Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The X-Files: Small Potatoes (4.20)

Comedy works at its finest when there is an undercurrent of tragedy. Eddie Van Blundht, the shapeshifting, once-tailed gentleman at the center of Small Potatoes, is a schlubby loser who uses his abilities to become what he never has been as Eddie. With his powers, he doesn't have to be the ignored fertility clinic janitor, he can be the businessman or the lovable husband or the gun-toting FBI agent. What he's responsible for is genetic rape, but in Eddie's mind it's merely an escape from an unfulfilling existence. And then there's Mulder. Now, Mulder appears perfectly happy leading the life he leads, but somebody like Eddie automatically thinks different. Mulder is a handsome, charming government employee with a hot work partner. And yet he associates with nerds, calls up phone sex lines and keeps to himself. Why should a life that great be wasted? These are the themes raised throughout the hour, one of the show's finest comedy episodes.

David Duchovny is hilarious as Eddie-in-Mulder, from the frantic fumbling as he tries to find the correct key to his office, to his bemused inspecting of Mulder's apartment. And then there's Gillian, who always works wonders as the straight man. I loved her straight-faced reading of "and did he have a lightsaber?", as well as her general disregard for the case itself. Scully's scene with Eddie at the end was particularly memorable. Here's a woman who goes home on Friday night and gets to work on yet another report of some kind, partnered to a man who has never attempted to actually get to know her. And then comes Eddie, charming her into talking about her history over a glass of wine. There's even some romantic heat between them, thankfully spoiled when the real Mulder bursts through the door. But while it's pretty funny, it's also sad to see Scully enjoy this new side of Mulder, only to discover it was never actually him.

Darin Morgan makes for a sympathetic Eddie, a man so crippled with self-pity that he even insults himself when under the guise of other people. One of the saddest moments is only figured out in retrospect, with Eddie-as-his-father telling Mulder that his son isn't "much to look at", or an athlete, or exactly Einstein. It's such a moving scene, entirely encapsulating this damaged and naive young man.

Small Potatoes is another X-Files episodes that uses the audience's intrinsic knowledge of its protagonists to maximum comic effect, as well as Darin Morgan's legacy as a writer. Vince Gilligan has quickly become the series' most daring and ingenious writer. A+

Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Walter Skinner); Darin Morgan (Eddie Van Blundht); Christine Cavanaugh (Amanda Nelligan); Lee de Broux (Eddie Van Blundht, Sr.)
Writer Vince Gilligan Director Cliff Bole

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