Saturday, November 27, 2010

X-Files--"Beyond the Sea"

“Beyond the Sea” ranks as my favorite episode of the first season and one of my top favorites of the series. It is appealing for a couple reasons. One, Scully is the main character for the first time. There is a juxtaposition between her and Mulder. He plays the skeptic in the case while she struggles with accepting psychic phenomena. Two, there are echoes of The Silence of the Lambs throughout. I am fascinated by that film. Any homage, intentional or otherwise, that can hold its own earns high marks from me. Plus, Scully is said to be based loosely on Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling from the film. It is in this episode you see that is likely true.

Scully’s parents come visit her at Christmas. A few hours after they leave, Scully sees a ghostly image of her father in her living room. He mouths something to her, but no sound comes out. A few moments later, she gets a phone call from her mother that her father has suffered a fatal heart attack. His ashes are buried at sea, with Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” playing.

Rather than take time off, Scully decides to travel with Mulder to North Carolina on a case. Luther Lee Boggs, a serial killer Mulder help put on death row, claims that he can channel spirits who can help find the latest victims of another kidnapping serial killer before, in fitting with his pattern, they are murdered in five days. Mulder thinks Boggs is orchestrating a ruse in order to have his sentence commuted to life, but when boggs calls her by her father’s nickname for him, she is shaken.

Scully is further shaken when Boggs’ channeling leads her to evidence the kidnap victims were once located in an abandoned building and, eventually, to one of the victims. Mulder is inclined to think Boggs is in cahoots with an outside partner, but when he is seriously wounded, she goes it alone, with Boggs perhaps having the upper hand.

What happens after Mulder is taken out of the picture is what reminds of The Silence of the Lambs. The tense confrontation between Scully and Boggs, Scully lying to him about a deal to get him to talk, and him subtly revealing the other kidnap victim’s location before he can be murdered are all elements from the film, yet done with a unique X-Files flavor. Very well done, I might add.

Boggs promises to reveal the message Scully’s father was trying to give her as a vision the night he died if she witnesses his execution. But she has already rationalized away his ability to channel spirits, so refuses to attend. In one of the most chilling scenes in the series, Boggs is marched to the gas chamber in full view of the ghosts of all the people he has murdered.

Scully’s father is played by Don. S. Davis, so there is a nod for any Stargate SG-1 fans irked I am not likely to review that series. Boggs is chillingly played by Brad Dourif. He will go onto play Suder, another serial killer, on Star Trek: Voyager. One can only assume Boggs is the reason he got that role. Thank heaven he did. Boggs is one of the best one off villains in the serries. I think very highly of “Beyond the Sea.”

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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