Unexplained Phenomenon, Unexplainable Episode

After last week’s goofy entry ‘Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster’, the fourth episode of event season 10 of The X-Files, ‘Home Again’, goes back to the days of Scary Dead(ish) Guys Killing Seemingly Random People.

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Garbage Truck
He kind of looks like Lurch. The guy that steps out of a garbage truck, kills somebody, only to step back into the truck on the wrong side. The side where he’s crushed to death. And then comes back to life. He’s tall, bald, gory and leaves no footprints. Just the occasional green goo on the floor, with worms swirling in it. Yup, this is The X-Files, alright. After his first victim’s pulled to pieces, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are asked to come in. Their reputation precedes them. If there’s something spooky in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?

Bandaid
As soon as they enter the crime scene, Scully’s called away by her brother Bill. Her mother suffered a heart attack and has been taken to the hospital. The nurse tells Scully that she’s been asking for Charlie, her estranged son. But she’s in a coma now. Meanwhile, Mulder discovers Banksy-like graffiti, close to where the man was murdered. It may have some significance. When he leaves the building, he finds a bandaid stuck to the sole of his shoe. After analyzing, it’s neither organic nor inorganic. Not alive and not dead either. It’s basically, well, nothing. So it’s not even a bandaid?

Adoption
Mulder visits Scully in the hospital. She’s gotten a hold of Charlie. He talks to their mother over the phone, and she wakes up. Sees Mulder and confuses him with her son, but then slips back into a coma and passes away. Scully’s been thinking about her own son. How she and Mulder had to give him up for adoption. To keep him safe. She’s starting to doubt if they made the right decision.

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Trash Man
Creepy Bandaid Man resurfaces. Two guys have taken down the graffiti piece – an image of the Bandaid Man – to sell it. Not going to happen. In full Ghostbusters II style, the Man steps out of the painting and kills them. Before walking out the door, he signs one of the canvases lying around with ‘Trash Man’. A little while later, he’s at it again. The song ‘Downtown’ by Petula Clark starts to play and, cheerful as that song is, it oddly enough perfectly fits gory horror sequences. It’s a popular song, given it’s used in many other TV shows, such as Glee, iZombie, Mad Men and in the episode ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ of LOST.

Clay
Mulder and Scully get on the trail of a graffiti artist who might know more about the Trash Man. They follow him into an abandoned building. He pulls out a gun, but Scully is still capable of disarming someone just as well as ‘back in the day’. It is, however, 2016, and they don’t run up the stairs anymore – let alone in high heels – so the guy escapes them soon after. They check out the building and find a man in the basement. Sort of a painter/inventor, who says he created the Trash Man. He’s got a whole speech which is pretty hard to follow. There’re flashbacks of Mulder and Scully’s child. There’s a Trash Man model of clay. There’s a lot going on, a lot being half-explained, Scully’s associations that may or may not have anything to do with the story. I do feel we’re going to get to see the 15-year old Mulder/Scully hybrid – probably in the event finale. As in: you don’t show a gun in the first act and never let it go off. As in: you don’t show three dragon eggs and never let them be hatched.

The Mike Ross Situation In Flux

Suits returns from its autumn break with ‘Blowback’ and things don’t look good. When Mike Ross was taken away in handcuffs at the end of ‘Faith’, my guess was it didn’t have anything to do with his dirty lawyer secret; the show just wanted us to believe that. It’d be a misunderstanding, somebody wanting revenge because of a lost case, that’s all. But no. Mike’s in the sourest pickle that’s been dangling above his head since the beginning.

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Somebody’s Been Talking
Somebody’s out to bury Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams, Luck, LOST: ‘The Man From Tallahassee’) and every one of his friends with him, or so it seems. The circle of people who knew Mike was a fraud, had grown bigger each season, but it was still pretty much contained. Well, the cat’s out of the attaché case now. Somebody’s been talking, but who? The first thing the Ross/Specter/Zane family needs to do, is finding out who might’ve shot his mouth off. Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht, The Others, The Spirit) pays an awkward visit to Dana ‘Scotty’ Scott (Abigail Spencer, Mad Men, True Detective). She wants to sweat her former boyfriend a little, but she hasn’t talked and – probably – won’t. All the while, Mike’s put away and being interrogated by hound dog Anita Gibbs (Leslie Hope, 24, Tyrant).

