One night in New York. Doctor Grissom is in his apartment and suddenly finds the room on fire, but when a fire crew arrives, there’s no sign of a fire – only the man dead in his room – seemingly scared to death. The incident comes to Mulder’s attention as his apparent friend in the FBI slips a newspaper about Grissom’s death under Mulder’s door.
No aliens but…
“Sleepless” is an episode that is critical for understanding the overall mythology of The X-Files. Agent Alex Krycek is introduced, apparently having bagged the case that Mulder wanted (the man who thought he was in a fire, but he wasn’t). Krycek makes out that he’s on Mulder’s side, even going as far as to say that he admired Mulder even when he was just studying at the academy.
The case that Mulder is investigating is generally an interesting one. We’ve got a hint of dreams being controlled and, “It was as if his body believed it was burning,” concludes Scully after her post-mortem of Doctor Grissom. And yet what is uncovered by Mulder and Krycek shows there’s a link between Grissom and a second victim – that they were based at the same training base during the Vietnam War and encountered the same man: Cole a.k.a. Preacher, whose performance is provided by Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination).
Like the previous episode, “Blood“, there’s a lot going on about experimentation on humans. This time we’ve got troops being experimented on. Cole/Preacher looks to have developed some supernatural abilities after being experimented on by Grissom during part of the war.
Another reason to watch this episode: the full introduction of X, Deep Throat’s replacement. Of course Mulder doesn’t quite realise the larger game plan at play that X alludes to, but when he finds out that Grissom, the other victim and Cole were involved in experiments on sleep eradication in order to make the ultimate soldier – it’s confirmed that this is very much an X-File in its own right.
“Are you suggesting that Cole killed those people with telepathic images?” Scully asks Mulder over the phone as they’re putting the pieces together. They then have this banter about old times, comparing Krycek’s leaning towards the impossible as a means for Mulder to work unhindered. Of course Krycek’s idolising marks him out immediately to us: we don’t trust him, as the audience, but it’s unclear whether Mulder believe’s the agent’s sincerity.
This is the second episode in a row that looks at the cost of experimentation on humans. The procedure that led to the creation of Cole as we know him in the episode is just one in a long line of incidents that the series looks at overall that explores the themes of experimentation and governmental control. And there’s no aliens, as I said earlier.
The revelation at the end in regards to Agent Krycek’s true intentions and who he really works for is an iconic moment in the series and foreshadows some of the more chilling events to come in season two. Everyone is in danger is pretty much the keynote from this episode.