The X-Files (1996/1997) – Paper Hearts, and El Mundo Gira

Vince Gilligan pens Paper Hearts, one of the best episodes of season four according to stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. It first aired on 15 December, 1996, and earned composer Mark Snow an Emmy nomination.

Mulder (Duchovny) has been having very vivid dreams, dreams that lead him to the unmarked grave of a little girl, one of the suspected victims of incarcerated serial killer, John Lee Roche (Tom Noonan). Roche abducted and killed young girls, and would cut a heart out of their nightgown as a trophy. Mulder was instrumental in putting Roche away, and perhaps that’s why Mulder is having the dreams, putting together intuitive clues.

But Roche may know Mulder as well, and while he and Scully (Anderson) are dealing with the remains of the victim, and he claims that Mulder’s sister (Vanessa Morley) was one of his victims, and that throws Mulder for a loop. It brings into question Mulder’s entire beliefs about what happened when he was young, and what he’s done with his life.

When he comes to blows with Roche, he’s pulled from the case, and Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) reels him in, even as more evidence seems to suggest that Roche was responsible for Samantha’s disappearance, and now, perhaps… murder? Roche seems to have all manner of details about the night of Samantha’s abduction… can it be true?

Or is Roche toying with Mulder?

Mulder begins to suspect that just as he’s been dreaming about Roche, and the case, the killer has been doing the same with him. But for the first time, Mulder has some serious doubts about what happened to his sister. And when Roche escapes, the hunt is on to recapture him before he can abduct and kill again.

This is a superior episode, and so well-crafted, and messes with the viewers and the characters.

El Mundo Gira, Spanish for The World Turns, was written by John Shiban and debuted on 12 January, 1997. The story features guest stars Ruben Blades and Raymond Cruz in a story that brushes against the el chupacabras mythology.

It doesn’t do it quite so well as it should, as the tale gets mired down in the different versions of the tale that come about at its end. Mulder and Scully investigate a strange death, and an odd fungal growth that may be extraterrestrial in origin that is infecting a village of illegal immigrants, specifically Eladio (Cruz).

The story is also caught up in a soap-opera atmosphere with loves, losses, warring brothers, and plays like a daytime show, tinged, of course, with the horror and mystery of what is happening to Eladio.

Muldere and Scully team up with local law enforcement, in the form of Lozano (Blades) but even he is unsure of what is going on.

The episode deals with how we tell stories, cultural myths, and how they shape our reality. And perhaps those cultural barriers keep us from seeing the truth.

It’s not a bad episode, but I always find this one a bit of a slog for me. Still, there is so much more to come as I dive deeper into season four of The X-Files next week because, the truth is out there…

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