Wednesday, 29 August 2018

X-Files Rewatch | D.P.O.

credit: 20th century fox

It's a hard task to continue on with a season after an explosive two-parter for an opener, but the collaboration between Kim Manners and Howard Gordon with 'D.P.O.' managed to kick it back into the swing of things with ease. Even though the discoveries made in 'The Blessing Way' and 'Paper Clip' aren't consciously addressed, there is an obvious shift in tone, editing, narrative, and character development in the third season that signalled a significant shift from cult obsession to worldwide phenomenon. 

Mulder and Scully are back on the case, travelling to Oklahoma after word that five people have mysteriously been struck by lightning in the same small town. Mulder suspects this is too much of a coincidence, and rightfully so. The duo's investigation into the matter eventually leads them to Darin Oswald (Giovanni Ribisi) — a teen with a short fuse that has survived a lightning strike. This freak experience has left Oswald with some mysterious, electrically-fused powers that might just have something to do with the spate of deaths in the town. 

It's not really explained how Darin received this power — nor how said power actually works — but in short Darin can somehow control electricity and can inflict lightning strikes upon those who wrong him, and for a teenager that's a lot of people.

Whether it's arguing over Virtua Fighter 2 or believing that he's been ratted out by his best friend, Darin is able to commit murder with frightening ease without really thinking about the consequences of his actions. Gordon's commentary or teenage adolescence truly really carries the episode, using Darin and his strange power to demonstrate the lack of control teens have with emotional impulses during puberty, which are clearly aggravated by an unusual affinity with electricity. 


And Ribisi plays this irritation so well — with vacant stares, mumbling and outbursts of rage that fully encapsulate Darin's inability to think before he acts or understand the consequences. I mean, if you strike your best mate with lightning in a fit of temporary rage, you're not gonna get them back once you're over that outburst. What makes that scene with Zero (Jack Black) even worse is Black's ability — even this early in his career — to switch from a jovial, carefree dude to emotionally pleading for his life with the flip of a coin. It's so hard to see Zero so easily murdered by Darin, especially when he's looking on with a vacant, unfazed stare. 

As tragic as that scene is, there's no denying that the production value has gone up significantly since the second season. It's at this point within the show that it goes from your usual hour of television to a damn short film. I mean, those shots of Zero dead on the floor with a splay of coins that cuts to Darin staring down with a foreboding, stormy background almost doesn't feel like The X-Files for a minute. 

This is also where the show really begins to experiment with music, fitting the mood of the scene and synchronising the two together to make your connection to the characters even deeper — the decision to pick Filter's 'Hey Man, Nice Shot' as an adopted theme for this episode is just pure genius. 

It's episodes like this where I seriously cannot put my love for this damn show into words, and I haven't even started to gush about Mulder and Scully. I feel no shame for announcing that this is where the transition from friends to something more really starts. All you platonic believers can leave, because there is no way you can deny the spark that unravels in the third season. 

The seemingly trivial things begin to shine, like how Scully now refers to Mulder's original search for the truth as 'theirs', and Mulder letting Scully take the reins in confrontational conversations with other law enforcement. Scully has the confidence to hold her own and doesn't need Mulder to intervene — all he has to do is cheer her on and reassure her that yes, she is indeed kicking some serious ass. 

If you're still in the 'they're just friends' camp, it's bad news for you for the rest of this rewatch, I'm warning you now. 

• Mulder's hair is on point. This is where his hair game begins to evolve into those heavenly season four curtain bangs.

• Scully looking stylin' in her sunglasses. She rarely wears them, it's mainly Mulder. 

• Mulder flicking through an adult magazine whilst they are searching Darin's room, and Scully completely not giving a shit gives me life. She doesn't nag him about it, she acts like any friend would — acknowledging it and lightly taking the piss out of it lmao

• Darin's namesake comes from, you guessed it, writer Darin Morgan. 

• The Astadourian Lightning Observatory was named after Mary Astadourian, chief researcher and office manager at 1013 productions, and also Chris Carter's personal assistant. 

• Apparently, Chris really wanted to get Penn & Teller on the show but couldn't, so he named one of the Sheriff's after Teller as a reference instead. 

• Wondered how they got those sick lightning shots? It was all thanks to special effects supervisor David Gauthier and a lightning machine. Yep, those exist. Kinda one of those plasma globes but on a larger scale, with the help of mirrors and pyro-effects. 

• What's Hypokalaemia? According to Health Line, it's "when blood potassium levels are too low. Potassium is an important electrolyte for nerve and muscle cell functioning, especially for muscle cells in the heart. Your kidneys control your body's potassium levels, allowing for excess potassium to leave the body through urine and sweat. 

In some cases, low potassium levels can lead to arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythms, as well as severe muscle weakness. But these symptoms typically reverse after treatment."

• SHERIFF TELLER: They can detect every flash of lightning on this planet. Did you know that? Each one emits radio waves at the same exact frequency. 
MULDER: The Schuman Resonance. Eight cycles per second. You can pick it up on any transistor radio. You see that, Sheriff? I did my homework. [Yes, stick UP for your wife, Mulder]
SHERIFF TELLER: Not much question that lightning killed these cows last night, just like it killed Jack Hammond the night before last. 
MULDER: Oh, that's certainly the way it looks. [The sass is strong

SCULLY: Here we go. Well, considering it's a partial imprint there's a lot of information here. 
MULDER: That's great. Now can you make me a little cherub that squirts water? 
SCULLY: [Smirking at Mulder] The tread looks like a standard military boot, men's size ... eight and a half. 
MULDER: Eight and a half? That's pretty impressive, Scully. 
SCULLY: Well, it says it right here on the bottom. 
MULDER: ...Oohh. 

MULDER: I don't know, Scully. But let's go see if the shoe fits. 

SCULLY: Both eardrums are ruptured, cataracts over both eyes — probably heat induced. 
MULDER: Probably? [Holding up a plastic wrapped black heart] It looks like his heart was cooked right in his chest. 
STAN: I have to admit, I have never seen that kind of localised tissue damage. 
SCULLY: Well, there is extensive charring along the sternum with concomitant rib fractures consistent with electrocution or exposure to high voltage direct current. But I see no point of contact. 
STAN: Best I could figure; the lightning struct the car and killed the kid on contact. 

SCULLY: Frank Kiveat's electrocardiogram. See that spike there? That indicates that some kind of electrical intervention started his heart. Except according to the EMS worker, the defibrillator wouldn't charge. The paddles are dead. 
MULDER: How did he explain this? 
SCULLY: He didn't. All he saw was Darren Oswald's chart. There's something I want you to take a look at. 
SCULLY: He was admitted to the ER five months ago in cardiac arrest. Respiratory failure. Class three burns on the back of his skull ... resuscitated after ... Hang on, this is odd. His blood test showed acute hypokalaemia. 


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