Season 4, Episode 4: “Unruhe”
Vince Gilligan is a great writer. There, I said it. I know you guys have all been waiting for the groundbreaking statements I was bound to make since the day this blog started, and there you go. Truly, an original insight.
Breaking Bad fans have The X-Files to thank for much of that show, but The X-Files also owes a lot to Gilligan. He helped fill the void left by Darin Morgan, and in some ways surpassed it – not necessarily surpassed Morgan, but expanded what The X-Files could do, both with its humor and its MOTW. Gilligan wrote some of his best work for Season 4, keeping the show from succumbing completely to the whims of (Glen) Morgan & Wong, who for some reason tried to unravel many key aspects of the series…but we’ll get to them later (just you wait, Morgan & Wong. Just you wait).
Vince Gilligan writes episodes that, like Season 3’s “Pusher,” just seem to understand what makes television work – the kind of episodes that I like to call “just damn good television.” That’s both a description and a reaction. Every time I watch an episode like “Pusher,” I think to myself, this is just damn good television. It’s not “Beyond the Sea,” it’s not Darin Morgan, but it’s damn good.
I feel the same way about “Unruhe.” While it might not be the most philosophical or even most original thing ever done on The X-Files, but damn is it good. It’s intense, it’s suspenseful, and it’s original.
Gilligan has a thing for photography – he’ll be using it again it later episodes – but up to this point the last photography-centered episode we had was “Oubliette,” which, if you recall, was 45 minutes of pure unpleasantness. “Unruhe” is really the shining gem of early Season 4 (well, apart from “Home”) and I daresay the season would have been very lost without it, more so than people realize. In fact, “Unruhe” is a big contender for most underrated episode of the early seasons, kind of like another really good Gilligan episode, “Wetwired.” Do I see a pattern emerging here?
If “Unruhe” has one weak spot, though – and maybe this is the reason people don’t remember it as well – it’s that the villain isn’t really that compelling, nor is Scully’s confrontation with him. Comparatively. It’s still very good, but it’s certainly not “Irresistible” or “Pusher” levels of interesting. Gerry Schnauz isn’t as scary as Donnie Pfaster nor is he as charismatic as Robert Patrick Modell. Oh, he’s still scary, but maybe not as memorable as those two.
It’s okay, though, because the photography element of the episode is really interesting and really original. Gilligan clearly has a love for photography and he uses it masterfully here. It forces the horror and suspense of the episode to be conveyed in an unmoving picture rather than the action; the creepy, ominous fingers around the screaming faces of the various women gives me chills every time. I also love that Mulder just misses Scully in this episode, running after the van that’s taking her away and screaming “SCULLAY!”
What else can I say? It’s Vince Gilligan. He’s the man. Go watch this episode and enjoy yourself. Enjoy yourself as much as you can before you’re subjected to the likes of Morgan & Wong.
Just you wait, Morgan & Wong.
Final score for “Unruhe” is 9/10. While I think they could have fleshed out the villain’s backstory a little more to make him more interesting, that’s honestly the only criticism I have. Really underrated episode, a great watch. I expect nothing less from Vince Gilligan.
- I always felt so bad for the old photography guy at the beginning. I don’t know why.
- Scully probably knows what duct tape tastes like by now (her mouth was also duct taped in “Our Town”).
- This episode really wouldn’t work today, in the Age of Photoshop. I’m glad it was written when it was.