Season 16, Episode 14
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Vince Gilligan, John Shiban
“PHIL??? Phil Conners???”
That greeting plagues Bill Murray potentially hundreds of times in the 1993 comic gem Groundhog Day, an amusing take on a man who keeps relieving the same day until he gets it right. The X-Files takes a similar approach with “Monday,” but the side effects of living a single day over and over again are far less amusing for the characters involved. I mean, it’s The X-Files right? It has to be somewhat traumatic. As an exercise, “Monday” is creatively rendered and consistently entertaining. It’s definitely one of the better non-mythology episodes of the series, but it ends feeling like nothing more than a well-executed stunt when the best X-Files episodes all manage to give us meaningful insights into Mulder and Scully.
The episode begins with Scully and Mulder crumpled on the floor of a bank during a heist – Scully attempting to stop the flow of blood on Mulder’s gunshot wound. The gunman stands above them, strapped with dozens of explosives. Outside, AD Skinner arrives on site, and a woman pleads with him to stop the amassing police unit from going inside. He ignores her warnings, and, later, the bank explodes, killing all inside. Cut to Mulder waking up in a pool of water, the waterbed purchased by “Mulder” in the “Dreamland” story arc now leaking onto the nightstand and the floor below. Mulder’s landlord calls as the water is seeping through to the floor below. Mulder has a few comic mishaps before leaving for the office in a race to cash his paycheck before the damage check bounces. Once in the bank, he is subject to the hold-up, and the day repeats itself.
We are treated to at least 6 or 7 variations on the event and more than one discussion about fate versus free will (something also recently featured in “Tithonus“). We see how tiny changes in the day ultimately create variations in the outcome, although the final outcome remains the same – the bank always explodes. The gunman’s girlfriend, Pam (the late Carrie Hamilton, daughter of Carol Burnett), is the only person who repeats the day with her memory in tact. She tries to intervene and stop her boyfriend each time and eventually convinces Mulder of the truth. In the end, Mulder attempts to stop the gunman by asking Scully to bring Pam into the bank. Unhinged, the gunman points his gun at Mulder and shoots, but Pam leaps in front of the bullet, changing the course of the day with her death. Mulder wakes up the next morning – a Tuesday – on his sofa. Time has moved on.
There are a lot of clever asides in “Monday” thanks to the combination of writers Vince Gilligan and John Shiban, and director Kim Manners manages to find interesting ways to convey the same day without making it feel suffocatingly monotonous. I was also impressed by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s ability to re-enact the same day over and over without huge shifts in their performances. They’re consistent, yes, but there are slight differences that allude to the gradual shifts in the day. The star of the episode is Carrie Hamilton who, by episode’s end, manages to look increasingly haunted and damaged, as one would I suppose if they had to relive the same day over and over. There’s one scene in which she reveals all (again) to Mulder, and her body seems to uncontrollably tremble. That effect isn’t easy to achieve – it’s as if she were strung out on drugs. But Hamilton conveys Pam’s weariness in an incredibly sympathetic manner so that, at the end, her death isn’t nearly the tragedy as it might have been. She kept telling Mulder he was the lynchpin of the repeating day not realizing she was the reason the day repeated all along. She was always supposed to die.
But, after the clever tricks and good performances are gone, there isn’t much left in “Monday” on which to chew. It’s missing that extra level of analysis potential either in character growth or thematic content. Given that, even though “Monday” is far more serious than Groundhog Day, at the end of the day it’s nothing more than a clever bit of entertainment well executed but lacking real purpose. And, ironically, it’s probably not something I’m going to revisit again in the future.