In which Mulder and Scully chase at spectral phenomenon and psychokinetic manipulation.
Shadows: Season 1 Episode 6
Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong, Directed by Michael Lange
First aired October 22, 1993
I’ve noticed a trend in my reviews thus far: I love talking about the Deeper Meaning of each episode. That’s not gonna happen with Shadows, because there are no depths to be mined here. It’s just an X-File.
The wikipedia page on this episode actually provides some good insight into why it’s so mediocre, despite being written by Morgan and Wong. Apparently it was originally based on The Entity, a movie in which a woman is repeatedly assaulted physically and sexually by a ghost. Safe to say I won’t be watching that one. The concept, though, that a woman is being stalked by an invisible force, is one that The X-Files could have played with very effectively. It could have been a metaphor for what a lot of women really go through: no one believes her, her judgment is called into question, etc. Mulder and Scully could be their subversive awesome selves by believing her and helping her.
Whatever the original concept for the episode was, the studio didn’t like it; they wanted something more “relatable.” Lauren Kyte (played by Lisa Waltz) was also not originally a secretary, but became one so that she could be more normal. Lauren doesn’t strike me as normal, what with her privileged information, her mysterious backstory, and her huge house. Reading between the lines, I think Morgan and Wong flung this version at the execs to appease them.
The episode opens with a sniffling Lauren taking photos off the wall. Another woman comes into the office and says, “It’s been a few weeks now. Do you want to talk?” No, Lady Stoneheart. She does not want to hear you judge her for still being upset only a few weeks after somebody died. Especially since she’s in the middle of cleaning out his fucking office. Of course she’s crying.
I would like to note that everyone in this company is a horrible person.
The other woman then gives Lauren her paycheck. She’s about to leave when she sees a tacky desk ornament with a Benjamin Franklin quote inexplicably move. (There are a fuckton of references to Franklin and his kite experiment in this episode—including Lauren’s surname, Kyte.) Lauren steals the desk ornament because why not? She then leaves for the day to deposit her paycheck at a dimly lit ATM. She is set upon by two ruffians, who are later found dead by two suspiciously Canadian-sounding teenagers.
Mulder and Scully meet our dead ruffians when they are called in by another pair of agents. They stonewall Mulder’s questions and refuse to show any facial expressions.
They’re tall and small just like Mulder and Scully!
Mulder gathers as much information as he can from the other agents—including that the ruffians’ throats were crushed from the inside without external trauma. Deftly concealing his excitement, Mulder hustles Scully out with a parting shot at the expressionless agents. At Scully’s prompting he reveals his theory, leaning in to say, “Psychokinetic manipulation,” with such enthusiasm that Scully can barely hold in her giggle. Encouraged by her amusement, he needlessly pulls her in close to show off the fingerprints he lifted from one of the corpses.
Mulder and Scully Flirting in Shadows: Exhibit 1
Meanwhile, Lauren has decided to quit her horrible job and has some difficulty getting in to see her boss to turn in her notice until ~something~ makes a coffee cup spill on Elvira Gulch’s desk. Her boss Robert Dorlund (played by Barry Primus) doesn’t want her to quit. He tries the understanding boss routine, and when Lauren doesn’t go for it he swoops in with a majorly-creepy sexual harassment move. All of a sudden his gaudy man-bracelet tightens until it cuts off his circulation. Lauren does her best to act like she doesn’t know what’s causing it, and then bolts.
Here’s the thing: what doesn’t work on a second watch is the idea of Graves as this half benevolent, half vengeful spirit, and Lauren as this complete innocent. Lauren clearly doesn’t want Graves killing people on her behalf, but he keeps doing it. So he’s not a complete good guy. And both Graves and Lauren knew that Dorlund was making shady deals with terrorists, so why didn’t they say something immediately?
And speaking of terrorism, I think one of the most interesting thing about Shadows is the way it’s aged. This is an incredibly pre-2001 relic of pop culture. Oh for the days when we depicted terrorism as a kind of organized crime, instead of this crazy racist shit we’ve got going on now. (Here’s side-eying you, Babylon.)
Mulder and Scully track Lauren down via ATM footage from the night she was attacked. (Side note: I think it’s adorable that the woman at the ATM hustles away when she sees Mulder walking up.) I’m pretty sure Mulder immediately knows that he’s dealing with a ghost. They go to speak to Lauren and interrupt her enjoying a moment of pure undiluted 90s aesthetic. Note the green jeans with the red plaid, the printed flower wallpaper, and the dark wood trim everywhere. I feel like I’m in sixth grade again.
I like the way Mulder and Scully approach their first interview with Lauren; we rarely see them negotiating the line of friendly versus authoritative. Scully smiles as she walks in, but when Lauren denies having ever seen he ruffians there’s an edge to her voice when she says, “Take your time.”
And I am a tiny bit in love with the way they’re shit-talk Lauren the second they walk out of her house. “Woman that size getting away from those two men?” Scully snarks. You can practically hear the “Bitch please.”
