Re-Opening The X-Files: Beyond the Sea

beyondthesea

It was five hours of Boggs channeling. After three hours I asked him to summon up the soul of Jimi Hendrix and requested ‘All Along the Watchtower’. Your know, the guy’s been dead for 20 years but he still hasn’t lost his edge.

Beyond the Sea

Twelve episodes in and we finally get a story that delves a bit more into Dana Scully.  (Well, beyond the hints that she is slowly giving up on having a life as she becomes caught up in Mulder’s obsession).

And boy is it a good episode.

The teaser alone is enough to make your hair stand on end.   After entertaining her parents for dinner, Scully wakes up in the middle of the night to see her father, sitting across from her and saying something she can’t hear.  The phone rings and Scully looks away, only for her father to vanish.  She then gets the news her father passed away an hour ago….

Cue the theme .

It only gets better from there.

As Scully tries to deal with the loss of her father and questions of whether he was proud of her career path and her choices, she and Mulder are drawn into a case of two kidnapped teenagers in North Carolina.  Death row inmate Luther Lee Boggs claims his last experience of nearly being executed as awakened psychic powers — and that he can tell the FBI where to find the kids.  There are two deadlines looming over our agents — the killer has done this before and will eliminate his victims in five days and Boggs is set for execution in six.

Mulder sets Boggs up for failure by giving Boggs a piece of his New York Knicks t-shirt (watch for this torn piece of shirt to make a return appearance in season three).  Boggs goes through his whole performance, leading Mulder to believe he and the killer are working together.  Scully is a bit more wiling to believe that Boggs can do what he claims, especially when he hums a bit of the song playing at her father’s funeral, calling her by the nickname he used for her and saying he has a message from beyond for her.

James Wong and Glen Morgan give us a script that doesn’t waste a single scene or moment.  Not only do we have the role reversal for Mulder and Scully, but we have a powerhouse performance by guest star Brad Dourif.  (It’s a shame the show didn’t start getting Emmy recognition until season two.  Dourif should have been a lock for an Emmy).   And yet while Mulder is generally willing to fully embrace most supernatural explanations at face value, Scully still wants to find some evidence to justify her belief.   She has some evidence, but it’s not quite enough to make her fully believe as Mulder might (were he inclined to believe).

The script has some haunting moments.  Boggs’ description of his first attempted execution is chilling.    And the final scene where Mulder asks why Scully didn’t go to Boggs in his final hours for the alleged message from the father is also heartbreaking.  As is the line “It was my father” as her reasoning — Scully knew deep down how her father felt, even if she never got that final assurance.

As an acting showcase, this one seems like a sure fire Emmy submission.  I’ve already praise Dourif for his work here.  But Gillian Anderson’s work is superlative as well. It gives us hints of the greatness to come as Scully is put more and more the ringers and the writers find new way to challenge Anderson (and boy howdy, will she ever more deliver!)

Another thing to appreciate about this one is how introduces a few components of Scully’s backstory that become canon for the show.  (As opposed to Mulder not liking fire, for example).  We meet her family (though her sister is conspicuous in her absence) and, for the most part, the actors we see here are those who will play the role for the entire series’ run.   Scully’s doubting of herself and her reflections as her father dies are nicely realized, as is the banter between Scully and her father in the teaser about her not taking down the Christmas tree yet.

As for firsts, there are a few.  Mulder calls Scully by her first name — not just once but multiple times.   It’s also the first time that Mulder gets shot in the line of duty.

And the show even has an Easter Egg for fans.  If you watch the act one scene in Mulder’s basement office, you can see Max Fenig’s NICAP baseball cap on the coat rack.

“Beyond the Sea” is a top ten episode of the series.

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Filed under review, The X-Files, TV review

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