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

Pointless Review

The Pilot introduced the world to The X-Files and did a great job of nailing the show’s identity right away.  For that I am eternally grateful; enough that I have written four (!) separate reviews of that episode on this blog.  Granted that has less to do with the episode and more to do with me being neurotic but the fact remains…four reviews!

But while it was an effective introduction to The X-Files, I’ve never thought it fares as well as an episode of television.  Too many clunky lines and clumsy plot elements.  That’s where Deep Throat swoops in and saves the day.

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“This episode is called Deep Throat you say?”

It starts with a streamlined plot.  Whereas The Pilot felt like ideas heaped upon ideas which ended up not completely coalescing, Deep Throat’s plot is a bit more straight-line, focusing more on a military kidnapping and cover-up than alien abduction mythology.  There is still a fair amount of alien stuff; after all this is the episode where Mulder stands directly underneath a stealth plane built from U.F.O. technology.  But the overt paranormal aspect takes somewhat of a backseat to being a thrill-ride.  Its less atmospheric than its predecessor, but it’s more propulsive, particularly in the second half.  Helicopter chases,  trespassing on military property, and hostage exchanges are all included on this trip to Ellen’s Airbase for Mulder and Scully.  It sure feels like one of Chris Carter’s goals with this episode was to put Mulder and Scully into actual danger…

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…while also having them stop to lollygag at poorly executed light shows.

With that danger comes an underlying feeling of tension which begins with Mulder’s encounter with Deep Throat in the bathroom.  We’d already gotten shadowy government figures in The Pilot  but CSM’s presence there felt more like a vague depiction of paranoia and menace.  Deep Throat is presented here as a more tangible character who explicitly states that Mulder and Scully are in danger.  Granted that underlying tension kind of recedes for the first half of the episode but during the second half, its there front and center.

And how about Deep Throat himself?  In his short screen time, you don’t know if he’s really on Mulder’s side and he makes it clear that their relationship has to be mutually beneficial or it’s not gonna happen.  Despite that, Jerry Hardin really gives off the vibe of a world-weary but benevolent father figure and you get the sense that he’s a key ally.  His presence makes the world feel larger while also allowing Mulder’s character to step out a bit and be less one-note than he was in The Pilot  (The Pilot was mostly from Scully’s point of view).  Plus Deep Throat is responsible for one of the most iconic lines in the show’s history.

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“Mr. Mulder, X-Files reviews are going to be around for a long, long time.”

Both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson seem to have overcome some rookie jitters and feel much more like themselves here.  Mulder ain’t high-talking his way around Ore-gone and Scully isn’t stripping down and guffawing in the rain.  Instead, we’ve got a mix of investigative back and forth, some flirty/friendly ribbing, and one fierce debate in a motel room.  And both Duchovny and Anderson nail each of these scenes, particularly the conversation in the car after their close encounter with Seth Green.  Whenever I watch that scene, it feels like both actors are realizing in that moment just how incredible their chemistry is.  There’s a sense of energy to the interactions and while they are arguing two completely different sides, they are clearly having a hell of a time.   Mulder and Scully feel better realized here.

This episode is also where some of their more defining characteristics are first encountered.  I mean, you can’t mention the name “Fox Mulder” without mentioning how he is sometimes an egotistical man-child, a beautiful asshole who is born here in Deep Throat.  This is the first time he ditches Scully and its a doozy;  usually his ditches are more passive.  Like he will up and head to Hong Kong without telling her till the last second but only because he’s so focused on what he’s pursuing.  It usually isn’t intentional.   But here, its a completely active ditch.  He doesn’t even wait to make sure Scully doesn’t notice him; nope Mr. Grumpy Pants just peels out of the parking lot like an immature teenager.  This is the Fox Mulder version of goose stepping up the stairs when your parents tell you to do your chores.

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Mulder is always embarrassed when his Scully confronts his bully

Scully, bless her soul, doesn’t abandon Mulder’s quest right then and instead goes above and beyond to save him.  Loyalty, empathy, and a desire to do what’s right; these are trademarks of Dana Scully.   I love this aspect of Scully’s character.  She is rightfully pissed at Mulder (which I think is part of the reason she snaps at him at the end when standing on the Budahas stoop) but that’s not going to stop her from doing what’s right, which in this case is pulling a gun on a military goon and arranging to exchange him for Mulder.  

One thing that is interesting — this is the first episode where we have Mulder and Scully split up during the investigation.  The show would perfect this formula later on (I believe The Erlenmeyer Flask is the first time where they are pursuing the investigation from each of their areas of expertise) but I wonder if this was a purposeful decision by Carter and the rest of the creative team.  It is a nice change of pace after 1.5 episodes of them working everything together.

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Mulder trades one sexy redhead for another

Outside of our dysfunctional duo, the guest characters are far more interesting than in The Pilot.  Seth Green and Lalainia Lindbjerg are fun as the stoner kids, bringing charisma and energy to what could have wound up being somewhat forgettable scenes.  (Also, their dialogue enables some of the most amusing Mulder and Scully facial expressions you’ll see outside of the blooper reels.)  Elsewhere, Gabriella Rose and Andrew Johnston are convincing as Anita and Robert Budahas.  Rose, in particular, really makes you feel like her life has been upended by this tragedy (though I always find it amusing that when her husband is returned and has had his brain re-wired, rather than be sympathetic towards him and work through their issues by communicating, she resorts to just telling the FBI “that is not my husband”).

And finally, the biggest reason I enjoy Deep Throat?  It just feels refined and sleek–almost like it could fit into a later season.  As someone who ended his X-Files virginity during Season 4, I tend to gravitate towards the slicker episodes and the aesthetic improvement from The Pilot to Deep Throat  is pretty stark.  The cinematography is stronger, the pacing is better, and everything feels more confident. And I can’t leave this review without mentioning Mark Snow’s work.  Yes the main theme is introduced here and it’s iconic but for me, it’s all about that Deep Throat theme baby!  ( I also can’t leave this review without  providing graphs…if you find yourself bored looking at them, just hum that music and trust me, they will immediately become more enjoyable and atmospheric.)

FINAL SCORE:  81.55/100


Pointless Graphs

Scores Over Time

The first graph in this section shows each scene’s Quality Score.  A short horizontal line means a short scene, long horizontal lines mean long scenes, and the higher the score, the better the scene.
The second graph in this section shows the average score of the episode at every scene change.  Each point averages the score up to that scene.  That graph shows a rough simulation of my overall “enjoyment” of the episode over time.

 

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Prevalence Over Time

These graphs show how often different characters or components have been present or mentioned in the episode.

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Prevalence vs Quality and Impact Charts

The scatter plot shows the Quality Score of each character or component (how good they were in this episode) on the y-axis and the Prevalence Percentage (how often they were in the episode) on the x-axis.  The Prevalence Percentage will match the final Prevalence Percentage in the line charts above.  The dashed line shows the episode score.
The bar graphs display Impact Scores for each component or character.  Impact Score is calculated by combining the Quality and Prevalence from the scatter plot.  If an episode scored a 70 and a character had an Impact Score of 50, they impacted 50/70 of the episode’s final score.  Impact Score tells you how much of an Impact a certain character or component had on the episode.  The dashed line shows the episode score.

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Impact Chart Over Time

The line graphs show the Impact over time for the episode and different characters and components.  Impact is calculated for each scene by combining the Quality Score of that scene with what proportion of the episode’s duration that scene occupies.  The final Impact Score in white is the final episode score.  The final Impact Score for each character or component matches the Impact Score in the bar graphs above.

CharImp_S01E02MSImp_S01E02SceneImp_S01E02CompImp_S01E02

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