The X Files Revisited: 7.06 The Goldberg Variation
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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 pilot episode and then carried on throughout the series, covering the best and most significant episodes of the show including the first movie The X Files: Fight The Future. Next up, Mulder and Scully investigate the luckiest man in the world...
Can someone be too lucky? That's the concept The X Files asks in this curious season seven episode, which sees Mulder and Scully encounter Henry Weems (a great guest performance from Willie Garson) who walks away with barely a scratch after falling off a 29 story building. The Goldberg Variation is a fun episode and for many one of the highlights of season seven and one I was eager to include in my rewatch.
The premise is based on the titular Goldberg Variation, that random series of events can result in something unexpected and the episode has great fun with this idea. Weems manages to survive the fall because a trolley filled with towels just happened to be placed beneath an open access hatch in the street after he was thrown off the building by gangsters. One of the gangsters sent to finish the job dies after accidentally shooting a lamp after Mulder buzzes Weem's apartment, causing the lamp to knock over an ironing board, which the gangster trips over, gets his shoelaces caught in an overhead fan and has a heart attack. Later on the mob boss Cutrona dies after trying to torture Weems and accidentally receiving a giant metal hook to the face. It is these moments that really make the episode shine.
The performances from the three leads - Mulder, Scully and Weems - are all very engaging too. This late in the show's run, the banter is positively electric between the two FBI agents as David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson know their characters down to a T. There is a great sense of glee in Mulder's investigation - something a little lacking of late - and Scully gets to embrace the weirdness while trying to find the more scientific solution as always.
Willie Garson had a small role in season three's The Walk but here he is the star of the show, an endearing and hopeless character who just wants to do the right thing and earn enough money to help the sick kid in his neighbour's apartment, Richie (an unrecognizable young Shia LaBeouf). What is so lovely to watch is his single-mindedness and trying to get that £10,000 for Richie. He finishes his poker game with the gangsters at the very moment he wins that amount and then discounts the winning scratch card with his £10k winnings because it will take him weeks to claim the prize - weeks Richie does not have.
There is a darker side to his story too, namely the extreme bad luck of those around him. The killers sent to finish him off and eventually Cutrona die as a result of extreme circumstances and the poor man in the supermarket who picks up Weem's scratch card after he discards it is swiftly dispatched by a moving bus. It is a moment we could all see coming - the sideways traffic is a common theme on TV these days - but it does truly emphasise the bad luck of others around Weems. There is even the argument that Richie's life-threatening condition is the result of his close proximity to neighbour Weems. Fortunately it all works out in the end when the deceased Cutrona is revealed to be the same rare blood type as Richie.
There are some clever ideas at play, fun performances and some attempt to deliver on the convoluted events that take place, but The Goldberg Variation was also - dare I say it - a little dull at times. There is definitely a case of great idea, mediocre execution, with those contrived moments fortunately serving to break up the episode. This is a story that should be so much fun, but the magic is often missing, perhaps because the performances from the other cast members doesn't really rise to the occasion. In fact Ramy Zada's Cutrona borders on cliche villain at times. Too often the plot drags along, with Duchovny, Anderson and Garson trying their best to deliver something special. Without them, it would all fall flat.
The Goldberg Variation is a solid episode of The X Files but it is not a great episode. It doesn't veer into drama or comedy as much as it should, making it seem a little lacklustre in execution. But there are still moments to keep you entertained and if nothing else, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson show they've still got that chemistry after six and a half years on the show.