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The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Blood,” “Sleepless”

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I’m quite angry about this Krycek thing.

Blood

Lads, this was actually… really bad. Like, genuinely bad. Dull and meandering and inconsequential, unless the subliminal messaging thing (hello Josie and the Pussycats) comes up again at some stage in the future. Let’s get through it quickly.

Mulder is sent to Franklin, Pennsylvania to investigate a bunch of seemingly random killings perpetrated by nice, ordinary, everyday folk with no prior history of violence or aggression. It’s a puzzling set-up as the murders don’t appear to be linked in any way, although M notes that some class of machinery was smashed at each scene. While investigating the first killing, he notices that the culprit (who was shot dead by police mid-massacre) has a strange greenish stain on his fingers. He has the body sent to Scully for autopsy (some men send love letters; Fox Mulder sends bodies) and asks her to look into this.

Green fingers

The second killing Mulder investigates involves a mechanic who was stabbed by a woman when she came to collect her car. When Mulder and a local cop go to talk to her about the incident, she loses it and tries to attack them. The cop shoots her dead and her body is also sent to Scully for autopsy. Doctor Dana notes the presence of high amounts of adrenaline in both bodies. She analyses the green substance and discovers that it contains traces of a chemical used to douse crops, but which can combine with neurochemicals to trigger phobias. Mulder finds out that the first killer was claustrophobic and that his killing spree began when he was stuck in a lift. The woman who killed the mechanic, meanwhile, had a deathly fear of rape.

He decides to follow up on the chemical line and sneaks into an orchard late at night to see what he can find. His timing sucks, and he gets caught in the midst of a moonlit crop dusting. This does however finally Scully out of dodge for a while as she comes down to examine him. He’s fine, for all intents and purposes, although he too has now ingested the chemical. While in the hospital he notices a strange message playing on the TV screen. He puts this together with the smashed machinery at each murder scene and suggests that the chemical may be compelling the killers to see subliminal messages, which in turn stoke their phobias to such an extent that they lash out. (He’s on the right track, of course: the second attacker had launched herself at Mulder because a message on her microwave prompted her to, while the first attacker in the lift saw a message on the lift’s display urging him to kill.)

This one's a Metallica fan

Unfortunately, Franklin is a small farming town and local authorities do not take kindly to Mulder’s demand that they stop spraying the crops until they can figure out what’s going on. With the help of the same police officer from earlier, he manages to convince a councilman to carry out mandatory testing of the town’s population to look for the chemical. This is done under the guise of a cholesterol study. Everyone is accounted for in the study except for one man named Funsch, who we see in the opening scene being let go from his job. He too has been seeing messages, on everything from his watch to his TV to the ATM machine. He’s purchased a sniper rifle and locked himself in his home, but when he sees a healthcare worker come to test him he goes out of control (he has a phobia of blood, it seems).

Mulder manages to track him to a local blood drive, where he’s climbed a clock tower and started shooting indiscriminately at people. Mulder runs up after him and is able to wrestle the gun away and talk him down. All’s well that ends well, but when Mulder later goes to call Scully he sees a strange message displayed on his phone reading “bye bye!” Not sure what that’s meant to mean, other than that – presumably – the truth is still out there.

I wasn’t sold on this one but it is nice to see Mulder determined as ever to save lives, even (especially) when they’re little people caught in the fray of insidious government mind control experiments. (The Lone Gunmen were in this sharing conspiracy theories on said experiments but one of them remains really gross and pervy towards Scully so I do not currently have time for them.) Mulder’s peaceable approach is in stark contrast to the shoot first, ask questions later policy of local police which had them gunning down a woman for running at Mulder with a knife. Dangerous, yes, but perhaps a non-lethal shot is preferable? Even in fictitious 90s shows police are as quick to questionable decisions as ever.

Sleepless

This is more like it. 100% pure plot thickening, with a soupçon of intrigue to flavour.

A prominent doctor dies in his NYC apartment after calling 911 to report a fire. When fire crews arrive, there is no fire, and not a trace of burns on the man’s body. Scully’s autopsy reveals that the doc, Grissom, had all the secondary signs of exposure to extreme heat and that these were sufficient to kill him, but outwardly he’s completely unscathed. Later, a man dies from what for all intents and purposes appear to be gunshot wounds, except again there’s no mark on the body. Mulder is tipped off to Grissom’s death by his new anonymous source (I’m going to call him Deep Throat 2.0) and immediately makes a request to Skinner to get federal jurisdiction. Skinner comes up trumps but assigns him a new partner – rookie agent Krycek, who SEEMED perfectly nice and even sympathetic while I was watching but who now evokes narrowed eyes and an inscrutable desire to punch him in the throat. (You’ll see.) (You all already know.)

