Season 3, Episode 6: “2Shy”
“2Shy” is one of those episodes whose goals are a bit more…well, shall we say obvious. It’s definitely a “feminist” episode, and yes, the quotation marks around the word feminist should be taken very, very seriously. It’s important to note that while the points brought up in this episode are important and true, even noble in some respects, they could have perhaps been addressed in less obvious ways. I grit my teeth while writing this, because it’s actually not that bad and I’ll be the first to admit I like this episode very much. But the “feminist” flavors in this episode aren’t perfect. They’re not bad by any means, but they’re not perfect.
There’s a lot going on in this episode, and because of the relevancy it has to many modern day issues this may or may not be a very long review, depending on how much I want to ramble on about feminism in The X-Files and the symbolism of this and that and whatever. So, to keep things bearable for those who enjoy brevity, I’m going to ramble in a different font, and you may skip those parts and move on with your life if you wish.
In this episode, a bunch of women are being killed by having all the fat in their body sucked out by a creepy dude named Virgil Incanto. Mulder and Scully are called in because, well, who else is going to want to deal with this case? Only some people, namely an old white male investigator named Cross, think that Scully shouldn’t be on this case because the killer is clearly targeting women, and being a woman herself will affect her judgment.
Putting aside the fact that Scully has dealt with women-targeting killers before (the name Donnie Pfaster ring a bell?) this was one issue brought up in the episode I thought could have been done a little better. The trouble is, it never really goes anywhere beyond that conversation between Scully and Cross. We certainly never see any indications that Scully is having any trouble in judgment on this case, 1) Because she’s fucking Dana Scully, and 2) Because she’s a good enough investigator that even if she did have uncomfortable feelings concerning the identity of the victims she doesn’t let it affect her judgment. I think I know what point the writer was trying to make but I’m not sure if everyone will catch it. Namely, women are often accused of using emotion and “intuition” in the workplace, especially in jobs that require them to make difficult decisions. Scully is, despite how it should be, a woman in a “man’s world,” and considering that she’s surrounded by nothing but testosterone 24/7 she’s done remarkably well staying true to herself both as a woman and an investigator. This is one of the reasons I like this show so much. Scully is the perfect example of a “strong female character” because her strength comes from being a character, not from being female. That’s not to say her femininity isn’t an important aspect of her character, but nowadays the term “strong female character” is often used to describe a female character who is written as a strong personality solely to be a female with a strong personality. The “I don’t need no man” attitude is prevalent in today’s leading ladies and while I’m not by any means saying that’s a bad thing, I don’t believe that’s how we should go about equalizing gender portrayals in entertainment. In The X-Files, Scully’s gender is secondary to her character. She’s such a strong character that the writers don’t need to throw it in your face that she’s female. That is what a real “strong female character” should be. Now, back to the episode.
Virgil Incanto is one of those villains that is hard to forget. He’s definitely one of the more memorable villains of the show and one of the positive aspects of this episode. He’s kind of like a cross between Tooms and Donnie Pfaster, although I say that with a little hesitation because in reality he’s not quite as creepy as Tooms or as terrifyingly evil as Pfaster.
Like Tooms, Incanto has a genetic mutation which makes him kill people. Unlike Tooms, he targets one specific group of people – overweight women. He is able to use these women’s vulnerability against them by making himself seem like a completely understanding, wonderful guy online, getting them to go on a date with him, and then sucking out all their body fat. Despite his genetic mutation, this puts him more on the level of Pfaster, although it certainly doesn’t feel that way throughout the episode. For one thing, “2Shy” isn’t filmed like “Irresistible” was – “Irresistible” had fantastic lighting and cinematography which really increased the horror level (something I wish I’d discussed more in my review of that particular episode). For another, “2Shy” spends a great deal of time with its guest characters, particularly Ellen Kaminsky. We spend a lot of time with Ellen because she’s really the vehicle (well, besides Scully’s little speech at the end) with which “the point” of this episode is really driven home. She’s actually quite an enjoyable character, at least for me, though I always have a hard time taking her angry gun face seriously.
Specifically, what is Ellen’s function in this episode, and why did the writer spend so much time wanting the audience to get to know her? “2Shy” is one of those few instances where we consistently follow a character who isn’t Mulder and Scully throughout an episode, at least in a MOTW, and that’s done for a very specific reason. This episode has a moral agenda, remember, a “feminist” one. The fact of the matter is (and this is very true and something I believe wholeheartedly) a lot of pressure is put on women to look a certain way, and women who aren’t model skinny often feel insecure, lonely, and sometimes believe themselves to be romantically unviable. Enter Ellen, an insecure, slightly overweight woman who has been chatting online with someone named 2Shy (a.k.a. Virgil Incanto) and finally seems to have made a connection with someone who doesn’t care about her weight problem. What she doesn’t realize, of course, is that Incanto does care about her weight problem – in fact, that’s all he cares about. Ellen, however, is completely oblivious to the dangers of meeting someone over the Internet, despite warnings from her roommate. The fact is, Ellen is so uncomfortable with herself that she will jump at the chance to meet someone who might possibly tell her different.
It’s not that this is done poorly, it’s good stuff. We certainly have an interesting and likable character in Ellen, and we really do care what happens to her. What bothers me a tad – and I mean a tad – is that the episode doesn’t stand up for these women so much as pity them, or let them pity themselves. You hear it when Ellen’s talking to her roommate, you hear it when the fat prostitute is being discussed, you hear it at the end especially, when Scully is giving Incanto venom for using the women in the way he did. And I’m not talking about pity for being killed by Incanto, I’m talking about pity for being overweight.
I feel if this episode had been written by a woman it might have been a little more successful in communicating what it wanted to. It’s one of those times when I feel the writer definitely had good intentions at heart, but missed the point a little here and there. The episode brings up important social issues such as society’s treatment of women and their appearances, but addresses those issues perhaps less successfully than it could have. Ellen and the other victims of Incanto are viewed with pity rather than being allowed to stand up for themselves, and when Ellen does stand up for herself, it’s in the form of shooting Incanto with a look of venomous rage – which is more fun to watch than it is impactful.
Nevertheless, “2Shy” is a good episode with a good villain and, for the most part, a good moral core, and good characters. Thumbs up.
Final score for “2Shy” is 7/10. While not quite as successful from a moral standpoint, the episode gives us a great villain and good guest stars.
Notable Nuggets (and Nitpicks)
- Scully, Scully, Scully. She’s awesome in this episode, as usual. We get to see her do some kick-ass fighting action, too. Go girl. You go in those heels and awful pantsuits.
- There’s another subplot in this episode which I didn’t bring up – that of the annoyingly desperate mother, who tries to win Incanto’s affection by trying to connect with him as a writer. He, of course, isn’t interested in her because she’s skinny. If you want my opinion, this whole subplot is completely unnecessary and is made a whole lot worse by the inclusion of this woman’s blind daughter. The woman dies, by the way, and it’s really sad and doesn’t add a good tone to the episode.
- The only thing I really didn’t like about Incanto was his name, Virgil Incanto. I can’t really pin down why I don’t like it – I guess it just sounds too fake. Ugh.