The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Kill Switch,” “Bad Blood,” & “Patient X”

How do you solve a problem like following certified masterpiece “Bad Blood”?

YOU RESURRECT RATBOY, THAT’S HOW.

Peculiar affair with Covarrubias: optional.

Kill Switch

This is almost certainly the most dated X-Files episode so far. It may have been written by two cyberpunk pioneers, but in this day and age it honestly feels like Hackers‘ weird telly cousin. It’s not a bad episode really, just a product of its time. A time when The Net was capitalised and female computer hackers were burdened with abrasive personalities and needlessly suggestive dialogue.

Thank the gods we’re beyond THAT these days, amirite?

A shoot-out in a diner brings the tale of Donald Gelman to Mulder and Scully’s attention. He’s a famous computer genius who disappeared several years back while considering a deal which would have made him a billionaire. His laptop (and body) is found among the wreckage in the diner, with a disc inside. Mulder takes the disc to the Lone Gunmen but it’s encrypted. At Scully’s suggestion, they open Gelman’s (quaint and ancient) emails for clues. A reference number leads them to a shipping container.

This container reveals Invisigoth, a hacker who was looking for Gelman. In the manner of a great many female geeks written by men, she’s surly and abrasive and sports skintight leather. (That is kind of a cool outfit though.)

Invisigoth (real name: Esther) claims they’re being tracked by a weapons platform. Scully thinks she’s nuts but Mulder hauls them out of the shipping container just before a missile levels the joint. On the road, Esther elaborates. Gelman was trying to create a sentient AI. He wrote a series of interlocking viruses which got loose on the Net. There, they evolved in the primordial slime of their natural environment and essentially became a feral, digital form of wildlife. Primordial slime, you guys. Must be a GamerGate comments section.

Scully, not unexpectedly, calls bullshit. Esther insists. The programme has intention now, not just consciousness. It orchestrated Gelman’s death and is trying to find the Kill Switch, a series of viruses he wrote to kill it. Mulder produces the encrypted disc and Esther declares that it contains the Kill Switch. Our heroes bring her to the Lone Gunmen office. They’re openly pervy, as usual, and she has the misfortune to have to say things like “am I gonna have to do this with my tongue?” Oy to the proverbial. Esther explains that the AI needs a physical nexus of hardware to support its existence on the Net. Mulder goes in search of a “T3” connection. Esther pulls a gun on Scully while the Lone Gunmen are sleeping, and demands she drive her somewhere.

They arrive at a house belonging to David Markham. The house is…not there anymore. Esther gets upset and thrusts the gun at Scully, asking her to put her out of her misery. Apparently she and this David guy were involved, and they had planned to upload their consciousness to the AI so they could live together forever. Gelman forbade it. What a spoilsport.

Mulder finds a house with a T3 connection. He takes a look around and finds a caravan out the back. As he approaches, an alarm goes off. He crawls underneath and finds a hatch which lets him inside. A little robot scurries about between rows of hard drives and a body, which Mulder deduces belongs to David Markham. Suddenly, he’s snatched by some kind of machine and trussed up in electronics.

Scully tries to call Mulder but can’t get through. She and Esther start making their way to the house with the T3 connection. Esther takes out her laptop and starts attacking it using the same system which let David Levinson infiltrate and destroy an alien mothership. Unfortunately, it also seems to alert the AI to where they are. They stop at a bridge and Esther has just enough time to get the disc out of her laptop before flinging it into the water. A missile hits it a nanosecond later. Dramz.

Mulder is trapped in Oculus Rift. He sees himself in what looks like a 1950s hospital, where his limbs are amputated one by one and heavily made-up nurses start feeling him up. His inherent sense of paranoia must have made this very easy for the machine. Right on cue, virtual Scully bursts in and starts beating the hell out of them. I enjoy the fact that she appears to be a ninja in this simulation. (When he sees himself being rolled into the hospital, he also asks that they contact his doctor: Dr. Scully. Dotes.) She asks Mulder if he has the Kill Switch. Mulder finally seems to twig he’s stuck in some virtual reality display and wallops Scully, which wakes him up.

