4×23: Demons

“What was the last thing he said to you?” – Dana Scully
“He said he was going to exorcise his demons.” – Charles Goldstein

Mulder reaches out to Scully after waking up in an unknown room in an unknown place with blood on his shirt that is most definitely not his own…


20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: If “Elegy” showed a Fox Mulder who began to truly consider the needs and feelings of others, then “Demons” is is the chance for Dana Scully to repay that kindness, as he calls her dazed and disoriented at 4:50 in the morning, not knowing how he got to a motel room in Providence, Rhode Island with blood on his shirt. Scully meets him at the motel, where she encounters him shivering in the tub attempting to get warm.

Recognizing that he is in shock, she does a cursory medical examination before discovering from the motel manager that Mulder checked into his room a couple of days prior and that he had no visitors. Checking his service weapon, she finds that two rounds have been discharged. When Mulder points to where his car should have been, they find a different car with blood on the steering wheel.

A set of keys in his possession point them to David and Amy Cassandra, a middle aged married couple who own a disused summer home around where the Mulder’s had theirs when Fox and Samantha were growing up. Traveling to that house, Mulder has a violent seizure, which violently recalls memories of his childhood, Samantha, and arguments between his mother and a young CSM.


20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

When they discover the bodies of the Cassandras at their summer home, Scully is forced to notify the local police, and a Detective Curtis is assigned to get to the bottom of this,  beginning with questioning Mulder, who can only say that he does not remember knowing them or any recollection of the past couple of days. Based on only circumstantial evidence, Curtis locks up Mulder for the deaths of the Cassandras, while Scully assists in their autopsies.

When Scully discovers traces of ketamine in Amy Cassandra’s blood, as well as in the lab work on Mulder, this sends up a red flag. These flags multiply when a police officer kills himself while on duty, and based on stories relayed to her by Det. Curtis, she is able to link everything together. Both Amy and the police officer believed themselves to be alien abductees, and were being seen by a psychiatrist named Dr. Charles Goldstein.


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Released from jail, Mulder travels with Scully to Goldstein’s office where he explains that the ketamine is part of a radical therapeutic procedure meant to aggressively recover lost memories. Confronted with evidence that the procedure has resulted in the deaths of three individuals, the good doctor evades further questioning. In the parking lot, Mulder has another seizure, and realizes that he underwent the procedure as well trying to put the piece together Samantha’s abduction.

Our agents go together to Mrs. Mulder’s house, and Mulder questions her privately. He brings up the conversation they had in “Paper Clip” of her making a choice between him and Samantha, and blames the CSM for forcing her to choose Samantha, as well as asking who his father really is. Upset by these accusations, Teena slaps Mulder and refuses to talk to him further. This spurs Mulder to demand that Dr. Goldstein do the procedure again on him, which causes Mulder to revisit the Mulder summer home in a last ditch effort to understand. Ultimately, Scully is able to calm Mulder, and Det. Curtis arrests Dr. Goldstein for his reckless procedure. With Mulder cleared in the Cassandra’s deaths, he is forced to continue to deal the fragments of his shattered childhood.


20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Overall, this episode handled the exploration into the circumstances of Mulder’s adolescence well, and the grainy high contrast method of showing us his memories is very cinematic. We’ve mentioned before the contrasts between our heroes’ childhoods, but “Demons” really sells us the fact that even before Samantha’s disappearance, things weren’t exactly hunky dory in the Mulder household. Chris Owens reprises his portrayal of a young CSM from earlier in the season, and him calling a young Fox “a little spy” is a nice piece of foreshadowing their adversarial position throughout the series. If Mulder didn’t learn much from the ketamine-fueled procedure, it did at least cause him to throw doubt on what he believes, what he remembers, and the truth. For the audience, we are given breadcrumbs that will pay off in the next couple of seasons. “Demons” remains for me a bit of a curio in overall scope of the mythology (especially its placement within Scully’s cancer arc), but recalling the stakes Mulder has in his work brings us to this season’s finale.

Radhika: After swinging back toward some comedy, season three style, with “Small Potatoes,” The X-Files decided to go the darker route again during the final stretch of season four. “Elegy,” while muddled, provides us with a mystery and character study of Dana Scully. And now, “Demons,” which is also slightly muddled though a stronger episode than the previous one, takes us into the mind of Fox Mulder. While it does feel a bit out of left field, it provides us with a half-decent setup for the season finale as Max hints. And it’s a good reminder of why we’re watching a show about the X-Files to begin with.


20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

While it was subtly hinted at before (though it felt less subtle upon rewatching the series), this is the episode where Mulder seriously begins to question his father’s identity — a key to the larger mythology. And the overall look of the flashback scenes — quite heavily manipulated — almost make the viewer feel like he or she is experiencing Mulder’s fever dreams. The desperation, fear and confusion are palpable here, which is why “Demons” draws you in so easily despite its otherwise strange appearance in the season’s timeline. (Let’s admit it: Mulder’s crisis, while part of a long-ago event, just feels a bit sudden, especially with Scully undergoing cancer treatments.)

But despite the purposeful sense of confusion inserted into the plot, “Demons” manages to be a mythology episode that almost feels like a standalone — anyone could stumble upon this episode and get drawn into the story of an FBI agent who is trying to make sense of a defining moment in his life. In fact, it isn’t until the topic of abductions and a belief in extraterrestrial life comes up that we really know it’s a story that ties into the show’s larger mythology. And that’s something I actually enjoy about the episode — it feels wholly like The X-Files, but almost keeps you on your toes a little more than usual about what you should actually expect from it.


Mike Nussbaum – Nussbaum is no stranger to extraterrestrial encounters, having played an alien-controlled robot in Men In Black a few months after he played Dr. Charles Goldstein here. He also had memorable supporting roles in the films House Of Games, Fatal Attraction, and Field Of Dreams.


One thought on “4×23: Demons

  1. Pingback: 5×19: Folie à Deux | Apt. 42 Revisited

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