Thu
Jan 12 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Sleepless”

The X-Files episode

Season 2, Episode 4: “Sleepless”
Original Airdate: October 7, 1994

So let’s say you have a soldier. And let’s say you’re going to make that soldier a better soldier. And you do something to that soldier so that that soldier never, ever sleeps, and in never, ever sleeping, that soldier loses track of his humanity. That soldier focuses only on the barest of objectives. And it doesn’t matter what the war is about, or if it’s going on, or if it’s been over. That soldier doesn’t care, now, if he hurts people, or if he makes mistakes, because you have taken from him his ability to regroup, and reset, and return to the part of himself that has compassion and empathy. It’s a very bad way to win a war, but it’s a very, very good way to break a man.

The X-Files episode

Mulder is still on wiretapping duty. The X-Files are still closed. His partner is still not his partner. But he’s still at war, in his way. Someone sends him a cassette, a recording of a 911 call. A doctor yelling that there’s a fire in his apartment. Except when the fire department arrived, there was no fire. Just a dead man. Mulder asks Skinner if he might be able to take it on. Skinner doesn’t say no, or yes. Mulder returns to his place of no rest and over his shoulder appears a fresh-looking young man with cleanly-parted hair. He extends his hand and introduces himself as Alex Krycek. Alex Krycek says the case, the one without the fire, is his, because he opened it three hours before Mulder did. Mulder does not want to work with this guy, not at all. But he says he will. And Krycek seems pleased.

The X-Files episode

Of course Mulder calls Scully immediately, asks if he can send her a body. Of course she says she will. Of course Mulder, by himself, heads off to the sleep disorder lab where the dead man worked and Mulder asks some questions about the dead man’s work. Krycek catches up with Mulder outside the lab and digs in his buffed heels. He claims to be a fan of Mulder’s work, and furthermore, claims to believe that there is more out there. Mulder takes this in with nary a twitch, then takes him to see Scully. Scully doesn’t shake Krycek’s hand, but maybe that’s because she was just holding a stomach, but maybe not. Kyrcek reels a little at the sight of the body, while Scully tells them that despite the fact that there was no fire, the man’s body acted as though there was, as though he was burning. Even though he was not.

The X-Files episode

Meanwhile in New York City a man watches the Home Shopping Network, which is what people do when they have terrible lives. The man is visited by another man, wearing dog tags, called Preacher. They talk in vague terms about the horrible things that they’re trying to repress, and Preacher tells Home Shopping Network that he will pay, and then all of a sudden his lousy New York City apartment is filled with bloodied people, Vietnamese you have to guess on account of contextual clues. The people raise guns and fire at HSN, and he falls, dead like he’s been shot. Except those people weren’t real, and he wasn’t really shot. But he’s dead anyway. His death gets the attention of someone who gets the attention of Krycek, and Krycek brings the file to Mulder, and they connect one to two—HSN was a Marine assigned to the same super-secret squad that the dead sleep disorder doctor had once been assigned to. And there’s only one other man from that squad, who is alive, who can explain everything, and his name is Cole, and he is currently at a VA hospital.

The X-Files episode

Just kidding! He’s just been discharged from a VA hospital, much to the chagrin of the doctor who doesn’t remember discharging him. This doctor also notes that Cole had been locked in a faraway wing of the hospital because he used to disrupt the sleep patterns of the other patients. He is nonspecific as to how this disruption happened, and then X phones Mulder. I know I called him Dr. Claw before but this is no time for jokes, as he makes clear to Mulder upon their first face-to-face meeting. Where Deep Throat was wise and grandfatherly, X is stern and a scootch bitchy. He won’t answer questions. He says he knew Deep Throat, he says he won’t meet the same fate. Ever. He gives Mulder an envelope with a report inside, plus also explains that there’s one more living soldier from that super-secret squadron, a man reported dead but who is not. So that seems promising.

The X-Files episode

Before Mulder can pursue the lead, Krycek gets a call that a man matching Cole’s description has robbed a pharmacy. Cops chase Cole to a hotel and fire their guns, except not at him. At each other. And no one knows why. Scully reads the report that X gave Mulder, a for-eyes-only situation about an experimental procedure performed on the super-secret squadron. Surgery to remove part of the brain, to create a soldier that never sleeps. Flawless plan, government, as always. Mulder theorizes that the sleepless Cole has developed a way to project himself into the unconscious minds of other; Scully tells him to calm down and just find the guy. They’re both right, and it’s a good moment, until Mulder says something to Krycek and something flashes in Scully. “Sounds like your new partner’s working out,” she says, probably hoping it doesn’t sound as bitter as it tastes. Mulder joshes with her, says the new guy’s not so bad but he needs fashion advice. Scully does not say what all of us are thinking, which is, “From who? Because not you,” instead she says, “Must be nice not having someone question your every move, poking holes in all your theories.”

I’m sure it’s nice, Scully, I’m sure it’s very nice. But it’s a little like removing sleep, isn’t it? I mean imagine all you could get done if you didn’t have to sleep, if you could just, ugh, if you could just have every hour the way you wanted it. Except how would you start again, without sleep, how would you not just do whatever it is that you wanted, without sleep, without someone to poke holes in all your theories? Mulder and Krycek find the other soldier from the super-secret squad, and he confirms that it is bad, it is very bad to not sleep. He says that without sleep, the whole squad went AWOL, started making up their own missions, killing civilians indiscriminately. Oh also, he says, there was another doctor. The guy who did the surgeries. And he’s coming to town.

