Revisiting The X-Files season 1: Squeeze
Our weekly season one look-back at The X-Files' story arc instalments continues with the episode introducing Tooms...
This review contains spoilers.
It's the first ever “monster of the week” episode, and it’s a good one. A man who is the monster equivalent of a one-hundred-year-old Mr. Fantastic is tearing out livers in order to survive another thirty years of hibernation. This is couched in an interesting character conflict for Scully, who makes her decision here regarding where she wants her career to go. Does she go with the “cool kids club” or does she stick it out with Mulder? By the third episode we’ve established the bad guys and the existence of aliens and cover-ups, now the writers are establishing the reasons behind the lasting relationship of our two heroes.
The monster in this episode is a truly eerie one. Our first glimpse of him is a pair yellow eyes peering out of a drain ditch to stalk a businessman returning to his office in the evening. We’re seeing the beginning of the creative camera work that follows the series through its run as the full colour victim is singled out against a black and white background. This effect doesn’t work through the whole episode, after the first victim, the others could have been brightened to show the contrast, but it was still a cool idea. Tooms himself, played by Doug Hutchison, is a reptilian character with smooth, unemotional features and a quiet yet unnerving voice. The interview with him was very scary and I got a chill when he took Scully’s necklace, marking her as his last victim for the next thirty years. Those yellow eyes and reptile-like behavior, paired with a fantastic scene of him contorting down a chimney, really make Tooms a terrifying monster.
On the other side of the episode we have Scully meeting with an old schoolmate, Colton, who puts her onto a difficult case of his. Right away she’s presented with an opportunity to move out of the X-Files and we’re given the bureau’s opinion of agent Mulder. Throughout the investigation, we see Scully’s old classmate go from a friendly guy with some snark to a snarling corporate climber who will throw anyone under the bus to get ahead. To be honest, the other agent’s attitudes towards Mulder were over-the-top and contrived, they looked forced and it feels like the writers are going to extreme lengths to make a point. Mulder, on the other hand, is perfectly calm in the face of the derision and in contrast to the disrespect the agents show Scully regarding her current assignment, is completely supportive of whatever she chooses to move forward with. The hyperbole gives the viewer little doubt over who Scully will choose.
In the lead-up to the end, Mulder and Scully find Tooms’ hibernation spot, a nest built with newspaper and bile, along with his trophy collection. The “nest” is perfectly revolting, and just the tip of the gross effects iceberg that will define much of The X-Files as the seasons progress. As they leave, Tooms singles Scully out as his final liver donor by taking her necklace. The scene in her apartment as she fights Tooms while Mulder rushes to help her is silly in most parts, Tooms jettisoning out of a floor vent is comedy gold, but we’re also given a good dose of suspense and another thread in the rope that ties the two agents together. They’ve saved each other’s lives now, the life debt has begun early.
All in all, a solid episode that sets the tone for the further monster-of-the-week instalments while filling in relationship details for our bold F.B.I. agents. Well worth watching. Next week is another story arc episode and it’s a doozy. See you then!
Scully: Is what it takes to climb the ladder, Colton?
Jerk: All the way to the top
Scully: Then I can’t wait ‘till you fall off and land on your ass.
Nineties flashback: Using the Microfiche machines to look through old newspapers. Seriously, how did people get anything done back in the day?
Mulder’s Spookiest Line: Just listen, what if some genetic mutation could allow a man to awaken every thirty years… and what if the five livers could provide him sustenance for that period? What if Tooms is some kind of twentieth century genetic mutant?
I think they purposefully kept him logical in this episode to counteract the “spooky” reputation everyone was keen to pin on him. In contrast, we get some quality sarcasm when he meets Colton for the first time.
Colton: So Mulder, what do you think? Does this look like the work of little green men?
Colton: Excuse me?
Mulder: Grey. You said green men. A reticulan’s skin tone is actually grey. They’re notorious for their extraction of terrestrial human livers, due to iron depletion in the reticulan galaxy.
Colton: You can’t be serious.
Mulder: Do you have any idea what liver and onions go for in reticula? Excuse me.
Read Jenni's look-back at the previous episode, Deep Throat, here. Next week: episode ten, Fallen Angel.
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