Sunday, April 15, 2012

The X-Files: Badlaa (8.10)

About twenty minutes into Badlaa, I thought this was seriously one of the coolest episodes in a long, long time. We have creepy Indian mystics rolling around on carts, crawling up people's butts and stowing away inside their host's bodies for a quick trip across the world. There's a fantastic sequence in which Scully cuts open a man's body to find said Indian dwarf wriggling around inside, before he flees and crawls out of the medical lab. This is all just crazily awesome. But gradually as Badlaa continued, it suddenly dawned on me that literally none of this makes sense...

Frustratingly, the Beggar Man turns out to be another freaky-deeky supernatural being on a revenge mission, determined to kill those he deems responsible for a chemical lab explosion that claimed the life of his son. There's also some showy, Gypsy super-powers thrown in to all this -- the man able to turn himself invisible, as well as alter the perception of those right in front of him. Additionally, his initially awesome stowaway rampage quickly loses steam, some of his attacks appearing inconsistent to how they were first depicted. Then again, I don't know if this was intentional, or an actual error.

Where Badlaa becomes deeper is in the characterization. Gillian Anderson is quietly wonderful here, conveying a real sense of ideas and theories whirring around in her head as she tries to understand the mystery, later confessing that she's desperately trying to do what Mulder would do, and see the world through his eyes. It's an intriguing moment, while her brief team-up with Chuck Burks implies a need for someone who won't poke holes in her extreme theories.

That last scene is pretty remarkable, Scully shooting the Beggar Man dead despite physically appearing to her as a young boy. While it's something that could be easily committed by Mulder, its intensity rattles Scully so much that she breaks down in tears, and we realize that she's at this enormous emotional crossroads where her past identity and present circumstances are so up in the air and fragile. It's another example of this season's strong characterization, and helps save the last half of the episode from convoluted insanity. Badlaa is interesting, but has an A-plot that gradually falters as it goes along. B-

Guest stars Michael Welch (Trevor); Jordan Blake Warkol (Quinton); Deep Roy (Beggar Man); Bill Dow (Chuck Burks); Andy Hubbell (Quinton's Father); Jane Daly (Mrs. Holt)
Writer John Shiban Director Tony Wharmby

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