harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

X-Files reviewed: S1, E12


The X-Files
Season 1, Ep 12


Writers: Chris Carter
DIR: Larry Shaw

Blurb: Mulder and Scully join forces with an inspector from Scotland Yard when a man with pyrokinetic powers stalks members of the British aristocracy.

My Blurb: Just an FYI that in addition to the usual spoilers for the whole episode, this review contains semi-graphic screencaps of burn injuries, for those so affected.

Scene 01: We open in Bosham, England at a country house with a gardner and a chauffer seeing to their tasks. An older gentleman kisses his wife goodbye in the drive as he sets to leave for London (for, as we know - London is the only city that England has).

Our upper crusty dude gives a morning greeting to the workman, one of which is Cecil.

As our gentleman is waving back at wife, Cecil is staring hard at Upper-Crusty, and suddenly the man's arm lights on fire!

Everyone tries to get to him to put him out, but Cecil, who is smiling to himself. Upper-Crusty goes from waving his arm to screaming as he's fully engulfed.

Commentary: So, first, the pre-bonfire acting was pretty awkward. But then came the pyro-effects, and that was pretty awesome. That stunt man gets a way-big kudo because that fire on him was awfully intense looking. But then we had to go out on Mark Sheppard smirking his way through, "I'm the bad guy, folks. Am I the pyrokinetic? This is X-Files, maybe an alien did it. But I'm definitely an oily, smirky bad guy," which felt way too hammy, despite his not actually doing more than sitting and smirking.

So, what I'm saying is, I wanted to enjoy the opening because of that stuntguy but the rest of the scene was too ham-handed.

Scene 02: Back in Washington, Mulder and Scully are leaving court, where they were witnesses against a common-FBI criminal. Scully is feeling wiped, and Mulder jokes that the upside to hunting down aliens and genetic mutants is that there is so rarely a trial.

They get into Mulder's car, but something is odd, because he feels for sure that he had locked it, but now it isn't. Scully joshes him that it must be an X-File, and they laugh it off.

But in the car now, Dana sees a cassette tape left on the dashboard.

The tape is of a Brit woman, who goes on to describe a situation that mirrors Fox and Dana's current where a British Minister found himself in a car playing a mysterious cassette, and triggering a bomb which blew him to pieces. Fox and Dana realize that they could be sitting on a bomb!

Just as you can see them realize their critical danger, Mulder's door flies open, startling a gasp from Dana... but the car doesn't blow up. Instead, Mulder is met by the face of said Brit woman on the tape, and she has a huge smile as she tells him that he's looking rather ghostly.

This is Phoebe Green. A blast from the past, and a rather cruel practical joker it appears.

Scene 03: Mulder gets out of the car to talk to Phoebe, and she accuses him of having left his sense of humor at Oxford ten years ago [Oh. That line is only slightly better than "As you know..."].

Mulder replies that his sense of humor is intact, and is one of the few things that she didn't drive a stake through, hinting at a past romance come to an end.

Dana has gotten herself together, and now gets out of the car as well. She's just in time to see Green pucker up on the side of Fox's mouth and flirt with him.

Phoebe Green works for Scotland Yard. Phoebe judges and whispers to Mulder that Dana already hates her, by her overly chipper 'hello', which did cause Fox to double-take at her, so it was very obvs a fake-friendly greeting.

[And really, who wouldn't have not been immediately won over by Phoebe's terrorist bomb/death threat joke?]

Scene 04: Inspector Green isn't only there to pretend murder Fox though. She's come because of the very unusual case of Upper-Crusty getting burnt.  [HAH-hah-hah-hah! Oh, c'mon, readers - give me that one.]

Later she shares photos of the remains for Mulder's opinion. She shares that our latest roman candle wasn't the first victim, that their serial only uses fire, that he sends love letters to the wives of his victims, and that somehow he has never left a crumb of evidence to trace behind.

The latest victim only barely escaped from a garage fire. In order to keep him out of harms way, he was convinced to visit Cape Cod in the States until they catch their arsonist. But in the meantime, she dropped by D.C. to see if she could intrigue Fox enough to take a closer look at their firebug.

Mulder offers to run it by the FBI's arson specialist, and Phoebe thanks him, but still does the intense, flirty gaze into his eyes - though he appears to be trying to not fall for it.

Commentary: Um. Okay. This scene has some issues. They're not serious, but obvs they struck me enough to add a comment about it. There is something really weird with Mulder's old squeeze and I don't think it's deliberate, but is the directing and acting combined. Phoebe just comes across as too much - and in-universe I do think that is deliberate. This is someone that Fox fell for, and then was dropped like a casual fling, so I can see that everyone is trying to give the Green character an intensity to explain why Fox Mulder might've been so wrapped up in her. But it isn't quite working -- it's just a bit too overacted, overenunciated & then you have the camera with the intense close-ups on Amanda Pays' face to drive the point home. One or the other would've worked, I think. Either giving us some space but having Phoebe be intense or get close, but have Amanda pull back a bit on the DRAMATIC ACTING.

