X-Files Flashback: ‘Triangle’


Season 6, Episode 3
Director: Chris Carter
Writer: Chris Carter

The X-Files series creator Chris Carter doesn’t direct as many episodes as you might think. Sure, his fingerprints are all over nearly every episode – the mistrust of (government) authority, complex conspiratorial plots, the strong female presence of Dana Scully – but he doesn’t actually direct that many. When he does, though, you’re never not aware of it. He typically makes tremendously broad directorial strokes in his episodes, most famously in “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” In the latest Carter-directed outing, “Triangle,” his directorial approach is equally flashy, but it’s not flash for the sake of flash. His choices are well-considered and appropriately juice up the material. In Season Six, The X-Files continues to take chances, and they continue to pay dividends.

It was bound to happen eventually – The X-Files had to pull the Bermuda Triangle into its mythology. “Triangle,” a stand-alone episode, begins with the wreckage of a small boat and Mulder’s body floating face-down in the water, the camera shooting from bottom up to echo the opening of Sunset Blvd. Mulder is rescued by a group of British sailors who are revealed to serve on the Queen Anne. In 1939. During World War II. Under suspicion of being a Nazi spy, Mulder is locked in an officer’s quarters just as Nazis board the ship under the command of two men who bear an unmistakable resemblance to the Smoking Man and Jeffrey Spender. Through the episode, Mulder attempts to have the crew turn the ship around to sail back into the Bermuda Triangle, a feat that is not accomplished until he convinces the 1939-era “Scully” (also played by Gillian Anderson) to follow through with the plan. Just before jumping off the ship, he grabs and kisses her firmly on the lips. She smacks him as he plunges into the water.

While all of this happens, Scully and the Lone Gunmen determine that Mulder is missing and may be trapped in the Bermuda Triangle. Scully runs through multiple levels of the FBI from Skinner to new AD Kersh to obtain information from the Pentagon that will help recover Mulder’s location. She and the Lone Gunmen eventually find the Queen Anne, but the ship is an eerie ghost ship. They board, finding no one, but wander through the ship in complimentary fashion to the events of the path. There is one amusing sequence where the two Scully’s cross paths and sense a presence of their alternate selves. In the end, Mulder wakes in a hospital with Scully, the Gunmen, and Skinner watching over him. He tells them of his adventure, and they all assume he’s high on meds. He tells Scully he loves her, but she rolls her eyes and leaves the room. Before he goes back to bed, he rubs his cheek which is still sore from 1939 Scully’s smack across the face.

The real star of the episode is undoubtedly Chris Carter who orchestrated a significant challenge in “Triangle” with its dual timeline structure and complicated cinematography – namely the illusion of several scenes filmed as one long take. Carter’s cinematic influences here include the aforementioned Sunset Blvd. in addition to the groundbreaking cinematic risks taken by Orson Wells in Touch of Evil. The screwball fight sequence between Nazi’s and the Brits feels ripped straight from a film of that era. There are also several allusions to The Wizard of Oz, none more amusing than the wrap-up with Mulder’s “did he or didn’t he dream it” sequence. The fact that Carter pulls it all off is a minor miracle given his relative inexperience behind the camera. The episode moves as fluidly and frenetically paced as the previous “Drive” but in much more confined spaces. It’s exhilarating to experience risk-taking like this with a series in its sixth season.

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