X-Files Flashback: ‘Unrequited’

Unrequited

Season 4, Episode 16
Director: Michael Lange
Writer: Howard Gordan, Chris Carter

Chris Carter apparently has a deep mistrust of the American government. I’m not going to go into whether or not that mistrust is warranted – this is television site, not one for political discourse – but his feelings are deeply interwoven into all of his writing. Carter mostly pens conspiratorial mythology episodes, yet he does from time to time branch out into “monster of the week” stories as he did with “Unrequited.” Yet, this episode, while having no connection to the central mythology of the series, has many of the same unmistakable hallmarks of a mythology episode and shares a central theme with them – the government cannot be trusted. “Unrequited” is largely procedural, but it does make a few moments available for real human drama, bearing fruition to a middling episode that neither offends nor thrills.

The episode begins as many recent X-Files episodes like to start – in medias res (in the middle of the action). Mulder and Scully are serving in a security detail for Major General Bloch as he gives a speech at the Vietnam Memorial. Bloch is the target of a particularly dangerous assassin (Nathaniel Teager, played by Peter LaCroix), one that apparently has the ability to make himself appear/disappear at will. Mulder and Scully persistently search him out but lose him into the crowd, putting the Major General at great risk. Flashing back, we see Teager stow away in another high-ranking military official’s car and assassinate him with ease. Mulder and Scully are asked to intervene, but there is little evidence on which to act save a mysterious playing card that mimics ones used by Vietnam soldiers to mark their kills. After the FBI arrests the leader of a radical paramilitary group, they close in on Teager’s identity and discover he was long-considered dead by the military thanks to a handful of (obviously extracted) teeth.

When Teager kills another high-ranking military official despite FBI coverage, he is spotted on a security tape, illustrating his abilities only extend to the naked eye. Mulder eventually reaches out to his all-knowing U.N. contact and learns that all of the assassinated officials were involved in a conspiracy to cover up the fact that American POWs remain in Vietnam. He deduces that Teager’s orders may actually come from the government itself to cover up the plot. Flashing forward to the speech that opened the episode, Mulder and Scully manage to distract Teager long enough to save the Major General. When Teager attempts to highjack a car, he is shot and again becomes visible, muttering his military identification as he passes out. The government claims this man was not Teager, but Mulder believes that to be a lie, effectively ending the episode with an uneasy lack of clear resolution.

“Unrequited” overall has an intriguing storyline even if it fails to satisfactorily resolve many of the main questions it raises. Teager as a character is a mystery, a cypher, and he’s clearly intended to be one as he is a secretive military operative. Yet, we aren’t clear exactly how he obtained the ability to hide from the human eye – it is casually mentioned that perhaps he learned it from his captives. We also never find out what happens to him at the end of the episode. And, as with may government-centered conspiracies, we never really find out an answer to the central question of his motives or of the potential for the government to be targeting these high-ranking military operatives. What we’re left with is a by-the-numbers procedural where Mulder and Scully attempt to uncover the truth with a sprinkling of the void left in the American psyche by the Vietnam War, highlighted by Teager’s touching interaction with a Vietnam War widow and with his brief interaction with a former colleague.

In the end, “Unrequited” doesn’t really offer anything we haven’t seen or heard from The X-Files before. None of the direction or scripting is particularly new or evolutionary for the series, but that’s not a huge deal honestly. It is warranted for a series of this calibre and success to remain in stasis for an episode or two. They’ve earned their right to do so.

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