Revisiting The X-Files season 1: Fallen Angel

Feature Jennifer Cates 20 Feb 2013 - 07:41

Jenny's look back at her pick of The X-Files's first season continues, with episode ten, Fallen Angel...

This review contains spoilers.

1.10 Fallen Angel

A middling episode for the middle of the season ends with a big payoff that leaves the viewer guessing. We also get some more of the creative camera work we see so often in the series. Here it’s a fish eye lens that is depicting the first person (alien?) view of the alien crash victim complete with creepy audio to give each of the scenes a little more suspense.

The episode starts as Deep Throat puts Mulder onto a “toxic waste spill” in Wisconsin, which we know is an alien aircraft crash thanks to the pre-credits intro. We also know we’re dealing with a violent alien when the fish eye lens comes out of the crash to attack a local sheriff. We will refer to this alien as “Fish Eye” for the rest of the article. When Mulder goes to investigate, he gets caught by the military (of course), although the viewer wonders how he was found in the dark behind bushes when no one saw him previously skulking around the main camp in broad daylight. Before he takes a rifle butt to the face, however, we see some kind of crash with odd shapes jutting out of the ground and military personnel in hazard suits spraying the craft down. His interrogation by beloved sci-fi actor, Marshall Bell, is fun to watch, but Mulder is uncharacteristically cagey when he meets our plot device, Max Fennig, in jail. Max is a likable, non-threatening character, who provides us with wonderful lines such as “There’s always someone paying attention, Mr. Mulder” and “This must be the enigmatic Dr. Scully”.

The aforementioned Scully bails Mulder out of jail to inform him that a committee in DC has ordered a full inquiry into the X-Files with the intent to shut them down and throw Mulder out of the bureau. So what’s new? As the episode progresses, and we’re led through the various pieces of evidence pointing towards alien abduction and Max’s link to the aliens themselves, we’re constantly reminded what’s at stake here as Scully points out to Mulder how little time is left before the inquest. Of course, she may as well be beating her head against a wall, especially as the case gets more interesting. She’s pulled into it herself when encouraged to chip in at a local hospital that is attempting to treat military men brought into the ER with severe radioactive burns. This is our first glimpse of the effects of trying to corner Fish Eye. Apparently, aliens can fry anyone with high doses of radioactivity when threatened, that’s a pretty cool power. And it is a power, not just a side effect, as we see when Fish Eye picks up Max in his mobile home and instead of frying him to a crisp, just makes his ears bleed a little.

Max’s capture by Fish Eye takes us to a warehouse where a larger UFO is hovering, supposedly to pick up Fish Eye and Max himself. The scene in the warehouse is a good one. The use of the infrared camera outside of the hanger to track Mulder, Max and Fish Eye was a nice way to see our invisible friend and also view the unlikely exit of all but Mulder. It’s interesting that Fish Eye just sort of flung Mulder out of the way instead of frying him as he pulled Max into the waiting ship, but I suppose it was because Mulder was trying to help Max instead of using a big gun to look for Fish Eye. Coming to after his flight across the warehouse, Mulder sees Max hanging mid-air, caught in some kind of tractor beam before he disappears entirely. When infrared shows only one person left in the hanger, the military moves in, and Mulder scolds the confused commander for losing Max to the aliens who “beat us, colonel”. The sfx for the tractor-beamed Max was pretty cheesy, but we know the effects improve as the series progresses.

The final scene is the inquest, done extremely well with oversized interrogators, a table that seems to go on forever and a subdued, but troubled Scully at the other end. Mulder’s partner does her best to set the record straight in what is an obvious witch hunt, but she doesn’t have half the righteous anger that Mulder does. He handily wipes the floor with them when his turn in front of the committee comes. One can’t help but feel his disgust over the obvious and rather cowardly methods put to use in the case, the committee hiding behind bureaucracy and false stories to try to justify removing Mulder from the FBI. And indeed, how can he disprove lies that are stamped with an official seal?

The kicker in this episode is Deep Throat, who overturns the committee’s decision to shut down the X-Files and “ruins the best chance” the bureau had to get rid of Mulder. His last statement, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”, leaves you wondering who belongs to which category in Deep Throat’s universe.

Next week is another story arc instalment, Extraterrestrial Biological Entity, or E.B.E. Should be an adventure. See you then!

Best line of the episode:

Mulder You can deny all the things I’ve seen, all the things I’ve discovered, but not for much longer. Because too many others know what is happening out there. And no one, no government agency has jurisdiction over the truth

Mulder’s cheesiest line:

Scully (to Mulder entering the inquest) Good luck

Mulder (on crutches) I’ll break a leg

Mulder’s spookiest Line: 

Mulder Over a dozen men lost their lives and you want me to answer to questions of protocol? …Oh toxic contamination, are we back in that? You read my report, explain the disappearance of Max Fennig… I have further evidence to support my conclusions, x-rays taken while Mr. Fennig was institutionalized show an object lodged in his cerebellum. The man was abducted, you know it, everyone in this room knows it!

Worst visual effect: In an episode that sports predator-like invisibility and fish eye views, the red laser military barrier that can be seen with the naked eye takes the cake as the worst visual effect.

Read Jenni's look-back at episode three, Squeeze, here. Next week, episode seventeen, Extraterrestrial Biological Entity.

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I wish The X-Files could return as a series of regular TV specials. A mix of horror, mythology and serious SF would do me just fine.

You seem to have missed quite a few episodes...

X Files calibre shows don't seem to exist these days - so much is poured into the pilot and season 1 with nothing left in the tank for future seasons.

Liking these reviews but I think you should concentrate as much on the "Monster of the Week" stuff compared to the main alien/conspiracy story arc ones. For example, you missed out one of the best episodes of Season 1, "Ice" which set the template for various other "base under siege" episodes throughout the show's run.

Yeah, I think you missed more than a few episodes. Season 1 was great, but I don't even think it's in the top half of the best seasons in the show's run.

Another great review. I'd never really considered that "Fish Eye" had various powers that it could turn on/off, but you make a compelling point! The red laser definitely looks dated but I think the image of Max hanging there by the tractor beam/light (as shown with this article) still looks amazing today!

Ice is definitely a fantastic episode, but its pretty much a homage to The Thing. Still great though

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