Tuesday, November 30, 2010

X-Files--"Young at Heart"

“Young at Heart” digs a little deeper into Mulder’s professional past. As with Boggs a couple episodes ago, we discover another guy Mulder help put away who has an axe to grind. This time, it is more personal for Mulder.

Mulder is called to the aftermath of a jewelry store robbery by his old supervisor, Reggie Purdue. The robber left a note specifically taunting Mulder. It is from a guy named John Barnett. Mulder helped capture Barnett on his very first case, but in trying to protect a hostage, another agent was killed by Barnett. Mulder blames himself, though he followed regulations, and his personal rage at himself is something Barnett has enjoyed tweaking. Here is the thing--Barnett has been dead for five years.

Although he supposedly died in prison, Barnett has been leaving hints he is stalking Mulder. As the ultimate proof, he sneaks into Purdue’s home and strangles him while he is on the phone with Mulder. Barnett plans to hunt down and murder all his friends.

Through investigation, Mulder and Scully discover Barnett was being secretly experimented on by a research doctor named Ridley. Ridley had his medical license revoked a decade before for performing inhumane experiments on children suffering from progenia, the disease that causes premature aging. Ridley was obsessed with reversing the aging process. His success prompted secret government funding and a fresh supply of prisoners ton whom to experiment. Barnett was one such prisoner. He has managed to hide his survival because he looks twenty years younger.

Thrown into the mix is a tifbit he lost his right hand during the experiments. Ridley grew him another one from salamander scales. It strikes me as strange to throw that in to a character who is already an extraordinary villain for having literally grown younger, but there you go. Perhaps it was thrown in there solely to make the scene in which he strangles Purdue from the shadows, with the salamander hand clearly visible, more disturbing. It worked in that regard.

Barnett stole Ridley’s research. He is negotiating with the government to sell it to them while tracking the next of Mulder’s friends to die--Scully. Bet you did not see that coming. He is going to kill her at a recital. The FBI prepare an ambush for him. The ambush winds up a repeat of the original capture. This time, Mulder does not hesitate because of the hostage and shoots Barnett. He dies on the operating table in spite of the medical team’s best effort to save him. The Cigarette Smoking Man is one of those aiding them, so the government was eager for him to survive so he can reveal the location of Ridley’s research notes. Alas, the secret dies with Barnett.

Scully has no apparent flash of recognition for the Cigarette Smoking Man even though he sat in on her initial interview in the Pilot. This is the second time something she was introduced to in the pilot is unfamiliar to her later. The other thing being Samantha Mulder’s abduction, which Mulder told her about, but she appeared to just be learning about in “Conduit.” It serves as another hint the pilot may not be canon.

In spite of the strange, tacked on element of the salamander hand, “Young at Heart” is a good episode. Dating Mulder’s career the way it has is a bit implausible--how he manages to go from a fledgling agent to enjoying carte blanch on the X-Files five years out of Quantico strikes me as highly implausible. Oh, well. It is television. Entertaining television.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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