Monday, August 10, 2015

Case 01, File 04: The Conduit

AKA: The Title Doesn't Come Up Much

It's worth pointing out that, while one generally associates the alien episodes with being part of the larger Myth arc, that's not always the case. Some of the alien based episodes are so self contained and apart from the conspiracy, especially in the early seasons, that they basically amount to a Monster of the Week episode. And while that could technically apply to Deep Throat, I feel like it applies much more strongly to this episode.

The plot is a little on the overstuffed side, so you're gonna have to bear with me for a moment. So out in the rain pine forests of Iowa, a teenage girl named Ruby disappears. Mulder gets interested in the case, because she was out on a lake where a UFO had appeared in the 60s, and her mother, Darlene, was a member of a Girl Scout Troop who witnessed it.

So Mulder and Scully head out to investigate and the plot kind of goes all over the place. First they discover that Ruby's younger brother Kevin (who we need to talk about at some point) is writing out random binary that's he's getting from TV static (heh, broadband). Then they get information from one of Ruby's friends that her boyfriend got her pregnant and ran off with her.


THEN the NSA finds out that there's classified info in the binary the kid is writing down (along with classical music, a bit of The Universal Man, some Shakespeare, you get the idea). Then Mulder discovers Ruby's boyfriend's grave and it turns out their informant that gave them the information is the actual one who's pregnant and she's the one who killed him. And then Mulder and Scully follow Darlene and son out to the lake, where...they find Ruby. And that's it, the episode just sort of ends.

As my extra-long plot rundown might have indicated, there is a lot of plot in this episode. It's not too hard to fill a 40 minute episode, and when you wind up with this many plot threads, it's not surprising that one or two wind up just sort of trailing off into nothing. The biggest victim of this is the binary subplot, which winds not really adding anything to the episode, aside from a diversion in the second act to NSA headquarters.

Ooooh, poignant.

Of course the side effect of all these plot diversions is that the main plot, that of Ruby disappearing/being abducted by aliens winds up getting buried. Between the Kevin's binary subplot and the Murdered Boyfriend subplot, Ruby just winds up reappearing without explanation. I think the idea was to make it ambiguous as to whether it was actually aliens or the government (something the show will do much better later on) but it feels like a major anticlimax.

I am a little inclined to give it a pass on that count though, because the main aim of the episode, at least in retrospect, appears to be expanding on Mulder's character, specifically how he was shaped by his sister's abduction. The characters and their backstories are still in their infancy at this point, so that's a worthy goal, although it's impact might be cut down on me, due to already knowing most of what they establish...and the way it eventually resolved.

The show will address Samantha a ton of times over the course of the next seven seasons (they'll stop in Season 7, for...reasons) but this is one of the earliest attempts to show how much it's affected Mulder. And it pays off, for the most part. The scenes addressing this, Mulder's monologue in the car (about 'Walking into the room') and the final scene in the church are some of the best and most memorable moments of the episode, and some of Duchovny's best acting so far in the show.

Cool shot. Doesn't add much, but cool shot.

Despite an overabundance of plot and a handful of extremely memorable moments, there's not much about this episode that's worth examining. The show is rapidly finding its feet and its beginning to work on fleshing out the characters into fully realized people, rather than outlines. Unfortunately, while that's good for the show as a whole, it's not great for me when I have to examine them. So I think I'll probably end this review right now.

Oh right, Case Notes.

Case Notes:
  • The X-Files' ability to disguise that it's shot in Canada will go up and down throughout the series, but it is really bad here. We're supposed to be in Iowa, but we're just in rainy pine forests.
  • And on that note, they misspell the name of the lake in the subtitles. It's spelled Okoboji in real life, but it's spelled Okobogee in the subtitles.
  • Biker guy at the bar's ear being essentially burned off? Super gross, but also cool.
  • I like how, in the second half of the episode, Scully is still all dressed up but Mulder is wearing his shirt unbuttoned and no tie. Nice job tying costuming into character mood, and that's not sarcastic.
  • The random shot of the binary code forming Ruby's face is cool, but I don't get what it means. Is it what caused Ruby's mom and brother to head back out to the Lake? If so, why?
  • Monster of the Week already made this joke, but it bears repeating; The shot where the kid is in the field and the bunch motorcycles show up, looking like the lights from a UFO, is so goddamn Spielbergian, he could probably sue.
  • My memory is on the hazy side for this, I feel like Blevins doesn't show up much after this. I'm 90 percent certain he doesn't appear for at least the rest of the season, and eventually Skinner will step into, essentially, the same role, but with much more aplomb.

Current Celebrity Watch:

Pretty big one here: The woman who plays the mother is Carrie Snodgress, who was nominated or an Oscar for Diaries of a Mad Housewife. She was really excellent in that, is really excellent in this. Her career kind of collapsed after Diaries though (one of her last roles was playing the mom in an Ed Gein biopic).

Also, more minor one, but the biker at the bar is played by Donald  Gibb, who played Ogre in Revenge of the Nerds.

Future Celebrity Watch:

Nothin much here this time, although the kid who plays Keven (the little brother of the abductee) will also be in season 2 of The X-Files as a kid (or technically two. We'll discuss it when we get to it.)

Audio Observations:

I feel like the piece of music they use to underline Mulder's tragic past (IE, when he's looking at Ruby's picture and the last scene in the church) is used at other points. I know The X-Files, like most TV shows, used some recurring musical segments, so if I hear it again I'll point it out.

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