X-Files Review – “Roadrunners”

The first of the weekly X-Files features is here! To read the (spoiler-laden) review, click on the “Read More” link below.

Yesterday’s episode was neither fantastic nor particularly flawed. While it advanced the relationship between Scully and Doggett, the case itself was not particularly earth-shattering.

Synopsis

Scully finds herself investigating a murder in a sparsely populated region of Utah. She has begun investigating the case without Doggett’s assistance, but is forced to phone him to track down a similar case in the X-Files.

While Doggett tracks down the information she requires, Scully finds herself in a remote town that doesn’t even appear on the map. They sabotage her vehicle and the local telephones, ensuring her visit will be a long one.

We soon learn that the locals, who killed one man and kidnapped another during the episode’s teaser, have trapped her here to give medical help to the kidnapped man. He has some sort of parasite attached to his spine, which Scully is unable to safely remove outside of a hospital.

As Scully continues searching for a way out of town, Doggett tries to send her the information she requested via a local police department. When he learns she never made it to her appointment, he launches a search and flies to Utah.

In the minutes before the final commercial break, Scully learns the kidnapped man has been working with his captors, and she has been set up to become the new host for the parasite. The kidnapped man allows the locals to smash his head in, as they did to the previous victim, to release the parasite for its new host.

In the final portion of the episode, we see Doggett’s instincts and resourcefulness when he locates the town, hears the locals lie about seeing Scully, pretends to believe them, and then sneak back into town on foot. He finds Scully, gets her out of the house she was held in, and follows Scully’s directions to a bus owned by the locals, which is the closest vehicle.

As Doggett tries to hotwire the bus, the locals start to swarm around the vehicle, preparing to protect the parasite. Before he can start the bus, Scully convinces him (using a whole lot of screaming) to remove the parasite before it reaches her brain. He cuts it out with a pocket knife, throws it across the bus, and shoots it a few times. As soon as the parasite dies, the locals simply walk away.

In the final minutes of the episode, we learn the people involved believe the parasite was the second coming of Christ, and are using religious persecution as their defense in court. Scully also apologizes to Doggett for leaving him out of the case, and promises it won’t happen again.

The Writing

While the episode was well written overall, there were a few moments that I found hard to swallow. The only key moment was at the end, where the locals simply cease their attack after Doggett kills their religious icon. Imagine if you will that you believe so strongly that your god was reincarnated, that you had killed people to keep it alive and healthy, and then somebody killed it. How would you react? Would you ask “why did you do that?” and then stand there, doing nothing, or would you lose your temper, and try to retaliate? In a group of 20 or 30 people, do you think that at least one would retaliate, or at least try to prevent the escape of the killer? That moment, for me, simply didn’t work. I would have found it more believable if they had escaped the crowd in the bus before removing the parasite.

As far as the rest of the episode is concerned, the writing worked. We see that Doggett is just as resourceful as he was last week, when he found the article on the man bat. This time, he found the X-File, and also located several other cases with the same MO. We also learn he is capable of hotwiring a bus. (Do the Boy Scouts have a patch for that?) Doggett may not believe what he reads in the X-Files (yet), but he still investigates it as though he did. Unlike some of the officers Mulder and Scully have dealt with (see Squeeze, for one example), he can recognize a connection when he sees one.

Technical Aspects

The acting and directing in Roadrunners was capable, but not astounding. This episode seems to be nothing but a vessel to forward the relationship between Doggett and Scully, and for that, it works. The visual effects on the parasite were well done, but not a lot better than what we’ve already seen in the first few seasons, in episodes like F. Emasculati and The War of the Coprophages.

In Summary

Overall, this was not a horrible episode, but not spectacular either. The writing has only one moment that didn’t work for me, and the rest of the episode was adequate, if not spectacular. Overall, I give it two stars out of four:
**

11 replies on “X-Files Review – “Roadrunners””

  1. dnaworks says:

    I gave it 2.5 out of 4, myself
    I agreed with most of your comments, but I couldn’t get past Scully screaming so much as she was being held down for the parasite. This is a woman that has been shown to be capable, resourceful, strong and action-oriented; she didn’t even try to knock any of the people holding her down or *really* get away. I just found the screaming a little too ‘Friday the 13th’-ish.

