“Fallen Angel” is one of those episodes where the specific storyline may not be the greatest — or most unique — but it sets so many other things in motion that it’s worth the ride.
Despite that fact, I did enjoy the creep factor of the loose alien — they chose to keep it invisible in an effort to make it more scary, and it worked for me. The mystery of the unknown is much more scary than them attempting to form it into some kind of creature. As always, the idea of any group of people needing to be evacuated for unknown reasons is terrifying to me, so the entire town being asked to evacuate was… oof.
Mulder is SO desperate for answers, for proof, and the scene of him running through the woods with his backpack on is kind of classic Mulder. He’s willing to do whatever it takes, no matter how unconventional, no matter how downright illegal, to find the truth.
Naturally, he gets photographs of the whole sanitization procedure — which he looks at like a kid in a candy shop — right before he’s knocked out by a military guard. PROOF GONE, as usual. He’s not shy about questioning Colonel Calvin Harrison, commenting “that’s a lot of fire power just to protect mother nature”, and insisting that “we both know what’s out there”. He’s detained and placed in a makeshift cell right next to Max Fenig, who we’ll see a couple more times throughout the series. Max fangirling over Mulder is a highlight of the episode for sure — “you’re a cautious man, trust no one” — and he’s almost as excited to meet Scully, too.
We see some of the first rumblings of the X-Files at risk of being shut down. Scully plays her part of skeptic stubbornly in this episode, being super frustrated with Mulder for risking all they’ve worked for by chasing after what she believes to be a downed Libyan jet with a nuclear warhead (which Mulder refers to as a “highly classified lie”). A cover story existing is too perfect for her — she’s always looking for the logical explanation, and the government telling the locals that they are decontaminating the area in order to cover for a search for the jet’s pilot is just too easy for her to believe.
Max is a perfect addition to the episode, putting a human face to the mystery they’re trying to solve. He has this awkward charm that makes him the ideal segue into The Lone Gunmen that we’ll meet later on. I mean, he’s essentially a less handsome version of Mulder — isolated, obsessive, highly intelligent, and committed to finding out the truth. He’s a unique character in the series in the sense that he seems to truly believe his bouts of losing consciousness — and time — are due to epilepsy and not something more sinister, but once Mulder notices the triangular scar behind his ear, he compares it to past cases and suspects that Max is actually an abductee, which adds another fun layer to this episode.
When he starts to be abducted in the warehouse — and begs of Mulder “please don’t let them take me” — it’s a chilling moment since we don’t really know if Max has been aware of them studying him all this time, or if this is his first realization. But either way, within minutes, he’s gone.
Scully, as usual, defends Mulder as much as she possibly can, but Section Chief McGrath won’t hear any of it. Mulder is realistic — “I’m surprised I lasted this long”, he casually comments before going in for his own hearing — but he lets his anger loose, asking “Over a dozen men lost their lives and you want me to respond to issues of protocol?”. When he’s told that Max’s body was found 2 hours later in a cargo container, it’s hard not to feel his frustration as he responds with “How can I disprove lies that are stamped with an official seal?”, and adds that “no one, no government agency, has jurisdiction over the truth”… but they do.
And the final highlight of this episode — we get to see some more complexity in Deep Throat. As Section Chief McGrath goes to him at the end, frustrated that he “ruined our last best chance to get rid of him”, Deep Throat reveals that it is a “most unique dilemma” and that they must “keep your friends close but your enemies closer”. It throws into question what Deep Throat’s real motives are, which is interesting as hell.
Rating: 7.5/10 | Director: Larry Shaw | Writer: Chris Carter, Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa | Music: Mark Snow | Cinematography: John S. Bartley | Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Jerry Hardin, Marshall Bell, Scott Bellis, Frederick Coffin