Squeeze Rating: 80.71/100
During this re-watch of The X-Files, I’ve tried to get myself in the mindset of observing things critically and with less emotion. This has been tough because despite while I may be a statistician, I’m also an emotional train-wreck with a ton of pre-conceived biases, one of which is that I’ve always thought Squeeze was a tad overrated.
Well, this time boys and girls, I really buckled down and analyzed things. This meant putting aside some of my quibbles which have more to do with early-installment awkwardness than with the quality of the episode. I’m happy to report that watching it like this has revealed to me that Squeeze is a much better episode (Score of 80.71/100) than I’ve given it credit and that I was wrong.
However, admitting I was wrong was pretty brutal so I’d like you all to accept the rest of this statistical review as fact, even if it is completely based on one man’s opinion…
How Enjoyable Was Squeeze?
The graph above and the graph below show the same information in different ways – basically how much enjoyment I am getting from the episode over time. The graph above shows the score over time (so its increasing scene by scene, until it reaches its final score of 80.71). The graph below shows the average score at each moment (so at the very end, the average score will be 80.71 but prior to that, the average will fluctuate depending on the quality of the scenes up to that point).
Squeeze is a very entertaining episode that never comes close to losing my interest. We start fast with a perfect teaser showing The X-Files digging into the horror genre for the first time. The rest of the episode is solid but a bit slower as the score drifts between 78 and 85 for the entirety of the final 35 minutes. Every time things slow down though, we get a nice spike, courtesy of Jolly Ol’ Saint Tooms comin’ down the chimney and Mulder and Scully’s investigation of Tooms’ fancy digs, complete with a renovation for his custom-made bile nest! Other than some tiny issues (the scene where Mulder and Scully briefly go through the microfiche is really awkward in its direction and staging), the ebb and flow in the quality of the episode is very steady.
Episode Average Score Over Time
Episode Scene Construction
Squeeze finishes with a rating of 80.71 and manages to squeeze (wordplay!) in a nice balance of different scene types (character-development, dramatic, exposition, and tense). That balance can be seen by noting that all of those categories have final prevalence percentages between 38 and 44% (indicating how often those scenes are in the episode).
Exposition is handled pretty damn well seeing as this episode has a tons to explain. Not only is this the first monster of the week (MOTW) episode, which mandates some dialogue to make it clear to Scully that Mulder believes not just in aliens but in anything. This MOTW is also pretty complex, what with Eugene Victor Tooms’ (Doug Hutchison) ability to squeeze himself into all manners of small spaces, his incredible stretching regiment, his infactuation with livers, his need to hibernate every couple of decades, and the fact that said hibernation occurs in a bile nest. All of that needs to be explained for it to make sense and somehow, James Morgan and Glen Wong are able to parley that information efficiently without the dialogue sounding ridiculous. From minute 4 to 11, the prevalence of exposition scenes rises from 0 to ~40%. From that point on till the end of the episode, that prevalence percentage stays nice and steady between 35 and 50% . It never bogs itself down, despite having so much information to get across to the viewers which is good because it could have become information overload.
So how is the exposition handled so efficiently while maintaining a fairly high quality (Quality Score of 77.62)? Rather than have scenes solely dedicated to exposition, Squeeze mixes and matches the scenes. When Mulder explains to Scully how the historical murders predate Colton’s case, we also get some character-enhancing dialogue about our duo’s status quo. The sequence where Mulder and Scully learn about Detective Brigg’s own experiences with Tooms is mixed in with some drama. (This is a poor example because comparing one man eating a bunch of livers to the Holocaust may be dramatic but is also a tad overwrought). And how about that amazing scene at Tooms’ den? All of that exposition flying from Mulder’s mouth about his theories are enriched by the fact that Mulder and Scully just conducted a tense exploration of a dilapidated building. Squeeze doesn’t screech to a halt to tell its story; instead its included naturally throughout the episode…
The character work and the dramatic scenes score roughly the same (Quality Scores of 74.29 and 74.65, respectively) but have different prevalence patterns. Character Prevalence is at its highest early on at minute 7 (~55%) as we have some nice juicy character scenes with between Tom Colton and our heroes. The prevalence then drops to ~40% at 14 minutes in and maintains that approximate level for the rest of the episode (final prevalence of 38%). The episode is littered with character moments throughout, whether it be Colton insulting Mulder to his face after the interrogation of Tooms or Scully taking Colton down a notch once he shows his true colors. Its all well executed, save for that tacked on scene of the douche agents calling Mulder “Spooky” to his face.
