Remove the melted bodies in the movie theater, and The Pine Bluff Variant looks and feels a lot like a run-of-the-mill espionage series. At first it treads similar ground to episodes like Wetwired, with Scully panicked that Mulder may have been corrupted by the dark side and that she's being lied to. Thankfully, the episode reveals Mulder's true agenda around fifteen minutes in, leading to an entertaining undercover-agent story with some memorable moments, most notably the bank heist. The idea of a terrorist group spraying killer gas onto bank notes is a classic one, the potential for chaos pretty darn huge as a result.
It was an interesting decision to explore how outside forces viewed Mulder's discontented convention speech back in Patient X. Here's a man who outwardly appears to have the same cynicism that these bio-terrorists, so it's not surprising that Haley's group would make a grab for him. He'd be a useful tool to create panic. Mulder's scenes with the group were brutal and affecting, especially the moment where he had his fingers broken to prove his allegiance, and later that brief moment where he was almost forced to kill a hostage.
Leamus' involvement in the saga felt a little extraneous, especially as we weren't given any answers as to why he would want to release the gas onto the public? Regardless, Sam Anderson is a great character actor, always reliable for playing shifty-eyed enigmas.
I guess The Pine Bluff Variant could be considered a filler episode, one with yet another elaborate conspiracy only tangentially related to previous conspiracy encounters, but it's undeniably a fun filler episode, one that keeps you guessing and throws you straight into the action. B
Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (A.D. Walter Skinner); Daniel Von Bargen (Jacob Haley); Michael MacRae (August Bremer); Sam Anderson (Leamus)
Writer John Shiban Director Rob Bowman