X-Files Flashback: ‘Patience’

Patience

Season 8, Episode 3
Director: Chris Carter
Writer: Chris Carter

It’s surprising that “Patience,” The X-Files‘ return to the “monster of the week” stories that have been so popular in the past, was written and directed by series creator Chris Carter. Carter’s previous directorial efforts have displayed both a quirky visual style and sophisticated verbal prowess. I’m thinking first and foremost of his “Post-Modern Prometheus” which called back to the great German expressionist cinematography and art direction of the 1930s. That, even with its minor flaws and overreaching, displayed an enthusiasm and sense of joy for crafting quality television. None of those qualities are present in “Patience.”

The episode begins as an undertaker comes home, smelling of formaldehyde, to his sleeping wife after addressing a recently discovered body. As he undresses on the porch, he is attacked by a mysterious bat-like creature who then quickly moves on to his wife. Scully and Doggett are called in to investigate as he experiences his very first X-File as her new partner in Mulder’s absence. As they work, the bat-like creature takes other victims, including a local detective. Doggett’s discovery of a local newspaper clipping from the 1950s shows the body of a man-bat after it had been killed by local hunters. The newspaper allows a connection between the creature a other local residents all of whom have a scent that the bat can track. In the end, Scully is attacked by the bat due to her close proximity to one of the men originally responsible for killing a similar creature in 1956. She and Doggett eventually shoot it enough times to force it to fly away. Back in D.C., Scully agrees to provide Doggett a desk in Mulder’s former basement office.

“Monster of the Week” stories are only as good as the monsters they feature. “Home” and the Fluke Man are two of the most famous examples of the sub-genre. But, here, in “Patience,” the man-bat creature lacks a compelling reason for existing in the first place. The makeup used to render the monster is fake-looking. The effects used to show the man-bat flying through the air are fake-looking. As such, there is little investment, little connection, to the episode. There are moments of creepiness thanks to near-dark sets and some atmospheric settings, but the creature simply doesn’t capitalize on any of it. Carter’s best contribution to the episode is the shepherding of some truly fantastic cinematography where, even if the monster doesn’t warrant much attention, the camera work surely does.

Further saddling the episode are the completely unnecessary connections between the man-bat and his victims, and the hammy acting by some of the major supporting players. Robert Patrick as John Doggett continues to be a flat and unengaging presence in the series, although he does seemingly begin to engage with the paranormal activity in the midst of the episode. Still, his line delivery and overall presence continues to be such a drag on the overall proceedings. With underwritten and poorly conceived episodes like this one, we truly need someone who can cut through the crap with wit and a sense of humor. Despite their immense talents, no remaining actor on the show can work wonders with such a poorly conceived script. Watching the episode, I kept imagining how it would have been far more interesting to incorporate the legendary tabloid fodder bat-boy in the episode. That would have more for a significant improvement over this creature – less family ties and more creep.

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