The X Files Revisited: 5.19 Folie a Deux
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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 – and towards the end of season five we have another classic horror story in Folie a Deux...
My boss in a real monster. This workplace turns us all into zombies. Folie a Deux takes this concept literally and has a blast with it. It's an episode filled with paranoia, hostage crises, Mulder at odds with Scully and a couple of fun twists to keep the audience on their toes. Yes, that concept could be applied to the previous episode The Pine Bluff Variant too and that's the one major fault I can find with this episode - it's positioning just after the strong conspiracy thriller episode. A placement mid-season may have worked just as well but maybe that's where the season suffers with the reduced 20-episode format to make way for the upcoming movie.
But Folie a Deux is equally a very different episode to its predecessor and a funnier one too. Brian Markinson (who previously played the role of Tony Fiore in season one's Born Again) is Gary Lambert an officer employee who is becoming increasingly suspicious of his mild-mannered boss Greg Pincus. While others see a balding office manager he sees something akin to a giant black praying mantis (presumably no relation to Natalie French from season one of Buffy The Vampire Slayer). Possibly it's a giant ant-like creature but either way it looks decidedly out of place in the office environment. Given that this is The X Files it could be one of two things - a hallucination as a result some deadly contagion (but The Pine Bluff Variant already covered this) or an actual giant insect disguised as a human.
What's worse, he's sucking the souls out of the employees one by one, including his smiley, bright-eyed co-worker Nancy. Again, everyone else can see a normal woman, but he sees someone with dead eyes and pale skin. It's not The Walking Dead territory by any means but the first time you see her in 'zombie mode' it is quite shocking. The humour is in Mulder being dragged into the case against his will; he even leaves Scully behind because he thinks the anonymous threats by Lambert to a local radio station claiming his boss is a monster is a hoax. David Duchovny plays the boredom and frustration well, like Scully in most episodes he doesn't believe there is anything supernatural in it until he is caught up in a hostage situation as Lambert holds his boss and zombie colleagues hostage and Mulder sees the insect boss for what he really is.
It's a great twist of events as a poor, unfortunate Lambert is dispatched by the SWAT team and Mulder becomes the one convinced that Pinus is a monster hiding in plain sight. His descent into madness is quick and amusing. He hunts down the boss of the telemarketing firm, tracking other incidents across the US where people claimed there was a monster in their midst and finding that Pincus was present at all. The best moment is when Skinner confronts Mulder over his increasingly aggressive actions with Pinkus is in the room and Mulder watches in horror as the huge, black insect-like creature looms threateningly over his boss.
The final scenes with Mulder locked in the mental hospital are surprisingly tense. Strapped to the bed while the shadow of the creature lurks at his window, you can feel the panic rising in Mulder, particularly when the nurse opens the window. Of course she's been turned into a zombie too, as Scully finds out to her shock and horror, finally believing Mulder's claims and races in to shoot the creature as it hangs over Mulder's bed while he screams below. It's a great monster moment, with both agents confronted by something they can't deny but can't explain either, much to Skinner's frustration at the end of the episode.
Folie a Deux - meaning shared delusions or madness - is a very apt title. It's a great horror episode mixed with humour and conspiracy thriller that The X Files does best. It's not as memorable as early horror / monster episodes but it is another strong entry in a season that has seen the show at its very best.