  2. fiziko says:

    Scully’s screaming
    The screaming itself was believable, for me, as she wasn’t pregnant through most of her past threats. I agree she should have fought back harder, though. It wouldn’t take much to cast a couple of really big actors in the group to hold her down as she trashed for all she could. She didn’t even try to kick anybody…

  3. xah says:

    the slimy parasite thing
    Two points. First, considering that this is sci-fi and that “telepathy” or “mind control” is thus not out of the question, that the slimy parasite thing exercised mind control over the cult members seems the better explanation. After the parasite died, they wandered around slowly remembering who they were and wondering how they got there.

    Secondly, if “mind control” was not at work here, the reaction of the cult members was still credible. They slowly walked away after the slime-parasite thing was killed. If the cult members believed the slimy thing was their “god,” then it follows that they believed it to be immortal. When it died, their belief in its immortality and therefore its divinity would have been shattered. If you will allow me to cite it for illustrative purposes, a similar plot sequence took place in the climax of the “Conan the Barbarian” movie. When the cult leader was killed, disproving the belief of the cult members that he was immortal, the crowd slowly walked away from their shrine, and their belief system. The occurrence in “Roadrunners” reminded me of that scene.

    But, why didn’t Daggett and Scully try to scoop up the remains of the slime thing for later laboratory testing? They might have discovered a new species. Or a strange alien being. To the detriment of the cause of science, they left it to rot in the desert. How unfortunate.

    BTW, your review was thoughtful and observant. Thank you.

  4. fiziko says:

    More on the worm’s “immortality”
    Just a couple points of response to xah’s post here. They felt the worm was Christ. While I admit that, as an athiest, I’ve never read most of the Bible (I made it almost halfway through Genesis), so I’m not totally familiar with the story of Christ, but I’m pretty sure he was mortal. (That’s kinda the whole point of Easter, no?) They could believe the worm was mortal. Mind control might be a factor, given the effect it had on the kidnapped guy. (I assume he told the truth about not remembering his life beforehand. It takes a lot of love to make a person walk away from a previous life, but if they don’t remember it, they could be easier to persuade.)

    Note to self: watch “Conan the Barbarian” at some point.

    The shock of watching the worm die may have been a great blow to their religion (“Oh no! He died AGAIN!”). Perhaps there wasn’t even full mind control involved. If the thing suppressed anger, that would explain the feelings of love, the irritating and eerie bland expressions on the faces of the others, the willingness of victims to die, the reaction of the cult at the end, and possibly even Scully’s lackluster fight for freedom. (This assumes the worm affects people within a certain area, hosts or not.)

    As for your comments on my review, thanks! I’ve been looking it over, and I think future reviews should be more review, less synopsis. I’ve also been toying with trying to launch discussions on possible theories for the show’s future in rerun weeks instead of/as well as DVD reviews…

  5. jayhawk88 says:

    More on the cult members
    Christianity teaches that Christ was a mortal man when he first came to Earth. He was crucified as a man, and suffered Gods punishment for all the worlds sins, past and present. When he was ressurected, Christ promised that his return would signal the “Armoggedon(sp)”, all of mankind would be judged, fire from the sky and all that. I don’t know if the Bible says specifically, or what Biblical scholars think, but I think the assumption is he’d come back as “The Lord”, i.e. an immortal god.

    As for the show: I’m with Xah on the whole Conan thing, it reminded me a lot of that as well. Scully not wanting to save the dead parasite as proof was kind of a big plot hole, but a forgivable one I guess.

    Personally, I’ve always liked the “arc” episodes (to borrow a B5 term) better than the stand-alone ones. These stand-alone stories have had their place in past years, but in this season, they just kind of seem out of place. I mean, we have 2 opening episodes with a full-blown manhunt for Mulder. Scully and Doggett are both hell-bent on finding him, and make it a point to say so at every opportunity, and then poof! Off to BFE to chase bat-boys and investigate parasite deaths and such.

    The X-Files would have never survived as long as it did without such episodes; you can’t base every episode of a series on alien abduction/government conspiracy without it getting tired. But if this really is the last season, I’d rather have it focus on the return of Mulder, and the discovery of the truth of all the conspiracies. Just my opinion.

  6. xah says:

    religious stuff
    Considering that the show was set in Utah, the show seemed to be an allusion to the branches of Christianity that are considered cults by many Christians, namely the Mormons. In particular they mentioned a “tabernacle.” In Mormonism, the tabernacle of the ancient Hebrews of the Old Testament is a revived concept. There is also the famous “Mormon Tabernacle Choir.” But the Roadrunners cult was more of a melding of many Christian sects. The dislike of medicine appeared to refer to Christian Science, the believers of which rely on faith and prayer to heal. The Roadrunners’ disdain for modern technology (telephones and automobiles) was reminiscient of the Ahmish and Mennonites. In this way, “Roadrunners” appeared to stereotype and criticize Christians. But perhaps a hidden message endorsed the Christian faith. When Scully needed gas for her car, the guy helped her out with a portable gas can. The can held water and Scully’s car stalled. When confronted, he seemed surprised that it was water and not gas. This is mirror reverse imagery to the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine. There, the disciples were pleasantly surprised that the liquid they poured for the wedding guests was wine and not water. In this way, the writers may have indicated their feeling that the cult members were not truly Christian. But maybe this line of analysis is simply too much.

