Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The X-Files: Leonard Betts (4.12)

One of the issues that is stopping me from completely loving The X-Files is the way the show's two protagonists are written. They're great characters and performed impeccably, but they're written so relentlessly dour and miserable all the time that they frequently lose their humanity. They may as well be two sharp-suited cyborgs most of the time; they're so unemotional and bleak. I mention this because Leonard Betts feels like the first episode in a long while where they're written as human. They exhibit human characteristics and emotions, and it helps that the rest of the hour is equally as awesome.

As a result of the aforementioned humanity, we finally have some humor once again. Both Mulder and Scully are squicked out by this particular case: Scully by the moving severed head, and Mulder by the giant tank of bodily waste. They have chemistry in spades this episode, and it's wonderful. Equally wonderful is the sudden turnaround at the end of the hour, making this far deeper than just another monster episode. Gillian Anderson's fear and sense of complete horror as she begins to piece together what Betts saw in her is just palpable, and a haunting closer to the episode.

The rest of Leonard Betts is pretty spectacular. As with all Vince Gilligan-scripted episodes, there's a great central idea: body regeneration; and I loved the gradual unfolding of the mystery, especially the revelation that his natural bodily state is that of complete cancer. Scully's embarrassment as she is almost forced to come around to Mulder's way of thinking in regards to the head regrowth is also pretty fun.

Special effects are probably at their finest here, too. Severed heads moving, bathtubs of blood, skin-shedding. It's a doozy in terms of visuals. Throw in Scully suddenly becoming Xena and I have no idea how anybody couldn't love this episode. Rating A

Guest stars Paul McCrane (Leonard Betts); Marjorie Lovett (Elaine Tanner); Jennifer Clement (Michele Wilkes)
Writers Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Frank Spotnitz Director Kim Manners

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