September 2013 saw the 20th anniversary of the first airing of The X-Files. To celebrate this on The Hex Dimension, I’m 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 “Beyond the Sea”.
To me, this episode has always felt like it has two openings. The first, before the titles, where we see Scully enjoying the holidays with her mother and father, followed by her night time vision of her father, whom she soon learns has died since having dinner with her earlier.
The second opening, post titles, is when we have our “monster of the week” set-up with a pair of college students attacked and abducted while out parking followed by Mulder’s pitch to investigate. This and what happens with the results of Scully’s loss are two strands in this episode that help pit the beliefs of Mulder and Scully against each other, by putting them in each other’s shoes.
In talking about the abduction case, Mulder’s delivery of a description on the death row inmate that claims to have detailed information on it shows just how little he believes in the man. In comparison to previous episodes where he has an almost humorous edge as he breaks out X-File details, Luther Boggs is analysed by the – I would say – old Mulder who was more at home in dealing with criminal profiling and forensic psychology than the X-Files. It’s the delivery of the following which embodies this difference:
“At the age of six, Luther Boggs slaughtered every pet animal in his housing project. When he was thirty, he strangled five family members over Thanksgiving dinner and then sat down to watch the fourth quarter of the Detroit – Green Bay game. Some killers are projects of society. Some act out past abuses. Boggs kills because he likes it.”
He tells Scully outright that he doesn’t believe any of Boggs’ claims to paranormal abilities. However, Scully does not default to her position of sceptic; instead she remains neutral at this point, which Mulder does not pick-up on.
The encounter with, what can least be described, an apparition of her father at the beginning of the episode places Scully’s spiritual beliefs and beliefs around the supernatural under more scrutiny than ever. Though this doesn’t seriously come through at first – she is equally sceptical of Boggs after Mulder’s stunt with the fabric piece and Boggs.
And then it happens. Boggs starts singing “Beyond the Sea”, which we heard a scene previously while Scully was at her father’s funeral. Scully gives this look at she glances back over Boggs, who hasn’t gone anywhere and continues to gently sing, she sees her dad, closes her eyes, opens them and sees Boggs, who says, “Did you get my message Starbuck?”
You know she doubts; you know she could believe.
In some ways, it’s uncomfortable to watch the switching of roles in this episode. There’s a lot more arguing between Mulder and Scully than there would be in an episode where their roles are as normal. They’ve also switched in differing levels – Scully still remains open to logic in face of the paranormal occurrences, but Mulder doesn’t want to back down.
And viewers don’t know if Boggs is the real deal or not until much later.
Luther Lee Boggs is more sinister than our fire starter of the previous episode. He is creepy, with his unkempt prison appearance and the physicality of his visions – it’s not gentle, what he goes through, it’s violent and looks like it washes him out.
It’s eerie – Boggs’ knowledge of Scully’s personal life and her recent loss. The potential trampling of emotions and memories as Scully realises she has unfinished business with her father and needs to know if he was happy with her. Then Boggs using it to this advantage in order to avoid the chair.
Mulder is adamant though, “Don’t deal with him.”
Scully’s ability to believe in that which is of a more spiritual nature, as opposed to ETs, is potentially stronger than Mulder. While both have been raised as Christians, you’ll see this over the course of the seasons, Scully finds it easier to believe in spiritual phenomena. Reaching the end of the episode, things are back to normal, but not for the same reasons as before and this is one of the most important bits of character development James Wong and Glen Morgan achieve in this episode.
Why can’t Scully bring herself to believe? “I’m afraid to believe,” she says to Mulder as she sits beside his hospital bed. Scully is open to it all, but can’t let it in.
What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments below.