The X Files Revisited: 3.04 Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose
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The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. Now eight years after the second movie The X Files: I Want To Believe, the show is returning for six new episodes in 2016. Here at The Digital Fix, we are going to work our way through each season, reviewing some of the big episodes – and both movies – across the years in the build up to season ten. With 202 episodes, there is simply too much to cover every episode; instead we'll pick the story highlights of each year. Next up is a perfectly timed comic episode that has fun with the show's premise and delivers one of the greatest guest spots in the show's history; Peter Boyle's Clyde Bruckman..
We all loved the funny episodes of The X Files right? And season three had more than any other, which considering the show could be really dark at times - see my follow up review for Oubliette in a few days - these comic episodes are well placed. Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose is the greatest by far and one of the show's best overall, with a mix of the macabre, slapstick, a fantastic follow-up script by Darin Morgan (season two's Humbug) and a wonderfully droll performance by Peter Boyle as the episode's titular character.
This is an episode that both embraces and mocks the idea of psychic abilities. Clyde is a weary, aimable figure who can't use his abilities to win the lottery but does have the unfortunate knack of being about to predict how and when someone will die. He unwittingly joins the investigation into the brutal murders of other psychics not because he particularly wants to help but because he happens to be in the wrong place at the right time (he discovers the latest victim) and attracts the attention of Agent Mulder.
"I'm supposed to believe that's a real name?" Clyde asks when introduced to Agent Mulder; Darin Morgan's script is so sharp that the episode is willing to take the mic out of its premise and characters. Even Clyde's description of the killer is wonderfully droll. "The killer... he doesn't feel like he's in control of his own life. I mean, like... who is, am I right? But this guy... he truly believes it. He sees himself as some kind of a... a puppet. Scully naturally scoffs, asking if Mulder is psychic that Clyde is psychic before apologising for having 'negative energy..
Negative energy of course is what the terrific Stupendous Yappi claims Mulder has in what is possibly one of the most hilarious sequences the show has ever done. It is another scene that plays on the show's premise; the detectives at the murder scene await the arrival of their 'spooky' expert but immediately demand to know who Mulder (and Scully) are when they join the investigation. Enter The [spooky] Stupendous Yappi, sweeping into the room, accusing Mulder of having negative energy and making bold claims about the incident that occurred.
Jaap Broeker is utterly hilarious with his sharp head turns, rambling dialogue, raised eyebrows and fantastically vague claims. And yet the detective suck it all up. "Yappi has provided more solid, concrete leads on this case than you have. they accuse 'skeptical' Mulder. "Now, if you don't mind, I have to get an A.P.B. out on a white male, age seventeen to thirty-four, with or without a beard, maybe a tattoo... who's impotent. Let's go." It is a shame Darin Morgan only wrote a handful of episodes because between this, Humbug and Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space' later this season, his dialogue is very, very funny indeed.
The heart of the episode of course is the interplay between Clyde Bruckman, Mulder and Scully and there is a great balance between hilarity and genuine emotive moments. While Scully argues that some much of his 'psychic abilities' boil down to the power of suggestion there is also a great debate over whether the future is already fixed and how knowledge of that future can have adverse effects.
"Well, you see, that's another reason I can't help you catch this guy." Clyde argues. "I might adversely affect the fate of the future. I mean, his next victim might be the mother of the daughter whose son invents the time machine. Then the son goes back in time and changes world history and then Columbus never discovers America, man never lands on the moon, the U.S. never invades Grenada... Or something less significant... resulting in the fact that my father never meets my mother and consequently, I'm never born."
That is what makes this episode so great; it not only makes you laugh it really makes you think. Layer upon layer is added to the script; Clyde has a vision of Mulder chasing the killer through a kitchen, stepping on a cream pie and having his throat slashed from behind - Boyle's deliver is perfect, excitedly exclaiming it is coconut cream and then changing it to banana cream, breaking the tension as Mulder hangs on his every word - but when Mulder eventually steps on that pie later in the episode he turns to confront the killer only for his knowledge of that action to almost kill him as the killer strikes from the front instead. Only Scully arriving by taking the one elevator saves him.
It also turns something quite seedy into something beautiful. Clyde tells Scully that in his end, they will end up in bed, Scully tenderly holding his hand as a tear runs down his cheek. Despite Scully's protests, Clyde claims it will be a very special moment neither of them will ever forget. At the episode's end she finds him on a bad, a plastic bag over his face. She takes his hand as a tear of condensation runs over his cheek and that moment is fulfilled in a very emotive way.
And of course, there is Clyde telling Mulder "You know, there are worse ways to go, but I can't think of a more undignified way than autoerotic asphyxiation." Given David Duchovny's status as a bit of a sexoholic, you have to ask if the script is poking fun at the actor, or the character...or both?!
There are so many perfectly timed moments and wonderful deliveries that recounting them all just couldn't do the episode justice. From the killer (a surprisingly endearing Stuart Charno as the bellboy) encountering Clyde in the very hotel he works to that final scene that ends with Mulder stepping on the pie and Scully shooting the killer, it is a joy from start to finish. It is such a bittersweet episode too. Clyde helps them catch the killer, but becomes the last victim. Scully even gets a dog Queemqueg, but only because it belonged to Clyde's neighbour who died suddenly and her her face chewed off by her beloved pet.
To describe Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose in one word? Sublime. Perfect casting, perfect moments and the show confidence to take bigger and bolder chances with its storytelling. Is the greatest episode in the show's history? I'm not sure it beats some of the bigger dramatic stories like Anasazi but as a stand alone there can be no denying it ranks very, very high indeed!