September 2013 sees the 20th anniversary of the first airing of The X-Files . To celebrate this on The Hex Dimension, I’ll be providing you with retrospectives on episodes and I’ll also be covering the films at the points that they fit into the series’ chronology. So, without further ado… welcome to “Conduit”.

Gone camping

As with the pilot for the series, this episode starts out in the middle of nowhere. The American wilderness, for a brief few moments seems calm, inviting and then the music begins to get creepier and creepier. There’s bright lights, a shaking caravan – the audience is expected to know that it’s an alien abduction. A mother shouts for her daughter, screaming “Ruby”, but we the audience are made to be certain that something not of this world has taken the girl.

Consider that this is the third UFO ascribed story in the series, there’s an interesting dichotomy being set-up: out in the sticks, on the cusp of the great American wilderness you can’t escape otherworldly forces. Meanwhile, if we compare it to the previous episode “Squeeze”, you see a situation where the urban environment is no less safe, but more likely to involve urban legends as opposed to UFOs. Though really the overall idea is that nowhere is safe from the weird.

X-Files Conduit img 1 In the tabloids

From the get go this time, Mulder’s judgement is being questioned. The episode is not only a “case of the week” it’s being heavily used as a way to further explain Mulder’s background and why he began working on the X-Files in the first place. But with Mulder’s background coming under even closer scrutiny this time round, we are left wondering as an audience if we too just wanted to see what we saw at the beginning of the episode. What with the events of the opener being featured in the tabloids of  The X-Files’  Americana, the audience is being pushed to disbelieve, at least for a time.

Or would they be? I suppose this is one thing that a US audience has over anyone from outside the county, certainly the UK. Where our tabloids may occasionally sneak in stories about the Beast of Bodmin Moor, our tabloids take themselves far more seriously than the tabloids depicted by the US in their TV shows and films. If something like the events of this episode were reported in a newspaper like the Daily Mirror, then a lot of people would actually take it quite seriously, even politicians.

“At least if we had legitimate source…”

X-Files Conduit img 2 The events in Sioux City, Iowa

In some ways this episode is a bit frustrating, Darlene’s son, Kevin – the brother of Ruby – ends up receiving binary code straight into his mind, which eventually cracks the case. Even though this phenomena is referenced, hardly anything at all is made of it once things are as back to normal as they can be. The episode is basically named after Kevin – he’s the conduit, but this plot point gets inexpertly swallowed-up in the pursuit of the main story, despite leading to its breakthrough. The how or the why of Kevin is disappointingly left unexplored and unexplained.

With the closing scenes of the episode, the audience has their suspicions from the beginning of the episode reconfirmed, that something strange has certainly happened. What’s interesting for Mulder, Scully and us is how those who were directly affected by this X-File end-up wanting to distance themselves from belief. Meanwhile, the episode ends on a poignant note as Mulder struggles with the disbelief of those he tried to help coupled with feelings surrounding his sister’s disappearance and Scully gains a deeper understanding of the man she’s working with.

What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments below.