Season 3, Episode 8: “Oubliette”
I realize this might be the first time I actually have to explain the review’s picture, as most of them have made some amount of sense so far, or at the very least they weren’t really connected to the, ah, theme of the review.
Looking above, you will see that in the picture, the main guest character of this episode, Lucy, looks like she’s in immense pain (because she is). Below her terrified face are the words “Oh God, not another one!” which is my reaction to this episode whenever it comes on. Assuming I’m watching the episodes in order, which I usually do. The point is, I’m sick and tired of these depressing, joyless, not-fun episodes. There are too many of them. At least in a row.
Before I continue, I’d like to point out two things. The first is that “Oubliette” is a hell of a lot better than “The List” and “The Walk” but is the most unfortunately placed of the three. The second is that “Irresistible” raised the bar for this show and created a standard, and the show is actively trying to reach it. The beginning of Season 3, I’ve realized, with the exception of “Clyde Bruckman” and the mythology episodes, is trying to bring back the “Irresistible” (no pun intended) flavor of Donnie Pfaster and his very human creepiness. That’s not to say they’re doing away with the paranormal, but it’s less obvious. There are no Flukemen in the beginning of Season 3. We haven’t had a true monster in our Monster-of-the-weeks. And the next one we’re going to get is a killer kitty cat. Which we don’t even get to see.
What’s up with you, Season 3? You’re a critically acclaimed season with at least 3 of the best episodes the show ever made, but apart from those gems, you’re really not holding up too well.
Fear not, X-Philes, the season is not over. It’s just hard to sit there and watch “The List,” “The Walk,” and now “Oubliette” – three episodes which are horribly depressing and have a limited amount of Mulder and Scully in them. And while “Oubliette” is by far the best of the three, like I said, let’s just say it might have fared a lot better if it had come before the other two.
In “Oubliette” at least a significant amount of focus is put on one of our two heroes, this time Mulder. While it is not a Samantha episode, we are definitely reminded of Samantha in the way Mulder shows extreme compassion for Lucy and interest in the missing girl’s case. Scully goes so far as to even accuse him of having a personal attachment to the case. It’s a lot like “Conduit” except that there are no alien abductions. This time, the horror is very human.
There’s not too much Scully in this episode but I think that’s fair. We haven’t talked about Mulder in a while and I don’t want to give the impression that I favor one character over the other. To give you an idea of how deep both my nerdiness and my love for this show have gone, I will reveal that I created my own X-Files themed version of the game 2048, in which I put pictures of X-Files characters instead of numbers on the tiles. (For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s probably a good thing, but if you’re curious, click here). I thought about who to put on the last tile – the 2048 tile – and then slapped myself, because it should have been obvious. Both Mulder and Scully go on that tile. They’re equals.
But I’ll admit that Scully sometimes gives me a lot more to write about, because, well, she’s so interesting and she changes so much. Mulder doesn’t stay the same, but his basic goals and aspirations do, which is why he’s sometimes harder to talk about lest I go on like a broken record.
Still, a bit of reminder won’t hurt. As we’ve established with previous episodes like “Conduit” and “Aubrey,” Mulder feels a strong amount of compassion for the lost, kidnapped, or helpless, especially if those people are young women. Like Scully says, that compassion goes right back to what happened to his sister Samantha, and it’s something that will basically stay for the rest of the show.
“Oubliette” is all about connections. Mulder’s connection with Lucy, Lucy’s connection with her past, and most especially Lucy’s connection with Amy Jacobs, the young girl who is kidnapped at the beginning of the episode. The man who kidnapped Amy, Carl Wade, is the same person who kidnapped Lucy seventeen years earlier, and now Lucy is physically experiencing whatever happens to Amy.
Out of the three episodes we’ve been discussing – “The List,” “The Walk,” and “Oubliette” – “Oubliette” has by far the most interesting and original “paranormal” element. The show hasn’t done anything like this yet, and it’s engaging enough that you do want to find out what happens, if nothing else. The episode is also well acted, with Mulder’s obvious dwellings on his sister coming through even without saying it outright – the best example is when Amy Jacobs’ mother accuses Mulder of not knowing how she feels, and Mulder says nothing but instead stares sadly out of a window. Moments like this occupy the episode, bringing Samantha to the forefront without ever saying her name expressly – at least, not until Scully brings it up.
But the real acting show is Tracey Ellis as the terrified and mentally scarred Lucy Householder, who is both this episode’s benefit and downfall. Lucy is interesting enough to be engaging and her situation is definitely easy to sympathize with, but her attitude reflects the overall feeling that comes with watching this episode: sheer and utter joylessness.
Because that’s the real problem with this episode, and yes, it’s the exact same problem as with “The List” and “The Walk.” There isn’t much to be enjoyed here. And while “Oubliette” does have the advantage over the other two in terms of storytelling and general quality, it’s still not a pleasant experience.
I think if “Oubliette” had been placed somewhere else in the season, it might hold up better. As it is, it feels like another depressing addition to the beginning of Season 3. Fortunately though, we have a few mythology episodes thrown in next, and then onto some more lighthearted (*AHEM* DARIN MORGAN *AHEM) stories for our two favorite agents.
Final score for “Oubliette” is 6/10. While not technically a bad episode, it doesn’t make you feel very good, and its placement after two depressing episodes makes this even worse. Still, we have a good performance from David Duchovny, an interesting story, and a somewhat engaging conflict.
Notable Nuggets (and Nitpicks)
- According to what I read on Wikipedia, David Duchovny added the part where Mulder says to Scully, “You don’t think I’ve thought of that? I have. And not everything I do, say, think, and feel goes back to my sister. You, of all people should realize that sometimes motivations for behavior can be more complex and mysterious than tracing them back to one single childhood experience.” I’m not so sure I agree. It’s pretty obvious that Mulder is thinking about his sister throughout this episode and I believe it was the writer’s intention to make it that way. It’s not that I think this exchange between them is unnecessary, but it’s never really brought up again, and you can’t deny that Scully does have a point.
- Here’s the only part in this episode with the slightest amount of humor – and I mean the ONLY one:
SCULLY: Well, that’s spooky.
MULDER: That’s my name, isn’t it?
- Despite the overall depressing tone of this episode, it is very scary and suspenseful when Amy tries to escape from the house and starts running into the woods. That’ll have you on the edge of your seat.