“I didn’t think anyone was really paying attention.” – Fox Mulder
“Somebody’s always paying attention Mr. Mulder.” – Max Fenig
Going rogue on reports of something extraordinary happening in the woods of Wisconsin, Mulder gets in way over his head and in very hot water. Scully must help to salvage his career while a reclamation of a different type is underway…
Max: Another disparate piece of the mythology puzzle is dropped onto the playing field in an incredibly thrilling episode. Much like “Shadows” did, “Fallen Angel” uses the story of one character, Max Fenig (wonderful name by the way) as the core of an episode filled to the brim with governmental and military intrigue surrounding the downing of a UFO and the attempt to capture its occupant.
Deep Throat makes his most notable appearance to date as he informs Mulder about the incident, and then later when Mulder’s actions bring him to the brink of being fired, only to have our enigmatic informant intervene. Having been captured and thrown into an impromptu brig for taking photographs of the wreck, Mulder meets Max, an intrepid member of the UFO organization NICAP. Little does Mulder realize that by the time Scully arrives to bail him out, how involved Max actually is in the unfolding events.
The character of Colonel Henderson, the officer charged with reclaiming the craft and its occupant, is one of the classic forces that are allayed against our heroes. At every turn he stymies Mulder’s investigation and precludes the truth from ever surfacing, even when the occupant attacks his men with lethal flashes of ionizing radiation. A scene in a local hospital illustrates this wonderfully, as Scully and an ER doctor step in to force the issue with the colonel to let them do their jobs to assist the scarred soldiers.
Scott Bellis, in the role he’s most associated with, does a bang up job as Max. Afflicted with epileptic fits throughout his life and possibly schizophrenic, he isn’t aware that he’s been previously abducted, and it is only at the end does he come to this realization, when he is taken again along with the downed UFO’s occupant. There is a palpable sense of tragedy and isolation in all the scenes with him, and Max covers it all up by burying himself in his UFO obsession as much as Mulder does to staunch the pain of Samantha’s disappearance.
It all comes to a head when Mulder is brought up on a litany of charges in front of the Office Of Professional Responsibility. This is the first, but obviously not the last time he will be called on the carpet and threatened with the shutdown of his crusade. “No government agency has jurisdiction over the truth,” Mulder agitates as he admonishes the buffoonish Section Chief McGrath. In this respect, each episode involving extraterrestrial encounters has clarified and upped the stakes involved. And while the mythology is in its protean form, the framework is being steadily assembled.
Radhika: This is a solid early mythology episode, which also feels a bit like the show’s middle seasons for me. (And that makes sense, considering this just might not be the last we see of Max Fenig…)
While there are certainly more sinister episodes of this sort to come, the episode features quite a bit of tension from the start. An annoyed Scully comes to get Mulder when he’s caught trying to dig into the likely UFO crash, expressing frustration at his constant need to defy jurisdiction. The tensions continue all over the place, with Scully redirecting some of her unhappiness at the colonel as mentioned above, and so on.
But while Scully is irritable and still ever the skeptic, she also shows her softer side, expressing disapproval when Max is pursued toward the end of the episode, trying to point out that he’s a “delusional schizophrenic.” She may not always believe everything that’s happening around her, but Scully always has that decent, human quality, which is probably why she never winds up joining forces with the likes of Colonel Henderson or all the section chiefs who are perpetually trying to shut down the X-Files.
The story ends as many classic mythology episodes eventually do, with Scully trying to find ways to stand up for Mulder while also trying to provide a reasonable report (she is much more timid here than she will be in future episodes). And then there’s Mulder, of course, defiantly calling out everyone for participating in cover-ups. Enjoyable as the Pilot and “Deep Throat” are as what can now be considered early mythology episodes, I would say this is the one that really sets the tone for some of the best mythology installments to come.