"Folie a Deux"
Written by Vince Gilligan
Directed by Kim Manners
In which Mulder is assigned to a case involving an office worker claiming that his boss is a monster, but when Mulder starts seeing the same thing, Scully is put in a difficult position...
Status Report - Memorable Quotes - Final Analysis
When it comes to making sense of the larger scheme of things, especially in terms of character psychology and some semblance of character arcing, there are two go-to writers for the series: Darin Morgan and Vince Gilligan. While Morgan usually hits Mulder where it counts, at the heart of his obsessive little heart (think “Quagmire”), Gilligan loves to expound on the fact that Mulder and Scully are the only people who can stand and trust each other.
More specifically, Gilligan seems to focus on Scully’s ongoing (and often incremental) journey towards something approaching belief; Mulder, in such cases, becomes the world around which Scully orbits. This episode is practically a summary of how Scully’s journey has progressed over the past five years or so, beginning with a sense of doubt, watching Mulder from the outside, and ending as someone sharing, however reluctantly, in his “delusions”.
It sums up Scully rather well, and if the series had ended with the film as intended, then perhaps it would have resulted in a subsequent conclusion to Scully’s arc, bringing her in line with Mulder’s vision as his partner in life. Of course, that was not to be. It’s not hard to work out that the decision to continue the series forced the relationship and Scully’s journey to remain unresolved.
Even so, the writers were aware of that situation when this episode was written, and so there’s no sense of a last-minute adjustment or change. This episode is simply a standard “monster of the week” episode with some nice character shading along the way. The results can seem a little out of focus, especially coming on the heels of episodes where Scully was led to distrust Mulder and consider the cost of continuing along on his crusade. But this episode may, in fact, explain to a certain extent why Scully does stick with Mulder, even during this long dry patch of little activity.
As far as the “monster of the week” elements go, this episode is a nice riff on the “droning work environment” concept. Yes, indeed, some cubicle jobs do feel like an attempt to suck away the soul, but is there any better example than telemarketing? (Well, staff writer, maybe...) And, as usual, there’s the hot co-worker who falls prey to the soul-crushing, thus representing the tipping point. If that were the totality of the episode, however, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. (As it is, the metaphor gets old fast!)
On the face of it, Mulder’s annoyance over assignment to this case seems overdone, if not outright hypocritical. But it should be remembered that very little has happened beyond his undercover work, and Mulder has to be suspicious of why he’s getting certain assignments. Looking back on the fifth season as a whole, Mulder has had very little control over the direction of his work.
More than that, but there’s a difference between seeking and finding hidden truths and being assigned to it. One is a case of personal drive and vision and the ability to claim some sense of control over one’s world. The other is an external obligation, often laced with hidden agendas. Coming within a month or so after the previous episode, where his life was placed in jeopardy for a CIA-sponsored operation, this assignment would definitely get under Mulder’s skin!
Though he does it more politely this time (relatively speaking), Mulder once again leaves Scully behind to uncover the evidence, while his methods lead to personal peril and accusations of insanity. From the perspective of making a statement about Scully, Mulder must be shown to have as extreme a viewpoint as possible. Insanity makes for a fairly extreme viewpoint. Scully is even left to wade through X-Files for some obscure phrasing. All in all, Scully must be wondering what she’s still doing in the basement.
Mulder’s notes about Gary are also rather interesting, if only because he could easily be talking about himself over the past several years. Gary is trying to lead a crusade just as much as Mulder has been, and thinking back on his ravings at the conference in “Patient X”, Mulder has sounded very similar in equally public situations. One is left to wonder if Mulder recognizes that on some level, and if that is why he really seeks Scully’s moderating influence.
In a situation that is not unlike “Duane Barry”, Mulder ends up in the middle of a hostage situation, with Scully left to stand on the outside, wondering if her partner will survive. The hostage situation actually takes quite a while to play out, but there’s a design behind it: allowing Mulder to understand Gary well enough to, in short order, share the delusion of the truth.
