Re-Opening The X-Files: The Jersey Devil, Shadows, Ghost in the Machine

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Mulder: Don’t you have a life, Scully?
Scully: You keep that up and I’ll hurt you like that beast woman.

The Jersey Devil
The next three installments of The X-Files are some that I didn’t see until the series went into syndication on FX. These were stories not released on VHS and not repeated on FOX during my time watching and recording the series. And it’s easy to see why. There’s nothing really wrong with these episodes, but there’s not much to write home about either.

First up, is “The Jersey Devil” which puts Mulder and Scully on the path of  the East coast version of Bigfoot. In future installments of the show, various mythical creatures will go on the attack because they feel the encroachment of modern civilization.   Here, not so much.  Mulder catches wind of the potential attacks and heads up to Atlantic City.

You do have to admire his commitment to finding the Devil, though.  He’s willing to give up his cushy hotel room to a homeless guy (and how happy could the hotel staff have been about that?!?  It also makes me wonder if Mulder left his credit card on file and the homeless guy left with the entire contents of the mini-bar) and stay on the streets all night to catch a glimpse of the devil.  He’s also wiling to walk back into town at least a mile or so in his suit and dress shoes.   Oh and let’s not forget that he is willing to spend the night in the drunk tank, though I wondered if his FBI badge might not get him a “get out of jail free” card.

Meanwhile, this episode may be better remembered for that one time Scully tried to get a life.  She attends her god son’s birthday party and has a date with a divorced, single dad.   A date she ditches in the middle of to run off with Mulder to pursue the Jersey Devil.  And she turns down a second date with the guy to follow Mulder on his quest.    She even admits to her friend that Mulder is cute, if a bit of a jerk.  I can see shippers having a field day with this one.

This one also brings up Mulder’s predilection with adult entertainment for the first time.  This won’t be the last we hear of it, though I’ll admit it gets funnier and a bit more subtle than what we got here.

Shadows

I’m an opening credits reader.  Always have been. I love to find out who wrote an episode and who directed it.  Yes, it may give me a preconceived idea about the episode but I love to be proven wrong or right.

In this case, it’s wrong because this one is by Morgan and Wong. And, quite frankly, I expect better of them.  The real issue is the script doesn’t quite know where it really wants to focus things.

Our heroes are  called in to consult on a case of two guys who are killed by what appears to be an electrostatic charge in an alley.   They find that there is a connection — a woman named Lauren Kyte who works for a company that is currently on the FBI watch list for possibly selling certain technology to terrorist groups.   Lauren’s boss died mysteriously and now any time she’s threatened, strange things happen around her.

Could it be the ghost of her old boss protecting her?

Well, of course it is.   And therein lies the problem.   We never have enough time to get to know or have any kind of investment in Lauren, so I couldn’t really muster up much concern about her.  And the show tries to straddle a line between the supernatural and the procedural that just doesn’t work.

It also doesn’t help that the ghost in question knows where the secret disc is hidden that will implicate his partner in the various crimes.    I’m not sure how exactly he got it hidden behind the wallpaper in the first place or why it’s there other than to make for a dramatic visual.

Ghost in the Machine

Aired around Halloween (and taking place around it as well), “Ghost in the Machine” is a haunted house story — if said house is multi-story corporate headquarters controlled by the series’ version of HAL.

Twenty years on, the technological thins that the computer system is able to do are laughable.  It can control elevators,  call and log onto Scully’s home computer and create audio files to fool people.   I’m not sure if this was supposed to be cutting edge or not back when it aired but it all seems a bit silly now.

And yet as I watched, I couldn’t help but wonder if this story might not be better now as we’re confronted daily with data breaches and invasions of privacy on-line.   The idea of a super computer that can kill us might be more effectively realized now.   Well, assuming that you can’t just pull the old “give it  a virus and wipe it out” move that has been around since War of the Worlds.

There are a couple of things that keep me from putting this one in the so bad it’s good category.  One is the complete lack of suspense or drama we get when the computer kills or attacks someone.  The pan down to the computer control and blinking lights does not really elicit the edge of your seat thrills or suspense that you usually associate with this show.

And then there’s the question of the show painting itself into a corner and then having to call Deep Throat off the bench as exposition device.   I like the character but he seems forced into the story here — almost as if the writers (Gordon and Gansa) couldn’t figure out how to get Mulder from point A to point C and had to use Deep Throat to fill in the gaps. There is some attempt to imply that maybe Deep Throat wanted Mulder to kill the computer so they could get their hands on the system designer (who had already confessed to two murders), but this could be me reading in details from later revelations about the character and not really what the show intended.

This episode does feature Scully firing her gun for the first time, though.  So I guess there’s that.

I also admit I’d completely forgotten about the old buddy of Mulder’s who screws him over by stealing his notes.   That part actually worked better than I remembered.

Again, these aren’t three terrible episodes.  They just aren’t three great ones either.  After the first four were so good, these feel more like the show coming back a bit or maybe struggling to find itself in the day to day running of a tv show.

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Filed under The X-Files, TV review

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