“I’m going to get some sleep. Looks like you could use some too.” – Fox Mulder
“No, I’m going to… watch the rest of these tapes. Just out of curiosity.” – Dana Scully
“You have fun.” – Fox Mulder
Mulder and Scully investigate a series of mysterious homicides in suburban Maryland, and what they uncover threatens to unravel their partnership…
Max: Coming back to “Wetwired” is an absolute treat, because it is an incredibly rich episode not only for its thematic content but for its handling of the relationship between our heroes. Mat Beck, the show’s visual effects supervisor, turned in the script for this episode, and his tech background proved fruitful in examining the effects our “plugged-in” world have on society.
Tipped off by an associate of X, Mulder briefs Scully on a case in Braddock Heights, Maryland of a man who recently went on a homicidal spree, killing five people (including his wife) he believed to be all the same individual. A cursory search of the man’s residence turns up a closet of cataloged videotapes of news reports. Scully is curious about the tapes and has her and Mulder bring some back to the hotel to look for a connection.
Meanwhile, more incidences occur, with more videotape hoarders, and a shadowy cable guy at each location. Luckily, Mulder is able to acquire a kind of scrambling device before the technician had a chance to. Mulder leaves Scully to investigate there further, and he goes to the friendly neighborhood Lone Gunmen to get their technical expertise. What they find is that the device adds an additional signal to the television picture, between the frames, what of is anyone’s guess.
Scully, however, has been going down a rabbit hole of her own. Absorbed and mesmerized by the tapes, she becomes increasingly paranoid over the course of the episode, beginning with her seemingly seeing Mulder hand a videotape over to the CSM at the hotel they were staying at. Feeling betrayed and alone, she lashes out, culminating in a showdown at her mother’s place between Scully and Mulder, with Mrs. Scully putting herself between the partners, pleading to her daughter to put down her gun.
Mat Beck in writing this episode wanted to explore the very real debate going on at the time of the effects that violence in the media had on people (particularly television and video games). It certainly is a subject of consideration, given how this debate still comes up every time an extreme act of violence occurs. The added signal in “Wetwired” made those effected believe their worst fears had become true. The return of the Holocaust, a spouse cheating on them, and (in Scully’s case) a partner betraying them, these deep seeded anxieties were amplified to unbearable levels, inculcating intense paranoia and uncharacteristic behaviors.
How this impacts the relationship between Mulder and Scully is a reason why this episode has some of the best writing and acting in the series thus far. Gillian is absolutely pitch perfect, in the way she lets Scully’s unprocessed grief over what has happened to her and her family over the past two seasons become conflated with the paranoia of Mulder’s “true” allegiances. In the past, Scully has said that Mulder is the only one she could trust, and to see that be put to the test here is heartrending. Mulder grew to trust Scully, despite the fact that she was put in his office essentially to discredit him, because of her hard work, dedication, and yes, receptiveness to his out-of-the-box thinking. And after her harrowing abduction, Scully placed her implicit trust in Mulder, being the one individual in the Bureau who was determined to find out what happened to her. The series always treats Mulder and Scully as a given, so it’s a particularly bold move to make at this juncture. “Wetwired” could be subtitled “The Trial Of Mulder And Scully.”
Radhika: Watching Scully, a character who is normally so cool and collected, get completely unhinged in “Wetwired” is one of the more jarring moments on The X-Files, which is what makes what could have been a standard MOTW episode stand out more than most. Mulder — whose newly revealed red-green colorblindness saves him from falling victim to the tapes — is the character one would expect to watch fall apart (and in a way, we did in the utterly creepy, “Grotesque”), but there is something far more touching about watching Scully go through it. A lot of that has to do with the unprocessed grief Max mentions above. This is yet another episode that fights back against the unofficial label of Scully as the show’s ice queen.
The episode is another weekly installment that crosses over into the threshold of the show’s overall mythology, as well. And this goes beyond Scully’s grief and paranoia over her abduction and her sister’s death. While Scully hallucinates seeing Mulder sitting in a car and conspiring with their nemesis, the Cigarette Smoking Man, there is actually some truth to her delusion. At the episode’s end, we see Mulder’s informant X sitting with the CSM, who inquires what has happened to Mulder’s source in this case. X says the man has been eliminated. When CSM asks about the source’s source, X — the reluctant, not-so-warm-and-fuzzy informant — responds saying that the person remains unknown.
The moment serves as a reminder that X really is playing a dangerous game, as much as he manages to annoy Mulder and Scully with his evasiveness. It also reminds us that the men behind the larger conspiracies on the show are involved in what may be the smallest of cases, as well. Mulder and Scully are being monitored and manipulated at every turn, and as much fun as the show’s comedic episodes have been during this season, it’s good to return to this element of danger once again.