Re-Opening The X-Files: Sleepless

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You still don’t get it, do you? Closing the X-Files, separating you and Scully was only the beginning. The truth is still out there. But it’s never been more dangerous. The man we both knew paid for that information with his life. A sacrifice I’m not willing to make.

Sleepless

For a birthday present, a co-worker gave me a CD that collected some of Mark Snow’s musical cues from The X-Files.   Included in the incidental music (which is every bit as haunting and wonderful you might expect) were dialogue moments from key episodes from the first three season.   Among those was Mr. X’s speech above to Mulder.

I listened to that CD a lot back in the day (I love well done incidental scores from my favorite TV shows and movies).   So by the time I eventually got to see “Sleepless” when it was released commercially on VHS, I was positively excited to finally hear the line “The trust is still out there. But it’s never been more dangerous” in context.  I may have rewound the scene between Mr. X and Mulder a few times — not just to hear the line again and again, but  because it was so incredibly well done and absolutely pivotal to what was to come.

At this point, I’d seen a future installments with Mr. X. But to see his on-screen introduction (so well played by Steven Williams) was a positive delight.

But that’s only one aspect of this episode that I’ve come to appreciate in the time since.

As I’ve said before, this run of episodes is probably my favorite in the entire series run.  And “Sleepless” is only one more spectacular installment on what has already been a strong start to season two.   

After receiving a mysterious message, Mulder requests the case of man who died in his apartment after calling 911 to report a fire and emptying an entire fire extinguisher into his non-burning home.  Scully’s autopsy reveals his died of internal injuries related to fire, but there is no external evidence of burning.   Assigned a new partner, Alex Krychek, Mulder soon finds that a group of Vietnam soldiers underwent an experiment to cease the need to sleep.  This was intended to make them better soldiers — and to some extent it did. But there were side effects to it.

One of the participants, Augustus Cole has learned how to channel his ability to create illusions that seem so real that the body convinces itself that its in a burning room or shot with bullets.  Cole wants the squad to atone for their sins (the squad reportedly killed 4000 people during the war, went AWOL and began to just target anyone and everyone), including the doctor who performed the surgery and himself.

“Sleepless” gives us the introduction of Krychek, who will become a huge thorn in the side for Mulder as the seasons go along.   And it doesn’t take long for us to quickly catch on that Krychek is just too good to be true  — he repeatedly expresses support for Mulder’s work and his crusade. But the tag on the episode finds that Krychek has a different agenda.  He’s here to spy on Mulder and Scully, reporting back to the Cigarette Smoking Man on whether or not shutting down the X-Files has had the desired effect.    According to Krychek, it hasn’t.  Instead it’s strengthened their resolve and given them a new source.

Krycek: Sir if I could recommend something. You’ll see that I’ve outlined several counter-measures.
CSM: What about Scully?
Krycek: Reassigning them to other sections seems only to have strengthened their determination. Scully’s a problem. A much larger problem than you described.
CSM: Every problem has a solution.

And so it is that the foundation has been put in place for what’s to come.

Four episodes all build up to this and the pay off will be one that radically impacts the show and gives it much of the Scully mythology for the next seven years.

As if that coda weren’t enough, there are some great scenes in this one and a solid, suspenseful episode that works on every single level.

And it’s crazy that I’ve gone this long without mentioning that genre veteran guest star Tony Todd plays Cole.   Todd is superb here (he generally always is) and gives Cole menace, depth and even makes you feel a bit of compassion for him.

This is an episode that sometimes comes to mind when I get a bout of insomnia.   Imagining how it would feel to not sleep for 24 years can help me feel a bit better as I’m tossing and turning.

And the good news is — the next episode is even better.

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Filed under Re-Opening the X-Files, review, The X-Files, TV review

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