The two of these things working together though just makes the scene feel awkward.

Scene 05: After Inspector Green leaves, Scully needles Mulder about how much influence the woman has over him, still. But he plays it off as he only extending a professional courtesy to a colleague.

Scully naturally doesn't buy-in.

Scene 06: Later, Fox is going through slides with the arson expert, who is - of course - an eccentric.

He describes the flames as a work of art, and generally leaves the impression that one day he'll break, and be the firebug himself.

Phoebe is there as well, and intrigues the arson investigator with her insistence that the mode of ignition remains completely mysterious, with no trace of accelerant ever located.

The arsonist can only guess at a fuel source similar to rocket fuel, which burns so intensely that there isn't anything left to find when it's done burning.

In the meanwhile, Dana has slipped into the back of the room to observe.

But, no. Fox - in fact - does not just thank the investigator and ponder quietly. Instead, he immediately brings up a pyrokinetic, which he speaks of as if this has been a proved power in some people.

The investigator is surprisingly willing to consider it as a mental exercise, but tells Mulder that he's never seen fire do anything that can't be explained by physics.

Scene 07: Meanwhile, on Cape Cod, a handyman is painting a room. Painting with rocket fuel in fact. Our target-who-escaped is driven up the drive in a limo, from which exits himself, his wife, and his two adorable sons for extra pathos.

Our painter's face stays hidden for an inordinate amount of time as his voice welcomes Sir Malcolm to America and uses his pyro gift to light the tip of The Evil Cigarette of Villainy. We swing around to stare into the face [too close, too close] of our evil gardner/now handyman.

He gives us a few extra squints of evildom to make sure we understand that good people don't paint other people's rooms with rocket fuel.

[How exactly he got a can of rocket fuel, I would hope gets some explanation.]

Commentary: Apparently, our theme this episode is "Heavy Handedness And Its Over-Use".

Scene 08: Our politico comes into the large house on the cape, as our pyro is coming down the stairs with his can of paint/rocket fuel. Our pyro has lost his Irish lilt to play Bob the Handyman just sprucing things up a bit for them. This is a rental, so the family has never been and he's just so helpful.

[And nobody questions painting a room as the guests are arriving, despite the family exchanging emails with Bob and arranging this stay. And rocket fuel is remarkably lightly scented and can be easily mistaken for regular paint, which is a nice tidbit to carry around with you - in case you're a pyro yourself.]

In the hallway, Sir Malcolm and his wife are caught up short by a painting on the wall that has a semi-resemblance to her.

Scene 09: Outdoors, the kids are kicking around a soccer ball as Handyman Bob/Pyro-Psycho heads for his van. He gives oily smile in their direction.

Evil Bob sees the kids' whiny little mutt digging under a tree. He wanders over. Whiny little mutt is given a kick. It barks at Kicking Bob. Bob mutters threats of violence toward whiny little mutt, and we see that it was digging up the hand of former Caretaker Real-Bob.

Evil Bob refrains from setting whiny little mutt on fire. [And apparently holds little concern for the half-assed hiding of Real-Bob, or that whiny little mutt probably won't be put off for long from worrying at Real-Bob's fingers as soon as Evil Bob wanders away.]

Commentary: This scene is just stupid. What the hell was up with pointing out that Real Bob was replaced with Evil Bob, when we already know that Evil Bob must be playing at handyman to get close to the family?

What is this adding? Except the problem of introducing a dog digging up evidence of the psycho's presence, but the going on as if the mutt digging up a dead body isn't enough of a reason for whiny, little mutt's immediate demise. But we have scene after scene later, where nobody is acting as if whiny, little mutt is dead or missing, making this a small plot hole and an extra pointless one.

Scene 10: Back in Mulder's office, Scully has slipped back and is reviewing a file at his desk.

Dana asks if they're on the case, and Mulder says that he is, but she's not. This takes her a bit aback, and he tells her that he's not dragging her through Phoebe's mindgames. Scully is understandably confused, and Fox admits to her that he hates fire. He's deathly afraid of it, which is part of the reason that Inspector Green made a special trip just to drag him into this case.

Fox tells Dana that as a kid, his best friend's house burned down and he spent the night in the ruins to keep away looters. He started to have horrible nightmares about being trapped in a burning building.

Phoebe knows all about this from their time together. Dana offers to help anyway, but Fox tells her that Phoebe is the fire, and he has to face her down himself.

Scene 11: Back on Cape Cod, a gas stove is lit [Oh, please let it be for English Tea!].

[YES! Oh Brits, we do love our stereotypes that the only things you could possibly drink is a cup of tea or a pint. Unless you're a spy, then you can have a martini - shaken, not stirred. But THAT IS IT.]

