost without the other, both in their work and their personal lives. Even though Mulder knows this, it’s understandable why he’s ready to believe Krycek so quickly. It’s tempting to be able to work with someone that readily accepts with what you believe, but it’s this that makes Mulder’s investigative skills more sloppy, and his ability to trust to go haywire. 

Mulder’s underlying suspicions of Krycek become true, with the file that X gave Mulder disappearing, someone breaking in to Scully’s office and destroying her files on her computer. Mulder and Scully converse about this in the basement corridor, saying how someone went through an awful lot of trouble to destroy both copies of the files they were given. Krycek ends up giving the files he stole from Mulder and Scully to the Cigarette Smoking Man; proving that Krycek does indeed have a double agenda. 

CSM: Do you know where he got this?
KRYCEK: No, not yet. But he got it. Which means he’s either got another source, or another source has found him. Sir, if I can recommend something, you’ll see that I’ve outlined several countermeasures.
CSM: What about Scully?
KRYCEK: Reassigning them to other sections seems to have only strengthen their determination. Scully’s a problem. A much larger problem than described.
CSM: Every problem has a solution.

I thought I recognized the actor who played Cole. It’s Tony Todd, who also appears in the 1996 classic (I’m not kidding) The Rock. Cole contemplates suicide by jumping on to a rusty, sharp pole – SPOILERS FOR THE ROCK – which is exactly the same way Todd’s character dies in the movie. 

 How much does using fire/pyrotechnics actually cost? They use a hell of a lot of it in the show. 

GEORGE HALE: Scully’s class is interrupted by a phone call for her, the caller’s name being given as Dr. George Hale. It’s actually Mulder calling under one of his pseudonyms. George Hale is one of Mulder’s heroes, and is referenced to in the episode ‘Little Green Men’. Mulder tells Scully that Hale believed his best ideas were whispered and given to him by elves, and that Mulder believes his own life has been a struggle to believe and verify what his elves have been trying to tell him. Hale was one of the most influential astronomers of all time, and founded two observatories and mentored Edwin Hubble – founder of the expanding universe phenomenon and of whom the space telescope is named after.

VIRGIL IVAN ‘GUS’ GRISSOM: The character of Saul Grissom who dies after being trapped in his apartment due to an apparent fire has the same last name as Virgil Ivan ‘Gus’ Grissom (1926-1967) – an American astronaut who with two other astronauts (Ed White and Roger Chaffee) died after being trapped in the Apollo 1 spacecraft during the 1967 launchpad fire.

Krycek’s last name comes from the Russian and Czech word ‘Krysa’ meaning rat. 

SCULLY: Electrocution effects electrolytic conduction, disrupting the heartbeat and most of the autonomic system. Death actually occurs from tissue damage, necrosis in the heart itself. Particularly in the sinus and the atrioventricular nose.

SCULLY: Notice the pugilistic attitude of the corpse. This condition generally occurs several hours after death. It’s caused by a coagulation of muscle proteins when the body is exposed to extremely high temperatures.
MULDER: Like fire?
SCULLY: This degree of limb flection is observed exclusively in burn related victims. And no epidural burns to indicate as much. But when I opened up the skull, I found extradural (??) hemorrhages that can only be caused by intense heat. Somehow this man suffered all the secondary but none of the primary physiological responses to having been in a fire.
MULDER: Any theories?
SCULLY: I can’t even begin to explain what cause have cause something like this. I mean it’s almost as if-
SCULLY: As if his body believed it was burning.

SCULLY: Also described in the report is a highly experimental neurosurgical procedure designed to induce a permanent waking state. The procedure involved cutting part of the brain stem in the mid-pontile region, which could explain Henry Willig’s scar. A similar scar should also be evident on Augustus Cole. Post-op treatment included a regiment of synthetic supplements to replenish the organic deficits caused by prolonged lack of sleep. This is consistent with the anti-depressants Cole robbed from the pharmacy. These drugs maintained serotonin levels in the blood, serotonin being the primary substance produced during sleep. While it is theoretically possible that this procedure greatly diminished the subjects need for sleep, I can neither quantify nor substantiate its success without further clinical evidence. 

“How do you feel about joining me in the Big Apple for an autopsy?

KRYCEK: You know back at the academy, people used to make fun of you.
MULDER: Oh stop it, or you’re going to hurt my feelings.

MULDER: What’s this scar right here?
KRYCEK: According to his medical history, the only surgery he had was an appendectomy.
MULDER: Well unless they got to this appendix through his neck. 

I love the shot of Krycek between Mulder and Scully with him looking at them talking to each other. Shows how they look to everyone else. They talk so closely together and have their in-jokes and know what the other is thinking etc. You can tell how close they are relationship wise just from the way they talk to one another – How much they need each other.

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