A fast paced alien conspiracy thriller in this pivotal season one episode…
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 we return to aliens and government conspiracies in the underrated Fallen Angel…
After a run of ghosts, killer worms, and Jersey devils, The X Files returned to its beginnings with a fast-paced thriller that serves as a true sequel Deep Throat, the episode that introduced Mulder’s shadowy informant and military testing on UFO technologies. Jerry Hardin also gets more to play with in Fallen Angel. After a brief appearance in Ghost In The Machine and episode about a killer computer, he is used to better effect here, sending Mulder on a mission to track down a crashed UFO (codenamed ‘Fallen Angel’ and giving the episode its name).
The episode’s pre-title sequence starts with a bang as military officers track a fallen aircraft and an escaping invisible alien, resembling Predator in many ways, killing a poor police deputy as it flees through the woods. Immediately 12,000 residents find themselves evacuated due to a ‘toxic spill’, something that attracts a black-ops wannabe Mulder, sneaking onto the crash site. In fact, Deep Throat’s mission is shown through flashbacks, upping the pace all the way through the first act until Mulder is captured – again – by military forces.
There is more than a touch of Roswell about the scenario, something military forces allude to. Mulder loses any evidence when he finds himself imprisoned and like Deep Throat, it is up to Scully to bail him out again. Her absence is noted in the first act and she is not impressed by his ‘lone crusade’. The tension continues to rise as she warns Mulder that an FBI hearing has been convened and Section Chief McGrath – one of the many high up officials seeking to bring Mulder down – wants to kick him out of the FBI and shut down The X Files. Not even half way through season one and we were already seeing some big developments that would come to fruition by the season’s end. As with much of the this re-review of early episodes, I was surprised at just how much is foreshadowed early on.
I have also commented that there is a strong bond between the two series leads almost from the get go, but that doesn’t mean Scully is ready to walk through fire for Mulder just yet. She is still fiercely loyal to the FBI and believes the cover story the military gives her; it it was not a toxic spill but a downed Libyan jet with a nuclear warhead.
In her mind, US soldiers are hunting for the pilot but Mulder is already believing the truth, that something alien is out on the woods. It creates a tension between them that rarely thaws throughout the episode; if Ice saw Mulder and Scully divided by paranoia and exhaustion, then Fallen Angel sees his fanaticism become a step too far by Scully who still wants to play by the rules. It is utterly believable too. While her ultimate fate will be to join Mulder as a fugitive by the show’s end, we have only had ten episodes to see them working together and as we have seen in much of season one, she still has a lot to lose; family, friends and a promising career.
At least she is willing to listen and when the military cover-up over the deputy’s disappearance sparks her interest, she becomes as ready to find the truth as Mulder. The clock continues to tick as the FBI hearing draws close, racking up the tension once more. When they encounter the horrifically burned soldiers who had encountered the alien, Scully throws herself into helping the overwhelmed doctors, while Mulder goes up against to the aggressive Corporal Calvin Henderson. The military commander in charge of the hunt is the latest in the long line of officials blocking Mulder’s quest for the truth. Marshall Bell delivers the role with great gusto and even if it isn’t anything original he does give Mulder a great foil.
“How many people have to die before you rethink your approach?” Mulder rages against Henderson as his soldiers faces horrific injuries. Naturally it comes to nothing by the episode’s end.
Instead, Mulder goes to fellow alien conspirator Max Fenig for help, a man that had followed Mulder’s work with great interest as a member of the organisation National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). A possible alien abductee himself, his involvement in the events of the episode proves to be another source of tension between Mulder and Scully, with the later believing him delusional due to the effects of his schizophrenia. In the end, poor Max finds himself trapped in the warehouse with the alien, with only Mulder as a witness while military forces close in. Max’s encounter with the alien, hovering in the air and bathed in light before his disappearance remains one of the most striking images of season one.
While Max would return in season four, he also serves as a template for the Lone Gunmen, who would be introduced later in the season. Scott Bellis delivers a memorable, excitable, endearing ally for Mulder and I would have liked to have seen more of him. I particularly loved Max and Mulder’s geeky conversation over crop circles. But perhaps, if Bellis had been in the show more, we would not have had the Lone Gunmen and they arguably stronger characters who made a huge impact – and got their own short-lived spin-off.
There is a great foreshadowing to later episodes, particularly The Erlenmeyer Flask at the episode’s end as Scully tries to defend Mulder at the hearing and is silenced, while Mulder rages that Max was abducted and the military covered it all up.
“Then what can I say?” Mulder states, already defeated. “How can I disprove lies that are stamped with an official seal? You can deny all the things I’ve seen. All the things I’ve discovered. But not for much longer. Because too many others know what’s happening out there. And no one, no government agency has jurisdiction over the truth.”
In the grand scheme of things it feels a little early in the show’s history for Mulder to be making such a dramatic statement, but it is still great stuff and David Duchovny has such passion in his delivery I am easily reminded why he was so great in the role.
Fallen Angel ends on an intriguing note as Section Chief McGrath meets with Deep Throat on the grounds of the FBI, who it turns out has countermanded the decision to shut down the X Files.
“Mulder’s work is a singular passion– poses a most unique dilemma. But his occasional insubordination is in the end, far less dangerous.” Deep Throat says rather mysteriously. “Than having him exposed to the wrong people. What he knows… what he thinks he knows… Always keep your friends close, Mr. McGrath… but keep your enemies closer.
Hero or villain? We have seen that Deep Throat has access to some very sensitive information but here we see him pulling the strings. It makes his a fascinating character and adds to the mystery of the arc audiences didn’t even realise was unfolding at this stage. It is what makes Fallen Angel essential viewing and demonstrates how on the mark The X Files was even in its early days.
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