The X Files Revisited: 4.20 Small Potatoes
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. This time its season four's comic gem Small Potatoes.
The Peacocks. Mulder and Krycek trapped in a Russian gulag and exposed to the black oil. Scully's cancer. Max Fenig dying in a plane crash. Season four of The X Files might have provided plenty of great drama but it makes for some pretty grim viewing at times. And noticeably it's rather light on comedy too. Considering we got three magnificent comedy episodes in season three - Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose, War of the Coprophages and Jose Chung's "From Outer Space"- that is somewhat surprising. Though perhaps the reason for the lack of humour in season four; all of those episode were written by Darin Morgan and after he left the show, how could any writer hope to match his comic brilliance?
Fortunately Vince Gilligan (of Breaking Bad fame) was up to the challenge and Small Potatoes is a great addition to the season; a woman in a small town gives birth to a baby with a tail - the fifth infant to be born with this extra appendage in three months. An invasion of monkey babys, as a rash tabloid so eloquently puts it, is enough to put Mulder on the case. But its the father that certainly peek Mulder and Scully - and the audience's - interest; it was Luke Skywalker.
Despite the fact that the mother has seen Star Wars 369 times, the real clue is in the fertility clinic treating the other four mothers. And unassuming janitor Eddie Van Blundht - played by none other than Darin Morgan himself! With a scar where his tail once was and a DNA test proving he is the father the greater mystery becomes how? As Scully so eloquently puts it "On behalf of all the women in the world this was not consensual."
Mulder: "I have a theory. Do you want to hear it?"
Scully: "Van Blundht somehow physically transformed into his captor and walked out the door, leaving no one the wiser?"
Mulder: Scully, should we be picking out china patterns or what?"
The script crackles and the heart of it is Mulder and Scully. Their debate over who they would be if they could be someone else is a lot of fun, even if their views are very different. Mulder embraces the weirdness and Scully sticks with the rational explanation; four years on the actors are so comfortable in the roles that their banter is just as engaging as the horror, the drama and the fun...
And it really is a fun episode. Eddie escaping custody after the police officer repeatedly misspells his name and disguising himself as the woman of one of the husbands is hilarious, particularly when the real husband returns home. Mulder and Scully discovering the mummified corpse of Eddie's father in the attic adds a touch of proper X Files horror and Mulder accidentally snapping off the calcified tail was particularly amusing. And the final showdown between Mulder and Eddie - disguised as Mulder - leads to the best twist of all; the real agent being locked in a boiler room while the imposter takes his identity and returns to Washington DC with Scully.
The scenes with Eddie's 'Mulder; are fantastic and the real comic highlights of season four. I laughed as he misspelt Federal Bureau of Investigation twice in his final report to Skinner and when he declared "this is where our tax dollars go?" as he stared at the 'I want to believe' poster in Mulder's office. Questioning where does Mulder sleep, getting excited over the voicemail from a sexy woman - only to reveal it was a telemarketer - and deleting the message from the Lone Gunmen as they claimed to know who killed JFK (a great nod to Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man) - all moments where he realises Mulder is an even bigger loser than him. Oh and his attempt to practice saying "F.B.I" with the badge is wonderful.
And then we have the 'seduction of Scully' scene. What a perfect moment of TV and one that many shippers of the two agents must have been elated with at the time. Showing off the new sensitive, open side to Mulder as they share a bottle of red wine in her apartment, you could almost hear the fangirl squeals of excitement as he leaned in for the kiss. (I did notice that she didn't seem quite so sure of herself). The real Mulder bursting in and catching them about to lock lips was the perfect comic denouement.
Small Potatoes is a witty, funny and often surprising episode with plenty of comic turns to keep the audiences on their feet. It all rests on the final scenes with the Mulder-impersonating Eddie and fortunately it really works. And given the heavy episodes coming up, this slice of comedy was just what the show needs...