Written by Jeff Vlaming
Directed by David Nutter
In which Mulder and Scully investigate a series of gruesome deaths connected to an internet predator...
Status Report - Memorable Quotes - Final Analysis
In keeping with the last few episodes since “Paper Clip”, this episode remains stubbornly outside of any ongoing plot threads, to the point of literally violating the established timeline and ignoring what has come before. The only real connection to the previous episodes in the third season would be the dynamic between Mulder and Scully, which is so blandly written as to fit into any preconceived perception.
Perhaps hoping for something metaphorical in nature, the writer delivers a standard case of a predatory man victimizing women using the internet and gives it a supernatural component. The result, as Scully puts it, is a “fat-sucking vampire”. Infanto’s inhuman hungers are largely immaterial to his behavior, since he can clearly choose any number of ways to replenish his lack of adipose.
As a result, this is really not about dealing with a specific paranormal threat, but a standard serial killer story with mutant window dressing. This leaves the episode with many of the same weaknesses as the previous episode. Were the writers able to make the serial killer angle interesting and distinct, and is the paranormal element interesting enough to bolster weaknesses in the case?
The answer, unfortunately, is not favorable. As with most serial killers, Infanto makes stupid mistakes that allow him to be caught, leaving a trail of evidence a mile wide. Especially stupid is his decision to use a victim’s credit card to open his online account. Why not just advertise to the authorities your implication in several bizarre murders? It would have been quicker!
Much relies on somewhat stereotypical portrayal of the “kind of women who would use an internet dating service”. The depiction doesn’t ring true because the times have changed; in that era, the internet was still a relatively new means of intercommunication. Most of those using the internet regularly, and certainly enough to rely on the early versions of internet dating, were predominantly overweight and adverse to “normal” social situations.
That stereotype, true for men and women, was already beginning to fade into obscurity by 1995, when the episode aired. Even then, and certainly more now, the internet dating market expanded into a viable tool for every type of person imaginable. But in the early days of the popularized internet services, every news article and media report seemed to be about internet predators and “fat, lonely women” pining for Mr. Right.
Of course, every dating service mechanism has its share of cautionary tales. Just think mail-order brides from Russia or video dating, and several recent movies come to mind. For every group searching for something, there’s a predator waiting to take advantage of that weakness. In this case, there’s a distinct and disturbing sexual connotation to Infanto’s method of killing. He finds women searching for a love connection, and then effectively devours them. It’s not even subtle.
One has to wonder if the writer even recognized that there was a possibly subconscious motive in making the victims women and the predator a man. Imagine, for a moment, the opposite scenario: a literal maneater killing overweight men in the same manner. First of all, the censors would probably never let it happen, because there would likely be a far more overt sexual message being sent. But in the mind of the writer, could there have been an assumption that fat, lonely men would never have believed that an attractive woman would actually want to start a relationship?
It’s a question of psychology. Ostensibly, Infanto targeted the right kind of woman with the right physical and emotional characteristics. Mulder seems to understand that, but it’s not completely communicated, much as the Italian poetry nonsense was ill-used (another plot device to pin something unique on the killer). The implication is that these women were all too stupid or star-struck to recognize a dangerous situation, even when it was obvious by the warnings being sent.
In the current day and age, Infanto could have easily adopted a more consistent MO. Instead of targeting a general population for moderately overweight women (who didn’t seem too overweight as depicted, did they?), there would undoubtedly be a website offering dates with massively obese women or escorts. In other words, it would come across as a weird episode of “CSI” instead of a bizarre episode of “Law and Order”.
As if to provide proof that the episode is woefully out of step, it’s impossible to set this within a reasonable timeline for early third season. As outlined in the review for “D.P.O.”, the implication of the dialogue and timestamp for that episode is that the agents were tied up in red tape for months to get back in the field. This episode contradicts that. Scully’s sutopsy is dated in mid-August 1995, weeks before “D.P.O.”, and Mulder mentions getting information on similar deaths two months earlier in June 1995.
If that’s the case, then it’s implied that Mulder and Scully were back on the job, at least in some limited capacity, within a couple weeks of “Paper Clip”. That just doesn’t make sense. Even taking that into account, perhaps explaining away the discrepancy by saying that it took until August for the agents to get into the field after a probationary period, it doesn’t account for the October 1995 date on Mulder’s DNA results!
The logical conclusion is that the case takes place in October 1995, with the information about prior deaths crossing Mulder’s desk sometime in August, before they returned to the field. But those kinds of mistakes are completely unnecessary, and they are symptomatic of the overall poor quality of the episode. The writing is simply not very tight; it’s a police procedural with a fat-sucking vampire, and little else.
This was supposedly an episode advertised as a “Scully kicks butt!” moment, but even that is lacking. Scully only gets to kick butt, so to speak, because she was suddenly foolish enough to leave her gun out of reach. Scully is intentionally made into another victim, right down to the semi-sexual overtones (did Infanto’s body really have to lurch down on top of her?).
Unlike some of the other non-mythology episodes in the early third season, there’s no indirect connection to a mythology concept to give the episode a larger context. Infanto is a kind of sexual predator with a method of killing that doesn’t quite fit into the usual categories. There’s little else to show for it. This is an example of the weakness of the series dichotomy: the stand-alone episodes can’t rely on ongoing plot threads to bolster them.
CROSS: “Look, I’m not being sexist here, I’m just being honest.” (Yeah, right, ya putz…)
MULDER: “OK, it’s not yet the finely detailed insanity that you’ve come to expect from me, it’s just a theory…”
Overall, this episode was another disappointment. The plot was little more than a police procedural with paranormal window dressing, playing on stereotypical depictions of lonely women on the internet. The writing is simply dull, and there’s little of the usual banter between the agents. David Nutter does his best, but the rest is uninspired.
Final Rating: 4/10
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