“Mulder, what happened? Where’s Modell?” — Dana Scully
“He had to go.” — Fox Mulder
Serial killer Robert Patrick Modell, who has the ability to force others to do his bidding, appears to be back after escaping from prison. But our agents eventually realize there’s another antagonist in the midst.
Radhika: “Kitsunegari,” the follow-up to season three’s classic “Pusher,” joins the ranks of episodes like “Tooms,” which provide us with a sequel to a memorable Monster of the Week. We’re reintroduced to Robert Patrick Modell, a man who can force his will on others — or convince people that they’re seeing or doing things they’re not actually doing. It’s a nice callback to a pretty fantastic episode, but this outing is ultimately not as striking as its predecessor.
Robert Patrick Modell has escaped from prison after waking up six months earlier from a coma he was put in by Mulder. Things heat up at a house where a man is found dead and covered in Cerulean Blue (another callback to “Pusher”) paint. The term “Kitsunegari,” the Japanese term for “fox hunt” is written on the walls. The dead man also happens to be Nathan Bowman, the prosecutor at Modell’s trial.
The agents eventually catch up with Linda Bowman, the wife of aforementioned Nathan, who says her husband did at least talk about Modell. Mulder, who has been resisting Modell’s attempts to talk to him, eventually gives in during one particular encounter. After that, he grows insistent that there’s no way Modell is the killer this time — which neither Scully nor Skinner believe. Events ramp up: Modell’s therapist gets electrocuted just before Mulder tries showing her a picture of Linda on a hunch, and Skinner ends up shooting Modell at Linda’s FBI safe house.
In a final confrontation, where Mulder thinks he sees Scully kill herself and then eventually finds the real Scully who looks like “Linda,” the truth is revealed: Linda has been the culprit all along. The episode concludes with us learning that Linda is Modell’s fraternal twin — also suffering from an advanced brain tumor like her brother had been when his powers manifested — and that the two had been separated within weeks of being born.
There are elements of the episode that I think are done very well: The reveal of the dead prosecutor covered in paint is pretty alarming. And the final confrontation scene, while lacking the same level of tension seen in “Pusher” is a nice parallel to the moment Mulder turned a gun on himself in front of Scully. But while the introduction of this fraternal twin is kind of interesting, Modell turns into something of a weak background character and loses the menacing, fascinating quality he had during his first appearance. On one hand, I like that we have a twist and that Modell is not the killer all along, but I wish there had been more to him here.
Max: “Pusher” was such a nail biting episode that the stakes were definitely high for this one to match that level of quality, and like Radhika has mentioned, “Kitsunegari” definitely falls way off the mark. Of course neutering Modell definitely played a big role in episode turning out the way it did.
When Eugene Victor Tooms made his reappearance, Mulder and Scully were definitely working on a clock and under pressure once Tooms’ veneer of a sham reformation fell away. They needed to apprehend him before he completed his organ harvesting to hibernate for another thirty years. That and the introduction in that episode of Walter Skinner served to inject a second layer of antagonism. Here though, we have an episode with a particularly amorphous structure with only faint traces of the original’s sense of urgency. And Skinner here is an Assistant Director who now has the implicit trust of his agents, especially after everything that went down during Scully’s cancer. The air has been let out of the balloon.
It also strains credibility to have Linda Bowman be the twin sister of Modell. It is one of those “the world is small but not that small” writer’s contrivances designed purely to delay the big reveal further along in the episode’s runtime. It’s really a shame because Vince Gilligan and Tim Minear are terrific writers, so it is disheartening to watch an episode that fell mostly flat. If Linda had been written as perhaps someone unrelated to Modell, in fact someone openly antagonistic towards him, then maybe some real fireworks could’ve flown. Who wouldn’t want to see some Pusher versus Pusher action?
The one thing though that I thought was quite spectacular was the final showdown between our heroes and Linda Bowman. It was a particularly powerful fake-out to have Mulder (if only for an instant) believe that Scully had killed herself under Linda’s influence. That action would be made more potent given how recently Scully escaped the clutches of death with her cancer, only to seemingly be done in by this woman. At least, though, our agents’ long history together proved to be the element that allowed Mulder to break free of the psychological mind games. Scully may not have died, but the image of her lying in that warehouse in a pool of blood took its toll on Mulder. Skinner congratulates Mulder on wrapping up the case, but Mulder, despondent, asks “Then how come I feel like I lost?” At this point, Mulder and Scully have sacrificed so much, and the cost of their work is so high, that it seems hopeless to continue. This sense of disillusionment and despondency is emerging as a hallmark of this season, so there’s always that.
YES, IT’S THAT LADY
Diana Scarwid – Appearing as Linda Bowman in this episode, Scarwid has had a storied career, playing assorted roles in TV shows and movies since the 1970s. She portrayed the adult Christina Crawford in Mommie Dearest and received a Best Supporting Actress nomination during the 1980 Academy Awards for her performance in Inside Moves, as well as an Emmy Award nomination for the 1995 TV movie, Truman.