It's an arduous task for any writer to craft the mystery-of-the-week episode that follows a run of conspiracy-heavy X-Files hours, but Howard Gordon does a pretty great job of it here. While D.P.O. is still a little jarring in its simplicity, there's a fun satirical quality about the whole thing which makes it one of the few Gordon-scripted episodes worth your time.
Darin and his friend Zero are your quintessential mid-'90s slackers, from the stoned performances to the Bill and Ted-style "dude"'s and "excellent"'s, they're VERY Gen-X MTV, the kind of aimless teenage drifters along the lines of Beavis and Butt-Head. Sure, they were probably over-familiar to audiences back when the episode aired, but both are almost quaint when looking at them from a modern perspective. The fun is also increased by the fact that they're both played by two actors who found huge mainstream success post-show, mostly playing variations on the roles they play here. Giovanni Ribisi is always the dopey creepy guy, Jack Black always the over-excited and manic slacker. But it works.
There's a comic book feel to the episode, too, especially through the direction. The actual lightning scenes are spectacular (just compare the effects to last season's "evil shadow" graphics: eek.), while I loved the ever-closer shots of Darin standing on the roof of the arcade, right after killing his best friend. Equally awesome is the shot of the Chris Carter credit actually in the show. Pretty nifty.
D.P.O. is a very '90s episode, but it hasn't exactly harmed it. It's fun, vividly drawn, and featuring some memorable guest performances from the two previously mentioned actors, as well as the hottie teacher (now married to Chuck Lorre so ka-ching!) Rating B+
Guest stars Giovanni Ribisi (Darin Peter Oswald); Jack Black (Bart "Zero" Liquori); Ernie Lively (Sheriff Teller); Karen Witter (Sharon Kiveat)
Writer Howard Gordon Director Kim Manners