The X-Files episode

Mulder and Krycek race to the train station to meet the surgeon. On the platform, Mulder sees him, and also, sees Cole standing behind him. Mulder raises his gun and yells. Cole raises his gun and fires. Mulder falls back, like he’s dead but he’s not dead, there wasn’t a bullet, and Cole is gone, and the surgeon is gone, and Krycek says they were never there in the first place. Mulder tells Krycek his theory, when Krycek pushes, and the baby agent doesn’t blink. Not a bit. They track Cole and the surgeon to a restricted part of the train yard, Mulder in the lead. They find the surgeon living, but barely, the victim of a hallucination in which solders cut him with scapels. Mulder chases Cole, who stands in front of a ledge in tears, begging for release. Krycek is there, then, and raises his gun because he thinks Cole has a gun, but Cole has a Bible, but Krycek shoots anyway, and Cole dies.

The X-Files episode

And there will be no further investigation, because the for-eyes-only report that X slipped Mulder is gone. Scully’s copy and Mulder’s copy both. Who could have done that, well. You know that agent who doesn’t blink, the one with the clean part and the striped tie and the apparent desire to believe? Alex Krycek stands at the end of a long table, in front of the Cigarette-Smoking Man, and tells him did you know that Mulder has a new source? And furthermore, did you know that Scully is a problem? A much larger problem than previously thought? Meanwhile Scully asks Mulder if he trusts X, and Mulder doesn’t say. Mulder probably trusts X, though. And Skinner, more and more. But worst of all, Krycek. A little, which is enough. Because while Mulder had put up a wall, while he was trying to stay closed-off and hard-nosed and strong-willed, he’s sleepless. Becoming wilder. Without Scully, he is without rest. And without rest, he is in danger.

Next week: “Duane Barry”/“Ascension”

 


Meghan Deans doesn’t appreciate being ditched like someone’s bad date. She Tumbls and is @meghandrrns.

13 comments
Chris Hawks
1. SaltManZ
"He says he knew Deep Throat, he says he won’t meet the same fate. Ever."

Ha ha ha!
JKNeilson
2. JKNeilson
Yay, X-Files recap! That brought back some memories. This show used to be unmissable. And I secon that 'Ha ha ha!', those informers should know you can't escape CSM....
Margot Virzana
4. LuvURphleb
Alex was on my bad side the minute he spoke. I do not like him; do not like X. No definitive reason except that when mulder starts to trust them i feel like i need a shower for hanging with suits. Mulders suits are just so much more casual. He doesnt mind if it gets dirty. Well he does but he keeps going. Bad guys never continue with dirty suits and Alex is too smarmy. It gets my back up.
Steven Halter
5. stevenhalter
Alex Krycek. I knew he was trouble the instant he showed up. Trust no one Mulder--especially people with really straight parts.
Chris Hawks
6. SaltManZ
Hey, I work hard to keep my own part straight! (THAT doesn't sound like a euphemism at all, no sir.) Anyway, I've always loved Krycek; watching him pop in and out of the series was always a treat. It was weird rewatching the first season, though, and seeing his actor (Nicholas Lea) show up as a hi-then-die victim in one of the monster-of-the-week eps.
JKNeilson
7. KentAllard
One of my favorite X-Files episodes, even if much of the plot is taken from Robert R. McCammon's classic story "Nightcrawlers". I wish they had delyed the Krycek reveal for a few episodes though, as that would have given it more impact.
Jenny Thrash
8. Sihaya
Tor.com has Tony Todd on the brain this week, I see. When I first saw the episode, I thought that the reveal on Krycek was a little early. None of the audience had gotten settled enough to take him for granted, yet, and so we weren't really moved by his treachery. But over the years the show proved to be bad at slow burning plots - they'd move too slowly, reveal too much, flip flop for way too long, or just become a murkey mess. It's kind of refreshing, looking back at this one, to see a story arc that just puts the necessary details right out there so that we can get on with the machinations and double crosses, already.
Meghan Deans
9. Meghan
I think the Krycek reveal is extra-tough because they had to really accelerate that part of the mythology in order to execute what needed to be executed in Duane Barry/Ascension. And of course they couldn't delay that because of Gillian Anderson's pregnancy. One solution might have been to bring in Krycek earlier, but honestly I think we'd have been onto him from the start. And Sihaya I think you make a good point--it's nice to have something to stand on, for once, obviously the show makes plenty of hay with this or that shadowy character/conspiracy. Nice to just know whose side someone is on, for once.

(Of course, future developments to Krycek made him one of the murkier characters, but we'll...get to that.)
Jenny Thrash
10. Sihaya
Meghan, you make a nice point about the timing of Anderson's pregnancy in the Krycek plotline. On the one hand, if Anderson weren't going to part time, Scully could have been the counterweight to Krycek's apparently young, gung-ho attitude towards the files, which actually would have moved Mulder to the middle of the debate. The audience would have gotten to linger over their tension, taking our attention away from betting the over/under on Krycek's treachery. The writers could plausibly have taken their time with Krycek's reveal. Then again, if Anderson weren't pregnant, it's possible that the Krycek plot would never have been invented (?).
Cait Glasson
11. CaitieCat
He is nonspecific as to how

Firefly ref ftw! ;)

This is a top-flight episode for the show, I think; a good MotW story to keep those of us who aren't conspiracy fans entertained, and a strong B plot to keep the conspiracy fans happy too. And Tony Todd, who adds a layer of awesome to anything he gets involved in (he's like Mark Sheppard in that respect).

Great writing on the post, Meghan, btw; drawing the narrative parallel between the soldiers' treatment and Mulder's isolation.
JKNeilson
13. SamiHolloway
I always forget that Krycek started out pretending to be good, but even as a wide-eyed teen when it first aired, I'd been trained enough to not trust anything that seemed too good. The only one who really likes Mulder is Scully, and she had to come by it naturally. People who walk in as fans are always hiding something. Poor Mulder.

Also, I echo the 'hahaha' on X, there.

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