“We win?” – Sailor
“Yeah, you come out on the side of history with no small amount of help from us. Not much to apologize over the next 50 years except for maybe the Spice Girls.” – Fox Mulder
Mulder does something really stupid by going off into the Bermuda Triangle by himself to look for a British luxury liner missing since 1939.
Max: A common point of discussion between Radhika and I thus far as it concerns the sixth season is that the shift in the production’s venue will lead to brilliant streak of experimentation. We saw a little bit of this in “Drive,” but “Triangle” turns the knob all the way to eleven. At once a pastiche of wartime thrillers, infamous maritime legends, and homages to both The Wizard of Oz and the work of Alfred Hitchcock, the episode is just one of those things. The mere mention of it brings smiles to the face and warm memories, much like last season’s “Detour.”
Here, Mulder (probably in a fit of frustration given his current assignment within the Bureau) jumps on a chance to encounter the British luxury liner the Queen Anne, which disappeared in 1939 after crossing into the territory known to fans of the paranormal as the Bermuda Triangle. Tussling with the skeptical British crew as well as a phalanx of Nazi stormtroopers that have invaded the vessel, Spooky uses his knowledge of things to come and information he gleans on board to put together pieces of the puzzle. Mulder experiences first-hand what happened sixty years prior, when the Nazis intercepted the vessel looking for something called Thor’s Hammer, an important asset that would win the war for whoever was in possession of it.
Meanwhile, his patient yet frustrated partner back in Washington tries every channel and avenue in her arsenal to rescue Mulder from his fools errand when the Lone Gunmen approach her and inform her that the ship they saw using hacked satellite photography has vanished. Desperate, she reaches out to her superiors (both old and new) in aborted efforts to obtain fresh naval intelligence. Scully even stoops as low as to try to intimidate Jeffrey Spender (that little weasel) to get her the imagery she needs to pinpoint a location to intercept the ship if it were to return.
The episode is really an achievement in wild ambition and, quite frankly, a act of major cojones. Inspired by Hitchcock’s motion picture Rope, the writers and crew boldly experimented with an episode that consisted of four eleven minute extended sequences. Although they aren’t true single takes (each sequence is stitched together during moments of movement and darkness), every act is imbued with an awesome sense of dynamism which is quite infectious and keeps your eyes on the screen.
The oneiric quality of the scenes on the Queen Anne are a product of the episode’s many allusions to the classic film The Wizard of Oz (which was released in 1939, the year the Queen Anne supposedly disappeared). The captain of the ship is named after the composer who wrote all the songs for Oz, and the ballroom singer is named for the Kansas analog to the Wicked Witch of the West. Even the boat Mulder chartered, the Lady Garland, is a tribute to Oz‘s leading lady. When Mulder awakes in a hospital after being saved by Scully and the Lone Gunmen, the scene is basically a riff of the final moments of The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy awakes back in her Kansas home.
I must comment though on one of the biggest assets this episode has, and that is the brilliant comedic stylings of Gillian Anderson. She absolutely kills it as she makes her way throughout the Bureau hallways, asking for help from both Skinner and Kersh and stumbling her way through it all. With her investigative apparatus limited by her new assignment, Scully has to improvise and think on her feet in order to procure the information she needs, essentially a comedic take on her efforts to locate Mulder in “End Game.” When Skinner comes through, yet again, her reactions (both an impulsive kiss and an exultant “Yesssss!”) are effortlessly hilarious, with impeccable timing. It’s almost like a mini-caper film in that respect, perfect popcorn entertainment.
The sandbox The X-Files plays in has gotten a little larger, and if the resultant episodes are as good as “Triangle,” then we are in for quite a treat indeed. That is the challenge the writers face this season, broadening the horizons but still crafting experiences that are quintessentially X-Files.
Radhika: This is such a delightful episode! We all spend so much time thinking of “classic” X-Files as years 1-5, pre-movie and pre-move to Los Angeles, that season six often seems forgotten or lumped into the admittedly lackluster category many of the show’s later episodes seem to fall under. But as Max pointed out, there was quite a bit of interesting experimentation going on in season six. I didn’t care for the season opener much, but between this, “Drive” and what I remember of episodes to come, there’s a lot of good material here.
Time travel is a trope that a lot of TV shows like to experiment with — and I’m not going to lie, there’s times where this episode also felt a bit Doctor Who-ish to me — thanks to the running around and general madcap. [Also, one thing I appreciate about The Wizard of Oz reference that Max mentions above is that it also echoes Mulder’s “Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, Toto!” when he wakes up in the hospital in Fight the Future.] And I like how the Nazis in this episode feel like something out of Indiana Jones and Mulder dressing up in Nazi regalia also ends up a bit Indy-esque.
Many shows (as well as Back to the Future Part III) like to feature characters from present day as different characters in the past when playing with time travel, and The X-Files follows suit here. Not only do we have a 1939 “Scully” (really looking the part), we also get to see Kersh, Skinner, the CSM and Spender in different roles. Of course, they generally resemble their present-day counterparts a bit — it’s no surprise that the CSM and Spender are Nazis, but you still get a good chuckle out of it. And it’s charming to see Nazi Skinner end up being a lot like his actual character — ambiguous, but ultimately on the side of the United States, aka the good guys in this scenario.
Also, this episode is famous (or infamous) for finally featuring a Mulder and Scully kiss. But Mulder actually kisses 1939 Scully, who promptly punches him in response, appeasing the hearts of noromos — instead of shippers — everywhere. Mulder does try to make a fairly sincere sounding declaration of love to present-day Scully once he wakes up, but she immediately dismisses it, chalking it up the drugs he’s on. This doesn’t really do a whole lot to change the Mulder-Scully relationship, but there’s a sense that something’s in the air and that the tension they’ve experienced for years may eventually evolve to the next level. But verrrrry slowly.
Overall, it’s nice to see Mulder and Scully get a break from the usual drama in an episode like this one. And there’s still a sense that the cast and crew of The X-Files are having fun — and enjoying the opportunity to experiment that five seasons and a movie brought them. Even though this phase doesn’t last very long in the grand scheme of things, I’m really enjoying this opportunity to look back at season six in a way I didn’t realize I would.
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
The tagline, “DIE WAHRHEIT IST IRGENDWO DA DRAUßEN,” is an approximation of our typical tagline, this time in German. Translated, it says “The truth is somewhere out there,” which speaks to the far out nature of the episode’s plot as well as yet another reference to The Wizard of Oz.