The X Files Revisited: 5.04 Detour

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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. And then in 2016, it returned for six new episodes, a mix of mythology and case of the week stories that brought Mulder and Scully back the FBI. From the brilliant Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster to the frantic mythology cliff-hanger in My Struggle II, it was largely viewed as a success and there are hopes that season 10 is just the first of more. In the lead up to the revival, The Digital Fix reviewed the best and most significant episodes of the first 100 episodes in the season's run, from the pilot episode all the way through to the 100th episode Unusual Suspects. Now we're going to continue that run, picking key episodes from the second half of the show - and two movies - kicking off the chilling mothmen in Detour...

Detour is the first proper X Files episode since the dramatic events of the Redux trilogy, which saw Mulder 'die', Scully almost succumb to cancer, the conspiracy thrown onto its head and the Cigarette Smoking Man meet his [first] grisly end, and the 100th episode, which dealt with the origin of The Lone Gunmen. And as a return to the norm - and the first episode I've watch since the show's six-part season 10 revival - it was an episode that showcased The X Files at its very best.

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The mothmen are a great addition to the show's repertoire of monsters, primitive human-like creatures that lurk in the deep forests of Florida, camouflaged with only their glowing red eyes to give them away. They remain a very tense threat throughout the episode, from the first two victims accidentally stabbing one of the mothmen as it lays camouflaged in the dirt at his feet, dragging a father down into the ground while his son flees for his life and later sneaking into the kid's home at night after his mother is locked outside. The shadowy figure lurking on the dark landing as the boy emerges from his bedroom door is quite a chilling sight - not quite Tooms-scary but menacing none-the-less.

Of course the real fun is Mulder and Scully stumbling into the case as they travel down to Florida for a team-building seminar with their FBI 'colleagues' Agents Kinsley and Stonecypher (a name and a half!). Unfortunately, neither agents are remotely interesting - the highlight of the trip for them is the triumph of a furniture-stacking tower from last year's team building exercise. After whispering to Scully to kill him now, Mulder literally runs out of the car and into the case when they are stopped by a police cordon as the search for the missing victims begins.

Joining the lead detective Colleen Flynn (Michele Fazekas), Mulder and Scully begin a desperate search into the forest, using heat cameras to detect the mothmen. The episode really has fun with its Predator-theme as they trek through the trees, glowing objects disappearing on their scanners, the mothmen camouflaged as bark on the trees just feet away, their eyes aglow.

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After Flynn is taken and Mulder injured, the two FBI agents have a heart to heart in the forest as Scully tries to light a fire to keep the mothmen away. One of the best things about the revival was the chemistry between Gillian Anderson's Scully and David Duchovny's Mulder and that was so apparent here in this episode; after playing these agents for four years, both actors know their characters backwards and the episode is filled with witty banter, innuendo and heartfelt moments.

There is plenty was plenty in this episode for Mulder and Scully shippers (remember this is all pre-William) from Scully's joke about two agents consorting in their motel room as she comes bearing cheese and wine to Mulder's suggestion that the best way to regenerate body heat was to crawl naked into a sleeping bag with someone else who is already naked. It's all taken in jest as two friends and colleagues who have gone through so much together - Scully talks about her recent cancer ordeal and at this point in the show, they have never been closer.

The final showdown in the cave is another great, tense sequence as Scully discovers the strung up bodies of the mothman's victims, the missing father and Flynn included. There is a great deal of danger as one of the mothmen closes in on Scully as she calls for Mulder's gun, while another creature rustles through the undergrowth behind him. It's a rather bittersweet ending too; bar one detective Jeff Glaser, everyone who is attacked gets out alive though one mothmen escapes to hunt Scully down in her motel room. Fortunately Mulder gets her out in time but the scaly face, its red eyes glowing as it hides under her bed makes for a chilling final shot.

Detour is a great monster of the week episode and a great episode for Mulder and Scully. It is a very strong episode to return too as I continue my look back and the second half of The X Files seminal run. Next up is another classic, the black and white The Post-Modern Prometheus, proving that at this point in the show's run, it could still knock it out of the park on a regular basis.

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Last updated: 06/08/2018 14:26:59

The X Files

Chris Carter's The X Files was the cultural zeitgeist of the 1990s, turning Mulder and Scully into television heroes. With its mix of aliens, conspiracies, monsters and serial killers, it revolutionised cult television and returned for new six-part revival in 2016 and another 10 episodes in 2018. Check out our 'The X Files Revisited', reviewing key episodes from across all seasons and both movies and our weekly reviews of season 11.

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