Choosing a favorite episode of The X-Files is a very difficult process. Do I go with a classic monster story like Tooms’ introduction in ‘Squeeze’? My favorite mythology story, season three’s ‘Nisei‘ / ‘731’? The ridiculously funny ‘Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose’? I wholeheartedly agree with Carl Sweeney that ‘Home‘ is a dark and legendary masterpiece. But I think what makes all those episodes so special are the boundaries they pushed in storytelling. The great episodes of The X-Files are the ones that played with the classic TV formula and none did it better than season six’s ‘Triangle’.
It is one of the most fun episodes in the show’s history, as Mulder sneaks aboard the Queen Anne, a cruise ship that disappeared in 1939 and has now reappeared in the Bermuda Triangle in the present. Rather than find himself wandering the abandoned decks of the ship he finds himself back in 1939, surrounded by Nazis hellbent on capturing a U.S. scientist… and many of them wear familiar faces. There is no explanation as to why one of the passengers looks like Scully, while the Nazi officers wear the faces of the Cigarette Smoking Man, Jeffrey Spender and Walter Skinner or why the crewman in charge of the engine room looks like Assistant Director Alvin Kersh. But the bizarre nature of the episode is unashamedly wrapped up in a big bow that is the weirdness of the Bermuda Triangle and ‘Triangle’ fully embraces every minute of it.
It’s a beautiful episode too; apparently, there are only twenty-four individual shots in the whole episode and the sweeping grandeur of the ship – it’s ornate corridors, magnificent ballroom, steamy engine room – is captured perfectly as the camera follows the confused Mulder as he evades German soldiers and is captured. David Duchovny is clearly having a lot of fun, his bewilderment at finding the alternate Scully or seeing the nazis wearing the faces of his enemies perfectly delivered. There’s even a great story arc for alternate Skinner, who gradually fights against his superiors as he did against the Cigarette Smoking Man in seasons two and three.
The second act is one of the best scenes in the show’s history, one long tracking shot that starts with Scully visited by the Lone Gunmen in the FBI offices and then racing through the corridors of the J Edgar Hoover Building in search of the answers she needs; the co-ordinates to where Mulder was last seen.
At this point in the show’s history (Mulder and Scully are thrown off the X-Files), she is completely ostracized from everyone and that desperation shows as she demands information from Spender. It quickly backfires as he goes to Kersh and the Cigarette Smoking Man and her race through the levels of the building are magnificently tense. It is capped by a brilliant moment when she kisses Skinner as he finds her the co-ordinates and escapes through the parking lot with the Lone Gunmen, Spender in pursuit. The fact that it is all done in one shot shows the massive amount of work that must have been done to transition each level of the building and shows that when Chris Carter was good (he writes and directs the episode) he was really good!
It all culminates in a thrilling final act filled with split screens and Mark Snow’s brilliant playful score as Scully and the Lone Gunmen search the ship in the present while Mulder and alternate Scully battles Nazis as a full rebellion takes place in the past. That shot of both Scully’s moving towards the same point on-screen and then crossing paths is a masterpiece in editing. And it is capped off by the fabulous kiss before Mulder jumps off the ship and travels back into the present…
…yes that last part doesn’t make a lot of sense but I don’t think it needs too. ‘Triangle’ is a bonkers episode, visually stunning, filled with action, humour and the cast having a whole load of fun getting to place different versions of themselves. It even has that final moment where a hospitalized Mulder tells Scully he loves her and she scoffs in disgust. That must have had shippers everywhere squealing with delight, though they wouldn’t have their first proper kiss until next season’s ‘Millennium’.
How can I describe ‘Triangle’ in a few words? A bonkers masterpiece. It elicits a grin of joy every time I watch it. For me, it’s The X Files at its very best…
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Baz has recently worked his way though The X Files, revisited 133 classic episodes and both movies and reviewed them at http://www.Thedigitalfix.com