Season 1, Episode 3
Director: Harry Longstreet
Writer: Glen Morgan, James Wong
Day 3. He had no idea that, when he yesterday referred to The X-Files’ tendency to dip into the “monster of the week” club, the very next episode would kick-start the trend. Is this a sign of precognition? Or has he been watching too much X-Files already? The delimna is perplexing. Time to “Squeeze” this one out.
Even though only three episodes have passed, I can tell immediately that “Squeeze,” the third episode of The X-Files freshman season will be one of the greats. At first, when the camera pans down into a sewer to reveal a pair of glowing orange eyes, I thought this would be the infamous “Fluke” episode I’ve heard so many discuss. But the character of Eugene Tooms (Doug Hutchinson) is a human, albeit a genetically mutated human being more akin to an X-Men villain than anything we’ve seen on the alien-obsessed show.
Through the course of the episode, we come to discover that Tooms is 100 years old and hibernates at 30-year intervals. At the end of hibernation, he rises from a cocoon made from bile and Sunday comic strips and kills five times, taking the liver of each victim. His added, special power is an ability to stretch, contort, and , yes, squeeze his body into any tight space. This effectively makes him near-impossible to catch or really even detect. Milder and Scully eventually do so when Tooms attacks Scully in her apartment. Of course, the FBI naturally imprison Tooms in a cell with a fairly wide food tray opening. Guess who’s coming back for liver pudding?
The most important theme of the episode is the battle lines that are drawn between Mulder and the rest of the more straightforward FBI force. Mulder’s status as the “spooky” nut job chasing UFOs puts his partner Scully into a difficult situation, particularly when an academy friend (Donal Logue) seems impressed by and attracted to her. The events of the episode push Scully into effectively choosing a side, highlighting the ineffectiveness of the traditional FBI methods in the world of The X-Files. This is an important shift in the series as it firmly places Scully in Mulder’s court, cementing a partnership that will last 9+ years.
The star of the episode is undoubtedly Hutchinson’s performance as Tooms. It’s a terrifying and near-silent performance that basically centers around the usage of his eyes as a primary method of terror. The murder scenes take place in ordinary environments (a dark office, a quiet home), and Hutchinson’s shark-like eyes and twisted physicality make for very realistic yet horrific sequences. Yet, when his eyes do not glow with that yellow/orange haze, Hutchison is still able to convey a sense of melancholy and sorry within Tooms. It’s a really remarkable performance, one that elicits more layers than you’d expect from the “monster of the week.”
After all, he’s not bad. He’s just squeezed that way.