Mrs. Sir Malcolm goes to put the kettle on, but it's empty. As she's filling the kettle from the sink, Cecil/Evil Bob is doing the stalkerish peeping Tom routine.

He perves on Mrs. Sir Malcolm's long legs, while breathing heavy. [And in a nice touch, Mark runs his fingertips suggestively over the brick wall, to stand in for the not-tv-friendly rubbing himself.]

Evil Bob stares so hard, that Mrs. Sir Malcolm enters Slo-Mo-land.

Scene 12: Evil Bob hears a cough from around the front of the house, and it breaks him out of his hypnotized-stare. He goes to find out who is outdoors, and it's the driver, who is hacking out in the night air, while taking in a cigarette.

Evil Bob introduces himself, and bums a smoke off of driver with a smile that fluctuates between "I'm a creep" and "I'm harmless and friendly". Evil Bob tells driver he's going into town, and driver asks for some cough syrup.

Scene 13: Later in town at Hennessey's Bar, Cecil orders a beer. [Since this is TV-BAR, it only serves "nameless & generic brand", so that "beer" is the only thing barkeep needs to hear. And I'm disappointed that Cecil didn't order "a pint".]

In the meantime, BarPatron-F gives Evil Bob the once over with interested eyes. Now, Evil Bob has a tightly wrapped bag with him, which seems awfully big for some cough medicine.

BarPatron-F sidles up to Cecil to start a chat. Cecil asks her to allow him to light her cigarette, which he does by producing flame at his fingertip.

BarPatron-F calls out to everyone to check out flaming finger. When she turns back, Evil Bob has now produced fire to wreath his whole arm. This is less of a neat trick and more of a "AHH! WTH?!" for startled BarPatron-F [and Barkeep is the slowest frickin' beer fetcher EVAR].

Evil Bob can't help himself now, and uses his pyro-power to light up the bar. He leaves with a look of undiluted joy on his face.

Commentary: Okay, I was expecting hokey effects for this scene, but they did a pretty decent job of having his whole arm in flames, so good show to the effects guys on this one. And I liked Mark's look of joy on this one.

He's certainly not as fun here, as can be expected, as he is as Crowley on SPN but he's giving these small moments that adds some charisma to his generic bad guy.

It's always a bit weird to see a guy you've seen many, many times in the recent-past with the guy he was in the more-distant past. But once I got past that, I'm liking some of the touches Mark is giving to his monster-of-the-week, generic badguy.

Scene 14: The next day in Boston, Mulder and Green arrive where Fox is catching Phoebe up on why they're there, with the story of the patron catching on fire but having no burnt body left behind to find.

[Which - as I will continue to complain about in any episode it comes up in - is a conversation that surely he'd have already had in the car on the drive from Washington to Boston. *roll eyes*]

Phoebe asks about an accelerant, and Mulder tells her that the fire department is investigating, but the fire burned so hot, it softened the concrete foundation.

They're there to question one of the witnesses/victims. This turns out to be BarPatron-F.

Scene 15: BarPatron-F suffered burns across her hands. She tells Mulder and Green about the guy she met, his tricks, and his lighting the bar up. Fox tries to get a sketch, but BarPatron-F was out on the town, without the knowledge of her man back home and so is reluctant to get any more involved and cause domestic problems [which, I'd say are already there, clearly].

Fox offers that she could come down to a field office where boyfriend won't know about it [although, how she managed to explain her hospital stay with burns, without the BF putting two and two together when the news shows the burned down bar is a trick we'll not dwell on since she's a dayplayer].

He and Phoebe give her a minute to think.

Scene 16: In the hallway, Phoebe brings up Fox's deft handling of the woman's indiscretion, while also being firm in guiding her to cooperate. Mulder tells her that he perfected the technique when he was seeing her.

She takes the sting, and he apologizes for the cheap shot and tells her that he doesn't want to dredge up the past.

Scene 17: Fox returns to BarPatron-F. She has agreed to provide details for a sketch. In the meantime, she just now remembers that the guy had an English accent [I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say she didn't remember such a vivid detail before because of initial shock, then pain, and finally pain-meds making things fuzzy].

Scene 18: Back on the Cape, driver is still hacking away. He leaves the restroom, clearly not just having a cold at this point, but a full-on flu.

Evil Bob pretends somewhat sympathy. We see that the container he had at the bar is labeled as cough syrup [But I don't believe we could ever purchase cough syrup in a bulk container this way - even in the 90's -- it implies, I think, that he had another half gallon jug of jet fuel and is poisoning driver, by the way the container is such a focal point, but that would be extra stupid so I'm ignoring it].

Commentary: I don't know about this part of the episode, honestly. It feels like we're spending too much time with side characters at the moment [not that I want to take away acting opportunity from driver and BarPatron-F, but c'mon]. And it feels like Evil Bob is going to extreme lengths to insinuate himself into the lives of Sir Malcolm, just to kill him for his being with his current love obsession.