Drama-wise, Squeeze only kicks into gear right around fourteen minutes in (the interrogation). Up to that point, we had been learning about the case, getting to know Tom Colton, and witnessing Tooms mimicking Pennywise from Stephen King’s It.
Its only when they capture Tooms that drama becomes a factor in the episode. Once its there, it steadily becomes more and more prevalent. We have Mulder and Scully butting heads with Colton and his cronies, we have our duo learning all about Tooms and his background, we have Mr. Grizzled Old Detective melodramatically comparing five murders to years of ethnic cleansing, and we end with the drama of witnessing Tooms eyeballing his potential means of escape. By the end of the episode, drama has the highest prevalence at 44% despite getting a late start. There are some quibbles…the direction when Mulder finds out Scully is in danger is pretty poor, the sequence with Mulder prancing around the garage during a stakeout undermines the drama in that moment, and our tone-deaf retired detective comparing Tooms to some of the worst atrocities committed by man doesn’t quite work.
Quality-wise, the tense scenes are where Squeeze really elevates its score (a Quality Score of 94.52). This episode proved right away that The X-Files could do horror effectively. Each of the scenes with Tooms stalking prospective victims is effective and creepily executed. Very few scenes in The Pilot and Deep Throat were solely dedicated to being scary which is something that Squeeze devotes plenty of time for. And like I mentioned above, that iconic scene of Mulder and Scully investigating Exeter Street is a great mix of exposition and tension. The episode starts with a very intense scene and from there on, the prevalence of these scenes oscillates between 30 and 45%, making sure the episode never loses that air of horror.
I touched on this above when talking about the prevalence of the tense scenes but the major thing that Squeeze does differently from the first two episodes is how it confidently diverts focus away from Mulder and Scully. Tooms (our MOTW in this episode) is the primary focus of the episode for 16 minutes and his scenes are either good or great based on my rating system. Mulder and Scully working together are only the focus for about 13 minutes (which again, goes to show you how efficient the exposition was since much of the exposition occurs in those scenes). Scully does get 9 minutes to herself as we see her schmoozing with her old buds and watch her get attacked by Tooms. Mulder on the other hand has only a stupid throwaway scene where the asshole agents call him names and snicker like schoolgirls. But the main takeaway here is I think Chris Carter and co. began to recognize the potential in focusing on other characters.
Focusing on characters other than Mulder and Scully is a major reason why the Guest Characters end up with a Prevalence Percentage of 78%. Focus is just one component though…the strength of the writing and acting is what brings the Quality Score up to 82.82 (higher than Mulder and Scully). As you can see below, the Guest Characters contribute to the episode almost the same amount as Scully throughout the entire duration.
Obviously the major guest character is the amazing Eugene Victor Tooms (played by the less amazing Doug Hutchison) but I’ll talk about him more later in the MOTW section. Lets move onto Tom Colton, played by Donald Logue.
Colton is a good example of how to introduce a character from Mulder and Scully’s past without it seeming clumsy (see Ghost in the Machine, Lazarus, Young at Heart for bad examples). He’s a self-important, mean-spirited smarmy piece of shit but through him, we get a front-row view to how Mulder is viewed by most of his peers. Colton is everything Mulder isn’t…he takes shortcuts, he refuses to think outside of the box (then again Mulder refuses to think inside of the box) and all he cares about is getting to the top. Mulder may be arrogant and self-righteous but he won’t back-stab people left and right like Colton.
We learn much about who Dana Scully is in this episode through Scully’s interactions with both Colton and Mulder. Like the Pilot, Squeeze is more focused on Scully (83% prevalence) and her development than on Mulder (69%). During minutes 3-12, we are with Scully for her lunch with Colton and get to see her working with the Violent Crimes group. Mulder only shows up periodically during this time.
