Season 2, Episode 4: “Sleepless”
“Sleepless” is another one of those strange episodes that is related to the mythology, but can’t really be considered a mythology episode since doesn’t have anything to do with the larger conspiracy, at least not until the very end. There aren’t any aliens or UFOs in this episode, but we do have several key players in the conspiracy make their X-Files debuts: Krycek, Mr. X, and in some respects, the Cigarette Smoking Man himself.
Before we get to all that, though, we have to endure more of Mulder’s pity-party, which is even more irritating in this episode because of the appearance of Krycek. Mulder’s an absolute asshole to Krycek. Granted, Krycek’s no good guy, but Mulder doesn’t know that, and we don’t know it, either. On first watch, it really does seem like Krycek is just a young, fresh FBI agent who actually has some amount of respect for Mulder’s work and is really trying to do his best on this case – and Mulder doesn’t even give him a chance. In fact, Mulder deliberately ditches Krycek in favor of Scully, and although that’s not necessarily a bad thing for us, it’s still very much a dick move, especially since, throughout the whole episode, Mulder is still acting like a sixth grader who’s lost all his free time privileges.
Scully’s appearance in this episode is more limited than in the previous one, something that can almost certainly be attributed to Gillian Anderson’s increased pregnancy. It’s like a math equation: +Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy = -Scully, +Scully’s clothes.
Still, the few interactions Mulder and Scully do share in this episode are sweet, and they show, if nothing else, how close these two have become, and how determined they are to work together as much as possible. CSM and Krycek are weary of Scully with good reason; she’s the one that provides credibility to Mulder’s work, and if she won’t let him go, Mulder has a greater chance of unraveling the truth. No wonder they wanted to get rid of her.
And yes, there are a lot of problems with this storyline, as it was developed due to Gillian Anderson’s surprise pregnancy. A lot was thrown together at the last minute, so some things really don’t end up making sense. But that’s an issue that can be later discussed in episodes more related to the topic. Right now, we’ve got some war vets to visit.
The X-Files had a lot of episodes dealing with the Vietnam War. I’m not exactly sure why; maybe because a lot of writers found the Vietnam War an intriguing topic, or maybe because Chris Carter & Co. saw a lot of potential uses for the Vietnam War as a means of incorporating some sort of “government conspiracy” – after all, there were a lot of things about the Vietnam War that the government didn’t reveal. What if, as The X-Files suggests, there were more?
In this particular episode, we learn that the government conducted experience on soldiers in Vietnam, experiments that allowed them to stay awake without getting tired. Because these soldiers never had to sleep, they could go on long killing sprees, never once stopping to rest. Apparently, on one of their raids, they destroyed a schoolhouse and killed a bunch of children. One of the soldiers, a man nicknamed “Preacher”, warned the soldiers against doing the terrible things they were doing, but since they were hyped up on their newfound abilities and the heat of battle, they didn’t listen. Now, Preacher has found a way to use his abilities to alter other people’s sense of reality, and he is making his bloodthirsty soldier buddies pay for what they did. In one case, he makes a man believe his apartment is burning down and is consumed by the fire. Later, the apartment shows no signs of ever having been in a fire, but the man’s body shows internal burning. And, most memorably, one man sees the faces of the Vietnamese schoolchildren he shot down before being shot down by his own illusion.
It’s an intriguing concept, but I would have been a lot more engaged in it if it had appeared in any other spot in the show. Like the episodes before it, “Sleepless” also suffers from trying to cram too much, and because of that, the episode loses focus. I don’t know what we’re supposed to care about the most: is it the case, Krycek, Mulder’s pity-party, Mr. X, CSM, or something else? What exactly is this episode trying to say?
And that’s where this episode loses me. In the midst of trying to offer so much, it ends up offering very little. I didn’t feel any more or less impacted when Preacher was shot, and I also found myself not caring much about Krycek – at least, not until the very end.
Because, as it was in the beginning and ever shall be, The X-Files does a fantastic job with its endings.
Like “Conduit” the end of this episode is so memorable that it outshines the rest of the episode altogether. I honestly didn’t remember which episode the last scene had come from, but the scene works so perfectly with the upcoming events of the show that it’s almost impossible not to remember it. Krycek’s a bad guy. And he recognizes Scully as a problem. And problems, as the Cigarette Smoking Man states in what is arguably his first “evil” line, have solutions.
Let’s see what solution they come up with.
Final score for “Sleepless” is 7/10. The plot’s cookin’ now.
- I’ve always wondered if Krycek was faking when he looked sick after seeing the dead body. He works for CSM, so surely he’d seen a dead body before then.
- Mulder is really sweet to Scully in this episode. There’s that one conversation on the phone where he sounds so lonely I almost want to forgive him for his whining. Almost.
- Mr. X is, I repeat, such a badass.