In what should have been my first clue, Krycek is serious and tenacious and far more open to extreme possibilities than Scully was. Mulder isn’t best pleased to be working with him, but he relents slightly when Krycek tells him that he (Mulder) has sympathisers at the academy. Some of the recruits, Krycek included, believe in his work and suspect there’s more going on than “they” are telling them. Together they go on the trail of the killer. Grissom was an expert in sleep disorders, it turns out, and he spent time working at a Marine training base at Parris Island. The second victim had a military background and was stationed there at the same time. Later, Mulder is called to meet with Deep Throat 2.0, who passes him a file on experiments Grissom was carrying out at the base. The experiments involved sleep deprivation, as the government was looking to create a soldier who could function without sleep. Sleep deprivation, it seems, amplifies aggression and violence and the result was a squadron of Marines with the highest kill rate in the whole Vietnam campaign. I would say we can all relate to being grumpy from lack of sleep, but even the worst Monday morning can’t compete with that.

You've got a friend in me

More importantly, Deep Throat 2.0 drops a bombshell – the closure of the X-Files was just the beginning. Separating Mulder and Scully was part of the plan (ahem), but things are now becoming more dangerous. He says his predecessor paid the price with his life but that’s a sacrifice he’s unwilling to make. He tells Mulder to look for another survivor of the experiments – officially, there were only two (the second victim – Willig – and another man named Augustus Cole) but a third man lived despite being cited as killed in action. None of the survivors have slept in 24 years. Holy feck.

Having discussed Grissom’s work with his fellow doctors, Mulder learns that he’d pioneered a form of treatment which essentially involved changing the way people dreamed. Subjects could be made to hallucinate at different stages of sleep. Based on this, Mulder theorises that Cole – who’s gone missing from the psychiatric facility he’d been sent to – has found a way to project his unconscious. He thinks he may be creating visions so extreme that the victims’ bodies react in fatal ways. Krycek is agreeable, saying he “wants to believe.” Ugh. Stuff your face, man. I should have known better than to root for you. Mulder fills Scully in by phone and when she asks him if it’s nice to have a partner who doesn’t constantly poke holes in his theories, M responds “oh sure” in the most thoroughly unconvincing manner of all time. Gross. Stop these two.

Hello is it me you're looking for

Next stop is the café where the final survivor from the Marine squad, Matola, works. He tells them they used to call Cole “Preacher” because he was very religious and often quoted passages from the Bible about divine justice. This is unsurprising, given the squadron essentially went rogue after a time and started massacring people at random. Matola also tells them about a Doctor Girardi who assisted Grissom with the experiments. Mulder asks Scully to get some info on him, and she discovers that Girardi is coming to New York for Grissom’s funeral. Mulder and Krycek hightail it to the train station but Cole’s already there. He makes Mulder hallucinate, creating an illusion where Cole pulls a gun on Girardi and shoots Mulder.

Krycek wakes him up and tells him he was seeing things. They go through surveillance footage with the police and manage to trace Girardi to a nearby warehouse. Cole has him trussed up and seeing visions of a squadron of Marines all ready to fire. When Mulder and Krycek get there, Girardi is still alive but bleeding heavily. M races off after Cole and corners him on an upper storey ledge. He tries to talk him down but Cole, noticing Krycek approaching, makes the latter see a gun in Cole’s hand where in fact he’s holding a Bible. Krycek shoots him dead.

When he looks about frantically for the gun afterwards, he tells Mulder Cole had a gun, and Mulder tells him he did the right thing. You’re actually too good sometimes, Mulder. Krychek’s a shit and needs no comfort –

Even his hairline looks fake

– BECAUSE HE’S A FECKING MOLE FOR THE CIGARETTE-SMOKING MAN. Mulder’s file on the experiments goes missing from his car and turns up in the Cigarette-Smoking Man’s hands, while Scully’s office is raided and her copies of the file are stolen. Mulder informs his erstwhile partner about the dangers Deep Throat 2.0 mentioned; meanwhile Krycek informs the Cigarette-Smoking Man that Scully is a “bigger problem” than they’d anticipated and that Mulder has a new source.

He says he’s outlined a number of countermeasures. Duplicitous little shit. I want to use a Tyra Banks .gif here but evidently the notion that Mulder might have found a second partner who’s halfway decent and open-minded and reasonable was too much to believe. I mean, Skinner even assigned him, presumably knowing his views were sympathetic to their resident spook. Unless Krycek’s been in deep cover for ages… bah! I love the plot twist but I’m preoccupied with side-eye right now.

What next?!

Grace Duffy is a pop culture devotée and sometime film critic currently catching up on her classic sci-fi. You can read more on her blogTumblr, or catch her frequent TV liveblogs on Twitter.

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