Not A Lawyer
Gibbs is pretty good at scaring tactics, but there’s only one Mike Ross. He does however get quite railed up when his lawyer steps through the door. It’s not the one he was expecting. Rachel (Meghan Markle, 90210, Fringe) called her father for help, and Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce, The Wire, Treme, The Michael J. Fox Show) couldn’t be happier to see his soon-to-be son-in-law in a jail cell, accused of pretending to be a lawyer. He wants to know if it’s true. I think you already have the answer to that, Mike says. Harvey’s standing by, so when Robert walks out, furious, he steps in and tells Mike just how simple it is: they don’t have to prove he’s a lawyer; it’s up to Gibbs to prove that he isn’t.

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The Usual Suspects
Mike is released on bail and contacts his old friend Trevor (Tom Lipinski, The Knick). He’s also not the one who ratted him out. There are two people they’ve forgotten about: Claire (Troian Bellisario, Pretty Little Liars), Mike’s ex-girlfriend, and hacker girl Lola Jensen (Amanda Crew, Silicon Valley), who helped out Mike in the season 1 episode ‘Identity Crisis’. It seems unreasonable to assume anyone from the inner circle would deliberately go after him. There must have been a fly on the wall, of some kind, put there by one of the bad guys. Jack Soloff (John Pyper-Ferguson, Bird on a Wire, The Adventures of Brisco County Jr, Jeremiah, The Last Ship)? Doesn’t seem likely. He’s more of an ambitious errand boy. Daniel Hardman (David Costabile, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Damages) then? He seems too busy with Billions at the moment. Or maybe the biggest baddest wolf of all, Charles Forstman (Eric Roberts, the hardest working man in Hollywood)? Maybe the writers pull a ‘matryoshka‘ and introduce an even more powerful player.

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Just When You Thought You Were Out…
Just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in. Harvey resigned, Mike quit; everything was going to be fine. Harvey would start his own firm, in all likelihood, and Mike would marry Rachel and get a job as some legal advisor or something. But now it’s all hands on deck. Harvey’s back at work, even though he promised Forstman he’d leave. Mike blackmails Soloff, so when Harvey shows up, the first thing Soloff is going to do is not give Forstman a call. And Donna (Sarah Rafferty) leaves her ‘Litt Station’ to help Mike and Harvey any way she can. That probably means Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) will have Gretchen (Aloma Wright) as his new secretary. ‘Blowback’ does what Suits has been doing for five and a half seasons straight; not missing a beat. Welcome back.

The Twists and Turns of Colony

A new show starring Josh Holloway is always something to look forward to, just because of his portrayal of Sawyer in LOST, the tough teddybear on that mysterious island in the South Pacific. One of the writers on that show, Carlton Cuse, has carved out a new hard-edged-but-actually-a-sweetheart role for him, that of Will Bowman. And this time, it’s not an ocean that keeps him prisoner, but a massive wall, in Colony.

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The Pilot
We’ve talked about Colony before, after its first look special ‘Behind the Wall’, which, as it turned out, was basically the pilot episode with a few testimonials cut in between. Los Angeles has gotten a wall Donald Trump can only dream about, built by the ‘Others’. It’s a result of a war between men and… aliens? In any case, Will used to be a soldier in that war, but is laying low, trying to live an ordinary life, providing for his family. That’s his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies, Prison Break, The Walking Dead) and their two children. There’s one child missing, though, their son. Taken beyond the wall, and without telling Katie anything, Will sets out on a dangerous quest to find him. During an attack at the wall/border by the resistance, Will’s discovered by the officials and taken into custody. Proxy Governor Alan Snyder (Peter Jacobson, House MD, Ray Donovan) makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Collect intel on the resistance and then, maybe, if Snyder feels like it, get his son back. All Will has been trying to do is keep his head down, so he’s not in contact with any resistance members, but he’s got no choice but to play ball. Katie, however, is part of a resistance cell. That last twist feels a bit too much. How and why would she keep such a secret from her veteran husband? It may have been better if they’d saved that surprise for later – like LOST used to do with practically everything, postponing revelations indefinitely – but I guess USA doesn’t have the luxury of gradually building an audience; they need viewers quick, and that means plot twists, please, as many as you can spare.

