The X-Files - S01E05 - "The Jersey Devil"
At the end of the day, we're all just weird animals. With teeth.
Original air date: October 8, 1993
Oh hey, we’re back in Monster of the Week town for the next two episodes. Admittedly I watched these back-to-back; the magic is ruined already.
I think that once I catch up to the month/date of original airings, I’ll just do episodes that way (or at least publish them on the same date, 29 years in the future). It would be too smart of me to wait until next year for 30.
You can tell this was 1993 because print porn was still a thing.
She’s (in character) so fucking proud of herself for that line.
We’re off to Jersey!
I think that we’re seeing a bit of a formula developing, regardless of whether the episode is a mythology one or not. We’re five episodes in, and I think every episode so far has had either “local law enforcement don’t want to help Mulder” or “a bureaucracy above Mulder wants to either suppress him maliciously, or not help him out of apathy/spite.”
Exhuming the bodies in “Pilot”
The army/journalist in “Deep Throat”
Donal Logue in “Squeeze”
The local Sheriff in “Conduit”
I know that’s the theming here — they’re trying to get us on Mulder’s side, and illustrate just how big the monolith is that he’s fighting against. This makes us get on his side at the same time Scully does, albeit faster.
I’m more just saying that as a narrative device, I’m starting to go “yadda yadda, yes, this part” in my brain.
I like this bit because Scully’s starting to make her own jokes, but not in a dismissive way. I don’t think Mulder would’ve wanted to humiliate the guy, and I think that’s important; I think the stereotype of Mulder (portrayed in references to the character elsewhere) is that he’s dumb or oblivious in the case of social situations.
I think we get plenty of reminders that Mulder is both jaded by pressuring a system that won’t give, or knows what isn’t worth his effort. He’s also not taking moments like this personally, which he could just have easily closed up to Scully. The partnership is developing at this point and he knows he can trust her.
I try not to read Wikipedia entries about episodes until well after I’ve formed my opinion on an episode, mostly because I don’t want the “Critical Response” section to guide how I feel. However, seeing this episode being a setup for Scully’s “real life” and how it’s going to eventually fade away made sense.
We get to see choices she makes, and how they almost seem mundane; the things she’s supposed to want out of life aren’t as interesting as this thing she’s uncovered. What’s started as a job is now becoming an investment, and that investment includes Mulder.
Scully could have just as easily said “Okay Fox, it’s your funeral” and driven back — she’d have to make the trip regardless. But Fox is staying behind, and maybe she feels a little left out by that; maybe she’s a bit disappointed in her obligations, or Fox remaining so dedicated to the case makes her think she’s dodging a duty.
If Mulder decided to come back, she probably wouldn’t have given it another thought, but this is going to plant a seed that comes back in the rest of the episode.
1993! Phone books!
Playing off what I said earlier about people obstructing Mulder, he gets his own little squad in this episode. Ranger Peter Brullet (Michael MacRae) here is a bit of… levity? Comedy? He feels like he’s supposed to be in a different show.
“You went to the FBI Academy, Dana. What better training could there be for motherhood?”
I think I’m not going to opine on 1993’s gender roles/workplace gender issues unless it’s an overt theme of an episode, because it’s going to get old/repetitive. The “hey it’s a phone book in 1993!” joke is going to wear thin eventually, and pointing out every instance of older dynamics will too; I think shows can be a product of their time.
In this case, it’s not just Ellenn saying “you can’t be an agent, you have to be a mother” and that representing the show’s view on Scully; it’s introducing Scully’s decision/thinking about a more typical life. I don’t think we’ve seen her be anti “settling down” by this point, but we’re going to get more of that this episode.
Nice quick correction there, Dana.
“He’s a jerk” is not a denial she thinks he’s cute.
I think at this point in 1993 the Fox/Dana shippers were probably punching the air in vindication (I kinda was). His confirms that the moments I feel like I was imagining were on purpose, and hey, it’s nice to have that radar still working.
I laughed a bit. Keep on the hunt, Dana.
I typically watch these episodes while on a treadmill, and sometimes I’m not actively watching every scene. When I go back to get screencaps, I catch stuff like this, and I’m thankful for that.
A nice sequence. HBO still being this premium thing in 1993 made me laugh a bit; I think in most series from the time (or even into the early 2000s), “do they have HBO” or “having HBO” was a line I’ve heard multiple times. The X-Files ran on Fox while on TV, and I don’t think this kind of line would happen if the show was made today: HBO was still a premium thing, and a reference probably wouldn’t be like a Marvel character saying “Paramount Plus” or whatever.
I wonder which crew member had to draw this thing in like, ten seconds.
Another scene that I didn’t quite catch the first time. Mulder is literally sleeping on the street to stake out a cryptid.
Mulder’s connection with the Jersey Devil is pretty interesting because at times he definitely feels enamored with her; I think there’s a love of the subject matter, but it feels like they’re trying to connect this with Scully looking at other men, dating, etc.
“He loves his work,” sure, but by the end of the episode his demeanor towards the Devil is very specific. This very much feels like a “love at first sight” shot.
After a night of “getting to the bottom of things” and telling the audience the motivations for keeping the Devil secret, Mulder calls Scully like he’s trying (subtly) to ask her out. Some parts of this episode feel like it could be a rom-com in dialog.
