6×08: The Rain King

“Dating advice? From whom?” — Dana Scully
“Yours truly…. Hello? Hey Scully. Scully, you there?” — Fox Mulder
“I heard you. Mulder, when was the last time you went on a date?” — Dana Scully
“I will talk to you later.” — Fox Mulder

When Mulder and Scully decide to poke around the case of someone who may have the ability to control the weather, they find themselves playing matchmaker.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: With all the comedy and experimentation in season six, it should not be entirely surprising that The X-Files would try to venture into newer territory: An episode that is ultimately just… sweet. That’s right, sweet. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though I think the episode got a range of reactions when it first aired. I myself wasn’t particularly impressed, because where were the monsters, dammit? But as I have said with a few other episodes, perhaps due to getting older, I find myself enjoying the episodes that try to address the human spirit — and not just the twisted, horrible sides of humanity. And so revisiting “The Rain King” was something of a pleasant surprise.

Mulder and Scully arrive in Kroner, Kansas, to check up on a guy, Daryl Mootz, who’s been making it rain — literally — in the wake of a terrible drought. They also meet a local weatherman, Holman Hardt; and Sheila Fontaine, who was once engaged to Mootz (who incidentally lost his leg while drunk driving in a hailstorm after a Valentine’s Day argument).

The Rain King

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

After a cow crashes through Mulder’s motel room (stick with me), Sheila confesses that she thinks it’s all her fault. She names a series of weather-related disasters that have surrounded certain moments of her life, and Mulder realizes it is actually Holman Hardt controlling the weather due to his repressed emotions about Sheila, a woman he has loved since high school. After a series of hijinx that culminate in a major thunderstorm on the night of their high school reunion, Holman finally confesses his love to Sheila who comes to accept it happily. The storm stops, they live happily ever after and the weather is fairly fantastic.

This is a way cutesy story for The X-Files. But it’s not without its dysfunction either — from its teaser of comedic pathos to the continued sleaziness of Daryl Mootz, we are treated to plenty of offbeat elements. But again, aside from a cow nearly crushing Mulder to death, this episode is also another break from the usual misery our agents have faced for many seasons. I commented on how I enjoyed seeing the agents actually have fun at the end of “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas,” and here, it’s nice to see Mulder and Scully solve a mystery without impending doom.

The Rain King

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

One thing here, which I think contributed to the polarized reactions to the episode, is its shipper friendliness. I was not someone who wanted a relationship to become the focus of the show, which is also probably why I did not respond well to the episode when it first aired. But we get a lot of hints about Mulder and Scully’s suppressed feelings here, with the characters they’re trying to help actually telling them that they ought to confess their feelings to each other. The agents are still in the denial stage of their growing chemistry, with Mulder brushing off comments by saying he’s happy with his friendship with Scully. But there is a point where Scully seems to let her guard down, while trying to convince Sheila that she should give Holman a chance:

    “Well, it seems to me that the best relationships — the ones that last — are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is. suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.”

Shippers had a field day with lines like this from the episode. And now many years later, even though I didn’t really like the direction the unfolding relationship took the show in, I think I’m really ok with the dialogue presented here. What seems a fluffy episode is actually meaningful — I just think it wound up drowning in a sea of back-to-back comedy.

The Rain King

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: This episode is indeed sweet, and does have some choice bits of dialogue, although I recall liking it a good deal more almost ten years ago doing my rewatch in college than I do here. It isn’t necessarily because the episode is bad by any stretch of the imagination, but Radhika’s comment is apt when she talks about this outing drowning in a sea of comedy. It has gotten to be perhaps a bit too much.

I can certainly understand the writers itching to stretch their legs as both a function of the move to Los Angeles as well as the length of time The X-Files had been on the air by that point, but I miss the kind of thrills, chills, and tension you’d get from a really killer episode. I think also it is a detriment to the overall shape of the season, because aside from instances earlier in the season, we are lacking a real sense that Mulder and Scully are skating on thin ice, just a couple demerits shy from having Kersh bounce them from the Bureau.

The Rain King

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

But one moment that still sticks out for me after all these years is when Mulder chastises poor Holman for one of his meteorological misadventures. The way Duchovny essays his disappointment, and the look on Holman’s face is, to quote Seinfeld’s Kenny Banya, “That’s gold Jerry, gold!” At the very least, the writers have been sharpening their comedic knives and generally turning in scripts that are closer in quality to the classic stylings of Darin Morgan a few seasons back.

On the shipper front, it seems like the writers are laying the groundwork for the more pronounced and overt expressions of romantic/sexual interest that will occur down the road. Whether they were consciously planning those moments in later seasons at this stage is unknown, but retrospectively the string of charming interactions this season act as justification for amping up the UST quotient, particularly after the near-kiss in the feature film and the quasi-kiss of “Triangle.”

The MOTW itself is a nice diversion, even though you can’t really call it all that diverting since the whimsy of it all is becoming standard operating procedure this season. But what the hell, if you don’t like the weather just wait until it passes.

YES, IT’S THAT LADY

Victoria Jackson – Appearing here as Sheila, Victoria Jackson is a comedian possibly best known for her time on Saturday Night Live. She was also in films like UHF. In recent years, Jackson has been more vocal about her conservative Christian politics, appearing on programs like The 700 Club and Politically Incorrect.

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2 thoughts on “6×08: The Rain King

  1. Pingback: Shippers vs. Noromos: Mulder, Scully, X-Philes and Love | Apt. 42 Revisited

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