Brave New World
The second episode ‘Brave New World’ introduces, apart from a few continuity errors, a bunch of new characters. Snyder stays in the background – doesn’t even show up, in fact – and his replacement, story wise, as the one who gives Will his orders, is Phyllis (Kathy Baker, Medium, Boston Public). She pairs him up with Beau (Carl Weathers). Also walking around in the Colony universe: Jennifer, played by the extremely funny Kathleen Rose Perkins (Episodes, Trust Me) and George (Strike Team alumnus Brian White, The Shield, Men of a Certain Age, Chicago Fire). Will’s collaborating with the oppressive government at Homeland Security, tracking down the guy who played a vital role in the border bombing, Andrew (Craig Henningsen). When he brings him in, Will finds his friend Carlos (Jacob Vargas, Sons of Anarchy, Hand of God) in custody, too, ready to be shipped off to a place called ‘The Factory’.

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The Factory
Will tries to make Carlos his CI, but Homeland’s full of people who just try to survive. Phyllis gets her orders ‘from above’; her hands are tied. At least Will and Katie make sure Carlos’ wife and son are safe. Meanwhile, the so-called Red Hats who do the interrogations, break Andrew. He gives up the location where his people are hiding. Will’s called to come in, Katie overhears him on the phone and informs Quayle (Paul Guilfoyle), head of her cell. When Homeland arrives on the scene, Andrew’s people are bleeding out on the floor. Somebody knew they were coming. Will realizes there must be a mole. And I suspect, given the pace of the show, Katie will confess her role in all of this to him in episode 3. Together with a group of other prisoners, Carlos is sent to ‘The Factory’, which looks like a huge gas chamber, but it’s not quite clear what happens to them. There’re blue lights, then red lights, a lot of smoke, people in hazmat suits… The writers wouldn’t have shown all this if the prisoners were all just going to get killed. They haven’t made it spooky for nothing; there’s something going on, perhaps even something alien.

Well Done
For now, the whole occupation thing feels a bit silly. What motivation could the aliens (if they are, indeed, aliens) have for dividing the United States into specific ‘zones’? Are they transforming Los Angeles into an amusement park? (That’s not such a stretch, actually, if you know what I mean.) But all silliness considered, the show’s fast, looks great, there’s enough mystery to be captivating, so I definitely give it the benefit of the doubt. Shallow entertainment, but shallow entertainment well done.

Colony, Episode Zero Offers Zero

USA’s new science fiction show Colony keeps its cards close to the vest. One way to describe it is Sawyer, a wall and a riddle inside an enigma. Occupy L.A., another. The half hour long making of ‘Behind the Wall’ is an exciting appetiser, it does, however, poses a lot of questions. I suppose that’s exactly the point, in order to attract the former LOST fanbase, in need of mythology.

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Sociology
From what we do know, Colony is another (militarised) occupation show, where the primary location or region is fenced in. A mashup of Under the Dome, Falling Skies, Wayward Pines, The Man in the High Castle, Into the Badlands, the movies Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Giver and Elysium. A potpourri of popular culture, albeit looking original – which is an achievement already. It probably means something, the sudden rise in dystopian stories. Is it a reaction to an increasingly dangerous world? A reflection of the threats the western world is facing? The wars abroad coming to our door, the limits of privacy? Or is it the exact opposite? It’s known that people in times of war, worry and insecurity generally prefer simple, positive TV shows; Colony doesn’t look like it wants to be simple. Or positive. Is there a sociologist in the audience?

Behind the Wall(s)
Not many other series get a zero episode AKA first look AKA warmup such as ‘Behind the Wall’. USA has got a lot riding on this. However, the way they choose to market the show, and specifically the cast and crew involved, is a bit awkward. The two leading actors don’t need an introduction. Josh Holloway is of eternal LOST fame, Sarah Wayne Callies will be forever tied to Prison Break – although USA apparently prefers her role in The Walking Dead. Speaking of Prison Break, that series once aired a similar special, called ‘Behind the Walls’. Or is that too much of a geek fact?

