A Graphical Review of The X-Files Season 1 Episode 2 – Deep Throat

Season 1 Episode 2 – Deep Throat (80.26/100)

Deep Throat is a much more effective introduction to The X-Files than The Pilot (which you can read my review for here).  The case involving the disappearance of an Air Force pilot, secret military experiments with alien technology and the subsequent investigation is more compelling.  The acting is much improved, the plot flows better, the music is great, and its genuinely exciting.  But hey, would you rather me be all vague and mysterious like the titular Deep Throat?  Or would you rather look at some fancy visuals?

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Mulder and Scully are easily entranced by fancy visuals

Overall Episode Review

SceneHist_S01E02
Histogram of Scene Scores.  X-axis is the score and Y-axis is the number of scenes with that score.
EpQual_S01E02
Graph of scene by scene scores over time. The length of the lines indicate the length of the scene (long scenes weigh more into final score than short scenes)
EpScore_S01E02
Graph of episode average score over time. Every point indicates the end of a scene and takes the average of every scene up to that point.

The episode is consistently strong with 25 out of 26 scenes scoring between 70 and 90.  And that one scene that falls out of that range?  That one scored a 100 as Deep Throat delivers something of a mission statement for the show.  So yeah, this is a good, consistent episode.

20190923090424330.JPEGThere are minor quibbles; maybe a shoddy early 90’s effect here and a ridiculously cheesy group of Men in Black there.  But surrounding that is a robust framework.  The teaser is quick-moving and dynamic and ends with the shocking sight of Colonel Budahas reduced to a quivering, half-naked mess covered in rashes. But it’s our introduction to Deep Throat at minute 5 that really gets the ball rolling.  We get hints that there’s a larger conspiracy involved with an ominous sense of danger.  His conversation with Mulder is well-acted and expands the world, helping bring the score up to 79.29.

From there, we launch into Mulder and Scully’s investigation into what happened to Colonel Budahas and its a major step-up from The Pilot.  Whereas that episode was marred by too many revelations, red herrings, creaky plot elements, and weird acting, this is smooth sailing.  The interview with Mrs. Budahas has a real sense of humanity to it, the “sucker” scene has some cute banter between our heroes, and the scene with Seth Green has some great lines, mixed with comic relief.  Thus, even though minutes 6-30 are not particularly action packed and are heavily focused on the investigation, the overall score only drops to 77.17.  That’s impressive in what would be considered the “slow” part of an episode.

It’s at approximately minute 31 that things really pick up steam.  The investigative portion is done and the remainder of the episode is about Mulder’s antics at Ellen’s Airbase.  This section of the episode scores mostly 80’s or 90’s and is a series of firsts.  Its the first time Mulder ditches Scully, its the first time Mulder shows his relentlessness when he trespasses onto a military installation, and its the first time Scully shows her feistiness by going all out to save the jackass who just ditched her because he didn’t get his way.  This 12 minute burst brings the score back up to 79.21. Then Deep Throat waltzes onto the track, says more (brilliantly) foreboding things, and  brings the final score up to 80.26.  Overall, there are no real dull moments–the first half scores slightly lower than the second half but it does a great job of setting up the tension of the second half.


Component Breakdown

The next four sections will look more into the specific components of the episode.  Here’s some definitions/explanations for these sections:

  • First chart in each section is a scatter plot which shows Prevalence (how often a component was in the episode) versus Quality (how good the component was)
  • Second chart in each section is a bar plot showing Impact Score, which is a combination of Prevalence and Quality and shows how much of the episode score was “impacted” by the item of interest.
  • Third chart in each section is a line plot showing Impact Score over time by component  which tells you when the component is present during the episode.
  • Guest Character Breakdown-
    • Govt/Military (gray) include the douche impersonating a reporter and the cheesy Men in Black
    • Villain (light blue) is the same douche mentioned above
    • Witnesses/Victims (green) includes Mr and Mrs. Budahas, the diner lady who plays Mulder for a sucker, and Seth Green and his girlfriend

 


 

Characters

 

CharScatter_S01E02
Prevalence vs Quality for characters with black dotted line indicating episode score. Little markers are subcategories of the big yellow marker.
CharBar_S01E02
Chart showing how much of the episode’s score each character impacts. The episode score is marked by the dashed line.
CharLine_S01E02
Impact plot of characters over time. Dotted lines are subcategories of the “Guest” category.  A higher slope means a better scoring scene.  The white line is the episode score over time.

Deep Throat is Mulder’s episode, as his Impact Score is 73.17 (out of a possible 80.26). Where he seemed like a bizarre weirdo in The Pilot, here he tones down some of his eccentricities and becomes a fully-formed protagonist.  Out goes the high-talking and overly smarmy attitude, in comes the traditional Mulder mumble and sardonic humor, all delivered with the David Duchovny charm.  He’s got a much better handle on his character which is a big reason his quality score is so high (80.31).  And after the teaser, he’s present for the rest of the episode (see in the line graph how Mulder’s line runs parallel with the episode score for most of the episode).  Even when he’s not physically in the scenes, he’s still the focus as its all about Scully finding him (minutes 33-40).  He finishes with a prevalence of 91.12%.

