Monday, October 5, 2015

#TheXFilesRewatch 1x13 "Beyond the Sea" (Emotional Nuances) [Contributor: Lizzie]

“Beyond the Sea”
Original Airdate: January 7, 1994

This is not a mythology episode. No plot advancement of any kind will be found here. (Apart from, like, character growth and one of the creepiest villains in the history of television.) And yet, to me, "Beyond the Sea" is one of the most important episodes of The X-Files ever, so forgive me if I get all wordy and emotional. Because I will get all wordy and emotional.

The episode opens with Scully entertaining her parents. It’s a nice scene, especially because this is not a show that dwells on the personal lives of the protagonists. So, Scully entertaining her parents, and actually cooking for them seems like a bad omen. Something is coming. You know it. I know it. Scully, however, doesn’t know it, which is why she hesitates before asking her father something, and then swallows the words as she says goodbye. He calls her Starbuck. She calls him Ahab. And though I hate Moby Dick, the nicknames were always special to me. My father and I had our very own nicknames. And my father, like Scully’s, is no longer around.

Regret is a funny thing. It’s almost impossible to live without it, because we are not perfect. There’s almost always going to be something we wish we’d done another way. And yet there’s nothing quite as painful as the idea that you disappointed your parents, especially when they’re not around to reassure you otherwise. So, yes, I was already crying a couple of minutes into the episode when Scully wakes up to see her father sitting in front of her. Because it means something different to me, now that my own father is not around.

As does the phone call.

We already know what happened. Scully’s father is gone. We’ve been expecting it since we first saw them having dinner. This is the way of television, of course: you don’t cast an actor for a role unless the role is going somewhere. But the pain of Scully's father passing away still hurts us all the same. You want to know why? Because Gillian Anderson is a wonderful, wonderful actress.

She got most of the accolades during the The X-Files' run, and I remember thinking, as a child, how unfair that was. When I was younger, I used to think that David Duchovny was a better actor. That he somehow deserved more praise. He was Mulder, after all! And honestly? I, wrongly, never truly appreciated the nuances in Gillian Anderson’s performance. Not until I re-watched this episode. Because, let me tell you, Gillian Anderson knocks it out of the park in “Beyond the Sea,” an episode that is only a little over half a season into this show’s run. Gillian Anderson didn’t just suddenly become a good actress after some time and multiple episodes, though – she was always a good actress. I just learned how to see that.

While all of this is going in in Scully’s life, a young couple is making out in a car in Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s very cliché and all, until a cop shows up. These people have apparently never seen a scary move in their life, because the guy actually gets out of the car when prompted, without FIRST asking for some kind of identification from the cop. And then the couple gets kidnapped, which should serve as a lesson for everyone out there: never, ever get out of the car if someone tells you to without asking for their ID first. Better yet, if it’s night, just don’t get out of the car unless you’re in a public place. (Okay, PSA over.)

A couple of days later, Scully arrives at Mulder’s, just as he’s immersed in something. She jokes, because yeah, humor is the best deflection technique ever, that she hasn’t seen Mulder this engrossed since that time she found him reading Adult Video News. Mulder calls her Dana and is generally sweet and concerned, which, for early season one Mulder is a bit much, but whatever. Mulder is also wearing the ugliest tie known to man in this scene, by the way. Scully is charmed, but she doesn’t want to be distracted. She wants to know what Mulder is reading.

The bare facts of the case don’t seem to make this X-Files-worthy. Kidnapped couple, repeat offender, they’ll be dead in about five days, if the pattern is to be believed. However, it all gets a little more interesting when Mulder brings up Luther Boggs. The aforementioned Boggs is a serial killer Mulder helped apprehend years before, back when he was a big-shot profiler, and he claims he’s had psychic revelations about the kidnapping, which he will share only if his death sentence is commuted. To top all of that, Boggs will only talk to Mulder.

