Season 1, Episode 17: “E.B.E.”
Ah, “E.B.E.” The next in line for the mythology episodes is rich in substance, my friends. And like most mythology episodes that are rich in substance, by the end, you feel as though they have no substance at all. That is the magic of X-Files ambiguity: the ability to somehow explain a lot and nothing at all at the same time.
But you don’t want to hear about that. It’s The Lone Gunmen’s introduction!
Yes, this episode marks the first appearance of The Lone Gunmen, a trio of technologically savvy nerds who often aid Mulder in his investigations. They live in a cloud of paranoia, writing about government conspiracies and cover-ups in their magazine of the same name. So of course they are very amused by Scully, who isn’t nearly as paranoid as they are (or Mulder is, for that matter). What I like about Scully’s interactions with The Lone Gunmen – and this will remain true throughout the series – is that they are very forward with each other; no one holds back any opinion. Scully openly scoffs at their seemingly ridiculous theories; Frohike wastes no time in declaring Scully “hot.” Twice.
They really are great characters, providing both a comedic element to the show and a genuine attempt to create a cast. At this point the show is still very Mulder and Scully centric, and it will be for a while, but The Lone Gunmen, and the later appearances of CSM and Alex Krycek, extend the show into wider regions.
A lot goes down in this episode, too. Slowly but surely, the mythology ball is being nudged forward. My problem with “E.B.E.” is that it tries to do a little too much. It’s not so much that it’s overwhelming, but when you try to shove a bunch of different ideas into an hour of television, only some are going to end up being fully addressed.
For example, we have Mulder questioning for the first time if Deep Throat is actually telling him the truth or if he’s just yanking Mulder’s chain. The thing is, he doesn’t really start questioning his informant until Scully does. This brings up a very important problem for Mulder. Whose judgment should he trust – Deep Throat’s, a man who seems to know so much yet reveals very little, or Scully’s, a woman who doesn’t even believe in what Mulder believes in but has enough insight and wisdom to find things out anyway?
Scully, for her part, is afraid that Mulder’s going to end up in serious trouble if he keeps investigating the way he does, believing every word Deep Throat says without question. She knows what she must do for Mulder – question his beliefs, keep him in check, keep him safe. So when she expresses her concerns to Mulder, she is very much doing so out of genuine concern. She doesn’t want to see him get hurt.
Mulder gets angry and frustrated with her, but only because, as is often the case, he knows she’s right. The photograph is a fake, and Deep Throat isn’t as honest and trustworthy as Mulder’s been treating him. But admitting as much would mean that Mulder has essentially lost his best connection to finding the truth and his sister. He gets angry at Scully because she is the deliverer of “bad news” – a confirmation of a fear he didn’t want to let himself acknowledge.
But Mulder respects Scully, and he respects her opinion. Almost immediately after she confronts him, Mulder confronts Deep Throat and accuses him of being a man who hides more than he reveals, who’s been leading Mulder down a false path.
Deep Throat responds to this by saying the most revealing yet unhelpful thing possible.
DEEP THROAT: Well, I knew that you were onto the truck so I knew that down the road I would have to steer you away. That I would have to lie to you. And a lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths.
It reveals nothing about what Deep Throat wants Mulder to know. All it tells us is that Deep Throat clearly wants Mulder to know something. But he lies to Mulder – why? Honestly, if you want to know the truth, I never could figure out why Deep Throat gave that photograph to Mulder. Surely he realized that they were going to figure it out; even if Mulder was too excited to catch any faults in the photograph, he must have known that Scully was going to take a look at it. And the lie between two truths is a strangely fascinating and well-written line, but I still don’t know what the hell it means. So this is the part where I’m going to do something very dangerous: interpret X-Files ambiguity.
What I think Deep Throat might be saying here is that he wants to help Mulder, he believes in his cause, and he regrets becoming involved with the projects he’s been involved in (that much is very clear from the ending of the episode). He also doesn’t want to get caught. Deep Throat won’t come out and say it, like Mr. X will in the upcoming season, but his life is on the line, and he doesn’t want Mulder to risk it. He has to divert Mulder, reveal the pieces of the puzzle little by little, to keep himself – and Mulder – safe. The best I can judge is that he fears for all their safeties, and by leading Mulder astray, he delays “all hell breaking loose.” It’s interesting to speculate what might have happened if Deep Throat had been around during the events of Season 2, but we’ll get to that later.
What Mulder ends up gaining in this episode, at least as far as pure evidence goes, is absolutely nothing. By the end, he’s right back where he started. And that is why “E.B.E.” is an episode that simultaneously reveals a lot, and yet nothing at all – so much is implied, but never confirmed. But the mythology bread is slowly rising in the oven. We can almost smell the exciting stuff coming up.
Final score for “E.B.E.” is 7/10 stars. It’s a good, engrossing episode, but rather unfulfilling.
- Awesome Mulderism Award/Shipper Alert for the line “I think it’s remotely plausible that someone might think you’re hot.”
- I’ve always loved the part where The Lone Gunmen laugh at Mulder for being even more paranoid than they are. Even Scully seems to find this funny.
- Swamp gas?