Friday, 31 October 2014

THE X-FILES, 1.6 – 'Shadows' • spirited office work

Friday, 31 October 2014


Mulder and Scully investigate the bizarre deaths of two muggers in Philadelphia, which leads Mulder to theorise their victim retaliated using psychokinesis.

Better than "The Jersey Devil", but with its own array of flaws, SHADOWS is at least commendable for playing with audience expectations a little. Glen Morgan and James Wong return for writing duties after their home-run "Squeeze", but couldn't prevent this hour from being a disappointment. This episode was apparently commissioned because Fox wanted more stories where Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) help people, and took inspiration from 1982 film The Entity.
SCULLY: You lied. You have seen this before, I can tell. You lied to them.
MULDER: I would never lie. I wilfully participated in a campaign of misinformation.
The thing that worked about "Shadows" is how the story developed in a manner that threw up differing theories for how two large men were killed, after trying to mug young office worker Lauren Kyte (Lisa Waltz) at a cash machine. Their bodies still charged with electricity post-mortem, with throats crushed from the inside, Mulder believes Lauren must have psychokinetic powers and killed her aggressors using the power of her mind. An outrageous theory that Scully, naturally, scoffs at.

But just as the story felt like it was going down one path, there was an alternative explanation that Lauren's being haunted by the ghost of her suicidal boss, Howard Graves. Not only that, but Scully posits a more down-to-earth explanation that Graves faked his death and is protecting Lauren because she became his "surrogate daughter" (a replacement for his two-year-old who died years ago).

When the story was juggling with these different ideas, keeping the audience guessing, I found it fairly engaging. Some of the sequences where the "invisible force" makes its presence known (by attacking people, levitating objects, or sabotaging cars), were also quite effective. I especially liked the moment Mulder observed a man lifted into the air by an unseen hand, being strangled. Some of it was a little corny at times, but for the most part the supernatural aspects of the hour worked decently.
MULDER: Do you believe in the afterlife, Scully?
SCULLY: I'd settle for a life in this one.
Where "Shadows" fell down is with the late addition of more grounded ingredients, when it became clear Lauren's boss Mr Dorlund (Barry Primus) was smuggling illegal parts to a Middle Eastern terrorist group called The Isfahan, and murdered Graves (his business partner) to ensure his silence. I can see why the writers wanted to weave in that real life element, as a reason for the ghostly events, but it just didn't snap together neatly enough. I think the script needed a few more rewrites, as it felt like they hastily filmed a second or third draft to appease network's demands.


  • The plot of this episode was recycled in a young adult novel by Ellen Steiber called Haunted, published in 2000.
  • Scully's jibe "they're hee-re" to Mulder was a reference to the movie Poltergeist.
  • The name Tom Braidwood is being painted over Howard Graves's car space in one scene, which is the name of the show's Assistant Director. Braidwood would later get cast as Frohike, one of the Lone Gunmen trio.
  • I was reminded of how infuriating Scully's character was in these early seasons, in terms of how she would never witness anything supernatural. In "Shadows", she was literally seconds away from entering a room to see poltergeist activity first-hand, twice.
  • Take a closer look at the newspaper Scully reads about Howard Graves murder: an article above refers to a killer eating livers and escaping from impossible situations (a sly nod to Morgan and Wong's previous episode, "Squeeze").
written by Glen Morgan & James Wong • directed by Michael Lange • Fox • 22 October 1993