Scully picks him up, feeds him, and then we get this exchange:
Look at that look. Satisfied, but also “Hm, I wonder how he’s going to respond?”
See, the funny thing is that she doesn’t know whether he means “Can you cancel?” in a jealous way, or a “I need your help finding Bigfoot” kind of way. This is where Mulder’s “social ineptness” kinda gets born from, because we haven’t had that kind of introspective “Mulder thinking/considering Scully romantically” scene; she may still be a tool to him, so to speak.
“Unlike you, Mulder, I would like to have a life.”
The mention of aliens here is prescient. Also, this is member #2 (or arguably #3, if we count the sympathetic coroner) in Mulder’s action squad for this episode.
I saw another review while hunting for a quote in this episode where someone said “it’s nice to see a cop on Mulder’s side for once”, and this extends to this prof. He’s not someone that can really be counted on because he’s not as “in” as Mulder is, but it’s something.
Come the fuck on, TV show.
Looking fly, Dana.
It’s in our nature to be protective of Scully, and “keep her for ourselves”; if Scott became like, a regular boyfriend or something, he’d be keeping Scully from the premise of the show, and at worst, would become competition for Mulder’s attention, or have a jealousy storyline or something.
Fortunately, we get to see that he’s an abysmal first date, which makes Scully’s choice a lot easier. There’s stuff that you just don’t say on a first date, and… yeah.
We’re being shown what Scully could be doing, and it seems a bit preferable.
Scully’s beeper goes off, and we can sense the “Oh thank god.”
She’s so hooked.
I think it’s interesting that we’re given hope that we can bring something like the Devil in alive. It’s a weakness of the TV format that we know by now that can’t be the case, and it’s probably something that’s going to get more annoying as things go along.
Because the status quo is so monolithic and large, the show can’t definitively crack anything because that would disrupt it. That ends up robbing us of tension, because we know “well, they can’t prove aliens exist this episode. Someone’s going to come in and ruin it.”
We have a tranq gun, but as soon as I saw it, I was thinking “Ugh, okay, this Devil’s dead some other way.”
“Who’s really primitive, Scully?” is pretty blunt considering the subject matter, but the stuff in the episode about relationships, sex and mating all kind of lead back to that primal instinct.
This goes further when Mulder’s captured by the Devil; essentially the tension is very “she’s taking him as her mate.”
Hell yeah, Scully with a gun. I think she’s consistently used the same one the whole time, too, so props to the prop department (heh).
There’s “she was beautiful” in the sense of a hunter seeing a deer or something, and then there’s the application of it to a beautiful woman. The writers want you to meld both in your brain; is Mulder genuinely attracted to her humanity or is he viewing her as a specimen?
I’m very surprised this screenshot hasn’t been used in more comical ways.
Despite the tranq, the Devil must die. Mulder gives her a final human courtesy; some dignity, by closing her eyes post-mortem.
In asking why she had to die, Mulder looks like he’s going to murder this guy when he says she was killed “just like any other rabid animal.” Scully definite knows what Mulder could do, and steps in.
Like last episode, we end off with Scully a bit desperate, trying to keep Mulder from going back inside his shell after an obviously emotional experience. Before, it was saying “Hey, saving this girl isn’t going to bring your sister back.”
Here, it’s “yeah, it’s really shitty the Devil died, because that person was a human, and she was treated cruelly. Please take a moment to just decompress from that.”
These media posts aren’t my main work, but if you like my style and want to read more, consider subscribing. You can subscribe only to this section when you do.
I can imagine that FBI agents have that kind of training, and for some reason I thought Scully was introduced as a psychologist (nope, it was a forensic pathologist and physics grad).
I don’t think this “Mulder is being worn down” continues into the next episode, but it’s important because we have to assume Mulder’s already worn down and cynical from dealing with “The System”; the people that killed the Devil aren’t part of the greater mythology conspiracy, but their actions mirror them.
Rob calls, and with an attractive offer.1
Scully’s other option is literally going to a museum with Mulder, but you can see that interest in the facial expression/mannerism.
Cute. Scully closes the book on the dude, telling the audience as much as she’s telling Mulder.
It’s probably the writers trying to connect the “romance” between the Devil and Mulder to Scully’s line here, but there’s that “maybe he’d like that” response that popped into my brain.
The thing is, there’s no lingering on Mulder here in the same way that we’ve had with Scully through this episode; there’s no reciprocal connection forming, and I can imagine that’s on purpose. I don’t think Mulder’s oblivious, but he sure isn’t overtly jealous yet.
Every time there would’ve been that beat in this episode, we’ve shown him obsessed with the case, instead. And that’s good, because this isn’t a rom-com, and we’re still only five episodes in. However, it needs to be balanced without blatant “Oh come on Mulder, you can’t be this dense.”
Nice line to end the episode, referencing the discussions about evolution, “we’re still the monsters who make tools to kill each other” philosophizing. I don’t think it’s weak, but it’s more appreciated on my end for Scully’s zinger than anything.
It took a second to realize the “look who’s holding the door” isn’t referencing any episode-long narrative about gender roles (“a woman is holding a door for a man!”) but more the short-term “she just threatened to dismember and eat me.” Cute.
Looking it up, it looks like Cirque was touring to critical acclaim by 1993, with a residency in Vegas. They did the majority of their “blowing up” in 1989-90.