Scully and Esther have just arrived at the caravan. Scully clambers inside using the hatch and shoots the robot when it comes flying at her. Esther comes in behind her, finding Markham’s body. Mulder is still restrained and the machine starts shocking him to get them to hand over the Kill Switch. Scully grabs the disc and puts it into one of the drives. Mulder is released, but the weapons programme is still tracking them. Scully gets Mulder out and tries to persuade Esther to follow, but she refuses. Instead, she types madly away at a monitor before climbing into the restraints Mulder was just in. She says “upload” and everything begins frying, her included. A missile then proceeds to blow the joint.

In the final scenes, a message on the Lone Gunmen’s computer seems to confirm that Esther managed to upload her consciousness to the AI. We can only assume that Markham did so too before his untimely death and that they live blissfully together in a simulated paradise.

OK, so this was adorably 90s. Really adorably 90s. I always wanted to go around in skintight leather but no one told youthful me that it’s really uncomfortable and clingy and not at all practical for rainy Irish weather. At least I can spend every day making my eyes look like racoons though.

I’d write more on this but “Bad Blood” is next and that’s what we’re all here for really.

Bad Blood

Fade in: the year 1998. The question on everybody’s lips: were those goddamned vampires?

The FBI is being sued for $446 million by the family of a pizza delivery boy whom Mulder, er, staked through the heart. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for our heroes down in Texas. Realising that their careers are even more doomed than usual, they meet to discuss what happened before going to see Skinner. “I’m in this as deep as you are,” Scully wails, “and I’m not even the one that overreacted!” This is basically her whole career in the FBI in a nutshell and as usual, it’s all Mulder’s fault.

There are two versions of events.

PART 1: Scully, or “someone’s gotta save this place from certain doom and let’s face it, that person is me.”

A petite, determined, steely as all hell skeptic fights a frustrating battle against the imaginative wiles of an overgrown boy scout. She comes into the office to find her partner leafing through photos of exsanguinated cows. He is, she notes, his characteristically exuberant self. A human victim recently joined the ranks of the dead and, crying vampires, said partner hauls her to the small town of Chaney in Texas for an all-new wild goose chase.

The town has no morgue so Scully first looks over the body at the Peaceful Slumber funeral home. The sheriff comes to join them. He’s a charming cowboy with lethal swagger and the face of Luke Wilson. Dana is immediately taken. She suggests that the killer is obsessed with vampires and planned the murder accordingly. As she rhymes off intricate medical jargon to support her theory, Hartwell’s delighted beam is all of us when Scully talks shop.

There is some disagreement as to whether Hartwell ever knew her first name was Dana.

Mulder interrupts this beautiful love scene by demanding to be taken to an old cemetery, specifying “the creepier, the better.” He leaves Scully to do an autopsy and helpfully advises her that he doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be looking for. She dutifully goes ahead. The deceased’s last meal was pizza and this gives her a flash of inspiration. Back at the motel, she kicks off her shoes and prepares to relax after a long day. Then Mulder reappears, covered in mud. She raises an eyebrow and informs him that the victim was doped with chloral hydrate before being attacked. Mulder barely flinches, saying there’s been another killing and demanding she do another autopsy immediately. Scully trudges out sadly as he climbs onto the bed and begins cackling like a vampire. Outside, her pizza arrives. She sends it in to Mulder and goes wearily on her way.

Turns out the second victim also ate pizza before dying. The chloral hydrate’s in the pizza!

Rushing back to the motel, she finds the befanged pizza guy leaning over Mulder. He bolts past her; she shoots but misses. Mulder is drugged but unharmed. There is some disagreement as to whether or not he was singing Shaft when he came to.

He’s a complicated man, and no one understands him but his…you see where he’s going with this?

(source!)

Scully and Mulder take off after the vampire into the woods. Mulder reaches him first and, er, overreacts. Scully finds the fangs were fake. You can almost hear the loud resounding bang of Skinner headdesking from half a country away.

