Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The X-Files: Pusher (3.17)

Based on Pusher and his first scripted effort Soft Light last season, it's clear Vince Gilligan is an "ideas man", creating an ingenious science-fiction idea and running with it. While Soft Light was in various ways flawed, Pusher's central idea works so well because Gilligan puts Mulder and Scully directly at the center of it, showcasing their compassion for one another during a nerve-jangling final act.

Robert Patrick Modell is a wonderful bad guy. He's cut from the same mold as Tooms and Pfaster in his nonchalant creepiness, but Robert Wisden at the same time infuses the character with a deranged sense of "normality". Which isn't surprising, since he never has to get his hands dirty when ending the lives of others. His abilities also create two subversively grizzly scenes: the self-immolation, and Agent Burst (great name) succumbing to a heart attack via phone conversation.

The penultimate act is a thrill ride. A deserted hospital, Mulder in his negotiator gear, Scully running to the rescue at the slightest hint of her partner being in danger. It's a great closer, depending just as much on our interest in the Mulder and Scully relationship as it is dependent on the powerful villain character.

One of the best monster-of-the-week episodes in a long time, Pusher is unique, pretty daring and awesomely tense. It's a real thriller episode, combining a routine FBI case story with some nifty, simplistic supernature. Kick-ass. Rating A

Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Walter Skinner); Robert Wisden (Robert Patrick Modell); Vic Polizos (Agent Frank Burst)
Writer Vince Gilligan Director Rob Bowman

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