I don't understand what he's doing here -- fixing up a bedroom, with the jet fuel paint on the off-chance that it'll get used [presumably by one of the kids, since I can't see him targeting anyone else in this room that wouldn't involve Mrs. Sir Malcolm getting roman candled, herself].

I suppose it's true that we don't know how long Cecil had stalked our opening victims, so this could be a part of his serial-killer psyche. But it feels like we should be getting onto Sir Malcolm being lit up by now.

Scene 19: Back at the Hoover FBI Building, Scully is going through the Scotland Yard arson murders that Pheobe brought with her. She starts typing an update on her computer, helpfully VO-ing.

Scully goes on to profile our probable killer.

Scene 20: Meanwhile, our psycho is getting to know the kids of Mrs. Sir Malcolm by offering to show them a magic trick, but telling them it's a secret they can't tell their parents. He offers that their trust cannot be broken except under penalty of death, which they all laugh about.

He does a slight of hand trick, where his unlit cigarette comes out of his ear half-smoked. The kids are delighted.

Scene 21: Meanwhile, FBI arson expert is going through photo slides of an after-fire investigation. Scully interrupts him for a consult. She has gone back to the rocket fuel suggestion, and arson expert confirms that the fuel could be placed in something like handcream, though it would have to be extremely diluted, and it still leaves the question of how ignition was carried out.

Scene 22: We rejoin Evil Bob as he makes cigarettes light up, without touching them and without a match to the kids wonder. The real object of Evil Bob is simple corruption of children, as he tempts them with taking their first puff. One child refuses because smoking is bad for you. But the other child is drawn in by Evil Bob's intense stare.

Just before he can take the cigarette, though, mummy calls for them.

She's actually there to speak to Evil Bob. It seems the driver has taken ill, and they're due for a party in Boston that evening. She asks if they could impose on him to drive them that evening, and offers to pay for his time. He smilingly refuses the pay, and offers to do so as a favor. He's happy to see her smile.

As she walks away, Evil Bob gives her the intense stare. Scully VOs for us that the suspect engages in fantasies toward women or men who are inaccessible to him, and sets fires as a way to cover for his own cowardice and inability to develop natural relationships.

Scene 23: We fade-cut to Scully's note-taking. She offers that the mysterious fire the night before suggests that Sir Malcolm has been followed by the arson-murderer to the U.S., and a check of all immigration passes to the Northeast is currently under way.

Agent Dayplayer comes in to give Scully a shockingly small number of names of recent foreign travelers to the region.

Scene 24: In the meantime, Mulder and Green are walking around rainy Boston. Fox again brings up a pyrokinetic, and is surprised that Phoebe is giving it serious thought. He asks about the family's protection and we find out that driver is also a highly trained bodyguard. Mulder suggests that he add more men to his detail and Sir Malcolm limit public exposure. Phoebe mentions that party that evening that the family are to attend in Boston.

[Yes, all of this suggests that Evil Bob did in fact sneak rocket fuel -- which he still has no explanation for being given access to it in the first place -- into cough medicine in the ridiculously sized container in order to trick the family into giving him even closer access to them for his diabolical plan. Which, I suppose, is fortunate that Fate was helping him out, and Sir Malcolm didn't just hire a car service. So, I cannot ignore the stupid any further.]

She suggests they may need to cancel it, but Fox suggests setting a trap instead. Phoebe admits that she had already considered it, but they'd have to be very careful and very discreet. The party is at the Venable Plaza Hotel, where she also pointedly tells him she's taken a room.

Commentary: I really like this episode for one simple thing: The stars aren't doing everything single-handedly!

Scully and Mulder use an arson expert. Scully uses other INS agents for traveler information. Agent Green is constantly being shown to be competent, smart and thinking of the same things Fox is in tandem.

I love that the episode isn't making experts irrelevant to beef up Scully and Mulder's wonderpowers of deduction, falsely.

Scene 25: That evening at the Venable Plaza, Fox is shown into his own room.

He's just getting settled when his phone rings. It's Dana, with some information on their possible suspect.

Instead of telling him, she's going to drive up there. Fox is hesitant, and tells Dana that he anticipates having his hands full, which she gives an awkward silence to (obvs thinking he's talking about Phoebe).

Commentary: This scene is dumb, doesn't do anything as we're getting to the conclusion, and the whole Is-Scully-Jealous to introduce the will-they-or-won't-they line through the series is annoying. In general, I object to the you-can't-work-with-opposite-gender-without-sex message in popular culture and the cliche has been done on everything, making it a zombie-trope dozens of times over. It is disappointing to see that we're going to be doing it in this series, too, and that it's going to involve jealousy of anyone else from Fox' past on Dana's part. Her character should be better than this. As should Fox, when their positions are reversed.