Of note here: to Scully, Mulder is always faintly condescending. He says things like “move your little legs” (as a petite person, I share her chagrin at this) and “tell him your ‘theory'” in air quotes. He nicks her bed, pizza, laughs as she sets off to work and for some reason seems to believe he can order her around. He also decides they’re dealing with vampires without bothering to consider her point of view (I know, it’s shocking). I love how single-minded and ridiculous he is in her version of events (“an old cemetery—the creepier, the better”) because that’s exactly the way he comes across to us but it’s so far removed from how he sees himself.

Further, she doesn’t embiggen herself. She’s just trying to do the best she can in the face of an impossible partner and farcical case. And she doesn’t even get to put her feet up and enjoy a pizza at the end of the day.

PART 2: Mulder, or “I’m a little boy scout, hapless yet brave”

Thoughtful, dedicated FBI Agent Fox Mulder is joined by his characteristically less than exuberant partner Dana Scully to discuss a strange case out of Chaney, Texas. “I don’t want to jump to any hasty conclusions,” Mulder says carefully as he cites the possibility of a vampire or vampire-like attacks. Instead, he is “eager” to hear Dana’s opinion. Scully is impatient and irritatable and immediately declares the killer is human. “That’s one opinion,” nods Mulder, “and I respect that.” He suggests they made their way to Texas to investigate.

They meet Sheriff Hartwell at the funeral home. He’s a slovenly, bumbling nitwit with an overbite who inexplicably captivates Scully at first sight. She loses her train of thought and begins repeating herself, so Mulder heroically takes charge. After examining the body, Scully rubbishes his vampire theory and tells Hartwell they’re looking for a lunatic. The killer “wishes he could transfigure himself into a creature of the night”, she says, trying to stifle a giggle. Mulder politely explains that there are many types of vampire and it’s too soon to rule the theory out. Scully yawns, struggling to pay attention.

At the cemetery, Mulder elaborates on his theory for Hartwell. He says signs of vampiric activity include an absence of birdsong and a faint groaning from beneath the earth, which would signify that the creature is eating its own death shroud. Hartwell shrugs and says “y’all work for the federal government, that’s all I need to know.” Mulder maintains composure as, once again, his careful explanation of a complex theory is summarily dismissed. He suggests they stake out the cemetery. The pizza guy honks as he drives past.

That night, Mulder spreads sunflower seeds around the graves. He says that all vampire myths across the world have one thing in common: the creature exhibits signs of obsessive-compulsive behaviour. He noticed earlier that all the victims’ shoelaces were untied. The stakeout is interrupted when the sheriff gets a call about a rogue RV at the trailer park. They head over and attempt to shoot out the RV’s tyres. This is harder than it looks, so Mulder attempts to jump aboard.

He falls off as the RV rolls to a halt. Suddenly, a body tumbles out. This one has puncture wounds, just like the others, and untied laces. No one in the trailer park has seen anything.

Mulder is “tired, frustrated, and lacking a solid lead.” He heads back to the motel to get cleaned up. Unfortunately, he’s met by a rabidly disinterested partner who protests vehemently when she’s asked to do another autopsy. After much ranting, she leaves, but not before warning him not to touch her bed. Mulder wanders into the bathroom like a wounded soldier. The pizza boy arrives and Mulder goes to get his wallet. He tips this boy exactly 2 cents, which is enough motive in and of itself for the boy’s subsequent decision to attack him.

Seriously people, tip your servers

One doped pizza later, Mulder slides off the bed just as the green-eyed pizza boy approaches. He tries to call Scully but only manages to groan down the phone. Desperate, he flings seeds at the vampire to distract it. The boy groans and starts gathering them up. “You are in big trouble!” he exclaims as Mulder passes out. When he comes to, the vampire’s looming over him but Scully arrives just in time. The boy is shot twice but it has no effect, and then he flies over the bed and out the door.

There is some disagreement as to whether or not the boy took off like a “flying squirrel.”

Mulder, now assured his vampire theory is correct, quickly fashions a stake from a chair. Chasing the vampire over “hill and dale”, he catches and stakes him.

