season 4, episode 12, “leonard betts”
this episode should be taught in television writing classes. it’s an example of great episodic storytelling. you take a basic scientific idea apply it to a supernatural situation, have your leads with great chemistry banter over the evidence as they pursue a sympathetic monster, and then set up one of the most interesting plot lines for the series at the last second. it is genius.
leonard betts is a mutant along the lines of eugene tooms. he kills in order to get what he needs to survive. but, unlike tooms, he’s not scary or menacing. the audience can sympathize with him. he’s an EMT by trade, he helps people and he doesn’t want to hurt anybody, it’s just an unfortunate side effect. he has a mother that loves him and who he loves back. how can you not feel compassion when his mom is giving him a bath and offering up something for him to help him heal. this mother’s love is much more endearing than ole’ mrs. peacock’s. so, what does betts need to survive? cancer. very interesting idea. what if someone had the opposite reaction to cancer? as a result, betts has the supernatural ability to detect cancer in others. that is the scariest part about him and that’s what the writers use to reveal a major story arc for scully.
we see betts scope out a bar. he centers in on a man and follows him out to his car. “i’m sorry, you have something i need,” betts tells him. if you know what betts is that is a terrifying sentence to hear. he’s just diagnosed you with cancer and declared he will kill you at the same time. mulder and scully follow a lead to a storage unit where they find the man from the bar. they confirm that the man did, indeed, have cancer. it’s pretty clear at this point that leonard betts can determine if one has cancer and that he extracts it to regenerate. scully, however skeptical of the proof, can’t refute the evidence. so, when betts has her cornered in the ambulance and says to her, “you have something i need,” she’s basically hearing a diagnosis that she has cancer. couple that with the immediate danger he imposes and you have a thrilling scene. scully, shocked by the cancer news, has to fight for her life. she’s able to succeed and kill betts, but she can’t escape what he revealed to her. she sits in the car in the aftermath, distant. mulder commends her on a job well done. she just wants to go home. she, like the audience, is mulling over what she just learned. she wakes up in the middle of the night, coughing, her nose bleeding, practically confirming the diagnosis.
we are just humming along on this typical monster of the week episode. typical, but also one of the most well done. we have our agents investigate and play off each other as they try to solve the case. they both use their strengths to uncover the truth about betts and in the end they stop the monster. until the last few minutes, we see nothing out of the ordinary for “the x-files.” then, bam! just like scully shocking betts to death with the defibrillator, the writers take the paddles and put them on the viewer.
knowing what we know now, rewatching “unruhe,” do we think that gerry was able to detect the cancer, seeing it as the howlers? he points right to where her cancer is. if the writers are planting the seed there, then they are even more brilliant than i had thought.
keep your eyes on the road, lady. you are a paramedic for christ’s sake. safety first!
the bit about the electronic equipment being affected in proximity to betts is interesting. is that because he has radiation in him as a result of consuming cancerous tumors that have undergone chemotherapy? the science behind this episode is fascinating.
mulder is grossed out about medical waste. scully actually seems stoked about it.
scully’s autopsy of betts’s head is so well done. her reaction is great. and i love how she stalls continuing her examination.
joke!mulder is on fire!
we get some great skeptical scully faces and eye rolls.
slicing the head like prosciutto reminds me of what hannibal did to beverly, except with her entire body.
yay! chuck burks! scully is so skeptical of him and his methods, it makes it that much more satisfying when she goes to him sans mulder in season 8.
scully gets pouty when the evidence starts to prove mulder’s theories.
we have a danny and john gillnitz mention!
when scully suspects that betts is on the ambulance, she tells mulder to “get over here right now.” mulder would’ve most certainly hung up on scully were the situation reversed, leaving scully to worry about him.
karate!scully is bad ass.
they find the head and then they proceed to talk super close wedged in the medical waste chute.
mulder says “are we happy with the results?” like they are expectant parents viewing an ultrasound.
finishing each others sentences as they talk under umbrellas in the snow. squeeee! so romantic.
m: “i think i found the toy surprise.”
m: “it blinked or winked?”
s: “i don’t even know how to respond to that.”
m: “or you got yourself a nice paperweight.” he is way too proud of this joke and scully’s look to him is priceless.
m: “let’s get a slice to go.”
m: “confused yet?”
m: “siskel or ebert?”
m: “how evolved can a man be who drives a dodge dart.”
s: “why do i think charles darwin is rolling in his grave right now.”
m: “do you think mom knows her dead son is tooling around in her car?” that’s the third mulder joke in this scene!
m: “will the real leonard betts please stand up.”
betts: “i’m sorry, but you have something i need.”