Revisiting The X-Files: season 1 episode 20
Our recap of season one nears the end, as Darkness Falls...
20. Darkness Falls
With such a title as Darkness Falls, full of foreboding, you’d expect a suitably sinister episode. While there are some incredibly nice touches to the proceedings here, it all falls down to a load of glowing green bugs. Rest assured, though, what this swirling cloud of insects lacks in looks, it certainly makes up for in menace
When a group of lumberjacks stationed in the forest vanish without trace, Mulder and Scully are on hand to traipse dutifully around the scene of the disappearances, searching for clues and drawing extraordinary conclusions, Mulder accepting the oddities without so much as blinking, and Scully proves a little more difficult to persuade. Business as usual, then.
This time, they’re accompanied by a local sheriff, an officer with an axe to grind against “tree huggers”, and one of the tree huggers themselves. The latter warns them that he was there when the lumberjacks vanished, and tells them they must leave - before darkness falls. What happens then? Well, people are devoured whole, apparently.
Soon, Scully has stumbled upon a man-sized cocoon clinging to a tree branch, which, when slit open, contains - surprise! - a man. A man drained of all bodily fluids as if embalmed. A felled tree is later examined and found to contain strange swarming bugs Scully cannot identify, but it soon becomes clear these bugs are the things that swoop down when the moon rises and devour whole their pray, leaving their struggling bodies bound in a cocoon - as happens to the guy who hates hippies.
The eco-warrior heads off to get help and, just when it looks as if Mulder and Scully are about to be eaten alive by the massing bugs, he returns to save them and the sheriff … only for the lot of them to then be attacked by the bugs while making their getaway. Mulder and Scully are, indeed, cocooned, but as luck would have it, they’re discovered by some sort of bio-hazard cleanup squad, and rescued before it’s too late.
This proves to be another episode where nothing much is really explained, and no real conclusions drawn. The origins, or indeed the identity, of the glowing green insects is never explained; the closest we get to a resolution is Mulder being told by one of the bio-hazard squad that the forest in which the bugs dwell is going to be destroyed, and failure to eradicate them is not an option. Far from this being a criticism, it is again this open-ended treatment of the monster that gives it a real mysticism and strength.
Having everything explained and wrapped up is a mistake made far too often by filmmakers, and the X-Files’ constant rebuffing of this trend lends it weight, credibility, and intrigue. With so many questions hanging in the air and so many answers to be found, there was always going to be a vast mileage to this show, and it’s no surprise it ran for a total of nine seasons.
Things are really gathering steam by this point, and it’s quite a shame to know I have only four episodes left. And, er, eight more series...
Check out Matt's review of the preceding episode here.