Season 3, Episode 23
Director: Rob Bowman
Writer: Mat Beck
With a title like “Wetwired” and Mulder’s penchant for adult entertainment, you’d think this episode of The X-Files would be a little sexier. I’m imagining a little virtual reality brothel maybe – a virtual reality brothel OF DEATH. Sadly, this is a rather tame outing about (guess who?) a secret government conspiracy to subliminally convince ordinary citizens to commit random acts of violence. Ultimately, it’s the kind of smug, self-satisfied episode that brings the worst out in The X-Files, even if it’s competently made.
The prologue involves a man digging a fresh grave for a dead body. We don’t know how they got there, but it’s fairly obvious the man digging the grave killed the other. Later, as he is washing the blood from his hands (“Out! Out damned spot!”), the man turns to find another man in his kitchen. Horrified, he grabs his nearby shovel (because that’s what you do with your grave-digging shovel) and smacks the stranger across the face. As he shoves the body into his trunk, two police officers arrive on the scene and ultimately tase the man when he becomes aggressive toward them. Shocked back into reality, the man looks back into the trunk of his car, and it’s not the body of a strange man there. It’s his wife.
Mulder is then contacted by a mysterious man who alerts him to the crime. As he and Scully investigate, they begin to unravel the advanced psychosis of the murderer and discover dozens of recorded news clips. As they pour through the tapes, nothing jumps out at them immediately, but Scully gradually becomes increasingly paranoid. At one point, she’s convinced she sees Mulder and the Smoking Man exchanging a video tape in Mulder’s car. The next day, she cannot find evidence of the Smoking Man’s presence. After another incident happens, Mulder sees a cable repairman who was seen earlier at the previous murderer’s house. He discovers a mysterious object lodged in the nearby cable box. Further analysis by the Lone Gunmen prove this device offers some sort of signal modification that allows the television to effectively control the viewer’s mind.
Scully, meanwhile, grows increasingly unstable, eventually firing at Mulder when she thinks he’s come to kill her. After attempting to contact X for help, he eventually tracks her down at her mother’s house where the two of them convince Scully she is safe. She is hospitalized, but nothing appears physically wrong with her (I think she just misses Queequag). Here’s where the story line becomes a little fuzzy. Mulder tries to contact the original murderer’s doctor but finds him missing. Mulder then tracks him down to a house where he and the cable repairman are having a conversation. Suddenly, shots ring out, and Mulder finds X in the house having just killed the doctor and the cable guy. Mulder and X have an argument, and X tells Mulder that he had him involved in the case because X wanted to expose the men before he had to carry out his orders to kill them. So, just so you’re getting this right, X asked Mulder to bust them before he had to kill them, but Mulder was too late. Clearly, X could not wait another second. Anyway, the episode closes when X meets with his boss, the Smoking Man.
I find the whole mind-control-through-TV subplot a little Halloween 3: Season of the Witch myself, so it didn’t interest me. Plus, this “Wetwired,” while technically not a mythology episode, lends itself more to that line of plotting and farther away from the eccentric brilliance of “Humbug” or “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” two episodes I’m on the record for going apeshit over. The mind control device is never really fully explored, and it simply becomes a red herring for the secret revelation about X and the Smoking Man, something that many undoubtedly found mind-blowing but I found pointless and trite. Still, I enjoyed seeing Scully shaken and out of her mind, and there were a few tidbits of commentary about television, the media, and the like. It just wasn’t enough of a bonus to make me overlook the more mundane aspects of the episode.
Unlike Scully, when I turned off my TV, I nearly forgot everything I saw. Hey, I’m over 40 now. It happens. I’m getting used to it.