“Don’t you want to live forever?” — The Son
“Not if drawstring pants come back into style.” — Fox Mulder
While Mulder mopes over Scully’s disappearance, he ends up investigating a bunch of ritualistic murders in Los Angeles, which turn out to be the work of vampires… because your average ritualistic killers would be too boring for The X-Files. But it actually turns out that vampires are even duller than an IRS agent in X-Files land.
Radhika: After a spectacular run of episodes, The X-Files hit its first sour note in season two with “3,” the standalone installment that aired after Scully’s abduction. The episode, which features no Scully thanks to Gillian Anderson going off to give birth, gives us a morose Mulder and an incredibly cheesy, boring, nineties depiction of vampires.
This exchange between Max and me really sums it up:
Me: “‘3’ is a spectacularly stupid episode.
I don’t feel like boring you with the plot of this episode, but here’s a quick summary: Mulder winds up in Los Angeles to investigate a series of vampiric serial killings, eventually deciding that yes — there are vampires — after a suspect burns to death. Mulder eventually winds up connecting with a woman named Kristen Kilar. Kristen has been fleeing the aforementioned burnt up suspect, known as “The Son,” and his accomplices who have been on a killing spree. At some point, Mulder and Kristen hook up, and the episode ends with Kristen eventually taking her own life in order to destroy the vampires.
Yeah, I was struggling writing that summary there, because it really is quite convoluted and eventually rather boring to watch, minus Mulder being shirtless for a bit. And even then, it’s not even fun shirtless, because he’s too busy wearing Scully’s cross and feeling sad for the bulk of the episode. Granted, I would be complaining even more if Mulder weren’t moping over Scully — and I actually was a little verklempt during the scene where he returns to his basement office and stares at the X-File with Scully’s name on it. But then the rest of the episode is just heavy handed in its depiction of Mulder as this lone wolf FBI agent, and it all becomes too much.
The only real takeaway I have is that The X-Files, at least up until this point in its run, was actually a little terrible at tackling the “usual” suspects found in stories about the paranormal. Its attempt at dealing with werewolves in “Shapes” didn’t go so well, despite an effort to make things a little nontraditional by delving into Native American mythology. And here, everything goes wrong with the vampires. There are all the usual clichés: Sex, blood, people in black… and it just does not work. (This Key & Peele skit does a nice job highlighting exactly why this whole episode just felt so ridiculous.)
The show thankfully did go on to tackle vampires in a much more hilarious and suitable manner a few seasons down the road, but yikes. If you’re going to watch a vampire episode of The X-Files, “3” really isn’t the one to watch.
Max: Can I just say that going to the dentist is probably preferable to this episode? At least there I can get some nitrous!
Scully’s absence casts an extraordinarily morose pall over the proceedings, almost like a ghost. That being said, the moment when Mulder reenters the X-Files office to dust things off was a nice moment in an episode with precious little of them.
There have been plenty of pieces of pop culture before and since that have explored the connections between sexuality and vampirism, but “3” comes off as a pale imitation of all of them. The Hunger, this is most assuredly not. It’s the kind of flat, affectless eroticism that was a “Skinemax” staple of the 1980s and 1990s. Also, in Mulder’s first encounter with Kristen, he declines to taste her blood, because, and I quote, “AIDS, aren’t you afraid?” This is probably the closest the show gets to an ABC Afterschool Special, both being enormously ham-fisted attempts of addressing contemporary social issues.
It’s enormously difficult sometimes to write about an episode where you have absolutely no investment in what is going on whatsoever. Wildfires have been rampant in the Valley, big deal and poorly used to underscore the events of the episode. Vampires doing very little actual vampiring, yes let’s start the Twilight debasement a decade early! Trying to graft a California noir aesthetic onto the proceedings, Double Indemnity you are most certainly not!
Sure, Perrey Reeves is some nice eye candy, but not even her good looks can keep me interested for 45 minutes of tedious doom and gloom. I guess Radhika and I have to find our kicks someplace else then!
I think all of this is a circuitous way of saying that The X-Files really thrives on the dynamic between Mulder and Scully. It is their deep respect for each other, their banter, and their opposing viewpoints that keep things interesting and vital on the show, even when the latest MOTW turns out to be a dud. In the case of “3,” the MOTW is most certainly that, but we don’t have the chemistry of our heroes to at least make things palatable.
Given the abundance of wine in this episode, I’m deciding to place this episode lower than box wine you’d get at a dollar store (if dollar stores actually got into the wine business). Apologies to those box wine connoisseurs who read this blog.
YES, IT’S THAT LADY
Perrey Reeves – Appearing here as Kristen Kilar, Perrey Reeves went on to play Ari Gold’s wife on HBO’s Entourage. Reeves, who was David Duchovny’s real-life girlfriend during the filming of “3,” has also appeared in numerous other TV shows and films, including Grey’s Anatomy and Old School.