X-Files Flashback: ‘Shadows’

Season 1, Episode 6
Director: Michael Lange
Writer: Glen Morgan, James Wong

There’s not a whole lot to say about The X-Files episode six, “Shadows.” It’s a fairly straight-forward ghost story in the show’s “monster of the week” vein, meaning it contains no contribution to the overall series mythology and little advancement in the characterization of the two leads. “Shadows” is eerie and fairly well made for an episode of television horror, but it literally vaporized from my mind as soon as it finished.

The episode begins with administrative assistant (secretary back then) Lauren mourning the suicide of her beloved boss Howard Graves. The same night, she attempts to withdraw money from an ATM machine but is attacked by two assailants. Cut to “two hours later” and a couple wanders down the same dark alley and stumbles upon the assailants’ dead bodies, strategically placed and falling into view in that classic horror movie way. It actually felt very Friday the 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, if you ask me. Once the bodies are examined, Mulder and Scully are brought in to compare the bizarre findings against unsolved cases in the X-files. Each body contains an electric charge, is still 98.3 degrees after being dead several hours, and has a crushed throat despite no obvious external influence.

The secret to the episode is the ghost of Howard Graves has aligned himself to his assistant Lauren (he lost a daughter that would have been the same age as Lauren) and protects her whenever she’s in danger. The ghost also shows Lauren the circumstances of his death – it was a murder, not a suicide. Graves’ partner was up to no good and had to “off” Graves to preserve his scheme. Mulder and Scully do their best to solve the case, but it’s basically the ghost of Howard Graves that saves the day, outing his former partner by revealing a hidden disk full of incriminating information. At the end, Lauren leaves town and is no longer haunted by Graves’s ghost.

So, what to make of “Shadows?” Absolutely nothing. Given that my personal well of X-Files analysis was running dry, I sought out information on the Internet and discovered that FOX brass gave the creative team notes to have Mulder and Scully “help people” more often. Hand it to the network for helping to produce this mediocrity that lacks any of the unique X-Files touches. My favorite aspect of the episode was Scully’s dogged skepticism in the face of unassailable odds. They have pictures of Howard Graves’s ghost, and she’s still carrying that “there must be a rational answer” flag. There are a couple of neat allusions to Benjamin Franklin hidden within the episode: Graves’s desk plaque, the setting of Philadelphia, the current of electricity running through the bodies, among others. Yawn.

They can’t all be winners, I guess.

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