"3"
Written by Chris Ruppenthal, Glen Morgan, and James Wong
Directed by David Nutter



In which Mulder resumes work on the X-Files, and finds that working without Scully is harder than he thought...especially when a woman tempts him during his latest case...

Synopsis - Analysis - Memorable Quotes - Observations


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Synopsis

As the episode begins, an older man named Garrett Lore drinks a glass of red wine as he looks from his house towards the distant forest fires of Southern California. Behind him, a naked woman lights a candle, as Lore begins to make excuses for his infidelity. The woman assures him it will be worth it, and then draws him into the Jacuzzi. Once there, she bites him on the neck, as another man approaches with a syringe. As Lore screams, a third man rushes over and joins the fray.

The next morning, Mulder returns to the X-Files office for the first time in six months. As he begins uncovering the contents of the room, his first order of business is to include Scully’s case file among the others. He hold on to her gold cross necklace. But before he can get too far, the phone rings.

Mulder arrives at the crime scene, where Detective Nettles is in charge. Nettles is initially unhappy with Mulder’s sudden arrival, until Mulder makes it plain that there are no issues of agency credit. Mulder simply wants to stop the killers before they move on, which is the pattern that has emerged over the past two years. Mulder has been waiting three months for the killers to strike again, and all of the evidence points to Lore’s murder as being a part of the pattern.

Apparently past murders included the same writing in blood on the walls, smashed mirrors, and spurious connections between the victims and references to the Holy Trinity. Mulder fishes out a used needle from the connection trap for the Jacuzzi, and notes that his profile of the killers indicates that they would be working in the blood products field. Nettles is impressed and quickly condones Mulder’s participation, but wonders why Mulder insists on working the case alone.

Mulder discovers that a local blood bank recently hired a man as night watchman, so he searches the building that night. He finds the night watchman drinking from the stores of blood, and subdues him without much difficulty.

Once at the police station, the night watchman seems to have some serious issues with the ceiling lights, claiming to be in pain. Mulder turns them off as he enters the room, using a red-tinted bulb instead. The night watchman decides that he’ll only talk to Mulder. The night watchman claims to be the Son, part of a kind of “Unholy Trinity”. The Son is rather bad at lying about the murder of Garrett Lore, but he plays up the idea that he’s a vampire. Mulder, however, easily proves that the man has a reflection, and decides to threaten the Son with the trappings of his own delusion.

Mulder has the Son placed in a room where the sunlight will eventually reach him. Mulder offers to cover the windows if the Son tells him where the other two killers are. When the Son is less than cooperative, Mulder leaves him in the hands of the local police until the man’s delusions force him to talk.

To everyone’s surprise, the moment the Son is touched by sunlight, his body is consumed by what appears to be extreme heat. Dr. Browning, the local coroner, notes that only long-term exposure to extreme temperatures could have led to the kind of damage suffered by the Son. Mulder notices a hand stamp for a club on the Son’s body, and the coroner is able to expose it. It reads Club Tepes.

Mulder finds Club Tepes, which is the requisitely silly vampire/goth dance club establishment. Mulder comes across a somewhat thin but attractive woman named Kristen, who fits the profile of the woman in the Unholy Trinity. Kristen immediately notices that Mulder has suffered a haunting loss, and sees through his attempt to play at the faux-vampire groupie. Mulder, on the other hand, notices that Kristen has several syringes in her purse.

Kristen moves on, finding someone more willing to swap blood and play the game. Mulder follows them to a house, where he spies on Kristen kissing her latest friend. Before he can enter the building, Kristen’s friend confronts him, making it clear he’s not wanted. But when the man goes back to find Kristen, she’s gone, and he’s soon attacked by a group of three people: two men and a woman.

Later, Mulder and Nettles work the scene, and the dental expert confirms that bites on the body are from three different human beings. Mulder finds Kristen’s compact under the stove, and when he checks on her background at the police station, he discovers that her past residencies match the pattern of murders committed by the Unholy Trinity. The next morning, Mulder and the police check Kristen’s house, but it’s deserted. They find veterinary needles which match the size used on the previous victims, and Mulder finds a loaf of bread filled with blood in the oven.

That night, Kristen returns to her house to find Mulder waiting for her. He tells her that he’s FBI, and that he recognizes the blood-filled bread as an attempt to protect oneself from vampires. Kristen is clearly in some kind of danger, but she wants to know why Mulder is so interested. She knows that he wants to know if what he believes is true. She reminds him of the dangerous fires approaching, and he asks her how she’s connected to the previous crimes. It turns out that she dated the Son before he was caught up with the Unholy Trinity. They followed her around, because the Son wants her.

Mulder tries to convince Kristen to go back to the police station for protection, but she assures him that they won’t come for her in the Son is dead. Mulder offers to stay if she won’t go, and she suggests that he clean up. He has a little bit of trouble shaving without a mirror, so she helps a bit, and inevitably, they end up together. Unfortunately, the Son, very much un-dead, watches them from outside.

Just before dawn, the Son attacks Kirsten, who has left Mulder in her bed. The Son explains that everything they wanted to believe was true. He wants her to join him and the others, and wants her to kill Mulder and drink his blood to accomplish it. The Son gives her a knife with which to kill Mulder, but Kristen wakes Mulder up, claiming that the fires are coming. She is forced to stab the Father to save Mulder before he leaves.

As they run for her car in the garage, Kristen tells Mulder that the Son is alive again. The Son attacks Mulder in the hall, but Mulder manages to subdue him. The Unholy Spirit, the same woman that seduced Garrett Lore, attacks them in the garage, pulling Mulder out of the sunroof and smacking him around. Kristen rams the Unholy Spirit with her car, impaling her on a wooden peg.

