Season 1, Episode 15
Director: David Nutter
Writer: Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon
After a small string of challenging, above-average episodes, The X-Files returns to Earth (literally) with “Lazarus.” Honestly, this review won’t be as lengthy as my last for “Gender Bender” because there really isn’t anything going on under the covers. It’s an extremely straight-forward story where more time is spent on the mechanics of tracking down criminals and Dana Scully as a kidnapping victim than on any supernatural exploration. As a result, it’s a well executed episode that, because this is The X-Files, still feels slightly flat in comparison.
“Lazarus” begins with Scully and ex-boyfriend FBI agent Jack Willis (Christopher Allport) stationed in a bank, responding to an earlier tip that robbers are about to hit. When Warren Dupre (Jason Schombing) says goodbye to his wife Lula Phillips (Cec Verrell) and bursts through the bank door, Scully and Willis are ready for action, but, before Dupre gives up, he shoots Willis. Scully immediately returns the favor by firing multiple rounds in his direction. In the ER, Dupre is pronounced dead, and Willis has flatlined and fails to respond to treatment. Standing by, Scully pushes the attending physicians to continue treatment, and Willis ultimately responds. Strangely, no one realizes that, as Willis’s body is shocked, Dupre’s body responds.
Later, Willis’s body awakes but is inhabited by Dupre’s consciousness. After finding his former body and cutting its fingers to remove his wedding ring, “Willis” leaves the hospital and goes about finding his beloved Lula – and the large sum of money they’d robbed together. Meanwhile, Mulder and Scully review the case – mutilated corpse and all – and it’s comical how quickly Mulder jumps to the (correct) conclusion that Dupre now inhabits Willis’s body. Willis continues to look for Lulu, leaving fingerprints and other evidence behind. He eventually finds Lulu with Scully’s assistance and ends up kidnapping Scully to bargain for a kidnapping ransom. Lacking Mulder’s easy belief system, Scully still believes Willis is traumatized by his near-death experience and has assumed Dupre’s personality as a matter of psychosis. Chained to a radiator in their safe house, Scully tries to appeal to Willis’s memories. However, “Willis” doesn’t know that his body is diabetic, and he consumes massive amounts of soda, putting him in great risk of a diabetic coma. The episode wraps up when “Willis” discovers that Lulu doesn’t love him and plotted to get rid of him with their final robbery. Grief-stricken, “Willis” shoots Lulu and dies. Faced with insurmountable evidence of Dupre’s possession of Willis’s body, Scully struggles to come to a logical conclusion with the events she’s faced.
“Lazarus” is a decent episode. Nothing on display here is particularly poor or badly executed. It just doesn’t feel like an episode of The X-Files to me, particularly when Mulder shifts from supernatural obsessive to a by-the-numbers FBI agent. It’s nice to see some Dana Scully backstory (yes, she’s loved before, and her birthday is February 23), but there really isn’t anything particularly new going on here. I would have preferred the episode further explore the changes in the “Willis” body caused by Dupre’s possession. Dupre’s tell-tale tattoo fades into existence on “Willis”‘s arm, and he begins to bleed from old wounds. These supernatural touches, however, are brushed aside for the procedural details.
In looking at the backstory of the episode, apparently Dupre was to have inhabited Mulder’s body, not Willis’s, but network and studio brass eschewed the idea that Scully or Mulder would actually have paranormal events happen to their own bodies. Let’s just set aside Mulder’s early Season One “missing time” or erasure of his memory by the Air Force and ask why the network would have interfered with the producers’ and writers’ wishes for the episode. I believe the episode suffered tremendously because of this studio influence.
Having Mulder possessed by Dupre would have been a far more interesting and engaging development.