Of note here: Mulder is so totally the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. It’s a miracle he’s ever accomplished anything in the face of Scully’s BLATANT and haughty derision. See the way he didn’t jump to any rash conclusions in the face of miniscule evidence AND took the time to hear her out before suggesting what their next steps should be? What a great guy.

(If ever there was any doubt that Mulder’s mental age is 12, let’s casually compare his view of Hartwell with Scully’s. Cos it isn’t enough to make your crush’s crush unattractive, they have to be utterly shambolic.)

One thing I did like here: the added detail about vampire myths and lore. Mulder has such an abundance of information swimming about his head that I think he forgets he doesn’t always say all of it out loud. He must feel like the unappreciated scholar as he beds down each night in a sea of unrecognised urban myths.

CODA: Skinner and the perennial facepalm

“I was drugged!” yells Mulder, the second Skinner summons them (source of this glorious .gif: as above!). He might have taken Scully’s advice to emphasise the drugging a little too seriously. She also adjusted his tie.

Skinner looks at him quizzically and sighs. Go back to Texas, he orders them. The pizza boy has disappeared and the coroner’s throat was bitten. Or, well, “gnawed on”, Skinner says, furrowing his beautiful brow. Thankfully, the coroner is still alive.

They head back to the cemetery in Chaney. Mulder explains that vampires have to sleep in their native soil. The fangs aren’t part of folklore and more an invention of Bram Stoker. Agreeing with Scully for once, he says the killer has probably seen too many movies. Scully notes that there was no home address for the family who intended to sue the FBI. Mulder remembers the trailer park and decides to check it out. He leaves Scully with Hartwell, who’s just rolled up to assist.

Scully and Hartwell chat about vampires in the car while enjoying a hot drink. Scully says that if they were real, they probably wouldn’t live up to their reputation as seductive charmers. Hartwell nods, saying Ronnie (the pizza boy) makes them all look bad. After all, he says, they pay taxes and are good neighbours. A penny starts to fall into place for Dana just as she becomes woozy and passes out. Uh-oh.

Mulder finds a coffin in one of the RVs at the trailer park. “Hello”, he says, though it sounds uncannily like “hell no”. Ronnie’s inside, napping with headphones on. Mulder climbs on top and shouts Miranda rights as Ronnie struggles wildly from inside. Other vampires are gathering outside. Mulder locks the coffin with handcuffs and takes two breadsticks. He uses these to form a cross in an attempt to ward off the gathering horde. Unfortunately Fox, pet, that has to be a crucifix. The vampires set upon Mulder and his cries of “oh no!” are lost to the night.

The next morning, he comes to with his legs hanging out a car window. Scully is outside, wearing the sheriff’s jacket. Neither neck exhibits signs of fangs, but Mulder’s shoelaces are untied. The trailer park is empty.

Back in DC, they report to Skinner. “They pulled up stakes,” Mulder says gloomily. There’s no trace of where they went. Both our heroes point out that they cannot confirm or deny those events which occurred outside their presence. “Anyway,” Mulder adds, “I was drugged.”

I trust no one minds the added detail on this episode. What an absolute delight. And so deliciously illuminating about how our heroes see themselves and one another. It is profoundly heartwarming to see how loving their view of each other is, even if Mulder thinks Scully’s impatient and dismissive and Scully thinks he’s an overbearing idiot. My little shipper heart just swelled three sizes. The atmosphere and writing in this was just exceptional, mixing comedic horror with urban dread and giving both our heroes room to shine.

I would have loved if the final bit was told from Skinner’s point of view, actually. Imagine how staid and uneventful it’d be. The entire thing would be recounted in single-syllable terms and the local sheriff would just growl irritably. It’d probably turn out to have been some high schoolers up to no good, cos in my head Skinner’s a grouchy principal who’s just too old for this shit.

I love this show.

Patient X

WELL IF IT ISN’T ALEX “ABSOLUTE FAILURE” KRYCEK.

Man.

I am a traitorous sell-out, you guys. Remember when I thought he was a worm? A cockroach? A cretin? An evil double-dealing bastard who didn’t deserve to breathe oxygen at all, let alone share it with our heroes?

