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 “Roland”.
I’ll give this episode one thing, having a group of scientists/engineers who are working on creating a new plane engine makes for an interesting setting for this episode. The controlled nature of the wind tunnel and its needs for precision are all starkly brought into the fore.
Unfortunately for us, we know something doesn’t belong from very early on and we watch this aspect closely. It’s strange, the portrayal of a disabled person in this instance instantly singles out the character, because of the high-tech, industrial scenario around Roland. The audience know as soon as they see him that Roland will be a part of whatever is about to go down and necessitate a visitation by Mulder and Scully.
What we end up having is a murder mystery with Rain Man like elements.
“And they’re not supposed to come back,” Roland says ominously during an encounter with Mulder and Scully in his sheltered accommodation. Mulder and Scully’s theorising in this episode is all over the place. They can’t quite bring themselves to believing Roland is responsible, and it takes (by the series’ standards) an awfully long time for Mulder to come up with an X-Files like explanation for the deaths.
The audience isn’t quite let in on the supernatural source before Scully and Mulder, we only know that Roland is the source of the deaths involved. It takes a long for it to be revealed that Roland and the now dead Doctor Arthur Grable were probably twins. In terms of narrative mechanics in the X-Files universe, by this point in season one, everyone knows to be wary of twins, so it just seems silly that it took most of the episode for some psychic death link scenario to be named.
Zeljko Ivanek’s portrayal of Roland is quite compelling. His world is slowly turned on its head, with the deaths drastically affecting him. Once it’s hypothesised that Arthur Grable – human popsicle – is reaching out to the world through Roland, I really felt for the character being torn between what he knew was right and the visions and action Arthur was apparently pushing upon his twin brother.
Too much of the same
As I mentioned in my previous retrospective, on “Born Again”, this episode is the fourth one in the series that has a deceased individual reaching out form some kind of afterlife to wreak havoc among the living. Nearing the end of this look back at the first season, I do feel somewhat cheated that the dead came back so much during it.
What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments below.