For the first half of the episode, Mulder’s investigative prowess is at the forefront.  We get empathetic Mulder during the first interview with Mrs. Budahas, we get charming Mulder when he schmoozes the lady at the diner, and we’ve got jokey Mulder when dealing with Seth Green.  And how about the scene where he deciphers what exactly is wrong with Colonel Budahas?  His “test” for Budahas’ knowledge on fighter jet maneuvers is a great example of how Mulder is a damn fine investigator.

And then in the second half, we are introduced to the self-centered, relentless/reckless version of Mulder.  It all starts when the blue line ditches the red line in the graph above, representing Mulder ditching Scully.  Then we get to witness him breaking into Ellens airbase, seeing a UFO, and getting summarily captured– and its all tense and exciting.  Duchovny is impressive as he switches gears between the two aspects of the character.  Mulder acts incredibly selfishly, keeping vital information from Scully that legitimately puts her in danger.  But its to Duchovny’s and Chris Carter’s credit that Mulder remains likable throughout.

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Mulder is definitely the type of guy who doesn’t cc Scully on important emails.

Scully takes a bit of a backseat to Mulder (79.43% Prevalence) but she’s still good at holding down the fort, earning a Quality Score of 78.22.  Like Duchovny, Gillian Anderson has a much better handle on Scully, though her improvements are more subtle.   She came off a bit childish in The Pilot but here, she seems a natural FBI agent as she gives a more mature and reserved performance.

We don’t get much explicit character development from Scully but we do get some great contextual stuff as we see how she reacts when shit gets real.  She goes above and beyond to save Mulder which becomes a recurring theme in the show.  Its fun to watch her kick ass and you get a real feel for her integrity.  Scully is all about doing what’s right.  And I absolutely love her shutting Mulder down at the end (“That’s enough Mulder!”).  She’s already gone out on a limb and broken so many rules on behalf of him even though he kind of treated her like an afterthought.  She juest doesn’t have the bandwidth for any more of his theories or ramblings.  She finishes up with an Impact Score of 62.14.

20190923091624524
I like to think that this is the look of a woman who is seriously considering shooting her partner.

But obviously, the biggest development here is the introduction to Deep Throat.  He’s only in two scenes (comprising 10.92% of the episode) but he’s what elevates this episode most.  Jerry Hardin has such an incredible presence and his interactions with Mulder are absolutely compelling.  He’s gives off the protective father vibe while also imbuing the world of The X-Files with a larger feeling of mystery.  Sure the Cigarette-Smoking-Man did that to an extent in The Pilot but he felt more like an abstract representation of the conspiracy.  Deep Throat feels like an actual character here.  His Impact Score is only 10.09 since he’s onscreen so little but his Quality Score is 92.42.  He’s the outlier in the scatter plot above and since he shares his scenes with Mulder, he’s partly responsible for elevating Mulder’s score as well.  He did say to Mulder that “he could be of some help to him” after all…

And finally, the guest characters are much better here than in The Pilot (49.02% Prevalence, 79.12 Quality Score, 38.79 Impact Score).  Everyone has a little nuance to them which I appreciate.  Gabrielle Rose is great in what could have been a thankless role as Mrs. Budahas.  She underplays the emotions of a distraught wife and gives provides the emotional backbone of the episode.  Meanwhile, Andrew Johnston as Colonel Budahas has a great back and forth with David Duchovny as Mulder sleuths out what happened to him.  (Johnston’s also good for hanging out in his underwear since he doubles down on this in Colony).   And Seth Green is fun here, pre-fame.  He and Duchovny play off each other well and his scenes add some humor.


 

Mulder and Scully 

MandsScatter_S01E02
Prevalence vs Quality for how scenes relate to Mulder and Scully with black dotted line indicating episode score.
MandsBar_S01E02
Chart showing how much of the episode’s score different combinations of Mulder and Scully impact. The episode score is marked by the dashed line.
MandsLine_S01E02
Impact plot over time of Mulder and Scully combinations.  A higher slope means a better scoring scene.  The white line is the episode score over time.

 

The time Mulder spends without Scully is put to good use in this episode (17.51% Prevalence, 90.44 Quality Score, 15.84 Impact).  From breaking into an airbase to witnessing UFO’s to having iconic exchanges with Deep Throat, Mulder is on the ball.  Really the only thing he fucks up is when he decides to run in a straight line away from the military goons after seeing the UFO.

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“Mr. Mulder, they’ve been here for a long, long time. Next time try running in different directions and you might remember seeing them.”

