“This is the day we meet… something is happening to me… something I need to try to explain to you, to you both. I’m moving backward in time. Every morning I wake up, it’s the day before. For me, yesterday was Thursday, the day before that was Friday, only it’s all new to me. Every single morning I wake up, I can only remember what’s happened the following day.” — Martin Wells
A Baltimore prosecutor and friend of Doggett’s must figure out who murdered his wife, all while traveling back in time.
Radhika: Every once in a while The X-Files would tackle a time travel story in its own way — and after some twisty episodes including one focusing on the Bermuda Triangle and another with more Groundhog Day-esque implications, we are now given the backwards story. “Redrum” is a well-crafted thriller with solid performances by the cast and it ends up being a fairly enjoyable hour of television, even though Doggett and Scully play some fairly diminished roles here. The episode also manages to travel forward in time by becoming something of a Scandal reunion — all before Scandal ever hit our TV screens.
We open with prosecutor Martin Wells, who’s being transferred from his prison cell after allegedly killing his wife. As he exits, with Doggett and Scully by his side, a man later identified as his father-in-law shoots him. When we return from the opening credits, Wells is perfectly fine with his memory of the shooting intact, but he eventually realizes he’s traveling back in time. While meeting with Doggett and Scully, Wells says he has no memory of the recent past and explains the time travel situation. To drive the new skeptic-believer dynamic home, Doggett essentially wants Wells’ head examined, while Scully is open to the time travel idea.
After a number of twists and turns and backwards sequences of events, we eventually find out that Wells’ nanny was involved — a man threatened to kill her family if she refused to let him into the Wells home. The man has a bone to pick with Wells because his brother, who has since committed suicide, was falsely convicted and sentenced to prison after Wells suppressed evidence in a case. Motive revealed, we travel back in time once more to the moment of the wife’s murder — and just when it looks bad, Doggett comes to the rescue, shooting the would-be killer. Justice is served, however, with Wells ending up in prison for suppressing evidence in the aforementioned case.
Joe Morton delivers a pretty fantastic performance as Martin Wells — Scully and Doggett play fairly small roles here compared to past episodes, but I found Morton’s performance compelling enough to not be bothered by their relative absence. Morton does well as the classic man racing against time and I like that while he is an empathetic character, he is not someone without flaws. It’s not that Wells doesn’t deserve a prison sentence here — it’s just that he deserves one for an entirely different reason and the only thing he can really prevent is the murder of his wife, an innocent bystander in the whole situation.
The approach this episode takes isn’t completely original — though it’s worth noting that it definitely aired before the movie Memento was released in the United States. But even though it deviates a bit from classic X-Files formulas (while maintaining that classic “dark” feeling that was lacking in the past couple of seasons), it’s a really solid bit of storytelling that we haven’t seen in a while on this show. Sure, we’re privy to some longwinded pretentious monologues from time to time (though not half as bad as the scenery-chewing types on Scandal), but there is a level of suspense that I’ve really missed in rewatching some of the episodes we’ve been looking at. It ultimately ends up being something of a pleasant surprise this late in the game.
Max: In the last review I talked about how the episode essentially revolved around a sense of karmic justice being finally brought to bear, and that theme continues here in “Redrum,” an entry that seems taken directly from the Rod Serling playbook. In true Twilight Zone style, we have a man faced with an existential dilemma; and through the complicated perambulations of the plot, the forces of the universe come to balance the scales of justice through Wells’ admission that he buried evidence. It even ends with the kind of macabre sermonizing that was the trademark of Serling’s denouements.
Many of these kind of time-traveling stories reach a point where the protagonist feels like he or she is trapped in some kind of metaphysical prison from which escape is impossible. Just take a look at the middle section of Groundhog Day where Bill Murray’s character becomes so despondent that he attempts suicide multiple times only to end up back in the bed-and-breakfast to begin the whole wretched day over again. It is interesting in the case of this episode we have Morton’s character begin already in that prison (in every sense of the word), escape it when the clock turns back enough, only to land in a different prison by episode’s end, the consequence of his confession to Doggett. I could go on about the ironies of the truth setting you free, but you get the picture. When you are Phil Connors, Leonard Shelby, Pam from “Monday,” or Martin Wells, the only way out can take you to some unexpected places.
It is true as Radhika mentioned that our heroes are sidelined for most of the proceedings, but as we’ve said previously, when the episode is as a strong as “Redrum” is, that detail can be easily scuttled. This outing is less a progression of the Scully/Doggett dynamic that the characters and audience have been getting used to but rather an exploration that gives us room to breathe (as much as an edge-of-your-seat episode like this can) and not have to necessarily worry about the broader brushstrokes of the season, Scully’s pregnancy, or how much we miss Mulder. In fact, I didn’t think of our spooky abductee once in watching the episode, evidence of how compelling it is and also how warmed I’ve become to the new status quo.
This was one of those episodes I was looking forward to rewatching, simply because — as is a recurring theme with me this season — the quality is so good that it is a shame that it has been overlooked for so long simply by dint of it appearing so late in the series run, a point by which a large chunk of the show’s audience had tuned out in favor of other pursuits. “Redrum” shows The X-Files still has the ability in it to thrill and delight.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Joe Morton – Appearing here as Martin Wells, Joe Morton is more recently known for his role as Rowan Pope on Scandal. He has appeared in a variety of TV shows and films and is also known for his roles in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (just like Robert Patrick!) and the TV series Eureka.
Bellamy Young – We may know her as First Lady Mellie Grant on Scandal these days, but Bellamy Young appears in this episode as a lawyer. Her other credits include Mission: Impossible III and roles on shows like Law & Order, Scrubs and NCIS.
Danny Trejo – Before he was Machete, Trejo appeared in this episode as Cesar Ocumpo, a man bent on getting revenge for his brother. He has also appeared in films like Heat, Con Air and Desperado.