Season 4, Episode 23: “Demons”
“Elegy” gave us a very emotional episode for Scully as we head towards the end of the season. Now, it’s Mulder’s turn. “Demons” follows in the footsteps of “Paper Hearts,” which was a Samantha episode that had little to do with the mythology. In “Demons” the mythology sort of comes back, but it’s all within Mulder’s mind.
“Demons” is a super important episode, and its placement is crucial. We’re heading into a three episode arc that puts our agents through the runner, both physically and emotionally, and the most devastating storyline thus far – the cancer storyline – is hitting us full force. I think it’s very tempting to look at this as Scully’s journey and Scully’s struggles. But it’s Mulder’s too, and “Demons” reminds us just what is at stake for Mulder here.
Watching this episode for the first time is an experience. It’s almost a classic “whodunnit” story, except that both Scully and the viewers are fairly certain it wasn’t Mulder. The trouble is, of course, that Mulder’s brain may not be functioning normally. Who’s to say what somebody would do if that’s the case? How can we control our actions if we don’t have control over our own mind?
“Demons” continues a common theme for penultimate episodes of the seasons – not believing what you see with your own eyes, due to some sort of brain malady or other outside force which affects your perception. Since The X-Files is all about trust, this kind of psychological trauma is very emotionally charged. Think Season 3’s “Wetwired,” and for you X-Files veterans, Season 5’s “Folie a Deux” and Season 6’s “Field Trip.” Even Season 7’s “Je Souhaite” deals with tricks and illusions. All of these episodes happen right before the finale, and most of them deal with one or both of the agents seeing something they think is real, something that undermines their perception of the world.
In “Demons,” Mulder has flashbacks from his childhood, all involving his sister Samantha. He sees a man with a cigarette talking to his father, he sees his parents and this cigarette dude arguing, he sees his sister. As he has these flashbacks, however, he unknowingly travels to places he’s supposedly never been and, most disturbingly, wakes up in a strange motel room covered in blood.
Scully, of course, is in protective mode. What I love about Scully in this episode is how certain she is that Mulder didn’t kill anyone, even though the evidence seems to point in his direction. She knows him too well by now and she has full faith in him. Her compassion for Mulder in this episode should be a lesson to us all. Although let’s face it, it would have been much easier for Mulder if he had just gone to the hospital right away, like she suggested.
Like many great episodes, the best part comes at the very end. This scene is one of my all time favorites from Season 4. Scully runs into the house to confront Mulder. He points a gun at her – a parallel to when she pointed a gun at him in “Wetwired.” We hear gunshots. We see Mulder’s face as he fires the last bullets. The camera pans outward to show Scully, standing right behind him. Then she does this.
It’s friendship. It’s love. It’s what these two hold onto when the world around them is going to pieces. Samantha’s disappearance is the source of so much pain and anguish for Mulder – which, because of all the plotty mythology stuff surrounding the event, it’s easy to forget. But his sister’s disappearance is a tragedy, a wound, Mulder’s been suffering for years alone. Now he doesn’t have to.
It’s like Scully said in “Max” – “No one gets there alone.” I like to think that “Demons” amends that statement slightly by saying “No one suffers alone.” At the very least, Mulder and Scully don’t.
Bring the tissues.
Final score for “Demons” is 9/10. I docked a point because the whole thing about Mulder seeing a doctor for treatment isn’t quite as well developed as I would have liked, and it seems rather pulled out of thin air and not too well resolved. But overall, this is a wonderful, underrated episode and holy hell does Mulder look hot in this one.
- I mean, seriously. SERIOUSLY. LOOK AT THAT WHITE T-SHIRT. This is about as good as it gets, folks.
- Also, can we talk about how Scully walks in on Mulder in the shower?
- We have another appearance from the very underappreciated Chris Owens as CSM.
- Mulder’s flashbacks are a bit trippy, don’t you think? I guess it makes sense, but put that in a music video.