“Two men died in that crash room, Scully. One man came back. The question is, which one?” – Fox Mulder
The agents deal with an apparent case of possession after Scully’s former flame is injured in a bank robbery and seems to come back with the dead bank robber’s traits.
Radhika: “Lazarus” is a monster-of-the-week episode that seems to fly under the radar sometimes, but it’s a pretty solid one upon rewatch. There’s no actual “monsters” here, but something strange is certainly afoot.
In the episode, we’re introduced to Agent Jack Willis — Scully’s former instructor and a former boyfriend — who’s been chasing down bank robbers Warren Dupre and Lula Phillips. Willis and Scully corner Dupre during an attempted robbery, resulting in both Willis and Dupre getting shot.
Once Willis turns up again after disappearing, Mulder gets to work on trying to prove his theory that the agent is being inhabited by Dupre’s consciousness. As usual, it isn’t really something Scully wants to believe, blaming trauma instead. But then she and Willis/Dupre end up catching up with Lula Phillips, and Scully suddenly finds herself hostage while Dupre realizes that the woman he loves — Phillips — betrayed him and got him cornered during the robbery.
By the end of the episode, both Phillips and Willis/Dupre die (the latter due to diabetes he wasn’t aware of due to the whole wrong body situation), and Scully’s witnessed enough confused memories in her former beau to know something wasn’t quite right. Though she’s a lot more skeptical in this episode than she was in the stellar “Beyond the Sea,” this is another instance where she seems a little more open to strange psychic phenomena — at least moreso than she is to the idea of extraterrestrial life. Then again, she’d probably be an idiot if she ignored every strange event in her life over and over again.
This is also another episode where we get to see Mulder’s deep concern for Scully when she’s in trouble, when he addresses her again by her first name (a bit of a trend when he’s worried, it seems) on the phone while she’s held hostage. And he winds up wearing his heart on his sleeve in front of the team assembled to rescue Scully, telling them, “This one’s important to me, so let’s do this right.” The episode as a whole is fairly basic: Something spooky’s happening, there’s shadows and guns drawn, but there’s still the warmth of soon-to-be beloved protagonists underneath it all, which makes it a pleasure to watch.
Max: Like you said Radhika, this is definitely an episode that doesn’t get brought up a lot in terms of conversations about the show. Nevertheless, “Lazarus” is an incredibly underrated and underappreciated episode, overshadowed by later, greater, and more well known entries.
The idea of soul/consciousness transference is one of the more interesting topics in the area of paranormal phenomena, and this episode explores it spectacularly in another solid outing by the writing duo of Gansa and Gordon. Particularly, I found it intriguing that the psychic link forged by Willis and Dupre could be explained by the incredible amount of work and time Willis had invested in the case. As Scully said to Mulder, “he lived the case.” It is then a kind of twisted poetry that Dupre’s consciousness subsumed his own and took over his corporal form, wanting badly to see Lula again. Then again, the other possibility could be a drastic personality change brought on by severe trauma. Even with “Willis” knowing details he couldn’t possibly have known, the episode leaves a lot open to interpretation.
I also appreciate that amongst the spectacularly eerie goings on, the thing that put the nail in the coffin is some good old fashioned investigative work by Mulder, showing us the skills to which he became so renowned before succumbing to conspiracies and the pejorative of “Spooky.” One of these techniques involved the manipulation of a phone call Lula made to the Bureau to ransom Scully’s life. The audio technician brought into assist made me think back to the film The Conversation, where in that case, audio surveillance foretold a possible murder.
In addition, the episode has going for it a lot of little nice touches and complications, first and foremost the fact that Willis is diabetic, and one too many cans of soda pushes him to the edge of a diabetic coma. Although Lula breaks into a pharmacy to acquire insulin, she denies it to who she believes is her husband, because it she was actually the one who dropped the dime on him to the Feds. The break-in helped Mulder and the agents narrow down their location, which is the primary reason for that occurrence. But still, Lula, if you were going to let him die anyway, why attempt a risky break-in to begin with?!?!?
Despite this, the episode remains an incredibly enjoyable hour of television, and one of the strongest of the premiere season. At this point, the writers room is getting a strong indication what works and what doesn’t, and when something like “Lazarus” comes along, everyone knows it works, and works well.