Season 7, Episode 5
Director: Robert Lieberman
Writer: David Amann
Many writers and directors have played with the turbulent teenage years within the horror genre, perhaps most famously with Stephen King’s novel and subsequent film adaptation of Carrie. There, puberty comes with menstrual blood and with that comes the power of telekinesis, later used with full-on deadly intent. The X-Files echoes that story with “Rush,” an episode that references the spectrum of the teenage experience in multiple ways. What starts out feeling like an “Tony’s stepping out with the wrong crowd” after school special actually ends up becoming a compelling piece of television, largely thanks to a willingness to go the distance with the horror.
The prologue shows Tony Reed (Rodney Scott) entering some shady woods at night despite posted No Trespassing signs. There, he meets friends Max (Scott Cooper, future director of 2015’s Black Mass) and Chastity (Nicki Aycox) who make reference to having Tony join their group, despite not directly referring to what privileges membership can bring. As a deputy pulls up behind them, Max and Chastity disappear, and the deputy detains Tony. While calling in Tony’s license, the deputy makes a muffled cry, causing Tony to investigate and find his face smashed in with a flashlight. Tony is arrested and considered the primary suspect for the crime as Mulder and Scully arrive. Mulder naturally questions the events and assumes supernatural involvement while Scully doubts Tony’s involvment but (correctly) suspects he knows the killer.
As the episode progresses, Max becomes increasingly arrogant and antagonistic, eventually murdering a high school professor before collapsing thanks to an intense about of damage to his body. Desperate to understand Max and Chastity’s abilities, Tony follows Chastity to a cave in the same forest. Inside the cave, there is a hidden chamber with a formation in the middle illuminated from above. When Tony steps into the light, his body begins to violently vibrate. This is the source of Max’s power – the light delivering the ability to travel faster than the eye can see. Tony eventually attempts to stop Max’s bloody rampage by preventing him from murdering his own father. He and Chastity return to the cave to stop Max, but Max is already there and knocks Chastity out. Max hits Tony into the wall of the cave, but, before he can finish the job, Chastity uses her super-speed to shoot Max through the chest and place herself directly in the path of the bullet. As Tony recovers in the hospital, Mulder and Scully find that the cave has been fully sealed with concrete to prevent further “mishaps.”
“Rush” is an interesting episode as it seems to intend to encapsulate the teenage experience into 45 minutes. Tony is a new-in-town kid who has difficulties making friends and is desperate please Max and Chastity. As he eventually gains the same abilities as Max and Chastity, he references the incredible rush he feels despite Chastity not “wanting his for [Tony].” The treatment of the fleeting super-speed abilities is very similar to that of a drug addiction after school special down to the “hit” needed to keep the high going, the withdrawal effects, and Max’s addition to the feeling. It’s why Chastity effectively commits suicide at the end – she doesn’t want to slow down. The after school special vibe is additionally underscored by a melodramatic scene between Tony and his hard-working mother (a well-intended Ann Dowd). As much as this is Tony’s story, it’s really Max’s trajectory that gives the episode energy, particularly in his admittedly cliched interactions with his authoritarian-figure father, the town sheriff.
Mulder and Scully investigate the crime, and events are largely seen from a balanced perspective between the criminals and the investigators – unlike the recent “Hungry” which takes the single point of view of the monster of the week. But their interactions are strictly all business here and include nothing from last episode’s big kiss, which is a little disappointing. That could be attributed to the scattered way the episodes were filmed thanks to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s blossoming film careers. But the teens are driving the show here, and they do a decent job of maintaining our interest. Sure, Tony and Chastity are a little bland, and Max is a cliched. But “Rush” plays with teenage melodrama cliches and layers a supernatural story line over them. The X-Files have surely done worse than this.