And so Scully must face down, once again, one of Mulder’s extreme possibilities. Only this time, it’s linked directly to a man who seems to have killed co-workers because he was seeing monsters. Scully is left to either reject this extreme possibility, and thus reject Mulder, or find an explanation. Even if, as in this case, that means sharing in the delusion herself.
As usual, Scully’s skepticism and concerns over Mulder’s sanity come to question when the physical evidence doesn’t add up. It’s not enough to prevent the rest of the world from thinking Mulder is crazy; just enough for Scully’s trust in Mulder’s judgment, such as it is, to kick in and make her think. Meanwhile, Mulder is doing everything possible to look crazy. It’s something that’s been done forever, but for some reason, it works more organically in this episode as part of the overall commentary.
By the time Mulder is strapped to a bed, Scully has all the reason and opportunity in the world to walk away and be done with it all. Mulder has once again gone deep into left field, and with everything that has happened lately, why wouldn’t she think about walking away? The answer is fairly simple, but worth considering: Mulder can’t imagine life without Scully in it, and more and more, Scully can’t escape the fact that she’s come to the same conclusion over the years.
Even so, people become bound in each other’s orbits and still manage to break away when the relationship becomes destructive. There’s little doubt that Mulder and Scully are not very good for each other. Scully’s relationship with Mulder has allowed her to cling to a psychology that is somewhat disturbing, especially in terms of submitting to a male authority figure. Thus one must look into that psychology for an answer. How is Scully’s psychology influencing her at this point in her life?
Scully finds evidence to support Mulder’s claim, however tenuous, within the boundaries of her science. This triggers, as one would expect, a reaction that brings Scully’s perspective in line with Mulder’s perspective. Not completely, perhaps, but it overcomes her growing doubts about her decision to stick with Mulder through thick and thin. Which, of course, leads to the question: what would it take to overcome that subconscious desire to fall in line with Mulder?
The obvious answer is that the fifth season finale, leading into the feature film, lays out the ground work for that. While there are issues with such a late addition of someone else important to Mulder’s life and crusade (as will be discussed at length in the review for “The End”), it does strike at the heart of why Scully has remained, even after her personal thoughts in “All Souls”. Scully must be tempted and even given a reason to leave, so as to make her eventual decision to remain with Mulder all the more meaningful.
As “monster of the week” episodes go, this is a pleasant episode. It has a creepy factor to it, and whenever there’s psychological character exploration, it’s worth the time. There’s not much new in this episode, but by this point in the series, the occasional introspective catch-up episode was practically tradition. It’s not an episode to watch often, but it’s certainly not a complete waste of time.
MULDER: “Have I finally reached that magic point in my career where every time somebody sees Bigfoot or the Virgin Mary in a tortilla, I get called to offer my special insight on the matter?”
MULDER: “Scully, at the risk of you telling me ‘I told you so’…I think it’s time for you to get down here and help me.”
SCULLY: “I told you so.”
GARY: “What are you doing here?”
MULDER: “Applying for a job.”
GARY: “Oh, man…did you come to the wrong place!”
MULDER: “I saw it, too. Does that make me disturbed? Demented? Does that make me sick, too?”
SCULLY: “No…no…I mean…”
MULDER: “Five years together, Scully. You must have seen this coming.”
MULDER: “Scully, you have to believe me. Nobody else on this whole damn planet does or ever will. You’re my one in five billion.”
MULDER: “What did you tell him?”
SCULLY: “The truth…as well as I understand it.”
MULDER: “Which is?”
SCULLY: “Folie a Deux…a madness shared by two…”
Overall, this episode is the traditional late-season summary of the evolving character dynamic, with a disposable metaphor about office work environments and monsters. This episode puts Scully’s psychology in the limelight again, though not in a manner that emphasizes Scully herself. As the final installment before the launch into the feature film, this is a pleasant enough diversion.
Final Rating: 7/10
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