The X-Files - S01E06 - "Shadows"
Jinkies, it's a g-g-g-dead guy!
Original air date: October 22, 1993
At this point in my X-Files watchthrough I’m a couple episodes past Shadows, and I’m not sure if that’s going to mean these posts get longer or shorter. This one wasn’t one of my favourites, but mostly out of apathy, not outright hate.
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Apparently this episode was borne out of the suits at the network wanting more episodes where the agents “helped people,” and in order to do what they wanted to do with the show down the line, the showrunners played ball1.
I don’t mind Lauren Kyte, but there’s definitely a feeling that the agents are incidental to her story; sometimes side characters become main characters and overpower their episode, and I’m still trying to figure out the balance that the writers are trying to strike.
I like the parallels; two sets of agents, two agendas, and two bits of secrecy. I think the audience is conditioned at this point to distrust alphabet agencies; obviously the irony is that Mulder and Scully are still FBI, but they’re on “our” side.
Because of external meddling, we’re wondering if these new people are part of a conspiracy or otherwise big cover-up, but by the end it’s pretty funny: they have a pretty legitimate reason for being there, and for their stonewalling our attempts to find out why.
I like how Scully smiles as Mulder whispers this theory to her. Carrie came out in 1976, so it’s not quite a recent reference; this hints at Scully being somewhat of a nerd herself?
I’m starting to think that X-Files episodes fall into a couple different categories:
We have information the agents don’t, and we’re looking to figure out how they are going to figure out that information.
We’re shown something that’s vague and weird, and we find it out at the same time as the agents (or preferably, just before).
We’re bait-and-switched, like this episode.
I get the impression that the writers didn’t like this episode much, but it feels a bit ambitious: make us feel that Kyte is the person with the powers, acting defensively, but then drip feed us more and more doubt.
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Eventually we find out that it’s a very possessive ghost, but there’s still this… “What is Lauren Kyte feeling?” through-line to the episode, but I don’t know how much time that we get to explore that. Does she think she’s doing this? Probably.
Islamic extremism in the time of Desert Storm2 feels apt.
There’s a lot of… filler in this episode? Filler isn’t the right word for it, but as I’m watching it again for screencaps it’s basically re-asking the question of Lauren’s involvement, “who’s pulling the strings” and what that smudge on the ATM video is.
I think this is probably the peak of the episode, though. I’m noticing that even in low points they do some good work with Mulder and Scully to establish characterization.
The headlights still being on is a nice touch. Fits with what they were talking about with the terrorists (electrostatic charge) which is a common ghost/psychic thing.
Yeah Scully, you’re definitely a nerd. But cute. Very cute.
“Birdwatching” Mulder is my fave, mostly because I know that if he has a camera out, it’s likely his film is getting destroyed before the end of the episode.
Okay, I was wrong. Mulder gets his photos. But we also get 1993-era “Enhance!”
The middle of this episode (or let’s say the middle half) just drags so much, because it keeps reiterating its point: Howard Graves was killed, the company is very shady, we’re sure he’s dead, the agents need to figure that out, and all the while weird things are happening to Lauren.
Good. We got it. This deadpan conversation was pretty good, though.
I feel like this part of the process (figuring out if Graves was actually dead) was some kind of filler, because it would’ve happened a lot quicker in other episodes.
This shit with the assassins showing up to Lauren’s house gives us a definite “this is what’s at work” before the final showdown. I’m also starting to notice just how often Mulder is alone when things like this (people floating, etc) happen; Scully needs to be insulated from this so she has more room to doubt.
I’ve said before that there’s a feeling that some side actors are acting for a different show, while Duchovny and Anderson (and the other mains) are in The X-Files. This episode has a lot of that; the assassins are a bit cartoony? It’s kinda Scooby-Doo?
I actually like the idea of the FBI raid on the company because it’s showing that X Files and regular work can intertwine and be messy. “Convincing the ghost to not murder” just feels very… hokey. I don’t know.
On paper it makes sense, but it feels we’ve just spent so much time with the details of the murder, revenge, protectiveness, etc. I feel like the floppy disk in the wallpaper is probably a very shitty deus ex machina to make sure the bad guys get their punishment, and Lauren gets to move on, vindicated.
I like the bait and switch at the end where Lauren feels like Howard may have followed her, only for the secretary to go “Yeah the trains here suck.”
Whatever, probably my least favourite episode so far, and paired together with The Jersey Devil, I was really hoping for an uptick in quality going forward.
"This episode, inspired by the 1982 horror film The Entity, was written due to insistence that the creators write more episodes where Mulder and Scully help people. This allowed the writers some space to create other episodes they had in mind.”
Also referenced in Episode 2, the Gulf War would’ve still been fresh in American consciousness in 1993, having ended in February 1991. But then again, what’s the reasonable timeline when it comes to “getting over a war”?