Season 1, Episode 16: “Young at Heart”
I actually like this episode a lot more than the Quote Box might suggest. I just get really tired of Season 1 going on and on about how smart Mulder is, which they don’t do for Scully. But that’s a minor complaint, because this episode is one of the really good ones from Season 1.
“Young at Heart” falls into the same category of episodes as “Eve” – episodes which are Monster-of-the-week but seem to have some connection to a conspiracy of some sort. Most of these crop up in the early seasons, since the mythology wasn’t very developed then, and many of them work well because they combine the mysteriousness of the government conspiracies with the freakiness of the case. “Young at Heart” does this well.
Here we have another episode which delves into one of the agents’ pasts, in this case, Mulder’s. Mulder’s first case with the FBI was to help capture a murderer by the name of John Barnett. Mulder’s efforts eventually led to a shootout, where Barnett held a hostage at gunpoint and was surrounded by a bunch of FBI agents. Apparently Mulder had a clear shot of Barnett, but since FBI regulations state that you weren’t supposed to put a hostage in danger, Mulder didn’t shoot, and another agent lost his life. This incident has haunted Mulder ever since.
What I like about this backstory is that it fits well with Mulder’s character. It exposes his skill at capturing murderers and why the FBI treated him like a golden boy during his first years with the Bureau, and it also gives us insight into why Mulder likes to sometimes operate outside the book – it failed him on his very first case. Mulder’s reliance on unconventional methods comes from more than just his odd personality; he’s got genuine experience to back it up.
John Barnett is one of the more despicable bad guys from Season 1, or at least, they certainly make him try to seem that way. They put a lot of emphasis on the fact that the agent Barnett shot had a wife and kids. Mulder even goes to the agent’s son’s football practice (which is kind of weird and rather pointless). In any case, from what we’ve heard about Barnett, he appears to be rather sadistic, even going so far as to threaten Mulder after Mulder gives his testimony during Barnett’s trial. Although Mulder could have refrained from having a hissy fit.
We also have another episode that involves the scarier side of science, similar to “Eve.” In this episode, Mulder and Scully learn that a doctor by the name of Dr. Ridley has been performing experiments on age reversal. Much like the doctor from “Eve,” he was shunned from the medical community after performing illegal procedures on patients with progeria, a disease which makes people age quickly. He continued his practices in secret, however, and John Barnett ended up being his only successful test subject. John Barnett is now aging backwards. Oh, and he has a salamander hand.
And, to put the icing on the cake, Deep Throat informs Mulder that John Barnett now possesses the files explaining Ridley’s work – and that the government is willing to negotiate with Barnett to get them. Mulder, of course, is disgusted that the government would negotiate with a murderer for anything, but once again, Deep Throat brings the situation into the bigger picture – that the government’s doings are much, much bigger than the FBI or Mulder himself. Morals and ethics aren’t exactly the top priority. The government isn’t following the book, either.
The final showdown is pretty good, with Mulder and Scully trying to chase down Barnett at Scully’s friend’s cello recital. (As a musician, I feel I must issue a complaint. Why is it that no one ever asks musicians to make appearances on screen when an instrumentalist is featured? That actress is not playing the cello. Trust me, there are plenty of musicians out there looking for jobs. It shouldn’t be that hard to find an actual cellist. Also, the piece is the Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor. Just showing off.) Barnett slips right under Mulder’s nose, shoots Scully, then takes the cellist-who-is-not-a-cellist hostage. Mulder finds himself holding a gun to Barnett’s head once again. He is faced with the same conflict he had to face years ago: shoot Barnett, endanger the hostage. And this time, there’s no one else there for Barnett to shoot, no one (besides the hostage) who will be put at risk if Mulder decides to do things by the book.
But Mulder is a new man now, a person who’s used to not doing things exactly by the book anymore. He’s not going to let Barnett get the best of him again. So he shoots Barnett. Fake cellist is safe, and the government’s chance of obtaining Ridley’s research is, at least for the time being, gone, thanks to Mulder.
Scully, as we soon learn, is fine, as she was smartly wearing protective gear. It’s still quite unsettling to see her get shot, though. It’s funny how Season 1 gives us little snippets of what it’s going to be like when Scully’s in real danger.
“Young at Heart” is a solid episode. It’s quick-paced, interesting, and keeps the suspense level high. It’s not on the same level as “Eve” or “Tooms,” which we’ll get to shortly, but it’s definitely better than some of the previous episodes. We’ll see if Season 1 can continue this upward trend.
Final score for “Young at Heart” is 7/10 stars. A solid episode, and a nice breath of fresh air after the atrocious “Gender Bender” and the lackluster “Lazarus.”
- Both John Barnett and Dr. Ridley get the Eyes-Bluer-Than-Scully’s award.
- The handwriting analyst gets special recognition for having a sense of humor and some indications of a personality. Pretty impressive, when you’re only in a few scenes.
- The scene where Mulder has Barnett at gunpoint reminds me of the movie Speed. “Shoot the hostage.” I wonder what would have happened if Mulder had tried that.