Sunday, April 10, 2011

The X-Files: Kill Switch (5.11)

William Gibson manages to translate his writing forte far more successfully than Stephen King, with an episode that manages to reflect Gibson's cyberpunk leanings as well as explore intriguing character elements. As a novice X-Files viewer years ago, I dubbed Kill Switch my favorite episode. In retrospect, that was just a little silly, but it remains a pretty wonderful mash-up of various different genres, depicting an array of ideas all about love, isolation and deep-seated fear. This is most evident with Mulder's nightmares, in which he has limbs removed. The dream sequence is littered with metaphorical imagery, from the immediate contrast between sex and violence, between sex and religion, and the idea of Scully as a kick-ass heroine who rescues him when he's in danger. And that Scully vs. sexy nurses fight sequence ranks up there with the greatest X-Files scenes ever.

Kill Switch treads similar ground to season one's flawed Ghost in the Machine, but does so in a far more successful way. The idea of artificial intelligence and technology developing a mind of its own is intriguingly played straight and with a successfully cold and clinical approach, meaning explosive laser zaps from the sky are rendered almost believable. Equally amusing were the locations, such as the central system of the computer being housed in an abandoned trailer, as well as the various industrial sites Mulder and Scully venture into.

Kristin Lehman steals the show as the badass computer hacker Invisigoth, the character a nerd's wet dream of computer hoodoo, street smarts, unpredictable sexuality and aching vulnerability. She has great chemistry with Gillian Anderson (playing Scully as frustratingly bemused, yet again), and is one of many examples of Gibson treating his female characters with true respect here. Scully, too, is resourceful and badass throughout the episode, saving Mulder in the process and working out exactly what is happening.

I'm sure there are elements here that are a little flawed, but Kill Switch is remarkably effective as a cyberpunk thriller, casually balancing a variety of genres (sci-fi, comedy, action) and creating a AI-driven world which hasn't become dated like so much computer sci-fi from the 1990's (looking at you, The Net). It's not my all-time favorite anymore, but it still ranks up there. A+

Guest stars Kristin Lehman (Esther Nairn); Kate Luyben (Nurse Nancy); Tom Braidwood (Melvin Frohike); Dean Haglund (Ringo Langley); Bruce Harwood (John Fitzgerald Byers)
Writers William Gibson, Tom Maddox Director Rob Bowman

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