I can live with a sexual tension between Fox & Dana if we must go there, but let us not do so in a trivial way that reflects badly on our characters supposedly being adults.

Scene 26: A bit later, the Sir Malcolm's arrive also (with Phoebe shadowing the family), with Bob at the driver's wheel. (Where the kids are stashed is another question. We've never seen a nanny for them.)

The Mrs. and Mr. come into the ballroom, with Mulder already scoping the place out. He and Phoebe exchange smiles over how attractive they look in their fancy-wear.

It's sometime later, when Mulder is hanging out in the foyer, bored. Phoebe joins him, taking a break from the party. They flirt a bit, before engaging in a dance as the arsonist appears to be a no-show.

[Oh, goddammit.]

Scully arrives in time to see them in a dance, holding one another and huffs in -something-. Maybe just worried for Mulder, since Phoebe had already broken his heart before.

Commentary: Damn it. As soon as Mulder and Green started holding each other, I cringed just knowing that of course Scully would stumble upon them, so she could pull the jealous/worried bit toward her work partner.

Ugh. I'm relatively positive that even in the 90's this scenario was overdone everywhere.

Scene 27: Scully chooses to not interrupt them. But as she's pacing and waiting for an opportune moment to pull Fox aside, she spies Cecil also lurking. He shares creepy-smile at her.

In the meantime, Fox and Phoebe share a kiss to more Scully annoyance. When she turns back, she finds Cecil not behind the plant, anymore.

At the same time, she notices an alert panel beeping which is indicating a fire on the 14th Floor of the hotel. She rushes for the ballroom, interrupting Fox and Phoebe to warn them of the fire upstairs.

Phoebe warns that Sir Malcolm's children are on the 14th Floor. The two women run in one direction, while Fox rushes presumably for the children.

Scene 28: We get a brief fire raging shot.

Then Scully is rushing through hallways warning bellhops about the fire [because apparently, they depend on random visitors to monitor panels in hallways for this sort of information]. Sir Malcolm and Wife just happen to be in the hallway, rather than the ballroom, in order to react with horror.

Scene 29: Fox reaches the 14th, where he feels the stairwell door for heat, before taking the chance to open it (Yes -- this is accurate - always feel a door before opening it in a fire situtation). He's confronted with a repeat-shot of fire raging.

As he is creeping up on the fire and choking on fumes, we hear children panicking.

He's unable to get close enough to make any difference, and tries to crawl away, but he's breathed in a lot of toxic smoke already.

Scene 30: As Mulder is being overwhelmed by the smoke, firefighters are rushing up the stairs. In the meantime, a pair of legs runs by Fox carrying the Sir Malcolm children to safety.

The firefighters find Mulder incapacitated.

Commentary: Again, very nice to show the hero being only human and unable to do the heroic thing sometimes.

Scene 31: On the first floor, the elevator opens to discharge Cecil with the children in his arms - The Big Hero for Mrs. Sir Malcolm.

[I know I shouldn't have entertained the notion, because X-Files isn't quite dark enough yet -- but I thought that maybe Evil Bob was going to save the child who was going to take the cigarette from him earlier, while 'failing' to get the goody-two-shoes to safety. That would've been a nice, nasty sting to give to our bad guy.]

Evil Bob accepts pats on the back, etc, from a bunch of people who are not bothering to actually evacuate and which the firefighters are not demanding get out instead of standing around waiting for news about the raging fire on the 14th Floor.

A service door opens then, and we see a firefighter helping Mulder stumble-walk out to safety.

Commentary: Seriously. Why couldn't this scene be done from outside of the hotel, where it would be far more logical? Why is everyone being allowed, let alone choosing, to stand around in the lobby of a burning building??!

Scene 32: Fireman dump Fox off against a wall with some oxygen, where Scully quickly joins him.

[Because fireman wouldn't take Mulder out away from the burning building while shouting angrily for everyone to get the hell out of the fire zone, and right goddamned now.]

In the crowded lobby, Phoebe is shaking hands with Cecil on his heroics.

Scene 33: Sometime later, Fox comes to from blurry vision to see Scully hovering over him with a glass of water. He's in his hotel room, and asks for Phoebe. Dana assures him she's down the hall safe and sound. He asks about the kids, which are also fine.

Fox gets up [shirtless & in boxers... thank you Mr. Duchovny], and is angry at himself. He didn't just get overwhelmed by the smoke, he froze up because of his fear of the fire when he should've been rescuing the kids.

As Fox goes into the bathroom, Dana asks him about the guy who brought down the children - the driver. In the meantime, Inspector Green comes into the hotel room behind Scully. She answers in Fox's steed that she has checked him out. But she's describing the history of Real-Bob.

But, uh, apparently that thorough background check didn't include a picture *cough*. Phoebe tells Dana that he was watching the children during the party. Dana tells her she could've sworn she'd seen Evil Bob in the lobby about the time the fire broke out, but Phoebe poo-poos this.

