Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Case 01, File 11: Eve

AKA: Come Play With Us Mulder

While twins are not universally creepy, there is something about them that other people can find...odd. I remember watching a video which involved Tegan and Sara (who are twins, and one of my favorite bands) and they mentioned how they would occasionally wear the same outfit, even when they're miles apart, without coordinating, and I found that to be odd.

This oddness can easily be pushed into creepiness with proper framing and direction, and many great films have made use of these, either as a central element (David Cronenberg's excellent Dead Ringers) or as a minor scene (the infamous scene in Kubrick's The Shining). And while it was inevitable that The X-Files would get in on it, this is one conceit I don't think anyone expected them to ramp up to 11.

Eve starts off pretty standard: Some dude in Greenwich, CT dies, drained of all his blood with his daughter, Teena, 10 feet away, and Mulder and Scully head off to investigate, with Mulder suspecting aliens (really Mulder? Not vampires?). While questioning Teena, a precocious little girl who remembers nothing, they find another man has died in San Francisco of similar circumstances at, more or less, the same time with his daughter, Cindy, also nearby.

But when they get there, twist 1 hits, as Cindy looks exactly the same as Teena. Meanwhile Teena is abducted, and they discover both families had in vitro from a nearby clinic, and were both serviced by a strange woman who was doing experiments on the families. Deep Throat wanders in to deliver twist 2: The strange woman was part of a US genetic engineering project to create super soldiers named Adam and Eve, but really just created super crazies.

After interrogating Eve 6, the last remaining Eve in custody, who reveals that two others escaped, one of whom is the doctor from the fertility clinic, Cindy is kidnapped by one of the escaped Eves. While she has Cindy and Teena, they deliver twist 3: They were the ones who murdered their fathers, without coordinating at all. They poison their kidnapper as Mulder and Scully show up, still under the impression the adult Eves are responsible. Cindy and Teena try to poison Mulder and Scully, but Mulder figures out what happens, and Cindy and Teena are imprisoned alongside Eve 6. But Eve 8 shows up to free them. No sequel episode for them though.

Does Scully bring just bring the file with her everywhere? What am I talking about, of course she does.

Eve is one of those good episodes of The X-Files that might not exactly have any standout moments or classic scenes, but does everything right. The script is solid, the mystery engaging, the acting good across the board and the direction up to par, if not quite remarkable. Most people, myself included, tend to remember it for how creepy the two little girls' performance was, but upon this rewatch, I was surprised by how good all the elements are.

The element that I think deserves the most praise is that script. It's full of little throwaway moments that help build the sense that something is wrong. Teena using the word exsanguinate, Cindy switching off cartoons to watch C-SPAN, even how quickly Teena figures out how to play Mulder during their talk. It's all good stuff, quick and subtle foreshadowing that help build the tension and let you know something is off.

That's not to say the script is perfect. The mystery is engaging but it gets sloppy at times. In particular I feel like Deep Throat's appearance is something akin to plot spackle, as Mulder and Scully's investigation has slammed straight into a wall, so he walks into give them their next lead, which feels a little lazy, but whatever, that's what he's there for. I also feel like Mulder thinking it's aliens at the beginning is emblematic of the series still being obsessed with aliens (VAMPIRES Mulder, they exist too, in this show).

"You should appreciate me more. I might one day be replaced by another dude who'll berate you all the time."

The acting also tends to get a lot of attention in retrospect, since the twins who played the creepy twins are excellent in their roles, and to be fair, they're both pretty excellent. They've got a pretty straightforward part to play (creepy, well spoken child, is a well traveled path) but they do it solidly, as it's not easy to make a 10 year old girl as creepy as they do in this episode.

Someone also deserving of acclaim but who gets more ignored, is Harriet Sansom Harris as the various adult Eves. She has to play 3 more or less distinct characters (stable Eve 8 who shows up at the end, semi-crazy Eve 7 who kidnaps the twins and completely crazy Eve 6) and she does all three pretty well. She's also a fairly major red herring, which requires her to be an intimidating presence when she does show up, which isn't easy for a 5'8, fairly skinny woman. With all that in place, it's understandable that the secondary actors kind of drop the ball (Cindy's mom seems completely unfazed by the fact that her husband is dead and her daughter is responsible).

I remember, I remember when I lost my mind. There was something so pleasant about that...never mind

Eve is ultimately not a great episode, and I don't think it's going to rank in anyone's top 10 episodes, but it's a good example of why Season 1 of The X-Files is as well regarded as it is. I've mentioned this before, but lot of otherwise good shows have rocky starts (Buffy, Parks and Rec, Seinfeld even 30 Rock for the first few episodes). But The X-Files found its footing right away and has a bunch of really good episodes right off the bat. We're closing in on one of the best episodes of the season in a couple weeks, but for now Eve is a good episode, with a lot to recommend, without much to complain about,which is a nice step up from Space.

Case Notes:
  • The cold opening to this episode is actually really effective. And really efficient. Super creepy and less than 90 seconds long. Solid work people.
  • I'll probably say this in the review, but goddammit Mulder, there are two puncture marks on the guy's neck and he's missing all his blood, WHY doesn't your mind go straight to vampires?
  • The foster home is in Fairfield County, CT. That's where I currently live. Represent!
  • On that note, the first girl is named Teena. Spelling it that way is pretty accurate to Fairfield County. Trust me.
  • In retrospect, it's scary how fast that girl figures out how to play Mulder when they first meet. To be fair, his questions were super leading, but still.
  • This episode has a (brief) pan across of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you're a fan of The Room, you should know why that amuses me.
  • Man, this episode is full of solid foreshadowing. Cindy watching C-Span is so subtle, but it's a great example of letting you know something is off.
  • Mulder's "Po-ta-to, po-tah-to" is one of my favorite line reads. In the entire show.
  • Mulder rushing Scully out of the room amuses me to no end. Partially because he is terrible at being sneaky but also because of his "What's a girl?" line read.
  • I'd say the guys in the Litchfield being called Adam and the girls being called Eve is unbearably cheesy, but it's totally something the government would do.
  • Thanks to Orange is the New Black, when they call the experiments The Litchfield Experiments, I have to assume it takes place at the prison.
  • The prison Mulder and Scully visit still creeps me out to this day.
  • I'm not super clear on what Psycho Twins long term plan is. You poison everyone you come across, eventually people start connecting the dots. I guess the growing insanity isn't making them super rational? Whatever, I'll run with it.
  • It's a minor thing, but I also love how the girls just know people will buy Mulder and Scully are their parents. Mulder and Scully were married from the moment she walked through that door.
  • Mulder and Scully are SUPER lucky they don't die here. They're basically saved by dumb luck.
  • Also a good line read? Scully's "We are the police!"
Current Celebrity Watch:

Nothing this week, but we got a solid one in our next column.

Future Celebrity Watch:

I was a little disappointed to find out that Erika and Sabrina Krievins, who played the creepy little girls never acted again. But, on the other hand, Harriet Sanom Harris, who played the adult Eves, has had a fairly respectable career since then, starring in some minor TV shows, and picking up recurring roles on Wilfred, Frasier and Desperate Housewives (which is starting to become a recurring show referenced on here).

Audio Observations:

Uh...the sound design on this episode is pretty solid?

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