3×06: 2Shy

“What possible motivation could the killer have for removing his victim’s fatty tissue? I mean, who do you think we’re dealing with here?” — Dana Scully

Our agents find themselves investigating a series of murders targeting overweight single women, who may or may not have met their killer online. They eventually realize that they have a bit of a situation with a “fat-sucking vampire” on their hands…

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Name: Virgil Incanto

Sex: Male

The first things people usually notice about me: I’m attractive, but slightly “off.”

The six things I could never do without: My computer, medieval poetry, body fat, a good moisturizer, an Internet connection, an alibi.

I spend a lot of time thinking about: My next snack.

On a typical Friday night I am: Going out on a date with you.

Radhika: If online dating profiles were honest, the excerpt above might be the one you’d be seeing for this episode’s villain, Virgil Incanto — sometimes known as “2shy” online. But alas for many of his victims, Virgil Incanto managed to come across as a nice, sweet man, only to end up being a fat-sucking vampire who doesn’t care so much about keeping his dates’ best interests at heart.

This isn’t an episode for the “best of” lists. However, the monster in this story is so memorable that it’s still a pretty entertaining one to watch — possibly one of those episodes you’d sit down to watch with a friend who isn’t quite an X-Files fan, but is at least interested in seeing more of the show.

When Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate the death of a woman found covered in a strange gelatinous substance, things get weird… fast. Upon trying to do an autopsy, Scully finds that the body has turned into goo, with only the skeleton remaining, and she eventually sorts out that the odd substance actually contains a digestive enzyme.

Meanwhile, the killer — Virgil Incanto — prowls Internet chatrooms on the hunt for his next victim (ideally someone lonely and overweight). Turns out, Incanto’s into sucking the fat out of his victims (without this fat, a strange skin condition of sorts seems to rear its ugly head.) As the investigation heats up, Incanto gets sloppy, killing his landlady along the way. By the end of the episode, Mulder and Scully trace Incanto to the home of a would-be victim, and after a harrowing fight scene involving Scully, Incanto is eventually shot, though not killed, by his possible victim.

The episode winds up tackling a number of themes: namely, the world of online dating, in an era where it was still a very new and not-so-normal thing to do. Though most people today have tried online dating in some capacity, it definitely held some stigma back then, and thoughts of getting attacked (or worse) by someone you met online were fairly common. And of course, in this case, single women are the targets.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

I have mixed feelings about how women are handled in this episode. On one hand, there is actually a scene between Scully and an older detective, who is surprised that she is a medical doctor and also declares his “not sexist” worry that a woman should not be tackling the case at hand. Scully is rather steely in response, and it is clear that we’re supposed to be on her side instead of supporting the old boys’ club. But even so, it’s Scully who’s attacked rather brutally by Incanto toward the end of the episode (ironic, since I pointed out that it was nice to see her relatively unscathed in the previous episode, “The List.”) She does fight back rather hard, as she tends to do, but things look bad… until the woman who was going to be Incanto’s victim intervenes and shoots him.

I guess I am glad that the victim winds up being the savior, because I would probably feel a lot more annoyed by the whole thing if it were Mulder who had stepped in. I don’t deny that women often are targeted for a multitude of reasons — as a woman, I’d be remiss to ignore the dangers that are out there. But I do wish an episode that was clearly trying to take a stand against old-school thoughts about where women belong had done a better job of showing how strong women can be.

Nonetheless, Scully does get to give Incanto a good verbal lashing at the end. In the final scene, a weaker, clearly diseased-looking Incanto confirms being behind the disappearances a few more of his victims with the agents. When he claims that all he was doing was feeding his hunger, Scully informs him that he did more than that — he fed on the lonely women’s minds. But all that said, it’s clear that Incanto is never going to see things her way by way of the following explanation: “I gave them what they wanted. They gave me what I needed.”

Once a creeper, always a creeper.

Max: After we wrapped season two, Radhika and I were looking ahead and mapping out our reviews of season three, when my eyes glanced over at “2Shy.” What primarily came back to me were jokes about the state of internet technology circa 1995, chubby chasing, and the fact that naming your kid Virgil Incanto pretty much sets up his life to be that of a serial killer. If you want to be reductionist and dismissive about it, sure, that is what the episode basically is, and there are plenty of moments of 90s cheese to back this assertion up. Still, when watching the episode again earlier today, I was surprisingly taken aback at how good it was; or to be more accurate, the quality of episode surpasses the cheap jokes one can make at its expense.

The Internet was still a very new idea to a good portion of mainstream society when the episode aired, as this commercial of contemporary vintage shows. People began connecting to others that weren’t even located in the same hemisphere, where all you really knew about the person at the other end of the line was their screen name, and placed your trust that the other information they offered was true. Some of these people connecting together were talking about a growing show on the Fox network called The X-Files, and trading everything from theories about Mulder’s sister to favorite lines, episodes, and whether or not Mulder and Scully were ever going to “do it.” Even these days, with social networks broadcasting more information about us than ever, there still are incidences where people make false claims. This ranges from the slightly humorous (football player Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend) to the terrifying (The Craigslist Killer, a kind of 2Shy of the 21st century).

It’s this collision of technological advancement and sociocultural activities that makes the episode so potent. The “new” always has an air of danger, and the apprehension to engage fuels the fear many have of it. Buying things online didn’t become commonplace until companies like Amazon showed a reliable track record of viability and security. But there is also another interesting component to explore. Ellen, the woman Virgil courts throughout the episode, brings the same anxieties and insecurities about meeting someone into the digital space, all “the usual suspects” as she puts it. Technology is often positioned as an empowering and democratizing tool, but it often exposes things about ourselves that have been ever-present in society, and can often amplify them. The women that fall prey to the needs of Virgil Incanto are so desperate for someone to connect to, someone to show them that they are loved and cared for, that they take the risk to meet a total stranger. Even when Ellen’s friend brings up the online warning of Mulder’s, she still takes it upon herself to go on the date. She wants to be wanted, and this can be said about both sexes in equal measure.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Which goes to what Radhika was talking about above with the sexism subtext of the episode. While I was rewatching, I forgot about the scene in the autopsy suite where the police detective insinuated that Scully shouldn’t be a part of the investigation. It definitely made me take a beat, which spoke to the ways women were portrayed in the episode. There is something to be said about the fact that they are mostly marginalized individuals. Virgil’s dates are women whose looks make them unappealing to the usual guys searching for their own Cindy Crawford. And when he is hungry for a fix, where does he go? To the bad part of town to pick up a prostitute. Aside from Scully, the only other major woman is Virgil’s landlord, who seems oblivious to his true nature until it is too late. Like Radhika said, the saving grace is having Ellen be the one to shoot Virgil, not Mulder. In that moment, she empowered herself with the confidence she thought she lacked. Yes, it required Scully to be in mortal danger yet again, but maybe the ends justified the means in this instance.

Watching this episode again at this point in my life gave me a better appreciation for the complexities that were lost on me as a youth, and there are a lot of thorny issues to contend with. It gave “2Shy” added power, and for me at this stage of the game it’s probably the dark horse of the season.

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