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 “E.B.E.”.
In the skies over Iraq and there’s an unidentified object flying around. A pilot shoots the object down. This means that there are aliens involved in this episode and that means this a key episode in the lore of The X-Files.
Shifting the action back over to the US, a trucker experiences strange phenomena – radio malfunctions, loss of power – while driving over a particular section of road and he has to stop the truck. Looking in the back results in a visit from Mulder and Scully the following morning after the driver was forced to shoot at something – they just don’t quite know what.
The first scene with Mulder and Scully, while they investigate the trucker’s report, is quite funny. There’s Scully, looking around, rolling off this list of probable explanations as to why the trucker experienced and saw what he did. Meanwhile, Mulder has some stop watches handy, forensic gloves on and a Geiger counter in hand, while he sweeps the scene for evidence.
Just as Mulder finds a particular hot spot of radioactivity and a strange silvery substance, Scully starts going into the most mundane explanation about how the trucker could have seen swamp gas. For those not well versed in UFO lore, swap gas – apart from being an actual thing – has often been used in works of fiction as one of the go-to explanations for UFOs. If it’s not a weather balloon, it’s swamp gas.
In typical X-Files fashion, “E.B.E.” sees the local authorities end-up pushing Mulder and Scully out of the local area, saying they will no longer co-operate with an investigation. Everything’s spooky and the authorities are definitely spooked.
It’s in this episode that we’re first introduced to the ever kooky Richard “Ringo” Langly, Melvin Frohike and John Fitzgerald Byers. The Lone Gunmen – investigators for and publishers of a magazine of the same name. They investigate strange phenomena and scrutinize government activity.
From a world and character building point of view, The Lone Gunmen are one of the key allies that Mulder and Scully will come to seek support from over many seasons. Their kookiness which may seem extreme – Scully thinks it’s downright institutionalable – is one of their neater aspects, because it provides a context for the way in which Mulder thinks about things and his part in the greater conspiracy belief movements of the 90s.
While the loyalty and allegiances of The Lone Gunmen never come into question, this episode also heavily features Deep Throat. Over the course of this opening season, the character of Deep Throat has moved from an ally figure to one of suspicion – having already said on screen that Mulder is someone you have to keep close – and as an audience we need to hold the motivations and actions of the character under suspicion. Scully is the one who is really beginning to question Deep Throat, while Mulder is blinded by having an ally who’s seemingly “on the inside”.
The more the character of Deep Throat is questioned, the more frantic Mulder becomes. Scully has to seriously plead with Mulder and the scene in which she does this is one of the most powerful moments in this first season. Here she demonstrates that not only is she willing to believe, but that they should do their best not to get hurt in the process.
In the final scenes of this episode, it’s almost painful watching Deep Throat recount past actions. Mulder finally receives an explanation of sorts from DT as to why he does what he does.
The shell-shocked look on Mulder’s face as they leave a containment facility has Mulder questioning everything he, himself, stands for, but he only says one line and all it takes is this one line to convey the mixed feelings that are troubling the character at this point. Mulder simply says to Deep Throat, “I’m wondering which lie to believe.”
What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments below.