The other interesting point from the graphs above is how there are hardly any scenes without either of our dynamic duo.  There’s only one scene without them and that’s the teaser, which only accounts for 3.05% of the episode.  Obviously, this was the way to go because this early in the show’s run, it was essential to get to know Mulder and Scully but it will be fascinating to see how this changes as the episodes roll on.


 

Scene Categories

SceneScatter_S01E02
Prevalence vs Quality for various scene categories with black dotted line indicating episode score. Little markers are subcategories of large markers.
SceneBar_S01E02
Chart showing how much of the episode’s score each scene category impacts. The episode score is marked by the dashed line.
SceneLine_S01E02
Impact plot over time of scene categories. Dotted lines are subcategories. Solid lines are main categories. A higher slope means a better scoring scene.  The white line is the episode score over time.

Structurally, this episode is efficient.  Exposition scenes take up roughly 46.21% of the episode with nearly all of it occurring in the first 30 minutes.  There’s a very nice flow to the story; it never feels like we are just hearing exposition for the sake of moving the plot along.  These scenes finish with a Quality Score 81.24 and front-loading these scenes was a wise choice. It would have been diminishing returns had there been exposition still occurring in the second half.  Instead, things are freed up to focus on the drama…

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…once Mulder ditches one cute redhead for another.

During the last half of the episode, the drama is non-stop which is why the episode has a strong sense of building momentum. Overall, dramatic scenes (66.96% Prevalence, 81.44 Quality Score) end up with the highest Impact Score of 54.53.  Things finish action-heavy with the whole “Mulder gets captured and Scully has to rescue him” angle (27.84% Prevalence, 81.26 Quality Score, 22.62 Impact Score).

However, its the dramatic conversations peppered throughout the episode which really resonate for me (32.65%, 84.72 Quality Score, 27.66 Impact Score), particularly the ones involving Deep Throat.  Both are short and not very substantial in terms of plot, but damn they do a good job of making The X-Files world feel more lived in.  Action and tension is good and all but I watch The X-Files for the incredible writing which is what Deep Throat nails.

Character development is not a major focus though there is a decent amount of it (36.28% Prevalence, 84.63 Quality Score,  30.70 Impact Score).  What’s interesting is how little of it is related to Mulder and Scully (10.87% Prevalence).  No, instead we primarily focus on the incidental characters like Mrs. Budahas or Seth Green’s Emil, which helps add flavor to the story.  Mulder and Scully don’t really need much character development here; they had tons in The Pilot and here its just about reinforcing those developments.


 

X-Filey Components

CompScatter_S01E02
Chart showing prevalence and quality of various X-Files components. The episode score is marked by the dashed line.
CompBar_S01E02
Chart showing how much of the episode’s score each component impacts. The episode score is marked by the dashed line.
CompLine_S01E02
Impact plot over time of various X-Files components. A higher slope means a better scoring scene.  The white line is the episode score over time.

The scatter plot above shows how most of the major components are consistent in quality and have roughly the same prevalence.  Maybe the best thing Deep Throat does is this balancing act.  The investigation (41.54% Prevalence, 78.46 Quality Score, 32.59 Impact Score) into Colonel Budahas’ disappearance is well-paced but never out-stays its welcome (see how the green line mostly steadies out once we hit 25 minutes).  Once Mulder and Scully have exhausted their leads, the episode shifts into “Mulder and Scully in peril” mode.  These scenes (25.75% Prevalence, 81.03 Quality Score, 20.87 Impact Score) with Mulder in actual danger  and Scully scrambling to rescue him raise the stakes of the show much higher than they were in The Pilot.  In that episode, nearly all of the “danger” scenes were laughable and clunky but here, things feels more cinematic.  And that goes for the paranormal stuff as well  (35.52% Prevalence, 80.86 Quality, 28.72 Impact); sure the special effects are lacking in the “lights in the sky” scene but the scene where Mulder finds himself under the UFO spotlight is phenomenal.  And the episode finishes on one hell of a line.

And how about the banter?  That glorious rapport that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson nail so easily.  It’s here (20.66%, 78.81 Quality Score, 16.28 Impact Score) and, while its Quality Score isn’t super high, these moments are responsible for the smooth transitions from story element to story element.  They both just feel so lively here, debating theories but in a good-natured manner.  In particular, I love that scene after they drop off Emil and his girlfriend (“if you were that high, what?”).  I know people love their banter in The Pilot but for me, this conversation is what I think of as their first great back-and-forth debate in the show.  Really, the only element some fans may feel is lacking is the shipper stuff.  But you can find little stray flirty moments between them if you look hard enough…

20190922220213501
…like if you want to misinterpret this screenshot

And there you have it, my review for Deep Throat.  Stay tuned for my review of Squeeze coming soon!

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