Sunday, April 22, 2012

The X-Files: The Gift (8.11)

I've written a lot this season about the writer's strange creative decisions when it comes to Doggett. The year opened with some particularly strong characterization for him, the character initially by-the-book and arguably antagonistic, before becoming deeper connected with Scully and intrigued by the possibility of supernatural phenomena. Then the show embarked on a run of episodes where his character was either intentionally left out of proceedings, or merely had Scully's pre-season eight dialogue subbed in for his own. The Gift produces an immediate turn-around in regards to his character, pushing him center stage and once again tying him in with the bigger scheme at play.

Ironically, The Gift is all about Mulder -- but the show makes an interesting decision by having Doggett investigating his disappearance, leaving Scully out all-together. What strengthens the hour is that Mulder's presence initially reads as incidental. Doggett pursues an old case that somehow involved his X-Files predecessor, only to stumble upon another strange town full of suspicious residents and a nightmare beast-monster preying on the locals. So far, so predictable. But everything suddenly gets turned on its head at the episode's mid-point, The Gift becoming what is very much an important chapter in Mulder's story and tying Doggett directly to him in strange new ways.

It's debatable whether Mulder's life-threatening illness remains sort of elaborate and silly as a plot device, but his involvement in the creature's life and his subsequent desire to be saved is remarkably poignant. Additionally, it's a mark of Frank Spotnitz's talent that a monster that appears at first so horribly ghoulish and gross (the people-eating, the regurgitating of the bodies, etc.) eventually turns out to be something romanticized and fairytale-ish. It's a creature that's there to help save the lives of others, only for their ailments to be absorbed into it's own body, giving him this deformed and cancer-ridden appearance.

Doggett's final rescue also marks a strong new direction for the character. It's both strange as well as rewarding that his FBI allegiances are being twisted so soon into his tenure, the show once again deciding not to rest on slightly predictable characterization this year. The Gift doesn't open spectacularly, but gradually evolves into an episode that works wonders with characters and inspires genuine emotion from the viewer. A

Guest stars Mitch Pileggi (Walter Skinner); Caroline Lagerfelt (Rustic Woman); Tom Braidwood (Melvin Frohike); Dean Haglund (Ringo Langly); Bruce Harwood (John Fitzgerald Byers); Jordan Marder (Creature); Natalie Radford (Marie Hangemuhl); Michael McGrady (Sheriff Kurt Frey); Justin Williams (Paul Hangemuhl)
Writer Frank Spotnitz Director Kim Manners

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