“You’re aware that this… freak of science you’re negotiating with is a murderer?”
– Fox Mulder
“The information he has… could change the course of mankind. Consider the options.”
– Deep Throat
Our heroes get roped into a case involving Mulder’s first assignment with the FBI, and things take a turn for Conspiracy Crazytown….
Max: “Young At Heart” is another episode that goes into the life of either Mulder or Scully before the X-Files. This time, we revisit Mulder’s first case as a green FBI agent, a serial armored car robber with a violent streak by the name of John Barnett. After his mentor Reggie Purdue calls him in to the aftermath of a jewelry store robbery, Mulder learns that apparently the man he locked away is on the loose again, despite having died in prison in 1989.
As with the other episodes we’ve seen thus far where we delve into the agents’ pasts, “Young At Heart” is meant for us to contrast the person then with the person now. One may be surprised to learn that Mulder was once a by the book G-man, but after a showdown with Barnett that took the lives of a hostage and a fellow FBI agent, you can see how incidences like this would mold Mulder into the agent he is in this episode.
I’ve buried the lede here, but it wouldn’t be an X-File without some eerie happenings, and in this episode it is a youthful and reinvigorated John Barnett, courtesy of some cutting edge and very illicit genetic experimentation. Dr. Joseph Ridley, a disgraced Progeria researcher, used insights gleaned there to experiment on prisoners to help reverse the effects of aging, of which Barnett was his greatest success. Having his medical license revoked, he fled to Central America to continue his research, and being derisively referred to as Dr. Mengele isn’t the only parallel to The Boys From Brazil.
One thing I find compelling is that after Barnett dispatches with the doomed Agent Purdue, he immediately sets his sights on threatening Scully, sneaking into her apartment, listening to her messages, all in a bid to further enrage Mulder. Were still only in the first season, but the relationship between Mulder and Scully is so well drawn and strong from this early vantage point that it makes sense for Barnett to seize on this to further manipulate his old foe.
Overall, this is a pretty well made game of cat-and-mouse with dashes of the outre. Nothing particularly spectacular, but filled with enough suspense to make it an enjoyable entry into the series.
Radhika: As Max said, there’s nothing particularly outstanding about this episode, but the solid story and character development makes it one of the stronger episodes of The X-Files. What I also like about this episode is that it’s another one where Scully is eventually able to put some of her usual skepticism aside and accept that there might be some truth to the genetic experimentation at the center of this story.
While everything about this episode is fairly average monster-of-the-week stuff, we do get to see a hint of the government conspiracy angle sneak back into the series. We see Deep Throat again, informing Mulder that the government has been negotiating with Barnett to get its hands on Dr. Ridley’s stolen research, once again implying that the government isn’t too afraid of attempting an underhanded dealing here and there. And in fact, as the episode ends, we catch a slight glimpse of William B. Davis — the Smoking Man from the Pilot, credited as CIA Agent for this episode, according to IMDB.
The viewer can barely see Davis’s face, and it’s probably just my obsessive rewatching of the show that makes it so easy to recognize him in the scene. Davis’s character is spotted as doctors try to resuscitate Barnett, also attempting to make sure he doesn’t slip away. (Of course, the efforts do fail, with some sinister implication that the rediscovery of Ridley’s work could someday cause a lot of trouble.) It’s all a bit of a fairly good, possibly slightly coincidental set-up, for the heavier conspiracy episodes to come.