Clyde Bruckman: You know there are worse ways to go, but I can’t think of a more undignified way than autoerotic asphyxiation.
Mulder: Why are you telling me that?
Bruckman: Look, forget I mentioned it. It’s none of my business.
Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose
To paraphrase a quote from Scully in this episode, “There are episodes and then there are episodes.”
“Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” isn’t just one of my favorite episodes of The X-Files. It’s one of my favorite episodes of television. It ranks right up there with Quantum Leap‘s “The Leap Home,” Doctor Who‘s “The Curse of Fenric” and Seinfeld‘s “The Boyfriend” as one of those episodes that transcends the series or genre. Like some of my favorite movies, if I surf past these episodes, I will stop and watch them from the point I drop in until the end.
The episode won Emmys for writing and guest acting for Peter Boyle. And it should have helped the series win Best Drama the year it aired. I feel fairly certain that Picket Fences won that year, but I honestly can’t think of an episode from that season that was quite as transcendent and memorable as this one.
Needless to say, it’s kind of hard to write a review of the episode without it being a complete “golly, I sure love this one” for page upon page upon page. So, if I get a bit to gushy on this one, I beg your indulgence and forgiveness.
The night this one first aired in my local market, it was immediately followed by Deep Space Nine’s “The Visitor.” Again, an episode that I absolutely love from one of my favorite shows. That’s two superlative hours of television right there. Almost enough to make me not feel bad that I didn’t have plans that particular Friday evening. And yet these two episodes couldn’t be more different in their outlook. They’re almost diametric opposites of each other.
Boyle is perfectly cast as Bruckman, an insurance salesman with psychic ability. But there’s a catch to his abilities — he can only see the moment of death for the person in question. This has led Bruckman to become depressed, hollow and bitter with much of the joy sucked out of his meager existence. He comes into the orbit of a killer who is doing away with mediums and leaving their eyes and entrails as souvenirs. (Again, not a moment to watch while eating). Mulder and Scully catch up with Bruckman because he’s near the scene of one of the bodies and Mulder is intrigued by Bruckman’s ability.
Darin Morgan’s second script for the series is one a dark compedy. If “Humbug” was about tweaking our expectations about the universe our heroes inhabit, “Bruckman” is all about deconstructing Mulder (something Morgan will do in greater detail later in the season). Morgan’s script is filled with such splendid dialogue that I could, quite frankly, have quoted just about every moment of it here. The beginning scene with Mulder is banished the the stupendous Yappi (played by David Duchonvy’s stand-in) for blocking the psychic reading to Bruckman’s observation about how Mulder will die to his sweet conversation with Scully that takes on new meaning when we finally get to it. Morgan’s script is like a magic act — we put pieces into play early but it’s only once we get to the end or the pay off of the joke that we see just exactly what he’s doing. Bruckman encounters the killer in the teaser and then brings it about full circle in the episode’s final act.
Bruckman’s love of the Big Bopper plays into the final solution with lace being a tip-off for Scully as to who the killer is. The randomness of Mulder’s apparent death — and how the details keep changing, is nicely done. It’s interesting to see that Mulder is seen dying in two ways while Scully is seen as not dying. This line would latched on to by the fan community as possibly hinting to something big happening to Scully.
Morgan spoke at great length about the episode and his writing it on an episode of The X-Files Files. If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend it — though it will take about ninety minutes of your time.
Honestly, this one is as close to perfect as an episode of television gets. This is the high point of the series and one I look forward to watching many more times.