“Sooner or later, a man’s got to face his demons.” – Fox Mulder
Our heroes, roped in by an old flame of Mulder’s, are set on the path of a man who has it in for the British upper crust. Little do they know that his obsession isn’t the only thing that’s burning….
Max: An episode that competently acquits itself on all fronts, “Fire” is a transitional episode that helps to close out the initial batch of episodes, and the last to air in 1993 before the winter break. The story of a man with a vendetta against British aristocrats, he uses his powers of pyrokinesis to kill his victims and extract immense pleasure from the deed.
Introducing the character of Inspector Phoebe Green (played by Max Headroom‘s Amanda Pays), Mulder’s former classmate and lover from Oxford who now works for Scotland Yard, she travels to a certain Washington DC basement to bring him onto the case, and also to screw with his head. Knowing that he’s had a lifelong aversion to being trapped in a fire, she just can’t resist throwing this one in his lap, and the episode gets some sparks out of the tensions between the two, and Scully has to watch and assist the only way she can, with good investigative work.
Speaking of that basement, this is the first episode where the X-Files office takes on the classic configuration that it would be known for for most of the series. Gone are the strangely bright and airy environs of the first few episode, “Fire” brings the moody atmospherics and conspiratorial shadows.
The character of Phoebe Green was supposed to be a recurring character, a foil for Mulder to bounce off of every now and then. While it was a good one off role, it did the show a favor not having her recur. The interplay between Mulder and Scully is much better anyway, and would grow only richer and more compelling as the years progressed.
Television jack-of-all-trades Mark Sheppard plays the combustible Cecil L’Ively, and his menacing glee is one of the episode’s high points. While his motive is a bit weak, I’m sure Radhika can attest that he’s one of the more memorable freaks in the show’s young history thus far.
Radhika: Mark Sheppard certainly adds a layer of fun and memorability to the episode, which could have otherwise become one easily forgotten, but there is an over-the-top ridiculous element as well, which can’t work with all the villains seen on this series. Luckily, L’Ively is meant to be a bit of a show-off; he can’t resist talking about his power in the context of magic tricks, and he certainly enjoys his quips. “Time to call 911,” is one of his final taunts, as Mulder races to save some children toward the episode’s end. And at the end, awaiting trial while being stuck inside a hyperbaric chamber after being set alight, he can’t resist saying, “I’m just dying for a cigarette.”
Overall, this is not the strongest of mysteries, but in addition to Sheppard, we get to have some fun bits: There’s Scully’s obvious discomfort and displeasure at the arrival of Phoebe Green, and a good amount of the classic Mulder and Scully banter that makes the series oh-so-good. And I’m pretty sure a good many viewers didn’t mind the sight of Mulder stripped down to black boxers after a harrowing encounter with fire (something he says he’s afraid of… and yet we never really see that fear re-emerge later in the series. Guess we were never meant to encounter any Indiana Jones-esque lines about hating snakes.)
Also, I may be completely mistaken, but I feel that this is the first episode that prominently featured Mulder and Scully on cellphones. The brick-like devices look more like my parents’ cordless phone from the 80s, but then again, considering the fact that recent smartphones are starting to seem a bit reminiscent of the Zack Morris phone, I shouldn’t really poke fun. This very episode also features multiple audio cassette tapes, so it’s a bit fun to see the juxtaposition of technology that was on its way out with a communication device that was on its way to taking over the world.
YES, IT’S THAT GUY
A recurring section of our rewatch where we note actors who’ve appeared in the episode(s) and have gone on to become stars in their own right.
Mark Sheppard – Playing Cecil L’Ively, Mark Sheppard has seemingly made it his insidious goal over the past decade to appear in every television program on the dial. He’s brought his trademarked visage to Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Doctor Who, Warehouse 13, Burn Notice, 24, Dollhouse, Supernatural, and Leverage, amongst others. Look for him to colonize more in the years to come….