During those scenes, Scully gives off the vibe of an ambitious woman trying to impress others. She’s a bit on edge whenever Colton or others bring up her work on The X-Files. Not that that’s wrong of Scully…just its a huge difference from how she behaves around Mulder. However, once they are working on the case, she’s not afraid to back Mulder’s bizarre theories. While she’s still ambitious, her true character shines through. She’s siding with Mulder not because its Mulder but because she’s on “the victims'” side as she points out to Colton. She’s not going to tow the company line just to save face Scully is great here (Quality Score of 79.94).
Mulder is good as well but I have some minor issues with David Duchovny’s performance here. Duchovny still sounds overly smarmy and silly when delivering his smart-ass comments (“whats wrong Colton, you afraid I’m going to solve your case” is a bad mix of delivery and poor dubbing). His sarcasm becomes more nuanced in the next couple episodes but here, its still a bit off. For that (and the idiotic scene that has Mulder running around Scully’s stakeout in a plaid shirt and jeans eating sunflower seeds for no reason other than to be in the scene), Mulder’s Quality Score is slightly lower (75.24). Where I think Duchovny shines (and Gillian Anderson too…I didn’t forget about her) is during his interactions with Scully. In my opinion, this is the episode that solidifies Mulder’s trust in Scully. Sure she saved his ass in Deep Throat and he bared his soul to her in The Pilot but its in Squeeze where I think Mulder begins to truly admire her integrity. He even gives her an out to go work with Colton and his crew (knowing that The X-Files are likely a dead-end for her) but she sticks doggedly by his side because its the right thing to do. Good developments abound in this episode, which is another reason Squeeze is such a successful episode.
What Makes The X-Files The X-Files?
So this episode is surprisingly ambitious. I mentioned it earlier but its pretty brave to switch up from the alien focus to a more broader horror focus. And I mean BROAD! I mean how many afflictions does Tooms freakin’ have? He’s unnaturally flexible, can stretch and pop his joints like nobody’s business, can fit into the tiniest spaces, is over a century old, and is apparently a magician who can snatch Scully’s plot device necklace without two highly trained FBI Agents noticing. No wonder all of that stuff leads to a Paranormal Prevalence Percentage of 46%.
And how about Doug Hutchison as Tooms? Lets forget for a moment what a creep he is in real life. He’s absolutely terrifying in this episode and a phenomenal first MOTW for the show (Quality Score of 87.83). Everything about his presence is unsettling from his dead-eyed stare to his tendency to mouth-breathe. Its a riveting performance and there is a genuine sense of dread associated with his character every time he’s on screen. And despite the clunkiness of how he snatches Scully’s pendant, that climax with him attacking Scully is horror-movie greatness (even if him flying out of the vent is a tad cheesy). Tooms is why this episode is as good as it is.
So why the difference between my Paranormal Ratings and MOTW Ratings? Only because there are some scenes prior early on where Mulder and Scully discuss the paranormality of the case without knowing anything about Tooms and the first time Tooms is seen by our agents, nothing paranormal happens.
Mulder & Scully Forever
So what do these graphs say about Mulder and Scully? Nothing really. Scully is in 83% of the episode and Mulder is in 69% of the episode but Mulder only has one scene without Scully and its super short (27 seconds just so we could get someone calling Mulder “Spooky”). That’s why the pink line (indicating whether either one of our lovable duo is present) is just a smidgen higher than Scully’s red line (in the graph below) and the purple line (indicating that both of our lovable duo is present) is just an iota lower than Mulder’s blue line. Clear? Well no matter, no one cares about these stats anyway. 🙂
The interesting bit is that this episode consists of 16% “no-Mulder-or-Scully” and those moments are close to perfect, hence the quality score of 100. It’s only ~six minutes but those minutes are devoted to the two scenes showing Tooms stalking and killing his victims. Both are incredibly scary sequences that work better than many horror movies. Its not an indictment on Mulder or Scully…just shows how good the horror scenes are.
And so we come to a close on another one of these epic reviews. Squeeze feels like The X-Files has really come into its own here in its third episode. Stay tuned for my review of Conduit to see how there are still plenty of growing pains to be experienced.