July 22, 2024

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The X-Files “Dreamland Part 1”

Mulder switches bodies with a Man in Black.

So, I have seen a lot of notice given to how Bryan Cranston appeared in a Vince Gilligan-scripted episode earlier this season.  I can get why.  Breaking Bad made both of their careers in many ways.  But then there’s this two-parter where Better Call Saul‘s Michael McKean plays a Man in Black that Mulder swaps bodies with.  And yes, Gilligan co-wrote this one too.

Also on hand is one time SNL castmember Nora Dunn as McKean’s angry wife.

The Plot:  Fox Mulder Swaps Bodies With Chuck McGill!

Commentary:  There’s a part of me that can’t believe it took this long for The X-Files to do a bodyswap episode.

And there’s a part of me that, right now, is remembering what I said about the show hitting something of a creative high point this season.  This two-parter is, in many ways, incredibly ambitious.  That comes down mostly to how the series opted to do the body swap.  The audience can see David Duchovny doing what he does as Fox Mulder inside the body of Michael McKean’s Morris Fletcher.  McKean is likewise in the scenes where “Mulder” is present.  The viewer sees the actor whose mind is in the body.  The body only becomes visible when the character looks in a mirror, leading to a rather well-done moment when Mulder, seeing the Fletcher body in a full-length mirror, starts dancing and forcing the two to (mostly) match each other’s movements.  And it’s not just an empty space like when the Marx Brothers did it in Duck Soup, a mirror image of the same room on the other side for McKean to do his end on, but Mulder actually stops to breathe on the mirror and fog it up, so there was something there.  Probably just clear glass, but it’s still an impressive bit of physical comedy.

Yeah, for all this episode has a serious issue around it (something is swapping people and things around physically and mentally, and Mulder and Fletcher just happen to be two of them) combined with the fact that you’d think Mulder would be in heaven since he’s right where he can finally learn the truth, this one is mostly played for laughs.  Mulder doesn’t know squat about Fletcher’s family life, and the fact the man has two kids with gender neutral names means every time he says much of anything to Fletcher’s teenage daughter, she breaks down crying.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Fletcher just thinks he needs some viagra or something when she isn’t yelling at him about the state of their marriage.

Considering Fletcher is using Mulder’s body to get laid with Kersh’s secretary, Mrs. Fletcher might be on to something.

It all comes down to getting Scully, known skeptic that she is, to realize something has happened, and she might be getting there.  Mulder doesn’t generally talk up young women (a nice reminder that Fox Mulder probably could be something of a ladies man if he wasn’t so obsessed with the weird stuff), defer to Kersh or other authority figures, or even call Scully by her first name.  Meanwhile, some stranger she barely met is claiming to be Mulder, and when Mulder actually turns an informant in, well, that’s not like him.

Or it’s like Morris Fletcher who, if he gets his old body back, has clearly screwed himself over.

It just doesn’t pay to be Mulder sometimes.

Up next, they gotta fix this!