Lord be with the days. When I saw his name on the credits for this, I cheered. I actually cheered. And when he and Covarrubias started banging on a rusty ship for absolutely no reason, I even SHRIEKED.

This is how you know the show’s getting to you.

Latest mytharc episode! I’m so happy. When I’m finished this show entirely, I’m going to do a rewatch using only the mytharc eps. I wonder how they fare when they’re all played out together.

A small town in Kazakhstan is burned up after strange lights appear in the sky. Two local boys witness it, but only one survives. The next day, a clean-up crew arrives from the UN with Covarrubias at the helm. Everyone’s very distressed. Krycek, fancying himself a freedom fighter, captures the boy. He and his band of loopers approach Covarrubias. He says everything’s going to hell, and she can tell the ~people she works for to kiss his “American” ass. Chortle. Why bring nationality into it, babe? Isn’t Nicholas Lea Canadian? Are you implying her overlords aren’t American? What’s your damage? Would you like to sign my petition protesting the four-country membership of the MCU’s “World” Security Council?

We haven’t seen Covarrubias since learning she’s working for the vague yet menacing government agency (I’m going to acronym this from here on out: VYMGA) so I appreciated this little nod. It’s even funnier when you later find out she and Alex are supposedly [blank stare] involved.

Back in the US, Mulder is blowing minds left right and centre by adopting SKEPTICISM. A supposed repeat abductee named Cassandra Spender is being discussed at a conference, but Mulder thinks she’s nuts and it’s all a pile of claptrap. The government are using little green men as smoke and mirrors, he says, and covering up evidence of chemical weaponry. Sharp intakes of breath are felt all over the room. After the conference, he’s approached by his former hypnotist, Dr. Werber. Werber is treating Cassandra and wants Mulder to come and meet her. He reluctantly does so, but mainly so he can tell her that what she believes is a pile of rubbish. Cassandra mentions Duane Barry (speaking of Ratboy) and says there’s a war brewing between different alien factions. She asks Mulder to do something about it. Mulder refuses, encourages her to get out and start living her life, and departs.

In Tunguska (heyyy old friend), Krycek’s beaten some info out of the poor teenager he captured. He does not disclose this info to his comrades. Instead, the teenager is subjected to the black goo test last seen being used on Mulder. When the test is done, Krycek takes the boy and a vial of mysterious liquid and jumps aboard a ship bound for the US. He’s sewn the boy’s eyes and lips shut (either that or the test caused it). This is, incidentally, exactly what the aliens who burned up the Kazakh village looked like.

In New York, Covarrubias reports to the VYMGA. She says they’ve never seen anything like what happened at the Kazakh site. They recovered implants from the scene. The WMM says it was a staging for a group abduction. The group argues about the aliens’ “timetable”, because this is all happening 15 years too early apparently. Covarrubias mentions that Alex was at the site and right on schedule, he places a call. The WMM answers. Krycek demands the vaccine against the black goo in exchange for the boy.

In DC, Scully comes to the office. She was approached by an Agent Spender, son of Cassandra, who asked for her help in ensuring his mum’s notions aren’t acted upon. To her surprise, Scully finds that Mulder isn’t remotely interested in doing so. He says he’s had his head up his rear end for five years and she wonders aloud if her work in the X-Files is done. Scully takes Cassandra’s file and looks over it. She was abducted from Skyland Mountain, which is where Scully was taken. Cassandra also has an implant in her neck. Bizarrely, Scully begins to take this case more seriously than Mulder. It’s very disconcerting to see.

She goes to see Cassandra herself. Cassandra recognises her and asks if she’s feeling “it” too—a longing to be somewhere. Scully, visibly uncomfortable, warns her not to remove the implant in her neck. Cassandra says she never would, as she wants to go to wherever it is the aliens are bringing them.

A group of abductees roll up at Skyland Mountain and are, sadly, incinerated. The original alien bounty hunter appears to be one of the killers. Our heroes arrive to check the scene the next day. Mulder looks everything over and declares he’ll find an EXPLANATION for all this, not a theory. The VYMGA are looking on and feeling the heat. (Pardon that.) The WMM says they’ll have to put a stop to this before the “colonists intervene.” Colour me intrigued.