Awkward Marketing: The Crew
Anyway, the other key players in this production include: Carlton Cuse (LOST, Bates Motel, The Strain, I would’ve left out the fact he wrote the movie San Andreas). Ryan Condal (I would’ve just said he was a writer, without getting specific, like informing the audience he wrote Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules movie). The marketing department has an odd target audience, because they don’t just focus on empty blockbusters starring The Rock, but on other big movie letdowns as well, such as 2014’s Godzilla and Pacific Rim (like Colony, both were produced by Legendary Studios). Sure, the premise of the new series sounds like science fiction, but that doesn’t mean lovers of shallow action movies with either big creatures or giant robot suits are the only ones who might be interested.

Awkward Marketing: The Cast
When it comes to the cast, they’ve got Kathy Baker, of Picket Fences. Really, USA? A twenty year old show that wasn’t even that big a hit? You might want to be a little more 21st century. She starred in Boston Public, Medium and Against the Wall, for example. You could even mention Saving Mr. Banks, Saving Grace or The Glass House.
They’ve got Peter Jacobson, of House. That’s been a while, too. Besides, every actor on that show paled next to Hugh Laurie. Why not say Jacobson was in Ray Donovan?
They’ve also got Amanda Righetti (The Mentalist), Tory Kittles (True Detective, but let’s not forget Sons of Anarchy), Paul Guilfoyle (CSI) and Carl Weathers, ‘of Rocky fame’. Of course, his portrayal of Apollo Creed has been iconic, and there’s a new movie out (Creed), but he’s done more than box. He’s been in Arrested Development, The Shield, Brothers and Tour of Duty. ‘Of Rocky fame’ makes him sound twice as old.
But at least they’re being mentioned, which isn’t the case with Ally Walker (Sons of Anarchy, Longmire, Boston Legal, Profiler), who’s nowhere to be found in ‘Behind the Wall’. Maybe she plays an alien and they don’t want to spoil it, who knows.

The Director
Despite a questionably put together ‘first look’, Colony looks very promising. The pilot is directed by Juan José Campanella (House MD, Halt and Catch Fire), who’s gone all out with handheld cameras. It gives the show – for as far as we can tell – a nice, gritty, documentary feel.
On January 14, 2016, the characters are going to ask themselves this cheesy line: Collaborate or Resist? After watching episode zero, I’ll definitely join, and take it from there.

The Man in the High Castle: Sunrise

The second episode of The Man in the High Castle, the Amazon series that’s combined the World War II film Der Untergang with Mad Men and dashes of LOST, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s hard to properly describe it, because of its crazy premise. ‘Sunrise’, like many second episodes, isn’t as exciting as the first one – especially the plot line of Frank takes a lot of wind out of it – but it definitely doesn’t disappoint. Characters are being fleshed out more, while alliances are made and broken.

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Nazi Spy Agent
At the end of ‘The New World’, Joe (Luke Kleintank) made an ominous call. Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell) picked up. Joe’s an undercover nazi spy agent. However, I was too quick to assume he was after Juliana (Alexa Davalos); he didn’t know as much as I thought. But he’s all up to speed now.

Stuck
In the town Canon City, which is more of a deserted, shot all to hell site than an actual town, Juliana and Joe are kind of spending their holidays. Joe doesn’t do a whole lot of trucking for his cover as a truck driver. I guess it doesn’t really matter he’s so tight-lipped about it, because Juliana isn’t very talkative either. She knows she’s stuck there. She can’t go back. When she tried to reach her boyfriend Frank (Rupert Evans, Fleming), no one picked up. Well, eventually a Japanese voice answered, which equals bad news.
Her sister Trudy was probably going to meet her contact here, but there’s no way of knowing who she was looking for – or who’d be on the lookout for her. So getting a job as a waitress it is, then. She’s in luck: diner owner Lem Washington (Rick Worthy, The Magnificent Seven, Star Trek: Enterprise, Eyes, Heroes) is looking for one.

