The X-Files (1996) – Unruhe, and The Field Where I Died

Vince Gilligan who would go on to create Breaking Bad, penned this episode, that gets Scully (Gillian Anderson) abducted (again, number five!) and was the first episode to be broadcast on a Sunday night after the series had it’s move there from Friday nights, where it had been a staple for three years. It was first broadcast on 27 October, 1996.

Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully are called to Michigan to investigate a strange abduction, and the weird photographic evidence that preceded it – something Mulder believes is thought photography. And in this case, it shows the unruhe (German for unrest) of the serial killer and kidnapper – who is attempting to remove the unrest of his abductees.

The villain of the piece, Gerry Schnauz is played by Pruitt Taylor Vince, who is always awesome, and brings Gerry to life in a way where you can almost feel empathy towards him, but we also know there is something seriously wrong with him, as Scully is about to find out first hand, even while Mulder tries to find her with the help of a spirit photograph of his partner.

Gerry has his own personal mythology, hinting at something called howlers, and the overpowering, domineering presence his father had and continues to have in his life. But will these psychological clues be enough to help Mulder track down Scully before Schnauz lobotomises her?

This is a great and spooky episode (and both the leads seem to have gotten new haircuts since their shift to Sunday night) and we learn that Scully speaks German.

The Field Where I Died is a bit of a clunker, though also, arguably, a beautiful episode. Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, with an original airdate of 3 November, 1996, there’s an interesting idea at the heart of the episode, that deals with past lives and reincarnation, but it also caters to the idea that someone, and not Scully, is the love (whether he knows it or not) of Mulder’s life.

Micheal Masse guest stars as Vernon Ephesian, a suicide cult leader, who the agents have been called in to help profile as law enforcement attempts to capture him. Their investigation of the grounds of the compound lead Mulder to Kristen Cloke’s Melissa, one of Ephesian’s brides, and who is suffering from multiple personalities, or Mulder thinks, past life intrusion on modern day.

And Melissa recognises him from her past lives…

A poetic and well crafted tale, that lets Duchovny showcase some emotional moments as he recalls his own past lives, and tells us that groups of souls return over and over to learn and grow together. Apparently, Melisssa is his soulmate, destined to find him, and then lose him again and again, over and over, while Scully is always there for him, more friend than anything else.

That upset some fans, obviously.

There are some beautiful ideas and moments in this episode, it just feels too slow and doesn’t move. I’m not saying an x-file can’t be worth pontificating over, and be slowly paced, but it needs to engage the audience. And this one didn’t quite do that.

But the truth is out there, and I’ll keep exploring the dark corners of The X-Files…

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