Written by R.W. Goodwin
Directed by Kim Manners
It is very hard to figure out what, exactly, was the motivation behind this episode, both creatively and logistically. Here we are, at the penultimate episode of the season, concerns with Scully’s ever worsening condition should be the series priority. And now, for some reason, we find ourselves looking into Mulder’s past, a course which wonders why the character and the series would choose to set on now.
Even that would be acceptable had Demons had the bravery to show us something new about the story—- Paper Hearts demonstrated that there is effective drama to be mined from what was rapidly becoming something of a cliche. But one of the episodes biggest crimes is, that for all the literal probing Mulder wanted to undergo, we don’t learn anything that new about. There were arguments about it between the Mulder family? Knew that. The Smoking Man had a critical hand in it? Knew that, too. That Mrs. Mulder and CSM might have been lovers, and might even have been Mulder’s father? The viewer knew that, even if Mulder didn’t. And that’s basically all Mulder gets from having a hole dug in his head. The camerawork for the flashbacks is very well done, I grant you. But since it basically amounts to the same flashback repeated half a dozen times, with almost nothing new gathered from each one, one wonders why they put us through all the labor.
Goodwin (in what mercifully was his first and only script for the series) doesn’t seem secure enough to have this particular story form the bulk of the episode. So the other half of the story deals with an admittedly more intriguing scenario. Mulder wakes up in a motel with blood on him, in shock, and with two bullets from his weapon having been fired. Scully comes all the way to Rhode Island to help him, and they find out that Mulder is probably responsible for the murder of two people. However, having started another promising scenario, Goodwin doesn’t follow through on this one, either. Sure, we have the local law enforcement suspecting Mulder’s guilt, and Scully having to prove his innocence, but they never exactly demonstrate just what happened to the Cassandras and why Mulder was in their house. If one storyline was ignored in favor of the other, that would at least be understandable. To basically ignore resolution of both, seems more along the line of generally sloppiness. Again, this would be acceptable if it were earlier in the season, at this point, though, it seems like really bad timing on either’s part.
The cynical part of me cannot help but wonder if the real reason to write this episode was to give Duchovny a chance to get an Emmy. Given the general high quality of Duchovny’s work throughout this season, once again, one wonders why they would make Demons that particular episode. Oh, I’ll admit it’s a very good performance, with a fair amount of dramatic highpoints if it were to serve as a standalone for Emmy judges. But once again, in the context of the series, it doesn’t hold up at all. Especially since the major confrontation of the story seems to be between Mulder and his mother, Considering how calm and forgiving he was in a similar scenario in Paper Hearts, it can’t look like anything other than a mess. It doesn’t help matter that Mrs. Mulder is, like so many other characters in the series, forced to live in a world of ambiguity One would be surprised, at this point, if anybody in the series is capable of giving a straight answer, let alone a woman who’s memory loss at this point, might be considered genuine. I’m a little surprised that all she did was slap his face when Mulder demanded an answer. All of which seems determined to have Mulder go right back to the therapist who drilled a hole in his head. If the only purpose of this episode was, as Scully writes in the inevitable field notes denouement, was to show just how self-destructive Mulder’s search for answers is— well, we knew that part before he let the good Dr. Goldstein do his work.
Is the episode a disaster? Not really. Duchovny’s performance is one of his better ones, and some of the elements of the mystery are well drawn. And the flashback sequences are well shot, even if they do seem a bit directionless by the end. But all it seems to demonstrate is that R.W. Goodwin is a much better director than he is a writer— not even veteran hand Kim Manners was able to make this messy script into a genuine story. If Mulder had faced the actual demons in the title, one would’ve been a little more understanding. As it is, this just shows that the Samantha Mulder storyline, for all the talk of it being central to the series, is like any other part of the mythology—- not even direct approaches to resolve it will ever actually do it.
My score: 2 stars.