Fox comes back into the room, and the tension between Dana and Phoebe. Phoebe checks in on how Mulder feels, and then shares that the family is making arrangements to return to England in a few days, and she'll be going then, too. She promises to call Fox at the Bureau before she departs, and takes her leave.

Commentary: So, at first I was irritated that this entire scene is taking place here in the hotel despite having a room fire. But then I thought about it a bit more... I guess it's possible that if the fire was quickly contained, then only the affected section would be closed off to guests for the investigation of the blaze. I'm not sure about this, truthfully.

But it does really annoy me that Fox could have been so overwhelmed by smoke that he'd basically passed out for several hours, and yet he wasn't taken to a hospital instead of being undressed [thank you] and left in his suite. That part does strike me as bullshit.

Scene 34: Scully asks Mulder if he'd like to see what she came all that way to show him.

She's ran a few checks on her own, just out of curiousity about arsonists and the way they operate. So, she compiled a list of possible accelerants. As she was thinking about the case, she also compiled lists of all of the domestic help of all of the victims. It came to over 200 names between all of the households, and that is without duplicating anyone... except one name: Cecil L'Ively.

Fox asks what she found on him, and Scully reports that there was nothing unusual. He seems to pay his taxes, has never been on the public dole, etc.

Until she looked even further, anyway, when she found that he'd died in a tenement fire in the '70s.

So with that tidbit, she went even further, and found that a L'Ively was issued a passport, and the first name on that was Cecil and US Immigrations stamped him into the country two weeks ago through - wait for it - BOSTON.

Well, this is certainly exciting and they rush off to find Cecil/warn Phoebe.

Commentary: And... hmmm. I don't know guys, I'm finding it hard to believe that Scotland Yard wouldn't be picking every single name of every person who was on the victims' properties in the past year before their deaths. These aren't random street crimes against "the common man". These are government MPs and the wealthy being targeted by an arsonist!

I'm just having a LOT of trouble with the idea that The Yard wouldn't already be on L'Ively's ass -- especially since he keeps stupidly using such an unusually spelled name.

Yeah, this is smacking of "our agents are so much smarter than usual-ness" in the script, and I really dislike that sort of cheating.

Scene 35: A little later, Dana gets a fax sent to her of the composite based on BarPatron-F's account. It's a very good rendition of the man she saw in the lobby about when the fire began, especially around the eyes. She recognizes him as Sir Malcolm's driver.

Scully tries to phone Inspector Green, but their cellular's are too far apart. [Yes, people, there was a time when coverage wasn't global and different providers didn't always mesh well.]

Scene 36: We cross-fade from fax of Evil Bob, to him smoking. He's staring out the window, and sees Fox pull up into the driveway of the Cape Cod house.

Fox, without knocking, barges into the residence, to find Phoebe Green in a compromising position on the stairs with Sir Malcolm.

[Why. Why was this tidbit needed? Was it really needed to cause Mulder a bit of heartache, just so the audience could be assured that she wouldn't be getting inbetween our FBI partners? Because it feels like that is exactly why it was shoved in here, and it's superfluous -- She's going to be in the U.K.]

Fox and Phoebe have a bit of awkwardness, but Fox sends her off to find Mrs. Sir Malcolm and the children to get them out of there before Cecil makes another attempt on Sir Malcolm's life.

Scene 37: Out in the back yard, the family is gathered by Inspector Green and they rush back toward the house, as Evil Bob does the evil Cecil deadeye stare at them.

He gives himself an amused little smile, obvs realizing that they've discovered that the accidental fire at the hotel wasn't, and that they're probably onto him.

He gives the portrait that looks like Mrs. Sir Malcolm a look as he goes up the stairs.

Commentary: The portrait is a weird touch that I don't understand. I'm assuming that maybe Cecil was the painter? But other than painting a room with rocket fuel, we've seen no indication that he's a capable artist. It's a weird detail that hasn't actually played into anything.

[In fact the painted with rocket fuel room hasn't played into anything either. You'd think we'd have gotten shots of somebody using the room to suggest their danger, but nothing....]

Scene 38: Later, Scully has arrived at Cape Cod and as Mulder lets her in, she tells him that the suspect is the driver. Fox says that he knows, because Evil Bob has disappeared.

Scully notices Fox's funk, but when she asks, he blows it off as nothing. He shows her something they found in the garage -- a can of rocket propulsion fuel. [ACE is the place with the helpful hardware man!]

The Sir and Mrs. comes downstairs and complains that they can't believe it's the driver as he's been with them for 10 years [So shouldn't he be in the hospital with his flu/poisoning? Whatdoyoumean he 'disappeared'?? Did Evil Bob kill him, and if so, why wasn't that shown to us?]

Scully shows them the fax, and Sir and Mrs. inform the agents that that isn't their driver, it's the caretaker -- and he's upstairs right now with the children!

