Season 1, Episode 3: “Squeeze”
That’s kind of my reaction whenever somebody mentions this episode.
It’s not that I don’t like “Squeeze.” I like it a lot; it’s one of the best episodes of the first season. And certainly Tooms is a very creepy and creative monster. But for the love of God I don’t understand why this episode is the one people point to and say, “That’s The X-Files.” I’m sorry, but I feel people who say that don’t really know the show that well. “Squeeze” is freaky and memorable on the first watch, and I’m sure it was scary as hell when it first aired. But after seeing the rest of the show, I can’t possibly imagine how you can call Tooms the scariest monster. Maybe that’s a bit unfair of me. I know it comes down to a matter of personal preference. But still. “Travelers”? Did you see “Travelers”? I thought I was going to puke after I watched that! The Flukeman? Ugh! Leonard Betts? The Peacocks? The list goes on and on.
I think what bugs me the most is that people rank Tooms the greatest X-Files villain – a lot. No, no, no, no, no. Tooms is not a villain; he’s a monster. On The X-Files, there’s a very important distinction between the two. Monsters are creatures, sometimes the result of a mutation, sometimes a paranormal creature, that have some sort of biological difference from humans, some need to satisfy that requires dead humans, usually. Tooms needs livers, Virgil Incanto needs body fat, Leonard Betts needs cancer, etc. They’re monsters because they’re inhuman. Villains are people who do horrible, horrible things because they’re sick human beings, like Donnie Pfaster, John Lee Roche, or even the Cigarette Smoking Man. There’s nothing inherently paranormal about them (if you don’t count the episode “Orison,” which I don’t), or, if there is, it’s some sort of psychological ability that permits them to do terrible things, but no biological need to fulfill. In short, X-Philes everywhere, let me make my summarizing thought on this episode, even at the risk of my own health and safety:
“Squeeze” is not that good.
When I say it’s not that good, I don’t mean that it isn’t good. Like I said, it’s definitely one of the best episodes out of Season 1. But ironically, my reasons for thinking that have nothing to do with the villain, but with the substory. A substory that, as the best ones do, focuses on Scully and Mulder’s relationship.
Scully is asked by her friend Tom Colton to help her with a case he’s working on but so far gotten nowhere with. Apparently, there have been several murders in which the killer somehow entered completely locked buildings with no signs of forced entry and ripped the victims’ livers out. How pleasant. Because of the strangeness of the murders, Colton has no clue where to start, so he asks Scully to tag along and see what she can figure out. But here’s the catch. Colton, like apparently every male FBI agent in Season 1, doesn’t like Mulder, presumably because he’s jealous of Mulder’s good looks and intelligence, and makes it clear that he doesn’t want Mulder investigating this case. Scully doesn’t keep the case from Mulder, though, and of course he becomes interested and decides to run his own investigation. This forces Scully into an awkward middle position. She feels obligated to help Colton in the way that he asked her to, but she feels loyalty to Mulder, her partner. She’s also torn between investigating with people who think more like she does, and investigating with Mulder and his crazy, wacko theories – that she herself doesn’t believe in.
It’s good stuff, and what makes it even better is that Scully handles it remarkably well. She actually manages to remain pretty neutral, at least at first. My absolute favorite moment in the entire episode is when Colton, apparently frustrated that Scully is supporting her own partner, asks Scully whose side she’s on. And do you know what Scully says?
If there’s a better answer to that question, I haven’t thought of it yet. Damn was that a good response. Oh, Scully, how I love you, especially when you verbally slap a man in an authoritative position. Makes me feel good.
The payoff, of course, is that she eventually goes with Mulder, despite not agreeing with his theories. It’s an important part of the first season, and of the whole series, really, because it establishes the loyalty Mulder and Scully have toward one another, even in the face of situations which either support or defy their own values. Their loyalty will continue to grow, of course, but in this episode they breach an obstacle that needed to be breached. Mulder is very aware that Scully’s medical expertise and intelligence makes her a promising young agent with a bright future in the FBI. He was already on the road to fame and fortune, but purposefully left that road to pursue the X-Files. As Eddie Van Blundht says in Season 4’s “Small Potatoes,” Mulder is a loser by choice. The X-Files are personal to him, to his own quest to find his sister. They don’t become personal to Scully until Season 2, and even then they still won’t hold the same value to her until a few seasons later. What Scully really values is Mulder, and the fact that she chooses him over Colton is an important step she takes into discovering where her personal loyalties lie.
I guess my only complaint about all of that, though, is that it seems rather quick a thing to do in the third episode of the series. I would much have preferred all this great character development if it had come a little later in the season. The third episode seems a little soon.
Now, what else to say…
Ah, yes. I must mention that “Squeeze” is the first “Monster-of-the-Week” episode, and in that regard, it is very successful. I do think Tooms is an overrated character but I’d by lying like the world’s most hideous rug if I said he wasn’t scary. I think the creepiest thing about Tooms is that he doesn’t look like the sort of guy you’d expect would rip people’s livers out and squeeze through air vents. When he’s not doing the yellow-eyed-stretchy-arms thing, he just looks like a scrawny guy with really bad social skills. The mismatch between Tooms’s appearance and his actions really gives this character his scare factor, and that’s certainly why he’s a memorable monster.
He’s still not as scary as some of the monsters that came later, though. Like I said, this episode is good. I like it. But it’s not that good.
Final score for “Squeeze” is 7/10. Good substory and scary monster. But in my opinion, it’s a bit overrated.
- When Mulder says “Do you think I’m Spooky?” I kind of want to hug him. He does that poor, pitiful, adorable Mulder thing and I just feel so bad for him. 😦
- Awesome Mulderism Award for the line “Do you think I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?”
- Bile. Eeeeeeeww.