Season 1, Episode 23: “Roland”
“Roland” is a mixed bag – a very, very mixed bag. On the one hand, we’ve got lackluster story elements, a dragging plot, and some plain clumsy writing. But on the other hand, we’ve got fantastic performances from Željko Ivanek and Kerry Sandomirsky, who play Roland and Tracy, respectively, and outstanding work from Mark Snow, the series’ composer.
Let’s start out with Mark Snow, because I really do admire his work on the show. His scores match the tone of the show perfectly. His score for “Roland” has the best theme out of any episode in Season 1 – a haunting yet strangely sad piano melody. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a listen.
The music, matched with Ivanek’s outstanding performance, makes us sympathize with Roland as a character so much. This episode does a remarkable job making these seemingly disabled characters, Roland and Tracy, seem very human – probably the most human of all the characters in the episode, including Mulder and Scully. Even though they may not be able to think and communicate like most people, they still feel the same things other people feel. They just have to express it differently.
Which is why it’s so heartbreaking to see Roland’s world fall apart. He’s the one physically committing all of these crimes, yet we know it can’t be him doing it of his own free will. As we learn, he’s not. His twin brother is psychically making him kill scientists from a silver bucket, cryogenically frozen. Which is freaky and a little ridiculous sounding, but hey, we’re all used to that by now.
And then there’s the other side of this episode, the side that is really clumsy. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why this episode comes across this way. I think it’s just because of the writing, honestly. There are some lines which just don’t work. For example, when Mulder and Scully go to visit Roland for the first time, Roland becomes very upset, and the nurse rushes in and says, “What did you say to upset him so?”
What did you say to upset him so? Really? We aren’t in 19th-century England. “What did you say to upset him” would have been just fine.
There are others that crop up here and there as well. Another problem is the plot, which really drags in some spots. For an episode called “Roland” I honestly didn’t feel that Roland was in it enough. Roland and Tracy are really the ones carrying the episode on their shoulders, and since they don’t make as many appearances together as I felt they should, they can’t carry it.
That being said, we have another case where the ending of the episode is spectacular enough to make the rest of the episode worth getting through, similar to “Conduit.” I don’t know what it is about this show and endings, but they get them so, so right.
Video password is mulderandscully
Final score for Roland is 6/10. A disappointing episode when you consider its unfulfilled potential, but THAT ENDING.
- I hate to say it, but Mulder and Scully really aren’t the stars here (no pun intended). Roland and Tracy are the heavy lifters.
- Here is kind of how my very minimal research into the story behind this episode went:
*READS WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE ON EPISODE*
*DRINKS SOME WATER*
*LOOKS FOR THE EPISODE’S WRITER*
*DRINKS SOME MORE WATER*
*SEES THAT THE WRITER’S NAME IS CHRIS RUPPENTHAL*
*DRINKS EVEN MORE WATER*
*SEES THAT CHRIS RUPPENTHAL ALSO WROTE ‘3’*
*SPEWS WATER ALL OVER COMPUTER AND STARTS CHOKING IN HORROR*