Kristen refuses to leave without the Son, so Mulder goes back for him. But once he’s out of the way, Kristen drives off. By the time Mulder investigates, Kristen has left her car on the road and doubled back. Kristen drags the Father and the Unholy Spirit to where the Son is still bound, and pours gasoline all over the house. The Son tries to convince her not to burn them, but Kristen calls his bluff. Mulder is still on his way back to the house when the it explodes.

Shortly, a fireman informs Mulder that the charred remains of four bodies were found in the ruin of the house. Despondent, Mulder pulls out Scully’s cross, holding it tightly as he stares into the distance.


Analysis

After the heights reached by the previous two episodes, this is a massive letdown. There are holes in this episode big enough for a UFO to fly through, and the best aspects of the episode are left wholly unrealized. Even worse, this episode comes across as a vehicle for David Duchovny’s girlfriend at the time, which considering some of the rumors about off-screen romances, makes this episode even more disturbing.

One must keep in mind that this episode was written and aired during the heyday of the Anne Rice novels, when vampires were very much in the popular mind. Primarily, the sexual allure of the vampire myth was, as always, part of the fascination. That makes the failure of this episode to consistently portray that sexuality even more baffling than it normally would be.

The promise of a journey through the sexually predatory overtones of the female vampire is dangled in front of the viewer in the very first scene. From the teaser, one would assume that the female seductress would actually be the focus of the story. But it’s obvious as soon as Kristen appears on the screen that she’s not the same woman as in the teaser, especially when she attempts to be seductive. If Kristen thinks Mulder makes a sad attempt at blending in, Kristen is in for a rude awakening.

If the episode is meant to support the idea that the Unholy Trinity is actually a pack of vampires, then it’s a muddy depiction at best. They still come across as wannabes, with only the slightest hint of legitimacy within the subculture. When the Unholy Spirit finally shows herself, it’s a little more convincing, but her portrayal belies the idea that she’s a powerful sexual presence.

In essence, the episode keeps making promises that it never gets around to fulfilling. The same applies to whatever message the writer was trying to send about Mulder and his feelings about Scully. Every so often, Kristen mentions that Mulder has lost someone, because it’s written on his face. But that’s about as deep as it gets. If the message is that Mulder is trying to immerse himself in his belief and in Kristen to cover his loss, then neither device is explored deeply enough to be convincing.

The episode seems to skip and jump over the possibility of an actual story. It’s empty, since by the time it ends, there’s no real insight into Mulder’s personal crisis. Everything that the episode says about Mulder’s grief is covered by the second scene, and the rest is just aimless. The same episode could have been twice as psychologically complex in the same amount of time. This is filled with little more than cardboard stand-ins, marking time.

The lack of attention or concern for detail is evident in the scene in which Mulder returns to his office. It might be reasonable to assume that three months had passed from the time Skinner decided to re-open the X-Files and the actual moment that Mulder is transferred back to those duties. By jumping forward through the time period where Mulder’s character could have been explored in detail, the series loses a valuable storytelling opportunity.

The genius of the abduction plot thread is the introduction of personal stakes into the mythology, and the way in which the plot arc was handled throughout the end of the first season until “Ascension”. While this episode ties into that arc tangentially, it exposes the bad decision to jump past the time period that represented the real risk.

What if Mulder had been allowed to work alone for a few more episodes, giving the writers more time to work out the transition from his wiretap assignment to his solo work on the X-Files? Not only would that have given Gillian Anderson longer to recover from childbirth, but it would have shown that the series was able to tell a larger story with confidence.

Instead, this is the sole episode representing the time during which Scully was missing, and it barely touches on the larger arc. This became a lingering issue during the course of the series, and set a horrible precedent. The writers would gloss over pure storytelling gold for the convenience of returning to the comforts of stand-alone episodes with little or no overall impact.


Memorable Quotes

UNHOLY SPIRIT: “I’ll do things with you no one’s ever done…”

THE SON: “Don’t you want to live forever?”
MULDER: “Well, not if drawstring pants come back into style.”

DR. BROWNING: “You are really upsetting me. On several levels.”


Observations

- Apparently even David Duchovny doesn’t understand the logic in this episode!

- The teaser is easily the best part of the episode...and just about the only good part...

- This is actually one of the best shots of the early office layout, which is more or less preserved for the next six seasons!

- Nice use of the red flame-arresting powder as a visual metaphor of blood...

- Could that Unholy Trinity bit have been more hokey?

- It’s actually somewhat interesting to watch the Son’s skin fall off!

- At least the music in Club Tepes fit the culture, even if the club itself was pathetic...

- Speaking of pathetic, Mulder doesn’t even begin to blend!

- Ah, the evils of raspberry sauce...

- Apparently Ms. Kilar makes some serious money, despite moving around so often!

- Perrey Reeves actually looks OK with her hair down...but horrible in that club...

- Still, could Kristen have had a more clichéd part history?

- If any light hurts the Son, why was he all right with that light coming into the room where he was fighting Mulder?

- How is it morning so damned fast? At the most, fifteen minutes go by from the time the Son attacks Mulder, and the time Kristen torches the place!

This episode represents lost opportunity. The sexual allure of the vampire could have been exploited far better, and the vampires themselves are never quite revealed as the real article. More than that, by skipping over the bulk of Scully’s abduction, the writers miss the chance to delve into Mulder’s grief. The result is something best forgotten.

I give it a 3/10.


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