“You still don’t get it, do you? Closing the X-Files, separating you and Scully was only the beginning. The truth is still out there, but it’s never been more dangerous.” – X
Mulder’s shadowy informant clues him in to the death of a Manhattan doctor, the cause of which defies explanation. And that’s only scratching the surface…
Max: Can I just get off my chest how much I’m loving things right now? Season two is a tour de force of television, a show in full command of its powers, and it is an absolute joy rewatching it and sharing my enthusiasm. “Sleepless” is a massive entry into the series, a hybrid of sorts that rides the rails of both the mythology and a MOTW.
The death of the doctor in the cold open leads Mulder to request an investigation, based on a tip given to him, presumably by his new source. His request is approved, with a catch. Apparently, a green agent by the name of Alex Krycek filed the request first, and Mulder is forced to take on this cipher of a partner. Played by Nicolas Lea (who we first saw doing the wild thing in “GenderBender” in an unrelated role), the character seems to be what he is on the surface, yet Mulder doesn’t trust him; and given recent events, why should he? His suspicions are confirmed (unbeknownst to him) when at the end of the episode Krycek steals the files Mulder obtained on the case, and delivers them to the Cigarette Smoking Man, reporting to him that things are more dangerous than previously thought, and separating our heroes has only strengthened their resolve. Whatever will come of Krycek’s incursion into the plot, it won’t be good.
Another milestone is that we are finally introduced to Mulder’s “friend in the FBI,” a shadowy, paranoid individual that we will later refer to only as X. Giving Mulder information on a classified government program designed to create perfect soldiers, X warns that Mulder and Scully have never been in more danger, and that it is prudent to be careful in all matters. Referencing the death of his predecessor Deep Throat, X intimates his fear of dying at the same hands, a martyr in the quest for the truth. The scene itself is wonderfully composed, set inside a huge abandoned space, the figures of Mulder and X seem small in comparison, reflecting their positions in the conspiracies and machinations that drive the mythology.
It says a lot about how packed an episode is that I haven’t even gotten to the case of the week yet! Turns out, the doctor I mentioned above called 911, claiming his apartment was on fire, and grabbing an extinguisher to battle the blaze. When firefighters arrive at the scene, they find no evidence of fire, and the man dead on the floor. Scully, doing an autopsy of the body, discovers that he succumbed to injuries symptomatic of a fire, but without any primary cause. Later, a Vietnam veteran is found dead in his apartment, his body riddled with the effects of gunfire but without any bullet holes. These individuals were linked together, the doctor having been a leader in that government program, and the veteran a soldier he designed to run without sleep, in order to make a better combatant. The man killing them, Augustus Cole, was one of the soldiers in the unit that underwent the procedure, a sort of preacher who now believes he must atone for all of his sins and the sins of everyone involved in the program by killing them all.
Cole is a formidable adversary, and actor Tony Todd imbues him with an incredible presence that captivates as much as he chills. Racked with grief over participating in atrocities on par with My Lai, he executes his compatriots and minders with ruthless efficiency. By having him have the ability to project psychic visions onto others, as well has not being able to sleep himself, a metaphor emerges. The waking nightmare of war is a constant psychic trauma, and for those who have come back from it, one they can never escape from.
Radhika: Enter Alex Krycek. Enter X. It’s remarkable how much happens in this episode, which while pretty decent and thought provoking, isn’t one most people bring up when they’re reminiscing about The X-Files. And yet, as Max pointed out, it’s actually rather pivotal — a hybrid episode that gives us a case of the week, while also advancing the mythology.
What I like about the introduction of characters like X is that we’re back to a bit of a familiar pattern with an informant, but it also feels fresh. Though Deep Throat was also paranoid, X takes it to a new level, to the point where he is actually rather hostile. He may be a new “friend” to Mulder, but this slightly adversarial relationship adds to that feeling that the stakes are a lot higher for our agents this season.
Also, even though the X-Files technically remain closed, and Mulder and Scully now have the wedge of Alex Krycek between them, the two agents do remain closer than ever. Mulder still relies on Scully, arranging to ship a body to her for an autopsy (which is just the sort of thing later episodes of the show will poke fun at), and the two remain in constant communication.
There’s a fun scene where Mulder describes Krycek to Scully, saying he could use a little more seasoning and wardrobe advice, and though both he and Scully are making light of the overall situation, it’s pretty clear that the two agents really do want to work together again. It’s no wonder Krycek winds up telling the Cigarette Smoking Man that Scully is a “problem.”
The conspiracy is growing deeper, and now we’re getting even more hints that something could go terribly wrong for Mulder and Scully. The edge-of-your-seat qualities of season two are about to get a lot crazier very very soon….
YES IT’S THAT GUY
Tony Todd – Playing the avenging Augustus Cole, Tony is a frequent presence in cult cinema, most notably as the titular Candyman in that series of films. He also has roles in Night Of The Living Dead, The Rock, Voodoo Dawn, and Final Destination. Aside from his work in this episode, he’s had guest turns on Star Trek: The Next Generation, 24, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 21 Jump Street, and NYPD Blue.