Season 2, Episode 7
Director: David Nutter
Writer: Chris Ruppenthal, Glen Morgan, James Wong
The best thing I can possibly say about “3,” the first non-Scully X-Files episode, is that it’s filled with my favorite color – red. There are red lights, red exits signs, glasses of red wine, red skies from distant burning fires, and so on. The imagery and cinematography brilliantly evoke a proper vampire setting even if everything else feels trite and dull. “3” ultimately commits the worst sin of all – it fails the “timeless episode” test that so many of the best episodes pass.
The prologue involves a married businessman having a lurid one-night stand with a beautiful, mysterious woman. As they begin to have sex in a hot tub, she bites him and drinks his blood. Horrified, he begins to struggle only to be murdered by two other male vampires hiding in the shadows. These are apparently vampire serial killers who operate, logically, by night and have killed in multiple locations, warranting a file in the newly reopened X-files. Mulder begins to investigate and ultimately captures one of the three – the “Unholy Trinity” of “The Father,” “The Son,” and “The Unholy Spirit.” Before revealing the location of his companions, the captured “Son” is burned alive by the rays of the son, proving their status as vampires. “The Son” had a tattoo on his hand leading Mulder to Club Tepes (after Vlad Tepes, the original Dracula) where he meets a beautiful vampire wannabe. Random, mindless events ensue until the wannabe ultimately burns herself and the “Unholy Trinity” to death.
I said the episode’s worst crime was how luridly dated it was – Mark Snow’s early 90s synthesizer music had me grabbing for the remote – but actually that’s wrong. It’s real worst crime is following up a seismic event like the disappearance of Dana Scully with this limp rag of an episode. Mulder’s first appearance in the episode involves his opening of the X-files office and filing away Scully’s personal effects as an X-file. He also clings to her cross necklace. That’s it. I personally found it insulting to imagine that Mulder wouldn’t try to find her. That he wouldn’t investigate government contacts. That he wouldn’t try to find Alex Krycek. Instead, the writers send him on an unrelated “Monster of the Week” episode. I realize things will change soon, but it is an offense to fans of the show to throw casual references to Scully’s disappearance and wipe everything away with such a bad episode.
“3” is designed to be dangerous and sexy – a more adult version of The X-Files that Duchovny could undertake without the more maternal Scully in tow. However, the vampire storyline is dull, and the “Unholy Trinity” have little character development to make them noteworthy villains. Plus, the concept of a vampire club and wannabes just feel like incredibly dated ideas that are more groan-worthy than sexy, giving the episode a Red Shoe Diaries feeling that betrays the integrity of The X-Files.