The X Files Revisited: 8.03 Patience
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, we investigate Scully and Doggett's first case together...
Patience is an story with two purposes. It's a standard monster of the week case, but it's also the first episode of The X Files ever not to include David Duchovny in the opening credits. Not only does it follow on from John Doggett's assignment to the X Files at the end of Without, it also serves as a template for how the show will work sans Mulder.
The interplay between Scully and Doggett is by far the most successful. It is awkward, cold, even hostile at times, and Robert Patrick continues to deliver as the down to earth skeptic with a common sense approach while Scully transitions into the traditional Mulder role of skeptic. Like several season eight episodes, Patience sees her to try and balance the Mulder-esque leaps of logic with scientific reason and it is interesting to see her both out of her comfort zone and yet using seven years of experience to play the more confident, self-assured leader investigator on all things strange. It's most evident when she gives the traditional slide show presentation to Doggett in Mulder's office. Scully has firmly become Mulder's protege; Doggett (like Scully in season one) still has friends in the FBI, is well respected and able to balance the oddness of the case with working with the local police form. Scully meanwhile comes across as a little weird and unsociable; only when you take the care-free Mulder from the equation do you see how far she has come.
But it is not all backhanded comments and little digs; even in this episode, we begin to see Scully work with Doggett effectively, using their investigative skills to solve the mystery of a giant man-bat hunting the residents of a local town. There is even a moment on the stakeout when she admits she might have gone too far in her assumptions, tried to be too much luck Mulder. The interesting thing is that Doggett remains fair, likeable and totally engaging. The fact that he spent the weekend before trawling through old X Files cases proves his commitment to the role even if he is not comfortable with it. He uses the uniqueness of this case to dig up an old newspaper from 40 years ago, deducing that the man bat hunted back then might be responsible now.
Patience, like the season eight two-part opener acts a pilot for a semi-rebooted The X Files and intentional or not, there is the sense that the show is repeating (or at least playing homage to) the beginning of season one. Two alien mythology episodes followed by a monster of the week that has returned to kill again after murders decades earlier. The newspaper article harks back to the investigation into Eugene Victor Tooms in season one's Squeeze. While this episode is nowhere near as successful as that instant classic, this man bat creature is Doggett's version of supernatural killer returned from hibernation.
Unfortunately the creature is no Tooms. There are certain moments that are creepy; glimpses of the man bat hanging in the rafters above one unsuspecting victim and the chilling moment the detective finds the creature nestled in the trunk of a tree. But then it starts 'flying' and it feels like something out of a B movie. It is certainly a nasty piece of work and part of a noticeable trend towards the darker horror of earlier seasons but it feels...silly. Perhaps it's the design, hovering over its victims, but it elicits a snigger rather than a gasp.
The story also feels a little befuddled. The creature has spent forty years hibernating because it failed to find one man, Ernie Stefaniuk, who spent those years in hiding on an island in the middle of a marsh. The creature returned after his scent appeared on the body of his wife, sent back to the town to be buried. All those who discovered her body are picked off one by one, until the final showdown on the island where Scully and Doggett are 'marked' too. The trouble is there is no sense of just how intelligent this creature, descended from bats rather apes, really is. And why would it stop killing for four decades if it's instinct is to hunt?
The random silliness of the tale doesn't get in the way of a good Scully and Doggett dynamic and their investigation adds a freshness to the show not seen in some time. If season seven felt tired, season eight already feels invigorated, with the search for Mulder providing a strong narrative thread. Patience isn't a great episode, but thanks to Doggett, it is a good one.