Mulder and Scully go to see Cassandra. She’s upset, saying she knew the victims at Skyland Mountain and that none of this should be happening yet. Scully notices fingermarks on the window, forming what appears to be the shape of a constellation. Agent Spender appears. Mulder assures him they’re not following up any of Cassandra’s claims and only came to see her at her own request.

Krycek’s ship docks in a New York harbour. Covarrubias shows up and they inexplicably start mauling each other, so that’s a thing.

I really don’t think riding on that ship would be sanitary. They talk briefly about ruling the world and bringing the VYMGA to its knees and then head off to get cosy elsewhere. The mutilated teenager Krycek hauled over from Kazahkstan, meanwhile, is left lying in the cold. A short while later, Alex returns, feeling triumphant. [“Saturday Night Fever” playing in the distance] The boy has gone. Alex no longer feels triumphant. The WMM appears, gun in hand, and asks where he is.

Scully comes to the office the next day, after a night of disturbed sleep. She woke in the middle of the night to see a constellation like the one on Cassandra’s window. The scene was quite BSG-esque and featured some subtle, if leading, mystical music. I’m intrigued and concerned all at once. At the office, Mulder has forensics from the incident at Skyland Mountain. The records show that all the victims had implants. Mulder believes that the government used the implants to trigger a group response, essentially leading the victims to their deaths. Scully slowly, carefully, and with palpable difficulty suggests that he shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Cassandra’s words. Mulder has the good grace to nod respectfully, though I’m not entirely sure he’s taking all this on board. Scully is so clearly distressed by it all that I think he could take time out of his newfound crusade of rationality to think about how it’s affecting her. She was kidnapped from that place, for heaven’s sake, and clearly feels an affinity for the victims. A bit of sensitivity wouldn’t go amiss.

It’s in the frakkin’ window

Covarrubias calls Mulder. She tells him about the Kazakhstan incident and it’s revealed that she has the boy from the ship. Nicely played, Marita! Midway through the call however, the boy comes to and attacks her. There’s goo and grossness. Mulder turns to find Scully gone, then makes his way to Covarrubias’ location to find that she is also gone. The phone is hanging off the hook.

Unable to reach Scully, Mulder calls Cassandra’s hospice. Spender tells him Cassandra is missing. It turns out that both Cassandra and Scully have come to a bridge near a dam, joining a bunch of other abductees. (Cassandra was delivered there by an envoy from the VYMGA. Bunch of charmers.) The Kazakh boy is also there. Lights begin to appear in the sky overhead, captivating the crowd, when suddenly the haze is interrupted by a scream. Aliens (possibly bounty hunters) have arrived and the crowd are being set alight.

Cliffhanger.

I love great mytharc episodes, and this was one. It’s kind of astonishing to see how quickly Mulder’s turned to the Light Side, but it does make sense given everything they’ve discovered this season. His reaction seems arbitrary in one sense but it is in keeping with his tendency to immediately jump to one conclusion and slave away at it. I’m more intrigued, however, at how all of this will affect Scully. It is profoundly strange to see her warily suggest aliens might be afoot when he’s blaming it all on shady government forces. Gillian does a wonderful job here of conveying how torn Scully is. It’s so completely unlike her to forego the scientific explanation but it’s clear that something’s eating her up inside. This is also the Scully who has difficulty accepting her own vulnerability and, indeed, showing any, so the way she almost forces herself to disagree with Mulder is painful to watch.

I have no idea what’s going on with the aliens, of course. Or if they even are aliens. The presence of aircraft in the sky would suggest as much but then why didn’t that craft do anything to stop the abductees being torched? The killers had strange faces—almost like their eyes and mouths were covered with skin—so I wonder if they’re members of the alien colony on Earth, attacking abductees to sabotage other alien experiments. It’d make sense given the way they all seem to be stabbing each other in the back, but I don’t quite get what the endgame is. Let’s see what happens in part 2.

Adieu for now, X-Philes!

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 Tumblr or catch her frequent TV liveblogs on Twitter.

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