3×13: Syzygy

“Sure, fine. Whatever.” – Dana Scully

Mulder and Scully investigate one hell of a case, where a whole town goes nuts, and it seems like the stars are aligned against them…


20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: As the show has grown and evolved, we’ve seen Chris Carter and company take some calculated (and not so calculated) risks. Scully’s abduction, comedy episodes, family members as collateral damage. But perhaps the greatest risk, from a program whose calling card was at the time chilling paranormal paranoia, is the satirical one-two punch of “War Of The Coprophages” and “Syzygy.” Yes, last season we had “Humbug,” but that was an island amongst the usual fare of The X-Files. Here, we have two episodes that really bring the crazy to town. This time around, townsfolk are grasping at straws to explain the murders of a phalanx of high school students, beginning with one very dim varsity letterman.

Darin Morgan wrote “Coprophages,” and it seems to me like “Syzygy” is Chris Carter’s attempt to bring the Morgan sensibility into his own work. The episode almost plays out like an even more warped version of the film Heathers. It even has tinges of the original Buffy The Vampire Slayer film in the episode’s desire to up the levels of camp every five minutes. The actual plot of the episode, and the case that our heroes are brought in to investigate, are pretty straightforward and rote, and the episode is more about hanging little comedic vignettes and punchlines on a tree than anything else, but I don’t think the episode suffers for it. Basically, it boils down to the fact that due to a unique planetary alignment on a particular day, two high school girls (and total BFFs) born on the same day in the same town become a locus for some pretty fucked up cosmic energy that infects the whole town and anyone it its vicinity.

The episode acts almost as a referendum on the relationship between Mulder and Scully. Certainly, their dynamic did suffer during the alignment, and the episode was a good chance to mess with our heroes.

But perhaps the episode’s strength was its ability to mainline ridiculous moment to ridiculous moment. From the cross-dressing doctor to the awkward motel seduction to the Keystone Cops climactic showdown in the police station, you could be mistaken into believing you were high on that stuff those basement tweakers were cooking up in the previous episode.

In my own moment of syzygy, I watched an episode whose cause was the birthday of two characters in the wee hours of my own birthday this past Saturday. And I didn’t even have to wait for my credit card to clear with a psychic to make it happen.

Radhika: If there ever was an episode to explain the MASHEO (Mulder and Scully Hate Each Other) movement, “Syzgy” is the one. Well, at least after that time Scully shot Mulder to “protect” him. We all know what she really meant…

Between Scully’s terse “Sure, fine, whatever” responses to Mulder and Mulder’s own “If you detect a hint of impatience…” mini speeches to explain Scully’s skeptical nature, this is the episode that indicates how annoying the two agents must find each other  — and who can blame them? Mulder’s a one-note alien-chasing nut, and Scully never wants to believe in anything fantastic no matter how many times she’s witnessed unexplainable events with her own eyes.


20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

It’s a fun dig at the “shipper” fans of the series — of which there were plenty by this point — who were rooting for the true love between Mulder and Scully. And maybe, just maybe it threw a bit of a bone to those anti-relationship “noromo” fans who always seemed to be in the minority on those Internet sites swarming with shippers, posting pictures of all the loving moments they could find between the two agents (who, as this episode shows us, really clearly hated each other. Right?)

On the other hand, Scully largely seems annoyed by Mulder’s flirtation with Detective White in this episode, so I give up. I have no idea whose side this episode is on, which probably is its point all along — to mess with fans.

The fact that the show runners decided to go with back-to-back over-the-top satirical episodes shows that The X-Files had hit a point where it could push more envelopes than it had in the past. With its characters and overall themes firmly established, there’s something refreshing about watching an episode where you half expect a character to burst out with a line like “I love my dead gay son!” (a la the aforementioned Heathers). The creepy, dark episodes of The X-Files are some of my favorites, but I do love that it wasn’t just Darin Morgan trying to make fun of the show by this point, and that show creator Chris Carter was ready to partake in the fun as well. Just like the previous episode, “War of the Coprophages,” this episode is replete with all your horror movie clichés — like angry mobs worrying about Satan penetrating their small town.

At the center of the episode, we have the characters of Margi Kleinjan and Terri Roberts, two teenage girls who end up with extraordinary powers (and mostly just end up killing other students who annoy them) thanks to the planetary alignment mumbo-jumbo. Instead of the usual dark, creepy behavior we’d see in a typical MOTW, we are treated to the most ridiculous display of teenage girl behavior possible.  Between their “Hate him” / “Hate him, wouldn’t want to date him!” dialogues and the ridiculous almost goth-like getups during their birthday party, during which the Live song “All Over You” was playing, I felt like I was watching some bastardized version of The Craft, which was incidentally released months after this episode aired in 1996. Must have been something in the water that year.

My only real criticism of the episode is that all the deaths in it are treated with a certain level of flippance, which I suppose works in a parody, but it seems the girls never get punished for their actions, which is a tad disconcerting. But, I guess in the spirit of the episode, I guess it’s fine. Whatever.


Lisa Robin Kelly – Playing Terri Roberts, one of the astrologically homicidal high schoolers, Lisa had a long career on television, most notably playing Laurie Forman on That ’70s Show. She guested on shows such as Charmed, Married… With Children, Murphy Brown, and several ABC Afterschool Specials. Sadly, she died in 2013 at the age of 43 from multiple drug intoxication, after she had recently begun rehab to address substance abuse issues.

Ryan Reynolds – Yes, Van Wilder himself was in this episode in an early role, playing the doomed jock Jay “Boom” DeBoom. Aside from his breakout role in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, he was in the films Waiting…, Smokin’ Aces, Blade: Trinity, Adventureland, and Green Lantern. He started out in television roles such as Billy on the Nickelodeon drama Fifteen, and later on Two Guys And A Girl.


3 thoughts on “3×13: Syzygy

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