Turning On The Projector
Joe’s shadowing Juliana, tracking her moves, having John Smith do background checks of people she meets. But that movie reel, it’s still bugging him. How is it possible a fabricated news broadcast is able to put the fear in his leaders? (That’s not just a mystery to Joe, but to us viewers as well.) John Smith tells him not to ask questions; the best way to motivate people to figure it out for themselves. Joe breaks into an abandoned movie theatre, turns on the projector and watches… something amazing..? An obvious, silly hoax?

Rescue
In the diner, Juliana meets a guy (Allan Havey, Mad Men) reading the Bible. Not an illegal book, but not such a legal one, either. She’s interested. Maybe he’s part of the resistance? Joe finds out the guy’s far from any resistance activity. After watching the reel, it seems like Joe’s loyalties are on a slippery slope. When Juliana’s almost thrown off a CGI arch dam by the Bible guy, Joe comes to her rescue. It isn’t really necessary, though, given Julian’s able to lift and push the guy over the ridge all by herself.

Daddy
We get a glimpse of John Smith at home, as a father. Once you say exactly what he wants to hear, it’s easy to please him. So that’s what his son does. One wrong word, though, and daddy could get very angry. It’s a tense scene, with Rufus Sewell not doing much, but turning up the suspense to great heights. The show couldn’t have picked a better bad guy.

How To Change A Mind
But most of the episode is about Frank. He’s locked away in a cell, getting beaten en threatened if he doesn’t tell the Japanese where his girlfriend went to and why. It all takes a bit too long, but it’s clear why the writers felt they had to take a realistic amount of time. Frank had to change his mind about becoming one of the freedom fighters and it’s hard to change a character in a scene or two.

The X-Files: Darkness Falls

Yes. Foggy forests. Double yes: green little – no, not men – bugs. Fireflies with an anger management problem? Tiny glowing aliens? Anyway, a bunch of eco-terrorists, who call themselves ‘monkey-wrenchers’, vanish right after dark. Mulder wants to check it out, because everyone else has dismissed the case and, as he says to Scully: ‘It’ll be a nice trip to the forest.’

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Shelob
It’s X-File number 20 and maybe, just maybe – to please Scully – a case about Bigfoot. But no such luck. Bigfoot doesn’t embalm its victims, does it? Hang up cocoons all over the place? That sounds more like something Shelob would do – ask Frodo – but unfortunately, the real perpetrator has already been spoiled. It’s the bugs of some (third) kind. Chris Carter could’ve cranked up the suspense, if the audience had no idea what to expect, or was indeed expecting a giant spider crawling about. I know it’s in the DNA of The X-Files to start with the crime and the monster, but it does take away a lot of the tension.
That said, and even though nothing really happens in ‘Darkness Falls’, it’s one of the best episodes of The X-Files – of all time.

Isolation
Why? It’s hard to put your finger on. Mulder and Scully, together with three guest stars, walk around, look at trees and tree rings, spend the night in a cabin, hang up lightbulbs, check the generator, watch tiny green insects coming through the wall, see the generator fail, get saved by the sunrise. That’s about it. Is it the writing, direction, or just the minimum of characters, which makes it easy to feel just as isolated as they are? A little bit of everything, I suppose. If only everybody carried a cell phone back then, although there probably wouldn’t have been any reception.

TV Stars
Two of those guest stars, by the way, would become big TV stars. Titus Welliver plays one of the monkey-wrenchers, but you probably know him better as Harry Bosch (Bosch), Dominic Barone (Suits), Thorwald (The Last Ship), Glenn Childs (The Good Wife), Jimmy O’Phelan (Sons of Anarchy), Silas Adams (Deadwood) or the mysterious man in black AKA the Smoke Monster (LOST). The other one is Jason Beghe, known for Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Hope, Last Resort, Cane, Melrose Place, Everwood and (flamboyant novelist) Richard Bates on Californication.

