Sunday, January 8, 2012

The X-Files: The Amazing Maleeni (7.8)

The X-Files had been on the air for over seven years by this point, so it's not entirely surprising to see the writers lifting ideas from real-life concepts instead of creating fresh monsters or new forms of intrigue. Like the use of the Rube Goldberg inventions as a jumping-off point several episodes back, here we have an exploration into the world of magic, and more specifically the idea of distraction as a means to creating what we interpret as magic. It's a wildly fun mystery hour, full of plot twists and double-crosses and secret agendas straight out of an old caper movie.

The three-writer work of Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz have always resulted in episodes that feel drafted in from a lighter universe, even if the ingredients still involve grizzly horror. In this case there are severed heads and missing limbs, but there's still something lovably kooky about the whole thing that makes it ridiculously entertaining. It's a tone that this show reaches for a lot in recent years, and while it sometimes it feels a little overzealous, I liked this episode generally.

I've never been a huge fan of Ricky Jay's acting, but he unsurprisingly works well here, the script allowing him to play a magical mastermind with a penchant for play-acting and impersonating his deceased brother. The episode is pretty much a five-hander, with Mulder and Scully hot on the heels of three very different individuals: the bitter magician, the disabled accountant and the career criminal. With all that in mind, the episode quickly becomes something flighty and absorbing, each character somehow screwing the other over until Mulder finally unravels the mystery. The final twists are straight out of an Agatha Christie novel, but I liked seeing Mulder working out his own part in the scheme and going out of his way to make sure he doesn't fall for their various traps.

The Amazing Maleeni is a little lightweight at turns, but there's an ambitious streak that runs through the hour and provides a ton of entertainment. It's also neat to see David and Gillian seemingly having fun for once, since they both seem a little tired at this point in the show's existence. B

Guest stars Ricky Jay (Herman Pinchbeck/Albert Pinchbeck); Jonathan Levit (Billy LaBonge); Robert LaSardo (Cissy Alvarez)
Writers Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Frank Spotnitz Director Thomas J. Wright

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