The X-Files: “Deep Throat”/ “Squeeze”
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The X-Files: “Deep Throat”/ “Squeeze”

"Deep Throat"
The first proper episode of The X-Files plays almost like an extension of the pilot. We have a new story, sure, but it continues the pilot's project of slowly immersing viewers in the series' shadowy world while we get to know our guides.

They're also still getting to know each other. Here Mulder and Scully continue the collegial sparring that will carry them through the upcoming seasons. There's also the suggestion of a deeper bond. From the beginning, creator Chris Carter provided catnip for those looking for hints of a romantic connection, not so much in the dialogue as in the body language and the framing. I'm putting this out there not so much because I want to dwell on it–I'm sure there are archives of old Usenet exchanges that take apart every scene for clues–but so I don't have to dwell on it. It's there and it's there from the start.

So far the series has been working through the greatest hits of UFO lore. Last week we had abductions for the purpose of some kind of presumably alien experiment. This week we have an Idaho-based Area 51 stand-in called Ellens Air Force Base, a military facility that's home to some sort of secret technological experiments. There is a real Area 51 in Nevada at Groom Lake that, like Ellens, doesn't show up on public maps. It's known to have been the home for experimental aircraft work and… who knows what else? It's provided a big, blank for the conspiracy-minded to fill as they see fit.

Here The X-Files, borrowing from a widely circulated theory fills it with aircraft reverse-engineered from alien technology.

And, as in a lot of UFO lore, it's the stoners who get to the truth first. Seth Green trails alongside Canadian stage and voice actress Lalainia Lindbjerg as a pair of sweet stoner kids who help Mulder access the base. Participating in a Random Roles column last year, Green admitted he'd never smoked pot when we played the part, making him an even better actor than I'd ever given him credit for.

A few important elements get established this time out. Whoever's behind the cover-ups, Scully's argument to the contrary, has the ability to selectively erase memories from the human brain. The evidence of all the pilots reappearing with their heads rewired bears this out, as do the memories seemingly taken from Mulder. That whole sequence is pretty key to establishing a sense of danger. After watching something horrible happen to a handful of unfortunates, we see it happen to one of the show's heroes. That revelation is preceded by an effectively staged scene in which a half-conscious Mulder is dragged through the base, one of the scariest moments from the series' early days, if as much for what it suggests as for what it shows. He's finally getting what he's been after all episode–most of his life, really–but he's helpless and he won't remember a thing. This might all be a losing game.

Fortunately, he has some allies, even if they tend to be a bit frustrating. The title comes from the character played by Jerry Hardin, a cryptic informant who knows more than Mulder about what's going on. Here he warns Mulder off the case, to no avail. In the future Mulder will learn to trust him, if only a little bit, but that will trust will come with the knowledge that the forces lined up against him are more formidable than he's ever imagined.

Grade: A-

Stray observations

- Did anyone else get a bitter, cold chill when Greeen's character made a reference to "Desert Storm II"?

- Key exchange:

Mulder: "They're here, aren't they?"

Deep Throat: Mr. Mulder they've been here for a long, long time."

- Jerry Hardin is Melora Hardin's dad. Who knew?

"Squeeze"
"Squeeze" is the first episode not related in some way to the overarching mythology of UFO's, abduction, and an alien plan to… well, we'll get to that later. The derisive term for these is "monster of the week" episodes, but that seems a little unfair to me if only because I like the idea of a show that brings a new monster each week to my television. In fact, when I first started watching The X-Files, it seemed like a much smarter version of the syndicated late-'80s semi-hit Friday The 13th: The Series, in which a Donald Pleasance lookalike, a bland lead, and a big-haired, mononymed actress billed as "Robey" had to track down cursed items stolen from an antique store. Their quests inevitably lead them to ghosts and werewolves and the like but, curiously, never anything related to the Friday The 13th film series..

But I digress. This is also the first episode written by Glenn Morgan and James Wong, a team who would be with the show off and on until 1997. In the first off period they created the short-lived series Space: Above And Beyond. Since then they're best known for the Final Destination movies. But don't hold that against them. The Wong/Morgan episodes provide some real highlights and Carter has frequently stated their importance on the production side of the show.

Here they spin a simple, grotesque idea into an hour's worth of scares. A younger, thinner, pre-fame Donal Logue provides our point of entry playing a skeptical old classmate of Scully who brings her in to investigate a strange murder in Baltimore. It's essentially a locked-door mystery: A man has died a horrific death that's left him liverless in a seemingly inviolate office building. The only clue: a fingerprint whose proportions are stretched beyond normal human length. Also, it turns out he's not the only body to turn up sans liver.

A babyfaced suspect turns up in the form of Eugene Tooms (Doug Hutchison, in the part that would launch as a go-to character actor for creep parts). But given that Mulder's best theories place the same man at the scene of similar crimes stretching back in 30-year cycles to 1903, he proves tough to pin down. He's tough to pin in other ways as well. Those elongated fingerprints are part of a mutation that allows Tooms to Silly Putty his way into and out of tight spaces, including Scully's apartment.

That's the scene that makes the episode. This is, if I'm not mistaken, our first glance at Scully's home, a tasteful little space decorated in a style of domestic placidity that she can aspire to but never attain. One reason: Blankly staring mutant beasts squeezing into the tight spaces and trying to steal her liver. And almost succeeding. While even the dullest viewer is unlikely to think the show will kill off one of its leads three episodes in, but there's a real sense of peril to the staging. The show's generally good at that.

We'll see Tooms again before the season's through. We won't see Logue's character, however, but he serves his part, his break with Scully tethering another thread between her career and the rest of the FBI. That's about to fray some more.

Grade: A-

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