X-Files Flashback: ‘S.R. 819’

S.R. 819

Season 6, Episode 9
Director: Daniel Sackheim
Writer: John Shiban

Mulder and Scully’s ties to the X-Files and to A.D. Walter Skinner are becoming more and more tentative as Season Six progresses. In some ways, that’s a good thing as it frees up the dynamic duo to work farther outside the system as they continue investigating esoteric cases. But their connections to such X-Files powerhouses like Skinner are more problematic as Skinner is no longer their direct superior. They’re missing that helpful inside connection that Skinner provided. With “S.R. 819,” his life is jeopardized thanks to a mysterious poison, and Mulder and Scully make every attempt to save him. Yet, their authority in such situations comes into question as they are no longer assigned to him nor are they dealing with X-Files cases. In the end, “S.R. 819” is an entertaining episode, but Mulder and Scully don’t really have much to do within the central plot itself. They circle the periphery – Mulder running around chasing an unseen bad guy and Scully performing advanced lab work – while Skinner’s condition resolves itself without their help. Skinner’s condition is resolved, but not by their hands. And the resolution isn’t all that satisfying anyway.

The beginning of the episode shows a greatly afflicted Skinner suffering from some severe, mysterious disorder that causes his veins to swell. He eventually flatlines, and the attending physician calls time of death. The episode then flashes back 24 hours, giving a timeline to Skinner’s supposed death. After passing out in a boxing ring, he is examined at the hospital and given a clean bill of health, despite a mysterious bruise on his rib cage. Alarmed, Mulder and Scully question Skinner on the events of his day and eventually settle on an encounter with physicist who is involved with a Senate ethics and new technology committee. Believing the encounter resulted in a transfer of poison, Mulder visits the physician’s home only to discover he was being held at gunpoint and is eventually lost to his captors, later to die from the same illness that is killing Skinner.

Scully determines that Skinner’s blood is full of rapidly multiplying carbon designed to cut off blood flow to the heart. If they don’t act fast, then Skinner will most certainly die. There are ties to a formerly friendly senator and additional gunshots and car chases that juice up the proceedings given its heavy dialogue-driven nature. In the end, a mysterious bearded man, revealed to be Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea), is controlling Skinner’s illness and, after he flatlines, allows the “poison” – actually nanotechnology controlled by something resembling an old Apple Newton – to recede, saving Skinner’s life. Later, Krycek approaches Skinner and confirms he let him leave. The why comes later…

“S.R. 819” is technically a mythology episode, but it is treated as a more stand-alone episode. It is self-contained in its plot resolution, focusing the action squarely on the race to save Skinner’s life. It’s a nice touch changing the timing of the episode to count down until he flatlines, heightening the intensity of the hour. Mulder and Scully chase leads left and right, but ultimately, it all boils down to Alex Krycek and his continued partnership with the Syndicate. Clearly, they want to shake Skinner to his core by convincing him they can kill him at any time. Also, there was some business about a bill that Krycek may or may not have caused to be withdrawn from a vote. The actions are somewhat resolved in the episode, but none of it is clear. We’re missing the “why.” And that’s likely by design, but it doesn’t make “S.R. 819” a great stand-alone episode. Sure, it’s entertaining, but we’re missing vital pieces of information that, for my money, go a long way toward making it more enjoyable.

Silly me. Sometimes, I like some details and explanations. So sue me.

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