Season 1, Episode 17
Director: William Graham
Writer: Glen Morgan, James Wong
“Mulder, the truth is out there, but so are lies.” – Dana Scully
“E.B.E.” is the seventeenth episode of The X-Files. It seems to hold a special place in the collective hearts of series obsessives. It returns the narrative to the overall mythology of the series, bringing the character of Deep Throat back into the foreground to (potentially) learn some of the truth behind the mysterious figure. It also introduces a set of much-beloved characters – the Lone Gunmen – who would eventually receive their own brief spin-off series. But above all of this, the episode is well plotted and extremely engaging because it heavy dips into many of the conspiracy theories that have been gradually introduced over the course of the season.
The episode begins when a truck driver has a close encounter with a UFO that has great interest in the unusual cargo the truck contains. Mulder and Scully gradually begin to unravel a significant conspiracy regarding the whereabouts and the content of that truck. They are lead down wildly divergent paths, hop planes all over the country, and chase down the truck only to be fooled by an elaborate decoy. Even Mulder’s “friend,” Deep Throat, appears to be misleading him when he provides a doctored photograph and unsubtle hints that point Mulder and Scully to a location far removed from their actual target. Thanks to an underground network of UFO spotters, Mulder and Scully eventually find the destination of the mysterious truck and use fake credentials – doctored by their new cohorts the Lone Gunmen – to gain access into a heavily guarded facility. Mulder faces a final encounter with Deep Throat who informs him that the E.B.E. (extraterristrial biological entity) has died. According to Deep Throat, it is part of his directive to kill any E.B.E. after the famed Roswell incident in 1947. Mulder and Scully are allowed to go free at the end of the episode as Deep Throat walks away into a bank of fog.
“E.B.E.” is a heavily plot driven episode that relies on the overall mythology The X-Files is cultivating over specific theming. The episode has the feel of 70s conspiracy cinema like The Conversation or All the President’s Men which is extremely amibitious for an hour of television to undertake. The confusion and paranoia rampant through the episode keep viewers engaged, particuarly when Mulder seems to rip his apartment apart in search of a bugging device – which he eventually finds. If there is a theme of the episode, then I suppose Scully comes closest to speaking it directly when she advises Mulder that “the truth is out there, but so are lies.” Mulder’s blind faith in alien conspiracies and government entities who provide him information in clandestine locations make him oblivious to those who apparently enjoy fooling him. Scully persistent skepticism makes a nice balance in this regard – particularly when Mulder (like a child) is over the moon about an alleged UFO photograph provided by Deep Throat. Scully immediately pegs the picture as a fake, and she is later proven right.
The trouble with an episode like this is you don’t really know who or what to believe. Just when characters like Deep Throat seem to reveal an ounce of truth, the audience’s trust is undercut by another conspiracy, another piece of doctored evidence, or another bug placed in Mulder’s apartment. The writers have done a great job of putting the viewers in the position of Fox Mulder much moreso than of Dana Scully in this episode. Our perspectives are constantly shifting, and we eventually doubt all information given to us. And that’s clearly the point, right? Mulder closes the episode with a particularly prescient line of dialogue, “I’m wondering which lie to believe.”
And of the Lone Gunmen? Well, they’re certainly fun. It’s easy to laugh at a group who are established as comic paranoids *this close* to becoming lunatics. Especially close when one of the first lines of dialogue they spout involve having lunch with the “real” J.F.K. assassin. These characters are fun and good for a laugh or two, but I can’t see them, yet, as focuses of their own show. They’re seasoning to the overall meat and potatoes of The X-Files. They’re not the main course.
Thankfully, though, they bring a bit of humor to the overall series, and humor is something The X-Files would benefit from immensely.