Jose Chung: Aren’t you nervous telling me all this? After receiving all those death threats?
Blaine Faulkner: Well, hey, I didn’t spend all those years playing Dungeons and Dragons and not learn a little something about courage
Looking back over the long run of The X-Files, I’d argue that the best seasons of the show were seasons two and three. What two has going for it is that the mythology episodes are tighter, feel more like an event, and give us hope that Chris Carter and company have some kind of end game in mind for government conspiracies and cover-ups. Season three has three of the best stand-alone episodes of the entire run of the show, all by writer Darin Morgan.
Morgan fundamentally understands what makes the show and its characters tick and isn’t afraid to deconstruct that a bit — especially when it comes to Fox Mulder. At the time this episode first aired, Morgan gave an interview saying that his take on Mulder was that the guy was a pretty messed up a guy, whether it’s his complete obsession with his finding the truth or his inability to sustain a meaningful relationship beyond his working partnership with Scully.
“Jose Chung” is Morgan’s finest deconstruction of the series and its characters. It’s also one of my favorite hours of the show — even though it took me a viewing or two back in the day for it really grow on me. Yes, I’ll admit that when this episode first aired, I wasn’t besotted with it, as many of my fellow X -Philes on the Internet were. I was so caught up in wanting as much of the mythology as we could possibly handle and then some that I overlooked just how sublime this entire production really is.
“Jose Chung” is The X-Files stretching its muscles a bit — going for a bit of dark humor with its scares. The notion of those who are kidnapping people under the guise of it being aliens being potentially kidnapped by aliens themselves is just devious on multiple levels. The script also asks us to question the reality of what happened and what the central truth really is. Told in the style of Rashomon, the story makes us question everything we see and hear in the story — though I do find myself hoping that somewhere Alex Trebec has a secret life as one of the men in black.
But a great script is nothing without superb performances and direction. If you ever want a reason why Rob Bowman was chosen to direct the first X-Files movie, don’t look any further than here. Using visual callbacks that are both obvious and subtle (the way the various interrogation scenes all feature different parties in the same places is one of those things it took me a time or two to notice) to the opening homage to Star Wars, it all works. The trick of the men in black’s car arriving and departing in exactly the same way is absolutely perfect and helps underscore the wariness with which we and Jose Chung approach these events.
And then, there’s the casting of Charles Nelson Reilly as the titular Jose Chung. I can’t help but wonder if Morgan asked for Reilly in the script or if and how his name came up along the way. But his casting and performance are the icing on the cake. Watching his interact each of the various players in a pure delight. It’s little wonder he’d resume the role in Millennium a season or so later in a sequel-of-sorts to this installment. (Seek it out if you haven’t seen it. Worth the time).
It’s always a pleasure to watch “Jose Chung” again.
- I find myself wondering just how many sweet-potato pies the production went through in the scene where Mulder eats piece after piece.
- This episode is so quotable. It’s tempting to just copy and paste the entire script.
- I’m not sure how they got Sarah Sawatsky’s pupils to be so large each time she underwent hypnosis.
- Detective Manners is an inside joke about long-time director Kim Manners. Apparently, Manners could cuss up a blue-streak.
- Mulder’s girlie scream is one of the top five Mulder moments in the entire show. David Duchovny should be proud of this.
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge that Jessie Ventura’s casting is sublime.