“Dana. After all you’ve seen, after all the evidence, why can’t you believe?” – Fox Mulder
“I’m afraid. I’m afraid to believe.” – Dana Scully
As Scully grapples with the death of her father, her skepticism begins to crumble when she and Mulder are called in to deal with death row inmate Luther Lee Boggs, who claims to have a psychic connection to an abduction case.
Radhika: Like many X-Files episodes, “Beyond the Sea” is creepy, combining the supernatural with a more grounded mystery — the abduction of a young couple that needs to be saved from being murdered within days. But it’s also a beautiful episode, one that deals with loss, and also allows the viewer further into Scully’s psyche, turning her into a character that is far more layered than the skeptical foil she’s played so far.
The story, penned by the team of Glen Morgan and James Wong, offers us a more vulnerable Scully, balancing the death of her father with a new case. The staunch skeptical surface dissolves for the bulk of the episode, starting with Scully waking up to a vision of her father just before receiving a phone call informing her he has passed away. Scully aches for a chance to talk to her father again, and she actually appears open to finding that doorway through serial killer Luther Lee Boggs, who claims to have psychic ability.
For once, Mulder is the skeptical one here. After all, he’s the guy who profiled Boggs and helped bring him in many years before. He advises Scully to open herself up to extreme possibilities, but only when they’re the truth. It’s an interesting role reversal to witness — one that further fleshes out the characters’ humanity.
While the bond between Mulder and Scully is established rather early in the season, this is where we see how intensely protective they are of each other. Mulder is gentle, in fact even referring to Scully as “Dana” multiple times, which partially sounds really awkward coming from his mouth, but is also a genuine attempt to show he cares. There’s even a point where he puts a hand to Scully’s cheek to express that he’s sorry about her father, a touchingly intimate gesture.
And after Mulder is shot by the kidnapper that Boggs is helping them track with his alleged psychic ability, Scully is angry — the angriest we’ve ever seen her since the series began. “If he dies because of what you’ve done,” she shouts, “four days from now, no one will be able to stop me from being the one that will throw the switch and gas you out of this life for good, you son of a bitch!” While it’s still early in the partnership, the two agents really have grown attached (though one could argue that maybe Scully just doesn’t want to lose someone else so soon after her father.)
This is the episode where the audience really gets to know Scully — we learn she’s just like many of us, with a childish desire to make her parents (especially her deceased father) proud, even though she abandoned a career in medicine for her work at the FBI. And during the brief scene where we see Scully and her father together before his death, we learn their Moby Dick-inspired nicknames for each other: She’s the Starbuck to Navy Captain William Scully’s Ahab. The reveal of Scully’s sweeter, childlike, qualities certainly softens up the tough disbeliever a bit.
But Scully’s opened-up characterization and the incredible interactions with Mulder aren’t the only shining stars of this episode. There’s the case of the week and the character at the center of it: Luther Lee Boggs.
Max: There is really so much that can be said about this episode (and Radhika covered a lot of bases), one of the greatest the series ever produced, and an example noted time and time again by fans and critics of the power the show can command at its greatest heights.
Luther Lee Boggs, essayed by the tremendously talented Brad Dourif, is one of The X-Files‘ greatest antagonists. A man who loved killing and then became consumed by death, the incredible range of emotions, including those generated by the audience toward him, combine to evince scenes where everyone must constantly hedge the willingness to believe with profound doubt.
It is this struggle that is the primary tool that Dourif uses in his performance to play Mulder and Scully off of each other, and later Scully off of herself. We have seen time and time again in this program the way tension is used, in all of its forms. Here, the ticking clock, the impending death(s), and an injured Mulder push an already vunerable Scully into dark corners. I would be remiss in not giving plaudits to Anderson here as well.
The episode itself has allusions to two primary influences on the conception of the show, Twin Peaks and The Silence Of The Lambs. With the former, it is no mistake that the casting of Don Davis was a deliberate homage, including the moments his face suddenly emerges on Boggs, and the general metaphysical tenor of the proceedings. In terms of the latter, the idea of a female FBI agent consulting with a violent inmate is an obvious parallel.
The show is beginning to find solid footing, and with entries like “Beyond The Sea,” it will generate enormous returns and invest legions of fans to stay home on Friday nights to catch the next episode.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
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.
Don Davis – Before playing William Scully on The X-Files, Don Davis was Major Garland Briggs on Twin Peaks. The former U.S. Army Captain eventually went on to play General George S. Hammond on the television show, Stargate SG-1.
Brad Dourif – Perhaps better known to some of us as Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings films, Brad Dourif has had a varied career. In addition to his memorable turn as Luther Lee Boggs on The X-Files, Dourif can be seen in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the Child’s Play franchise, Deadwood and much much more.