If it were anyone but Boggs, Mulder would be eating this sort of attention up. But in this particular case, our favorite believer is surprisingly skeptical. Scully has a little fun with him: “Mulder, do I detect a hint of skepticism?” (That, by the way, is one of those lines that are instantly quotable.) But the more Mulder reveals about Boggs, the more it seems like he’s right in his apprehension. Because yeah, killing your family on Thanksgiving and then sitting down to watch the rest of the holiday football game does scream "raging lunatic" to me, too.

Scully wants to go with Mulder to interview Boggs, but her father’s funeral is coming up, so she actually listens to him and decides to take some time off work. There’s face caressing and stuff as Mulder tells her how sorry he is, and excuse me, how did these two take seven seasons to get together if the intimacy level was already at a thousand percent in episode thirteen? It boggles the mind. (Pun intended.)

When Mulder leaves, Scully looks up “visionary encounters with the dead” before closing the filing cabinet abruptly and walking out of the room. Because yeah, she might want to believe, but she doesn’t really want to.

The elder Scully’s funeral is just the thing we’d expect out of navy man. There’s a guy on a little boat casting the ashes into the ocean, as the song “Beyond the Sea” plays. The only person who interacts with Scully as they stand there is her mother, but we assume the rest of the people standing here are her sister and her two elusive brothers. It’s not really the time to ask, but it seems Scully can’t help but wonder aloud if, despite choosing a different career path than medicine, her father was proud of her at all. Her mother has only one response for her? "He was your father."

Cue sobbing like a baby. Because, yes, this is the only answer she needs. And also because, once again, Gillian Anderson really sells the pain that Scully is feeling.

We transition to Boggs next, and let me tell you something about Luther Boggs – for someone who’s about as normal as they come on this show, he sure is a creepy guy. In fact, he’s one of the scariest villains in the history of this show. He’s got "kill" tattooed in the knuckles of one hand and "kiss" on the other hand, and his whole physic bit is very well done. Mulder, who doesn’t believe a word he’s saying, hands him a scrap of fabric and Boggs begins to go on and one about the kidnapped girl and how she’s being tortured, only for Mulder to reveal the scrap he gave him was from one of his New York Knicks t-shirts. He leaves, but when Scully is about to follow him, Boggs apparently assumes the identity of her father, first singing “Beyond the Sea” to himself, and then physically appearing as her father, only to then, as Boggs, ask if she got his message.

A distraught Scully leaves the cell. And Mulder, thinking she’s still having a hard time dealing with her father’s passing, suggests she go back to the motel and rest while he stays to interrogate Boggs. She doesn’t seem to want to go, but the sight of Boggs still singing that song is enough to convince her otherwise.

Later, as she’s driving, she comes across several landmarks that seem to match the descriptions Boggs gave when he was having psychic vision of the teen’s location. She, on a very-unlike-Scully hunch, follows the clues to a condemned warehouse, where she finds as small charm that belongs to the girl and signs that the kidnapper has indeed been there.

Alone in motel, Scully can’t stop thinking about her father’s face and her earlier vision. Mulder shows up to tell her that the charm she found has been confirmed to belong to the missing girl. Mulder is in a good mood, joking about asking Boggs to summon up the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, but that all changes when Scully confesses how she founds the warehouse.  Can I just say angry/concerned Mulder is the hottest thing ever? Because it kinda is. Skeptical Mulder, not so much, but meh, everyone gets an episode.

(Still, the whole grief-is clouding your judgment thing is way out of line, Mulder. WAY out of line. She finally believes in something, and just because it’s not the thing YOU would have wanted her to believe, then you don’t like it? Not cool. Not cool.)

They go back to the prison the next day, and Mulder has a plan. He has a fake newspaper proclaiming the teens have been found, and he wants to see how Boggs reacts. This doesn’t really fool Boggs, who reaches out-of-this world levels of creepiness when he uses his one phone call to call Mulder’s cell and berate him for not believing him, like Scully does. Since they’re running out of time, our favorite agents decide that they might as well listen to the crazy guy, and they go into his cell, where he gives a spine-chilling description of where the teenagers are being held and what’s been done to them.