A search is underway for the children. In the driver's room, special attention is paid to the doctored cough medicine.

And - ugh - we find out that Driver wasn't missing! He was dead, burned in place while worshipping the porcelain god!

Commentary: OH, C'Mon. How in the hell do you burn a person alive by feeding them rocket fuel and then lighting them up, and not have the godawful stench of it absolutely permeating the house?!

I-I I don't understand what this episode is suddenly doing here at the end! No, no, no... the illogics are stacking up suddenly.

Scene 39: Green shouts for Mulder, and when he and Scully arrive, they find a set of curtains on fire. Inspector Green tells them that they just went up suddenly all by themselves. Suddenly a random painting on the wall also bursts into flame.

Mulder tries to fight the secondary fire with a towel. [Just as pointless as you imagine.] In the meantime, Sir, Mrs., Green and Scully choose to watch and exclaim, instead of... oh... rushing to call the fire department while getting out of the building.

[Y'know, the 90's were are a ways back now, but I'm relatively sure that fire safety drills didn't include standing and watching the fire(s) spread to see how long you could take the heat and smoke. Maybe now that the internet is a thing, and deep stupid is celebrated - but not back then.]

With Mulder's fire firefighting not having any impact, he turns to the curtains, because putting out that fire is important, while the other wall is raging ... apparently.

But then, the bed suddenly goes up in a sheet of flames!

Everyone but Mulder continues to stare and exclaim, while he is busy using towel-fu on the burning curtains. Because that will be helpful, clearly.

Finally, Fox admits defeat and shouts for everyone to LEAVE THE BURNING ROOM.

Commentary: Oh, my god. What happened to this episode at the end. So much dumb!

Scene 40: Fox tells the others that he smells fuel on the towel from the curtains. He tells them that he thinks Cecil set up the whole house. The towel he's holding suddenly bursts into flame, too.

Mulder sends Scully off for a fire extinguisher [We're beyond that, Fox. So beyond that.] Mrs. shouts for her children, and Fox hears the dog and a thump from upstairs.

He sends everyone else out, while he goes for the kids.

Scene 41: Fox and Phoebe spend a moment. The Fox is rushing upstairs with his gun drawn.

He hears the dog bark again from behind a locked door. The kids start yelling for help. Mulder tries to break down the superdoor. In the hallway behind him, we see Cecil staring at him.

Cecil jokes about calling 9-1-1, and Mulder spins and holds him at gunpoint. [Considering his powers, that Fox clearly believes in - I would've already pulled the trigger and that would be that. Especially since we're wasting time while the room fire is presumably continuing to spread now through the walls!]

Cecil is ordered not to move, but he snaps his fingers instead and causes lights to burst.

The hallway is quickly becoming engulfed in raging fire, leaving Mulder to suddenly have to wrestle with his paralyzing fear - which wasn't an issue in the bedroom, but now is.

Cecil leaves him and the children to bake.

Scene 42: As Cecil strolls down the staircase, he's met by Scully who orders him to freeze.

Cecil doesn't freeze, and taunts Dana that she won't shoot him, because she doesn't know that the spark from her gun won't set the whole house ablaze. They have a staredown, with Cecil first wearing a Joker grin, and then turning serious face on her.

From a side hallway, Green suddenly appears to throw some of the rocket fuel onto him, telling Scully to fire. Dana still hesitates, and Cecil stumbles away with the fuel burning his eyes and blinding him.

Commentary: I did like that Green had thought ahead to stopping their firebug and that she's choosing to turn his own weapon back on him. I wish somebody had just killed him for future safety's sake, but I did like that Inspector Green had a hand in stopping him.

Scene 43: Upstairs, Fox is still struggling to pull himself together in the hallway as the ceiling is roiling with flame and the children are still shouting for help behind the locked door.

Fox finally duck waddles to the door, and breaks it in.

Scene 44: Outside, Dana and Phoebe follow along behind Cecil as he continues to blindly try to escape covered in the rocket fuel.

Mulder rushes out with the children.

Cecil lights himself up, and laughs at the agents that they can't kill him. He shouts at them that they can't fight fire with fire, crazy-laughing, until he finally collapses onto lawn.

Apparently, he a) didn't have enough control to stop the fuel from igniting or b) chose suicide by the fire that he loved, rather than be arrested.

Scene 45: Sometime much later, Fox is sitting alone in his darkened office. He hears his office door open, and a Brit voice asks if he liked to take a her to lunch. But this is Scully playing, not Green.

She asks after Inspector Green and Fox admits that she didn't call him, so he doesn't know where she's at currently. She did message him over another cassette, but he hasn't listened to it.

And it appears he's not going to.

Scene 46: Later still, Scully is recording her case notes. As it turns out, despite suffering level 5 and 6 burns over his entire body (basically, he was burned down to bone, and some of that bone was actually charred by the intense heat -- not even remotely survivable under normal circumstances), he was rushed to Boston Yadda Hospital, still alive.

