Sunday, July 29, 2012

The X-Files: Release (9.17)

Presumably having now become aware that the show was about to end, Release is the second episode in two weeks that brings to a close some of the series' long-running story arcs. With that in mind, it would be a little unfair to criticize the episode for not being as impactful as it could have been -- potentially in the hands of writers with a stronger sense of direction, we would have already had a greater emotional attachment to the story of Doggett and his deceased son, instead of just a couple of vague references over the last two seasons. Regardless, Release is a strong episode on its own, despite its faults.

Featuring attractive title cards to signal each chapter of the story, Release jumps from various different strands as it goes along, but never loses sight of the main thrust of the hour. This is absolutely Doggett's story and, like Mulder back in Closure, he gets his own sense of resolution to something that has been gnawing at his conscience for nearly ten years.

Despite the showy distractions that hint at something supernatural, the crushing blow here is that Luke Doggett's murder was actually something ludicrously banal. Unlike the elaborate magic of Samantha Mulder's last appearance, this is truly a story of a child being horribly murdered in pathetic circumstances: he unknowingly saw somebody he shouldn't have seen, so he paid the price. It's a heartbreaking reveal, and David Amann finds the emotional truth in what could have been something cartoonish in the hands of, say, Chris Carter and his philosophical monologuing.

Release looks and feels like something special, from the gorgeous lighting to the lengthy tracking shots of crime-scene photographs plastered on walls by an obsessive. Great performances, too, obviously from Robert Patrick but also Jared Poe as the mysterious medical student. Season nine has been rough, but the show can still pull together something great every once in a while. A

Guest stars
Cary Elwes (Brad Follmer); Barbara Patrick (Barbara Doggett); Jared Poe (Rudolph Hayes); Sal Landi (Nicholas Regali)
Teleplay David Amann Story John Shiban, David Amann Director Kim Manners

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