Howard Graves then decides to punish them for their sarcasm by getting them into an accident. Which, like. That’s such a dick move. They just left her house—how is that not going to put further suspicion on her? Get your shit together, Graves. You are a crap guardian angel.
Mulder and Scully banter at the mechanics about what caused the accident: Scully thinks Lauren’s got an accomplice that messed up their car, Mulder thinks Lauren has psychokinesis and doesn’t know her own strength. They flirt shamelessly.
“Mulder I’m insanely attracted to you but that tie is hideous.”
“Scully I love you too but your shirt is the literal color of baby shit.”
They then proceed to do a fair bit of creeping on Lauren. They find out that she’s got credit card debt (who the fuck doesn’t?) and that she thinks Tom Braidwood (the first AD and later Frohike) is an asshole for taking Graves’ parking spot. They conclude rather unoriginally that Lauren must have had a personal relationship with Graves.
While they’re digging up info on Graves (sorry) and Lauren, there is also this sequence, in which Scully finds something on the microfiche and reaches back to get Mulder’s attention and their hands get tangled up. It’s adorable. I can’t gif but there’s even a moment when Mulder is looking down at her hand in confusion like, does this mean we get to hold hands?
Mulder and Scully flirting in Shadows: Exhibit 2
Meanwhile, Lauren and her cat get rudely interrupted from a peaceful night’s sleep by Howard. Instead of trying to find a way to calmly and gently let her know that he didn’t commit suicide—and that he’s looking out for her—he decides to reenact his murder in the most creep-tastic way possible. Now come on, asshole. If you can make blood pour into the bathtub you can write a fucking note.
I do not like this Howard anymore.
Given that Shadows premiered in 1993, it feels a lot like the anti-Ghost. I know that movie carried all before it in 1990, so I can’t help wondering if that was the inspiration, more than The Entity. Especially with the supposed friend dealing in corrupt money scandals and the psychokinesis.
Okay but that Medical Examiner though?! Played to scene-stealing hilarity by Lorena Gale. I don’t even…that whole scene is crazy.
“Howard Graves is very dead.”
After threatening Lauren at her going away party and seeing her make a suspicious phone call, Dorlund decides to send more people to kill her. Because what do you do when a tiny secretary crushes the esophagi of two assassins? Send two more!
Now, if I were Lauren, and had been through all of the crazy shit she’s been through lately, I would not keep fighting to open the door as it visibly re-locks itself. Graves was actually doing the right thing there. He could’ve said, “They’re bad guys Lauren don’t open the door,” but now I’m just splitting hairs.
The whole scene when Graves is killing those two people is so damn cheesy, friends. The camera effects are a little weird, too: everything looks like it’s been sped up a bit.
Regarding Mulder’s arrival on the scene and witnessing the second assailant hanging in the air, but Scully’s only arriving after the effect, have this quote from As an Amoeba at Key of X: “Scully finally calls a mechanic to saw her out of her seatbelt, tips him, makes small talk about the weather, and busts in after Mulder, gun drawn.” My main problem is that they make Scully not see the spooky shit because she’s struggling with her fucking seatbelt. It makes her look incompetent, which she is not. It’s lazy.
Mulder that is not proper interrogation posture.
Moving on: apparently deciding that this shit is just too weird, they Lauren in for questioning. The two other agents from the beginning magically reappear to get in Mulder and Scully’s faces. They attempt to intimidate Scully—LOLOLOL—and then attempt to interrogate Lauren to absolutely no avail.
Then Mulder goes back in and coaxes the story out of her. She knows about the illegal shit that HTG is up to because of how close she was to Howard, but now that he’s doing all this creepy stuff she just wants to run away.
The thing is, you can’t run away from someone who’s dead, right? Wouldn’t he follow her? In any case, Lauren panics and is about to rabbit out the door when Scully convinces her that she has to cooperate with their investigation—for Howard’s sake. Mulder makes faces in the background.
I’m of two minds about this. Which is why I wish the scene had pushed on it a bit more. On the one hand, I understand Scully’s reasoning: she knows that Lauren believes this dead dude is watching over her, so it doesn’t matter what she herself believes. On the other hand, I can understand Mulder’s reasoning. It’s an underhanded trick to manipulate a witness by telling them you believe them when you don’t. What I don’t understand is Mulder pouting that they’re giving up the chance to study the psychokinesis. In what way? Having Lauren cooperate increases their chances of seeing spooky shit, I’d have thought.
The game: where’s Agent Scully?
(Only I can make this joke, because only I am shorter than her.)
At least Mulder gets to see his spectral phenomena after all. And Scully does not. The whole “the show will be ruined if Scully sees an alien” thing is already getting on my nerves, and we’re only six episodes in.
Graves leads them to the evidence they need, but not after throwing an enormous spectral temper tantrum and flinging paperwork all over the place. Lauren is thus freed from her obligation to him…I guess? And he is thus allowed to move on…I guess?
Mulder and Scully see Lauren off into the night. The last we see of her, she’s getting scolded by Elvira Gulch II. The last we see of Mulder and Scully, they are having a weirdly adorable conversation about the Liberty Bell.
Overall I do like this episode, but it does not stand up to a careful reading.