Not only that, but military doctors are studying him for his extraordinary case. Not only is Cecil L'ively alive with such grievous wounds, but he's showing a remarkable regenerating ability throughout his cells!

His full recovery is expected in as little as a month. She goes on to report that he is currently being held under high-security in a hyperbaric chamber, where his body temperature is being recorded at 109F.

He's to eventually be charged in the murder of Real-Bob, since he didn't burn him to death without leaving a trace. Small fires had been reported in his facinity since then, so the room has been stripped bare of any flammable materials [except all that skin, hair, and clothing of his medical staff].

Scully tells us that Mulder worries over the ability to actually incarcerate Cecil, later.

In the meantime, Cecil tells his nurse that he's dying for cigarette.

And lo, and behold, we have another X-Files case actually proved!

The Good: There are ways to do fire effects, and then there are ways not to [BTVS is a not to case]. Here they do it right throughout. Some of the practical effects are downright scary! This was really important in this case due to the entire episode revolving around the threat of fire.

I did like the pacing on this episode, most of the directing, and most of the acting.

I also liked the touch with the confusion between Scully telling everyone that Driver was their man, when it's really Handyman, because only the family had that random bit of information. It was a nice touch.

The Bad: The dog. It's inclusion is stupid. The thing is used to reveal that Real-Bob was murdered, but then it's allowed to live, despite its being attracted to Real-Bob's shallow grave right on the property where Evil Bob is impersonating his victim. And yet it never becomes a threat to Cecil after that. Again, it feels entirely random for one shot that we didn't need the mutt for. A simple camera pan to Real-Bob's fingers sticking out from the dirt under a tree would've done the exact same thing.

Burning Mr. Driver alive in his bathroom, and having no evidence of it stinking up the house is entirely bullshit. Again, why did this need to be included, since Driver was already sick? He could've just been tucked away at the local hospital. Or, Cecil could've offered to drive him to a clinic, and then killed him on the way. By the time that Mulder and Scully find his body, they already know that the driver was replaced by Cecil, so his being left in the bathroom to find has zero impact on the plot, and it opens up a huge risk for Cecil and a plot hole as to how nobody noticed burnt flesh in the house.

Nobody reacts realistically to a fire. Including firefighters allowing people to crowd around in a hotel lobby, when said hotel is currently burning.

Other Thoughts: I'm on the fence about Inspector Phoebe Green. I feel like they didn't want to make her entirely unsympathetic, but at the same time they wanted to make sure we stayed invested in Mulder/Scully as the dynamic duo, rather than maybe wanting to see more of Fox/Phoebe so they do small things to undermine the character. First with her sadistic prank. And then with her not finding out information that she surely would have, so that Dana could find it instead. And then her being revealed to be having an illicit relationship with Sir Malcolm that comes out of nowhere and leads nowhere. I just end up being on her side because I can see the script trying to sabotage her.

The entire rocket fuel angle is ... clumsy. Only here in the scoring am I wondering if you could actually get some version of rocket fuel in the 90's from a hobby shop for launching model rockets? It seems a bit extreme to allow that, but it was a pre-9/11 world still, and I just don't remember. Either way, being able to paint walls with it, and slip it into cough syrup without being detected feels ridiculous.

Mark Sheppard is also a case for Other Thoughts. There are times when you can see his charisma, but other scenes where he's just kinda there, and I'm just not feeling it. And there are times when his line readings slip into ham, but others where the ham is actually welcomed.

The entire painting that looks like Mrs. Sir Malcolm is just there. It doesn't play into anything obvious, like Cecil making a habit of painting his stalker-victims & he never actually tries to impress the Mrs. with the artwork. It's never even made explicit that it is her, or that Cecil painted it. It seems completely random.

I liked BarPatron-F.

I'm not crazy about the Fox/Dana sexual tension and the will-they-or-won't-they thing.

Okay, I admit it. I liked (for all the wrong reasons, admittedly) Fox trying to fight one dinky fire with a towel, while the wall behind him is ablaze.

The Score: I generally really liked this episode, but it has some major problems with illogic at the end, and some just weirdly random things that don't actually seem needed for the plot. I think Inspector Green was being unfairly handicapped at the start by the script, but I didn't hate her character for daring to have had a relationship with Fox ten years in the past, or her desire to maybe hookup while she was in town.

The fire effects with stunt people were terrific. But some scenes were just such a mess in terms of how people reacted to the fires springing up around them, that it really undercut basking in the great work by the fire wranglers on set.

I don't know. I think this is another case of wanting to give a higher score because of my enjoyment of the episode, but I really can't just ignore that much of the scripting is actually dumb. This is definitely going to be one of the more difficult to score, but I'm going to settle on:

3.50 out of 5 Stars

Tags: x-files season 1 reviews

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