X-Files Flashback: ‘Redrum’

Redrum

Season 8, Episode 6
Director: Peter Markle
Writer: Steven Maeda, Daniel Arkin

The X-Files‘ “Redrum” is a gimmick episode. The central conceit has its protagonist – prosecutor Martin Wells (Joe Morton, Scandal) – living each day in reverse, accused of murdering his wife. The plus for this kind of episode is that we get a bit of a reprieve from the standard cast and mythology. That’s also a bit of a curse, to be honest, as we don’t really see very much of Scully which makes the episode feel less like an episode of The X-Files and more like a Twilight Zone outing. Ultimately, “Redrum” is a good episode, but not an episode that inspires a great deal of passion.

We open the episode with a worst-case-scenario situation. Wells awakens in his cell and is soon prepped for a transfer. As the transfer takes place, he is shot by someone in the crowd, and, as he dies, he notices Scully’s watch ticking backwards. The next morning, Wells wakes up again – one day earlier but with the memory of what happened to him. This happens each day through the episode, allowing Wells to piece together some sense of what happened to him before (after?) it actually happens. We discover he has a friendly connection with John Doggett (Robert Patrick), and, as he moves backward in time, Wells is able to convince Doggett of his innocence. Wells’s frequent memory flashes soon reveal his wife’s killer to be a man (Danny Trejo) with a spider web tattoo on his hand. Wells and Doggett are eventually able to save Wells’s wife from death even if Wells himself must face judgment over his own flaws. The man with the spider web tattoo tried to murder Wells’ wife because Wells had suppressed evidence on his brother’s criminal conviction. Wells ends the episode in prison, serving time for his crimes.

“Redrum” is a fine enough episode. It’s intelligently scripted. The quirky gimmick that drives the episode feels well thought out and effectively conducted. The acting by Morton and fellow Scandal star Bellamy Young is convincing enough. So, given all the elements are in place, then why doesn’t “Redrum” resonate more? It’s hard to say, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a perfectly well executed and average episode of television. They can’t all be ground-breakers for sure.

“Redrum” doesn’t particularly haunt you as much as it does deliver a happy ending. Sure, Morton is still in prison, but he’s managed to save his wife’s life and serve time for a crime he actually committed. In that way, The X-Files takes on a significant moral tone when it hasn’t in previous seasons. But the audience still takes comfort in the fact that a man is imprisoned for a just reason, his wife and children are safe at home, and the universe mysteriously helped correct a wrong through supernatural influences. As with many recent episodes, the “whys” aren’t really in place, but it almost doesn’t matter in “Redrum.” Morton does such a good job of engaging you in his plight that you care more about his character than you do about the plot itself. That’s probably an effective trade-off in the end.

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