Some eps come and go on my perpetual Top Ten, but this one is the toppermost of the poppermost. This is not a first season episode by most series' standards. This is top-notch.
And how did they manage this? Well, it helps if you have two actors whose chemistry practically makes the screen glow. Then you get a great script by Glen Morgan and James Wong, and get Brad Dourif to play Luther Lee Boggs. David Nutter's direction is great, too.
The acting in this is number one on the list. This is one of Gillian Anderson's finest hours. She is just incredible from start to finish. Just a few shout-outs:
-Her stoic attitude when Mulder shows concern. Is this the first, "I'm fine" from Scully? If not the first, it's the first significant one where Scully is hiding her true feelings.
-The exchange between Scully and Mulder at the motel, after Scully admits that she didn't tell the truth about how she found the warehouse, and her admission that "I love this job."
-The scene where she tells Boggs that if Mulder dies, she'll pull the switch herself. This is the Scully Showcase. She goes ballistic, then frightened and sad, and every second is believable. The way her voice breaks on "I'll believe if you let me talk to him," and the way she can't look at Boggs when she asks this -- breaks my heart every time. I want it to be true for Scully.
-And then, the last time she sees Boggs, she's such a cool customer.
Scully wears her suits and her hair like armor in this. She is so very tailored when she goes to see Boggs -- all buttoned up, her hair so smooth it could be a helmet, with the exception of the scene where she's just come from the hospital. The last scene, where she goes to visit Mulder, she's wearing a much softer blouse and her hair is wavier. Nicely done, Hair and Makeup!
David Duchovny doesn't have the tour de force opportunities that Gillian does in this, but he does just fine, thank you. His awkward attempt to offer sympathy to "Dana" is just right. When he reaches out and touches her -- nothing awkward there.
Mulder gets to be a real cop in this episode. This is the kind of thing that gets a guy commendations. He's at the top of his game here, but kind of at a loss as to how to deal with his suddenly wobbly partner.
He's great in the scenes with Boggs, and in the way he talks to Scully and tries to understand her about face. He knows more than he's letting on, because he wants Scully to say it. Even at the end he's trying to draw her out. Wardrobe for him? One of the ugliest ties ever.
Brad Dourif's Luther Lee Boggs gives both DD and GA a wonderful character to play against. He's so deliciously creepy. When he pulls on a hank of his greasy hair, channeling 14-year-old Dana, ewwwww.
And the writing itself. I have a few quibbles, but this is all about the love here, so I'm not going to talk about them. Morgan and Wong told the story of Dana Scully and her father in a few very short scenes. GA gave those words feeling and meaning, but the guys did good with this.
This is an episode that I would show someone who'd never seen XF before. It showcases the characters so well, and the story itself is compelling. If I could only have one episode for the desert island, this would be the one.