Scully: Mulder, I know what you did wasn’t by the book.
Mulder: Tells you a lot about the book, doesn’t it?
While I’m fairly certain I’ve seen “Young At Heart” at some point, I couldn’t recall much, if anything about it as I fired up the DVD player. In fact, heading into it, I assumed this was the one where Mulder and Scully get old in the boat. (It’s not).
It’s all kind of odd that episode didn’t make a big impression on me the first time I saw it because this time around it worked fairly well. Well, at least the first half of the episode that is.
“Young At Heart” gives us a glimpse into the early and current career and standing of Fox Mulder among his colleagues other than Scully. Given how Mulder becomes more and more alienated from his colleagues and superiors in later seasons (even by the end of this season), it’s an interesting glimpse into who Mulder was and is. There are some fairly consistent traits that carry over from the flashbacks to 1989 and Mulder’s first big case and the agent he is today.
The flashback to Barnett’s trial with Mulder on the stand stood out for me. Hearing Mulder give his objective, professional testimony on events the night that Barnett was shot and captured only to quickly transition over to yelling that Barnett deserves to die was a nice touch. And while I feel like that Mulder’s outburst might somehow taint his testimony or at least have had Barnett’s defense lawyer calling for it to be stricken from the record, it still shows the passionate side that Mulder has toward his work.
I also find it interesting to see Mulder have a flirtation with Agent Henderson (the handwriting expert) as well. And the friendship he has with Reggie. Too often it feels like we only see work colleagues who see Mulder as that weird guy who chases aliens, so it’s nice to see he has some relatively normal working relationships. And we also have a bit of foreshadowing from Reggie that some people aren’t too happy with the work Mulder is doing and question the validity of it. It’s setting up what’s to come in the season finale.
It’s too bad that while the first half in a solid, procedural one with supernatural overtones that once we get past the second act, things quickly ratchet up into crazy town. The concept that a doctor has come up with a way to reverse to the aging process to battle a rare disease is interesting. But it feels like the second half of this one is just too all over the map, working a bit too hard hard to tie this miracle cure to an overall governmental conspiracy. The game of cat and mouse with Mulder and Barnett should have carried the story. The whole thread of Barnett regrowing his hand with a salamander one felt like it was a good idea on paper but maybe not one that really could or should have been included here.
Of course, it doesn’t help that the script calls for Scully in peril to rear its ugly head. Barnett breaks into Scully’s apartment, I’m guessing with the intention of killing her to get at Mulder, only to leave when the doctor he was working with shows up and then Mulder comes over. And yet he’s shown hiding in the apartment, but only steals the code to Scully’s machine to check her messages remotely. I couldn’t help but think this was a bit of the script trying to create some drama and tension by putting Scully in danger, only to realize it had ten more minutes to fill and dragging Scully’s cello playing friend into danger as well. And giving us Scully getting shot but saved by the kevlar vest.
And maybe all of this is why I didn’t recall much about “Young At Heart.” The third and fourth acts are so unfocused and a let down after the solid first two acts that I just chalked them up to what could have been and moved on.
Interestingly, the episode features William B. Davis as the CIA agent in the operating room, trying to find out where Barnett has hidden the secrets to reverse aging. I don’t think he’s credited as the CSM in this one and it makes me wonder if this is the first time that Mulder sees him. Or if he’s playing the CSM in this one, because wouldn’t Scully recognize him?