Re-Opening The X-Files: Squeeze

X-Files-Squeeze-img-4

Mulder: Gray. You said “green men.” A Reticulian’s skin tone is gray. They’re notorious for their extraction of terrestrial human livers, due to iron depletion in the Reticulum galaxy.
Agent Tom Colton: You can’t be serious.
Mulder: Do you know how much liver and onions go for on Reticulum?

Squeeze

The first two installments of The X-Files dealt with aliens and/or UFOs.   The third episode find the series opening up the scope of the X-Files universe a bit and introducing us to the paranormal side of things.   “Squeeze” creates the template for many of the memorable stand-alone stories (or Monster of the Week) that are to come over the next nine years.

It also gives us our first story by Glen Morgan and James Wong, who would be influential to the show’s first season and a half in a lot of ways.

In fact, I’d argue that Morgan and Wong were just as important, maybe even more important, that Chris Carter in helping the show be a long term success.   Like Gene Roddenberry was with Star Trek, I feel that Chris Carter was good at creating shows, characters and situations but maybe not so great at the day to day running of things.   But like Roddenberry, Carter was fortunate to be surrounded by some great, talented writers and producers who helped him, especially early on in the run.   And two of the biggest helps were Morgan and Wong.

Keep that thought, because we may come back to it as we get more into season one.

It helps that the Monster of the Week installments get off to a strong start with a memorable monster in Eugene Tooms.    Utilizing Tooms’ ability to get into any room, Morgan and Wong give us a twist on the old “locked room” mystery trope.  And boy, it’s a good one — and creepy as all get out.  If “Deep Throat” is about the series finding its voice, “Squeeze” is about the series starting to speak with confidence using that voice.  

The scenes of Tooms getting into tight places are so creepily effective — from the teaser show of the screw in the vent screwing and then unscrewing itself to his getting down the chimney in the third act.   It probably helps that Doug Hutchison looks creepy, even when he’s just sitting and taking a lie detector test.  (In a case of life imitating art, Hutchison would later achieve creepy immortality through his tabloid marriage to a 16-year-old).

I found a lot of things intriguing about this one — not only when I first saw it, but again this time around.   One is the use of “old fashioned” investigative techniques that Mulder and Scully use to try and crack the case.    They go through microfiche archives as well as old files from similar cases.   I love that we see both Mulder and Scully wearing glasses as they look into things, though I can how filming around glasses and lighting them in the show’s aesthetic could become a bear after a while and I see why this might be dropped after a while.

I also like that we get an outsiders’ perspective on the X-Files and Mulder.  Donal Logue is just the right amount of cocky arrogance and jerkiness with Tom Coulton.  His zeal to get ahead, all while dismissing Mulder and his out there theories works very well.   In many ways, we could see Coulton as a parallel to an early Mulder — driven to get ahead. But while Coulton wants to rise in the org chart, Mulder wanted to rise to get The X-Files and find answer he’s always wanted/needed.

It’s also interesting that Scully is given a chance to jump ship and hitch her star to Coulton’s wagon — Mulder even says he won’t hold it against her if she does — and yet she determines to stay where she is.   We can see a growing respect between these two and it feels like Duchovny and Anderson are starting to get their footing as the characters.  Mulder’s sense of humor is more dry than it was in the first two installment, even if we see that Mulder loves to poke back at those who don’t share his same zeal.  It’s interesting to see his level and type of joking around with Coulton about the lack of iron on Reticulon as opposed to his more good-natured quipping with Scully, culminating in the oft-quoted “How quickly can I get this off my fingers without betraying my cool exterior?” line.  (Or maybe it was oft-quoted because it was part of the first X-Files calendar that was given to me by a friend and included as a quote, along with screen shots from this episode).

Morgan and Wong are the two writers who really seem to get Scully best in season one — and while this episode isn’t quite as character-building as “Beyond the Sea” will be in a couple of installments, I still feel like we’re getting more to Scully than just the skeptic  who is there to debunk Mulder’s theories.

As for firsts, this is the first time we see Mulder’s cell phone, though he frustratingly uses it only in the car.  And at a point when the plot is trying to ratchet up the suspense of Scully is danger.

It also begins a trope that I call “every weirdo on the Eastern seaboard can find where Scully lives.”  While not quite as prominent as “Scully misses the paranormal event,”  it’s still there.  Watch with me and see just how many times over the next couple of years the poor woman has her home invaded by every weirdo on the planet.   Seriously.  She should have gone with an unlisted number.

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Filed under The X-Files, TV review

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