Reuniting Jersey Devil’s writer and director in the shape of Chris Carter and Joe Napolitano, Darkness Falls once again sees this creative team go into the woods to face a deadly threat, but of an even deadlier variety than that of a beast person.
In many ways similar to Morgan and Wong’s classic Ice, Darkness Falls thankfully has enough to differentiate it from the earlier entry of the show.
Admittedly at first the differences are cosmetic; the Arctic is changed to the woods and the use of worms as a threat are changed to bugs, of which their origins are less extra terrestrial and more a force of nature. Instead of coming across as mere retread, Carter’s script is amazingly potent on its own and is actually one of his best entries of the first season.
Unlike Jersey Devil, he doesn’t get bogged down by themes and ideas and having to shoe horn guest starring love interests into his tale. He takes Mulder and Scully away from the streets and right into the heart of the Olympic National Forest, coupled with a bunch of guest characters, puts on the screws and has fun with his concept.
Yes, there are bigger ideas going on around it with regards to the environment, in this case disregarding the integrity of our forests, but it’s done incredibly well here and on the whole Darkness Falls manages to be a wonderfully entertaining hour of television. Where Ice was deeply claustrophobic because the characters couldn’t set foot outside due to the snow, thus allowing itself to utilise a lot of interior scenes, Darkness Falls uses its wooded Vancouver locations with an intensity that borders on being both terrifying and brilliant, and whilst the episode turns its cabin into the sole source of safety, it still manages to go outside and thus terrify the audience into submission with creepy digital green bugs which genuinely make one feel itchy all over whenever they attack. Outside the cabin may be more hospitable than what lay outside in Ice, but it’s every bit as dangerous.
The forest is large and expansive, but downright scary too and there is no guarantee of survival, so full credit to Carter for actually having our heroes barely get out of this one alive. Watching it at the tender age of ten years old, I was shocked that Mulder and Scully didn’t manage to “hero” themselves out of this situation and instead are saved just in the nick of time, but still in considerably bad shape.
The final scene between a convalescing Mulder and the CDC doctor he is talking to would, in any other show, be the means to give a hopeful conversation so we can leave the episode with a sense of comfort and reassurance, but brilliantly Carter doesn’t even give us that, instead leaving us with a suggestion that the threat ain’t over and despite all the technology at the hands of the Centres for Disease Control, there is no guarantee that the threat will ever be contained.
Watching this as a kid, the episode had a level of intensity that I had never seen before and as such made quite the impression and giving me my first inclination that not every television episode or movie had to have a clean, happy ending.
When Darkness Falls first aired on BBC 2 back in early 1994, instead of going straight to the end credits, the BBC put together a small recap/trailer of Squeeze and Tooms with the words “neXt week on The X-Files” (sic) causing a little bit of confusion with me at first when the words appeared since Darkness Falls had a very open ending that made me think, naively, that it was a two-part story.
The trailer was a reminder for those who had been with the show since the beginning and an introduction to those who were new as the show’s ratings in the UK had skyrocketed over the last few episodes, becoming BBC 2’s top rated show. I hadn’t seen Squeeze when it first aired, but the image of a yellow eyed villain who apparently went around eating livers and looking creepy appeared very promising and it didn’t disappoint.
Of course, about two years later, as mentioned in my Squeeze review, Fox Video in the UK released a special video containing both episodes edited together into feature-length format which was pretty much worn out the weekend I bought it.
Tooms was basically Morgan and Wong’s attempt to do a “proper” episode featuring their now popular monster. Disheartened by the directing of Squeeze, which basically had to be salvaged in the editing suite and with reshoots, and now armed with the talent that was David Nutter, the talented duo decided to bring back their famed villain, who had become super popular with the show’s growing number of X-Philes, especially online, and, in their minds, do it justice.
It it a great episode. Morgan and Wong run with the opportunity afforded them here and Nutter’s direction is sensational, utilising John Bartley’s lighting brilliantly, allowing Doug Hutchison to be even more creepy here than he was last time, and pushing the Mulder and Scully dynamic even further with some of their best scenes in the show up to this point.
Once again both writers seem to be the best when it comes to dealing with Mulder and Scully’s relationship, but here not only do they show how far the two have come, to the extent that Scully will falsify an alibi for Mulder because she totally believes in him as a person and trusts him, even if the doesn’t quite believe in the supernatural, but also shows in a way not quite seen before how intense Mulder is when it comes to his investigations.
We know he’s fully invested in his work, but his constant surveillance and missing of sleep here is new, and actually hints at the way the character will react to events that befall our characters at the start of season two (don’t worry, no spoilers). Duchovny really runs with the chance to explore new facets of the character, showing a gritty determination that is wonderfully explored, giving our hero a chance to show facets to his personality other than being quirky, charming and humorous.
Of course, the episode is also damn well scary as well, with Nutter running with set pieces involving a potential home invasion via toilet (a first in any movie or television show, I think), as well as the inside of an escalator. Watching the latter when I did as a kid was both the coolest thing I had ever seen and terrifying too.
Hutchison makes for a wonderful villain, and Morgan and Wong’s writing really ups the ante in terms of scale with regards to Tooms’ attempts to destroy Mulder by setting him up for assault, a scene that makes glorious use of the 1958 version of The Fly and its melodramatic score, as well as bringing back the Cigarette Smoking Man, allowing him to utter his first line of dialogue, as well an introducing a new, harsher boss for our heroes in the brilliant, wonderful guise of Assistant Director Walter Skinner, played brilliantly, as always by the great Mitch Pillegi.
We weren’t to know it at the time, but we were about to love Mulder and Scully’s new boss despite being, for lack of a better word, a bit of an ass here.
A great episode overall, its topped of with a gorgeously subtle final scene that hints at trouble to come.