X-Files Flashback: ‘Syzygy’

Syzygy

Season 3, Episode 13
Director: Rob Bowman
Writer: Chris Carter

Apparently, The X-Files hit a string of extra (x-tra?) eccentric episodes in the middle of its third season. It’s not unusual for a long-running series to do something similar – to stretch its legs and try new perspectives, new avenues of entertainment. With “Syzygy,” Mulder and Scully head into a vortex of planetary alignment and astrological empowerment, which causes significant (and admittedly comic) friction between them. While it lacks the thematic strengths of better episodes, “Syzygy,” like the cockroach episode before it, entertains with pure weirdness, making it a far more memorable episode than any of the duller mythology episodes.

Imagine a cross between the little boy with limitless power episode of the 1983 Twilight Zone film and Heathers, and you’re in the ballpark of “Syzygy.” We open at night with a young Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) giving an eulogy at an impromptu nighttime gathering for a recently deceased friend. Grief-stricken, he attracts two blond girls – Terri Roberts (Lisa Robin Kelly) and Margi Kleinjan (Wendy Benson) – who ask him for a ride home. The ride becomes something of a comic soft-core porn film as they attribute the recent death to the presence of a satanic cult that targets virgins. Both girls look to Reynolds to save them from the cult by deflowering them, but he is found hanging from a nearby cliff the next morning. As Mulder and Scully arrive to investigate, the next few days sees more murders as anyone who crosses the two girls soon meet a gruesome ending. Mulder and Scully seem at odds as well, each unnaturally aggressive toward one another and demonstrating odd proclivities toward things they don’t normally do – Scully smoking and Mulder drinking excessively. We’ll just set aside his rampaging hormones.

According to a local astrologist, the events are all related to an unique alignment of planets, astrological symbols, and birth dates. We discover that both Terri and Margi are born on the same day, and the perfect storm of events gives them strange abilities they either cannot or choose not to control. At the end of the episode, the clock strikes midnight, causing their powers to fade as the astrological events have begun to subside. Mulder and Scully seem to operate on better terms, and the rampaging townspeople begin to put down their guns, still blaming satanic involvement for recent events.

The tone of “Syzygy” is truly a marvel here as it successfully pulls off the tricky balance of empathy and dark, dark comedy. As commonplace as these pitch black high school comedies may seem, only Heathers really traversed the same material as successfully as “Syzygy.” The actresses playing Terri and Margi parade through the episode with brilliant, bitchy aplomb in multiple set pieces that echo traditional high school settings – the nighttime gathering with letterman jacket-clad boys, basketball practice, and a slumber party complete with Ouija and Bloody Mary. You can’t really undercut the value of the actresses playing the girls because they have to carry the episode and allow you to simultaneously “fear” them and laugh at them. This is especially necessary since Mulder and Scully have been re-written to annoy and belittle each other in an aggressive manner, throwing the audience off the Mulder-and-Scully-will-end-up-together trail. That, too, is effectively handled as it gives a new spin on the typical romantic entanglements that befall main characters after several years of flirtations.

In the end, “Syzygy” isn’t a landmark episode, but it’s a damn fun one if you deeply love dark comedy. And, despite the comic overtones of the episode, there is definitely the presence of a commentary on the rampant child sex abuse cases that plagued America in the mid-to-late 1990s. Now, it seems almost quaint and of a different time, but, back then, we appeared to be entering another era of the Salem witch trials. “Syzygy” refers to it indirectly, but its atmosphere is pungent with alarmist and accusatory group think.

And I think that is perhaps the scariest thing of all.

Sure. Fine. Whatever.

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