    Good comments. Thanks.

  7. fiziko says:

    The future of the series (?)
    Thanks for the thoughts, jayhawk88. I agree that the show needs the MOTW (“monster of the week”) episodes to survive. (I’d prefer to call them “Freak of the week,” but I didn’t name them.) Just look at what happened to Dark Skies. However, this season needs more of the “mytharc” episodes to be believable.

    I’d like to see the a few episodes of a fruitless search for Mulder building up Doggett’s character. These could also be used to reveal Krycek’s hold over Skinner to Scully and Doggett, and give Doggett a good reason to hate Krycek. (Doggett doesn’t even know Krycek yet, so there’s some great possibilities for a Spender-like disillusion there.)

    I’d really like to see the invasion commence with Mulder’s return. After all, the human conspiracy was trying to stall the invasion that was ready decades ago. Who is to say the invaders don’t go back to the original plan? If Krycek is cooperating with the rebels (as some of us suspect), then he could be an essential contact for Scully, Mulder, Doggett and Skinner. They’d hate needing him, which again leads to some great dramatic and comedic potential. The invasion could then last for the entire second half of the season, from February sweeps to the May finale. It could be wrapped up in season nine, if there is one. (Gillian Anderson has signed for it, at a rumoured $300,000US per episode.) Then, with all continuing threads wrapped up, the MOTW episodes could continue during the fallout from the (presumably defeated) invasion.

  8. jayhawk88 says:

    Season 9 and Movies
    Great ideas for the next two seasons, but really, I don’t think we’ll ever see the series wrap things up completely: they’ve got to have plot for future movies. And I wouldn’t mind this if they’d have the courage to wrap things up in the movies, but they probably won’t do that either. Fox will want to keep the story line as open as possible so they can pump out X-Files movies as long as they’re making money; but they probably wouldn’t hesitate to drop it mid-stream if one bombs.

    Monster of The Week episodes, as you put it, is one of the things that’s always frusterated me about Sci-Fi shows in general, and what really made me like shows like the X-Files, Babylon5 and the last few seasons of Deep Space Nine. I think it really adds to a series when there’s an over-all direction, or common theme for the individual episodes to follow.

  9. fiziko says:

    The Second Movie
    Chris Carter has already annouced his intention to build the movie franchise on the “Monster of the Week” theme, so he’ll finally be able to make the episodes he wants without worrying about the network censors. (They’ll still nail him with the ratings board, I’m sure. Fox will want them at PG-13, I’d say.)

    This could be tricky for him, as he promised Nick Lea that Krycek would be a large part of the next movie since he didn’t really fit into the last one. Perhaps the best middle ground is, as you suggested, to wrap up the mytharc in the second movie. Then, subsequent movies would be “monster of the week” type storylines.

  10. jayhawk88 says:

    Hmmmm
    Monster of the Week movies, huh? Honestly, that kind of suprises me. There’s times when the MOTW episodes kind of drag; I’d think it would be harder to write a whole movie script around one, without it degrading into cheesy Jaws/The Thing/Night of the Living Dead rip-offs.

    Off-Topic: anyone heard anything about the Dungeons and Dragons movie? Previews look cool and all, but something about it makes me hesitate. I can’t decide if it’s just cause I think it will suck compared to Lord of the Rings or what.

  11. fiziko says:

    OT: D&D movie
    I have heard about the D&D movie. New Line picked up the North American distribution rights, and changed its release date from May 2001 to Dec. 8 2000. This is presumably because they want to use it as a means to advertise Lord Of The Rings to the Christmas audience, as well as test the kind of return they can get releasing a fantasy adaptation at that time of the year.

    Generally speaking, moving a film’s release away from summer is a bad sign, and indicates a lack of confidence in the final product. (As a former projectionist, I got all kinds of press releases to read, so I think I’ve figured out most of the different methods they have of putting spin on these types of announcements.)

    As far as opinions of the movie itself go, check Ain’t It Cool News for a few results from test screenings.

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