X-Files Flashback: ‘Surekill’

Season 8, Episode 8
Director: Terrence O’Hara
Writer: Greg Walker

In its late series incarnation, The X-Files starts to morph into more of a standard procedural series, holding more in common with C.S.I. than the original, earlier X-Files episodes. Sure, there’s a hint of the supernatural, but, with David Duchovny, the series used to make the supernatural elements and their exploration the main course. Now, they’re just a side dish, relegated to the back burner while we focus on Doggett and Scully’s exploration of just-so-supernatural events that factor into larger, often white collar, crimes. “Surekill” is a perfect example of the trend: it’s a completely fine episode that, taken out of the context of The X-Files, serves its purpose in an entertaining enough manner. It’s just not The X-Files we’ve come to expect and many have grown to love.

The episode begins with a man running feverishly from an unseen assailant. He places a phone call that effectively begs for his life and is later incarcerated when he demonstrates mentally unstable tendencies. After screaming that his attacker could still reach him inside the cell, Carlton Chase’s head explodes, shot by an unseen gun. Scully and Doggett investigate with Scully eventually (and correctly) guessing that the shooter’s eyes interacts with ultraviolet radiation in a different manner than regular eyes, thus he was able to see through multiple surfaces to shoot Chase. Doggett, of course, scoffs at her theory, taking on Scully’s former doubting persona.

The Carlton Chase paper trail and final phone call lead them to Surekill Exterminators, run by two brothers – Dwight and Randall Cooper – and managed by Tammi Peyton. It is revealed that Dwight is near-blind and Randall has the x-ray eyes, and they use his gift to kill owners and steal money from their businesses. Tammi, however, has been embezzling money for years, most likely due to the backpay to compensate for Dwight using her as a sex object. In the end of the episode, Tammi attempts to leave town with her stolen money but is busted by Dwight who tells Randall to kill her. Rather than kill the woman he secretly loves, Randall uses his x-ray vision to kill his own brother and turns himself in to the police. Tammi goes missing with the embezzled funds.

Again, another perfectly fine episode that is perhaps stretched slightly too thin for its running time. Again, there are a great deal of plot points left unresolved, and we’re asked to just believe Randall’s gift came from birth. Probably the hardest story point to swallow for me is the underserved character of Tammi Peyton. We suspect that, as I’ve mentioned before, she’s keeping quiet about the brothers’ various indiscretions with her own eyes focused clearly on the end game – the $100K she embezzled from them. Yet, I want to know more about her. Why did she allow Dwight to sexually abuse her for so long? She’s such a quiet mouse of a character, so damaged and meek, that it’s a little hard to believe she’s some criminal mastermind.

But that’s just a knit in what is otherwise an admittedly solid (and admittedly boring) episode. The camera shots traveling through stationary objects are effective and well done, but it’s not enough to really jazz the audience. Again, “Surekill” is another classic example of the series shifting toward the middle ground in the television landscape. No longer particularly distinctive, The X-Files Season Eight is firmly settled on the path toward mediocrity. I realize that Fox probably drove a hard bargain, but it’s really sad to watch the show decline after it so clearly should have ended on a strong note.

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