Remote Location
Because of high production costs, The X-Files has a couple of ‘small’ episodes each season. Usually there’s only one location and just a couple of actors to save money. Frequently, these ‘bottle episodes’ as they’re called, might look cheap on paper, but during shooting get plagued so much, their price-tags are eventually just as high, if not higher than an action-packed episode with a lot of extras and special effects. As was the case with ‘Darkness Falls’. The location didn’t just look remote, it was. On top of a lot of driving back and forth, the production was halted many times by heavy rain, and the crew – just like the story – had to rely a great deal on generators. It’s no surprise the shooting took way longer than anticipated, not counting a dozen reshoots and pick-up shots.

Strange Show
But it all worked out in the end. ‘Darkness Falls’ is one of my most favorite X-Files episodes – maybe because of its claustrophobic nature. I can just imagine people seeing it on April 15, 1994 and realizing this strange little show about aliens is actually pretty damn good.

The X-Files: Lazarus

Lazarus of Bethany was brought back to life by Jesus, four days after he died. The X-Files didn’t want to wait that long. Agent Jack Willis (Christopher Allport, Dynasty, Felicity), an old flame of Scully’s, flatlines, but suddenly there is a pulse. The question is: whose pulse is it really?

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Not an X-File
The 15th X-File isn’t really an X-File, as Scully tells Mulder. It’s more of a hostage tale, starring someone with a multiple personality syndrome. The cases don’t always have to literately come falling from the sky. The most interesting thing of it all is the history between Scully and Willis, although let’s be honest, does it go anywhere? Does it serve a purpose? Not really.

Taking Turns
So what happened? We’ve got two bank robbers, like Bonnie and Clyde, named Warren James Dupre (Jason Schombing, who’s made a career out of playing police officers, marshals, pilots and detectives) and Lula Phillips (Cec Verrell, L.A. Law). Each time they put a bank upside down, they take turns. One goes inside and gets the money, the other keeps the engine running. They’re very much in love, although Lula’s acting kind of weird this time. And we figure out later on exactly why.

Clear
Warren comes through the doors blasting, but Scully and Willis are waiting for him. It’s an ambush. But you’re not going to take me alive, is what he seems to think. He fires, Willis fires, Willis gets hit, before Scully takes her chance to take down Warren. In the hospital, the word ‘Clear!’ can be heard over and over. Scully’s not going to let her ex-boyfriend die. And then, a spike. A pulse. A miracle.

Spirit
Willis isn’t himself and leaves the hospital without saying goodbye (or thank you). The personality, or soul, or spirit, of Warren’s has accidentally chosen the wrong body to move back into. Like many X-Files, we know exactly what’s going on, then Mulder has a wild theory, and then it takes the remainder of the hour for everybody else to agree with him. But before anything can be proven, whatever it is they’ve been chasing dies, sets itself on fire, or blows up all the evidence. ‘Lazarus’ is no exception.

Tommy
Warren, pretending to be Willis in a sort of 6th season of LOST John Locke-ish way (including some of Willis’ memories seeping through), has got one thing on his mind: finding Lula. But first he needs to pay a visit to her brother. Responsible for blowing the whistle on him at the bank, or so Warren thinks. That brother, Tommy, is played by a very young (not taking his dental records into account, though) Callum Keith Rennie (Lew Ashby on Californication). It’s nice to see The X-Files has been a breeding ground for unknown talented actors.

Diabetic
When Warren, assisted by Scully, finds Lula, she turns on him. It wasn’t her brother, it was her who set the trap, wanted to screw him over and run away with a million dollars on her own. He’s devastated. And dying. Living inside Willis’ appearance means he’s a diabetic – remember to always read the instructions before you occupy somebody else’s body – but he didn’t know that. Scully did, so they got him some insuline, but Lula was not letting him have it. When Mulder busts through the door to be Scully’s knight in shining armor, Lula’s been shot and Warren’s died of natural causes. As far as The X-Files are concerned, this is a very straight forward, not very supernaturalistically, offering. The episode is almost too dull. The original script had a spirit occupy Mulder. I can see why that idea was shot down – Mulder to be directly exposed to an unexplained phenomenon, that’s something for later seasons – but it would certainly have been much more exciting.