Revisiting The X-Files season 1: E.B.E
Jenni's weekly pick of The X-Files' first season episodes comes to the best so far, E.B.E feat. the first appearance of the Lone Gunmen...
This review contains spoilers.
An excellent episode filled with suspense, bait-and-switch moments, the Lone Gunmen (!!!) and a surprising moment between our two protagonists. E.B.E stands for Extraterrestrial Biological Entity, and it’s a concept that attracts more than one group of people here. The directors said that they made this episode with All the President’s Men in mind, and it shows. The plot is dense and twisting, the camera work is dark and moody, and every dimly lit room holds a secret.
The entire thing kicks off over Iraqi air space when a pilot shoots down a UFO, which magically lands next to a US airbase in Turkey, an area in Turkey that looks surprisingly like Oregon. We then cut to a trucker on a US highway whose CB picks up multiple people talking about lights in the skies and police rushing about chasing said lights. That trucker is carrying a huge gun, and we see him use it when his truck shuts down unexpectedly, he sees a craft in the sky, and the back of the truck opens from the inside!
Our intrepid duo arrives on the scene the next morning to investigate, and amidst a bit of fun wordplay we discover that all the signs of alien involvement are here. Time-lapsed stop watches and higher-than-normal concentrations of radioactivity. I find it difficult to believe that Scully would stoop so low as to suggest swamp gas as the cause of the alien lights everyone saw the previous night, but there it is.
The interview with the trucker, now identified as Ranheim, classically gets them nowhere, and it is cut short when local authorities release Ranheim and tell Mulder and Scully to “just go away”. What is that about, I wonder? There is a jarring scene following this where an extra borrows Scully’s pen, we never see the main characters interact with the extras and this brings us out of the plot a bit. We’re not left much time to dwell on this oddity, however, because the next scene is with our beloved Lone Gunmen!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the first appearance of the Lone Gunmen is here and they do a fantastic job setting themselves up. We have Langly, who has recently had breakfast with the man who assassinated John F. Kennedy (dressed as a police officer on the grassy knoll); Byers, who has uncovered a plot by the CIA to put Vladimir Zhirinovsky in power in Russia; and Frohike, who is seriously turned on by Scully’s red hair and awesome brain. And all of them think that Mulder’s idea of Gulf War Syndrome being caused by aliens is crazier than anything they come up with. I particularly like Byers’ demonstration for Scully on how the government tracks its citizens using metallic strips in $20 bills. The scene leads into a great juxtaposition, with Scully claiming to never have met more paranoid people and finding, mid-sentence, that her pen was bugged by the extra earlier that day.
Mulder meets with Deep Throat, asking what they are on to that they would be kicked out of a small town sheriff’s office and bugged immediately after. Deep Throat responds by giving Mulder the file on the crash at the Turkish airbase, floating the idea that the truck was carrying the remains of the crash. But Scully has even more interesting information. Through some digging of her own she’s discovered that everything Ranheim, the trucker, told them was a lie and that he has high level military ties to Iraq. Scully is suspicious of Deep Throat, and when Mulder says he trusts him, Scully makes it clear that Mulder is the only one she trusts.
When Mulder returns to his flat it is to find the power cut and Deep Throat in his living room with a top secret photo of an alien craft. As Deep Throat leaves the apartment, Mulder gives him a very sincere “thank you” for all the help he’s given him in the past. A bit prematurely, as it turns out. When he takes the photo to Scully, she immediately bursts his bubble, saying the photo is a fake. Finding it difficult to believe that he would be betrayed by deep Throat, Mulder almost storms out of Scully’s apartment until she stops him with a very heartfelt and insightful monologue about Mulder being manipulated by people who use his passion and drive against him. And of course the photo is a fake, intended to throw Mulder off the track of the truck with the crash remains.
They chose an interesting location for a disillusioned Mulder to confront Deep Throat. The light of the aquarium and a shark analogy (never stop swimming, Mr. Mulder) added a lot to the atmosphere, and while we’ve previously seen Deep Throat during the day, this episode seems to want to visually enhance his reputation as a shadowy character, only presenting him at night or in the dark.
Deep Throat’s parting words to Mulder tip him off to a bug in his apartment, and after finding it, Mulder and Scully construct an elaborate plan to get rid of their tails and use all their contacts inside and outside the bureau to find the elusive truck. After following the truck for hours they have a very convincing experience that leads them to believe they’ve witnessed an extraterrestrial rescue mission. Despite the overwhelming evidence, Mulder pulls out his stop watches and Geiger counter only to discover that they were a part of another extremely elaborate hoax.
Our team is not defeated though, and Mulder uses his UFO watch group contacts to find a pattern of sightings along a Washington highway leading to a small town called Mattawa, only one hundred miles from where they are. Travelling there, they find Ranheim and the truck coming out of a power plant and Mulder has the Lone Gunmen hack them some top level clearance to infiltrate the facility. Of course they are caught out, and Mulder makes a run for it. After injuring himself, he makes it into the room where they kept the alien but is immediately surrounded by armed military guards.
Is this the end of Mulder?? No, of course not! Deep Throat walks in, dismisses the troops, informs Mulder the alien is dead, and proceeds to tell his story. How he worked for the CIA in Vietnam, how there’s a secret international treaty to kill any and all aliens found by a government, how he’s one of the three people on the planet who have done so, and finally, how the experience of killing that life form has haunted him his whole life, leading him to helping Mulder with his work. It’s convincingly done, but Mulder is unmoved, and while Mulder ponders which lie to believe, Deep Throat walks off into the fog.
It’s a really engaging episode that brings Mulder’s obsession to the forefront and further muddies the waters of Deep Throat’s motivation. We get a great glimpse of a ripening relationship between Mulder and Scully with Scully’s monologue halfway through, as well as her willingness to ditch protocol and go on a wild truck chase with Mulder. That combined with the Lone Gunmen and the underlying sinister vibe makes for the best episode so far.
Next week we’re going back to the monster of the week episode, and also seeing the one and only Walter Skinner for the first time! See you then.
Best line: This week it’s a toss-up, there’s good dialogue in this episode and I couldn’t choose just one.
Mulder: When you think about it, this truck drove across America. People it passed on the road probably thought it was hauling auto parts or furniture, livestock, whatever. Nobody would have suspected it was hauling a craft from another world.
Scully: Mulder, the truth is out there. But so are lies.
Highlight: The Lone Gunmen of course! Seriously, it’s no surprise at all that after a short time they merited their own spin off show, they are just too fun to watch.
Mulder’s cheesiest line:
Byers: Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Russian Social Democrats? He’s being put into power by the most heinous and evil force of the twentieth century.
Mulder’s Spookiest Line:
Scully: What are you suggesting, that Gulf War Syndrome is cause by UFO’s?
Mulder: UFO’s are frequently witnessed by soldiers during war time.
Scully: Mulder the only UFO's a soldier is likely to see are secret military aircraft.
And later, to the Lone Gunmen,
Mulder: Have you heard of any classified planes being flown during the Persian Gulf War? …What about UFO activity during that period?
Lone Gunmen: Pshyeah, UFO’s created the Gulf War Syndrome? That’s why we love you Mulder, your theories are even crazier than ours.
Read Jenni's previous season one look-back, Fallen Angel, here. Next week is episode twenty-one, featuring the return of Tooms.
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