Like, seriously. It’s so bad that you should be glad I’m not going on and on about what he said. The only important part is the ominous warning to Mulder, that he, of course, ignores, but which, OF COURSE, comes to bite him. Because, yes, the kidnapper is where Boggs said he was. They get the girl, he still escapes with the boy. But more importantly, Mulder is shot.

I repeat, Mulder is shot. He’s down. He’s bleeding. Scully’s there, freaking out. We’re here, freaking out, even though we obviously know he’s going to survive.

Liz, the kidnapped girl, identifies her kidnapper. And surprise, surprise, the man she points out is a known associate of Boggs, who was actually believed to be his accomplice. And now Scully’s mad. Really mad. Gillian Anderson goes through the range of emotions in this episode, and she seriously nails the entire performance. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, especially when she confronts Boggs and tells him that if Mulder dies, she’ll kill Boggs herself. Because that, right there, is love, my friends. And it’s only episode thirteen. Try to tell me again that they were just best friends, Chris Carter. Just try.

Boggs gets to Scully, and to me, with what he has to say next. I don’t know if I believe him, but his description of the electric chair, and how his previous almost-death experience there led him to be able to see the souls of those that have passed away, complete with black-and-white recreation haunted my dreams for days when I was a kid. Uh, I’m all grown up now, and I still think I’m going to have trouble sleeping tonight.

This is why Boggs works as a villain. He gets inside of your head. Inside of Scully’s head. He wants a deal: commute his death sentence, and he talks. If not, the boy dies. And, maybe, Mulder too.
But no one is offering Boggs a deal, and a convalescent but thankfully alive Mulder advises Scully not to deal with him at all. All Boggs wants is revenge, Mulder states, and since he couldn’t get Mulder killed, Scully would be the next best thing.

Because she’s the one person Mulder cares about. I need a moment. I’m drowning in feels here.


... Okay, I’m good now.

Scully lies to Boggs, saying she got him a deal, just to get the information out of him. Later on, when she’s about to confess the lie, Boggs admits he already knew, and states he told her because he knows she tried. He also tells her to avoid the devil, a cryptic warning a-la Mulder’s that will prove to be just as on point as the previous one when they go rescue the teenage boy. (In which Scully only survives because she stops when she sees a painted devil, only to see the kidnapper fall to his death.)
Later, she returns to Boggs’s cell, presumably, to tell him what happened, but he knows why she’s really there. She wants her father’s message. He promises to give it to her if she comes to his execution – which we get to see, in excruciating detail later.

I don’t want to dwell on that, because I want to dwell on this: the final scene of the episode. Hyper-rational Scully admits, to herself and to Mulder that this whole thing could have been arranged by Boggs. Mulder, despite the fact that earlier on, he didn’t seem to want her to believe, wants to know why she has such a hard time doing it.

What Scully does then is about the bravest thing a person can do. She comes out and admits it – she’s afraid. Mulder doesn’t understand her fear, can’t understand being so afraid that she’d miss out on her father’s last message. But Scully didn’t. She already knew. She’d always known. He was her father.

Cue the waterworks again. This is a very profound and important message that I think we’d all do well to remember: live every day of your life to the fullest, tell the people you love that you love them, and when they’re gone, keep trusting in them. That’s the way to keep them with you. Forever.

Quote of the episode:
Mulder: Dana, after all you've seen, after all the evidence, why can't you believe?
Scully: I'm afraid. I'm afraid to believe.
Scary moment of the episode:

Every time Boggs was on screen? Do I really have to pick one? Fine, the last scene, where’s he’s walking to the chair with the ghosts of all the people he killed. Because real life killers are way creepier than monsters.

Mulder/Scully moment of the episode:

The final scene is so powerful, that even though I loved Scully’s desperation when Mulder was shot, I have to go with the ending. They’re both as vulnerable and as open in that moment as we’ve ever seen them, and it says a lot about how far their partnership has come in so little time that they’ve allowed themselves to be that way.


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