AKA: Why Did I Think There Was a Rubber Man?
I don't think it's particularly controversial to say that I'm much more into the various Monster of the Week episodes than I am in the larger Myth Arc. Not that I don't enjoy the Myth Arc, but overall there's generally more enjoyment to be found in tuning in to see two characters I like tracking down weird monsters. And goddamn did The X-Files have some weird monsters.
The plot kicks itself off to a flying start with a dude getting murdered in a locked room. Scully's old academy buddy asks her to help him figure out how it happened so that they can climb the corporate ladder...or federal ladder I suppose. Anyway, she drags Mulder along, because they are joined at the hip from episode 1, and he winds up with a typically novel (and typically correct) theory.
See, Mulder eventually starts thinking that it's the work of a serial killer who's been active since 1903 and has the ability to stretch and squeeze (hey, that's the name of the show) his way through any space. And, in typical X-Files fashion, Mulder is right. They discover Eugene Victor Tooms, an incredibly flat and emotionless man (seriously, this guy creeps me the fuck out) who can survive for centuries via hibernating for 30 years in a nest made of newspaper and spit (ew), stealing 5 human livers (eww) and eating them over the course of his hibernation (ewwwwww).
After consulting with an older cop who knows about this nonsense, they figure him out, he attacks Scully, Mulder rescues her and, in a rare display of actual investigative competence, they actually wind up throwing him in prison (it happens more rarely than you think).
|This image is used to introduce this show for the next 7 years. Told ya this episode was memorable|
Squeeze is not only the first Monster of the Week episode, it's also the first episode of a trend that The X-Files will use a lot during the first season and will continue to use all the way through to at least the third season (perhaps even later) and that is having a secondary character be a figure from either Mulder or Scully's past. This happens a lot in the first season, but they gradually phase it out. I think the intent was to create personal interest, but for the most part it just falls flat.
It more or less works here though, because not only is her the only reason they even get involved at all, but he also does interact with both Mulder and Scully, and actually creates some interpersonal conflict. See, he's a douchebag but he's also a douchebag on the rise in the FBI, which makes Scully wish her current assignment wasn't a complete dead end.
|"Every breath you taaaaaake..."|
Of course he rapidly reveals himself as a douchebag to Scully, who turns on him in favor of Mulder (the sequence where this happens is a really good moment. This show is very good at showing Mulder and Scully's growing fondness of each other) and eventually begins to interfere in their investigation, causing Scully to go full in on Mulder's side (Douchebag: "Whose side are you on?" Scully: "The victim's." A++).
Outside of that, there's not a metric ton of plot to this episode. We, the audience, are meant to know that Tooms is the killer from very early on, so most of the episode is devoted to Mulder and Scully trying to prove it. It's a got a great atmosphere though, and the actor playing Tooms is fantastically creepy, so it winds up being pretty solid, and really sticks in your memory.
It's also a really well made episode. The cinematography and editing really add to the atmosphere, and do a good job of hiding the spots where the episodes budget might have failed them (an entire struggle between Tooms and one of his victims exists in a cutaway, I suspect because choreographing a fight would have been time consuming...although also possible because "Nothing is scarier.")
And on that note, while the required (for the early seasons) Scully in Need of Mulder Rescuing scene is as bullshit as ever (at least partially because I feel like Scully can probably handle the monster better), this time around it at least makes a certain amount of sense. The sequence where Tooms comes diving out of the vent is easily the scariest in the episode; even Scully looks completely terrified.
|"Suck it Samara, I can exit at a reasonable speed!"|
So while this episode is obviously not perfect, its definitely got a lot going for it. The elements that would make the show incredible are all already here (cool monsters, solid writing, great chemistry between Mulder and Scully) and the show is already figuring out how to assemble them correctly. For a first Monster of the Week, you can't say too much against it.
- The victim in the cold opening is crossing in front of a sign for Oceanic Plaza. While there is an Oceanic Plaza in Baltimore, Maryland where the story takes place, it looks absolutely nothing like the Oceanic Plaza in the show. There is also an Oceanic Plaza in Vancouver, which oddly enough, looks exactly like the one in the show.
- Mulder's sass in the opening scene is on point. In fact, his sass this entire episode is on point.
- One of the best lines in the entire series: When Mulder has bile on his fingers "Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?"
- I mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating. Guy who plays Tooms? So. Fucking. Creepy.
- Another feature I remember watching once mentioned that they used an actual contortionist for the sequence where Tooms forces himself through the chimney. It's a great effect.
Again, not much this week, although the guy who plays the Old Cop (TM), Henry Beckman, did have a minor role in the Cronenberg classic The Brood (I am a HUGE Cronenberg fan). He played Barton...Juliana's husband? He gets killed by the child/dwarf thing at about the midpoint? Yeah, now you know who I mean.
Future Celebrity Watch:
Couple of solid hits here. The guy who plays Scully's FBI friend is Donal Logue, who currently plays Harvey Bullock on Gotham. I've not watched it, but a friend of mine reviews it for Moar Powah and he seems to like it okay.
Also, Doug Hutchison who plays Tooms, not only played Percy in The Green Mile (the psycho prison guard) but also got briefly notorious in 2011 when he married singer Courtney Stodden. When he was 51. And she was 16. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwww.
Not much music wise here (is it just me or is the music pretty minimal at first?) but as long as I'm using this for things other than purely music, I really like the sequences where the color gets washed out and all the sound cuts other than Tooms' breathing. Very creepy.