April 16, 2016

The X-Files 2.23, Soft Light: Me and My Shadow

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:30 pm by Jenn

"Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior General Electric?"

“Do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Savior General Electric?”

Summary: The guest in room 606 at the Hotel George Mason in Richmond, Virginia, is trying to relax when he hears someone knocking insistently on the door across the hall. The visitor (who we’ll eventually learn is named Banton) is insistent that someone named Morris talk to him. As Banton backs away from the door, his shadow spills under the door of 606’s room. The shadow turns into something resembling a puddle of gas, and a blue light starts flashing. 606 falls through the floor. Banton uses his finger to extinguish a light, then runs from his shadow.

Mulder and Scully are, of course, summoned to the hotel to investigate the third apparent abduction in the area in the past month. They were called there by Kelly Ryan, one of Scully’s students from her time teaching at Quantico. Kelly’s just been made a detective and wants some help with the case. When Mulder meets Kelly, she says she’s heard a lot about him. “We’ll talk later,” Mulder tells Scully.

Kelly tells the agents that the man from 606 is Patrick Newirth, a top executive from Morley Tobacco (important!) who was in Richmond for a meeting. He was discovered missing when he didn’t answer his wake-up call. The door was locked and chained; the windows are all locked and there’s no fire escape Newirth could have climbed down. Scully checks out an air vent, having learned her lesson about strange abductions from Eugene Tooms.

Kelly continues that the only forensic evidence she’s found is a big burn mark stain on the carpet. Stains were found at the scenes of the other abductions as well. Newirth wasn’t a smoker (even though he worked for a tobacco company), and the mark contains materials that Scully says could come from burned flesh. Mulder notices that the mark looks like an arm, and in the place a person would be standing if he were looking out the door’s peephole.

The agents check out the hallway, and Mulder requests that the lightbulb Banton touched be dusted for prints. The lightbulb is out, but he rotates it to turn it back on. He also wants to look into the last abductee, Margaret Wysnecki. He wonders why Kelly was given this case, her first as a detective. Kelly says no one else wanted it, since it’s probably not going to lead to any big media attention. She asks for Mulder’s opinion on what happened. He suggests spontaneous human combustion. Kelly’s like, “Oh, yeah. Sure. I thought of that, too.”

Scully accuses Mulder of teasing Kelly, but he’s serious about his combustion idea. She tells him there’s no scientific evidence to back that up. Like that’s ever stopped Mulder. The agents head to the Wysnecki house, where Mulder notices that a streetlight is out and turns it back on. He thinks it’s significant that both crime scenes had nonworking lightbulbs. He snags this one for fingerprints. Inside the house, the agents find a burn mark.

Margaret Wysnecki recently retired from the Laramie Tobacco Company, but since so many people in Richmond work for cigarette companies, Mulder doesn’t find this significant. Plus, the first abductee, Gail Lambert, worked for Polarity Magnetics as an engineer, so there isn’t much of a pattern. Mulder finds a train ticket in Margaret’s trash dated the day she disappeared. He remembers that Newirth came to town via train, but Gail’s case doesn’t mention anything about trains. Mulder thinks there could still be a connection.

Speaking of train stations, that’s where Banton is right now, smoking a cigarette. He watches the floor carefully as he leaves the station and enters an alley. A police car drives up and Banton runs, but another police car traps him. Banton tells the cops to stay away and runs into a dark area of the alley. The police call him out and Banton reluctantly stands under a light, warning that he’s a dangerous man. He backs away from one cop and his shadow does to the other cop what it did to Newirth. The other cop comes closer and also vanishes, leaving behind the oily goo.

The next morning, Kelly meets the agents at the scene, confirming that she sent two officers there the night before as the agents requested. The cops are now missing, and there are two scorch marks in the alley. Kelly feels horrible that she sent her officers into a dangerous situation, and that she’s in over her head in her first case. Mulder asks about fingerprints on the bulb from the hotel, but there were no matches.

Mulder doesn’t know what’s going on, but he’s sure they’re on the right track. He guesses that their culprit was at the train station when Margaret and Newirth came to town, so he could be on surveillance tapes. The agents view a bunch of tapes but don’t see anyone they think is their guy, until Mulder wonders why the same man keeps showing up, seemingly doing nothing. It’s Banton. Enhancement shows that his jacket bears a patch from Polarity Magnetics, where Gail worked.

So the agents go to Polarity, where an employee IDs Banton, his business partner. The man hasn’t seen him in five weeks and wasn’t sure Banton was even still alive, after an accident. The man, Davey, explains that Banton was interested in dark matter and subatomic particles. (Long story short: Banton believed in the existence of building blocks of the universe that haven’t been proven to actually exist. Sound familiar?)

Davey takes the agents to Banton’s particle accelerator, where his accident occurred. Banton had to go in to make an adjustment, which is a no-no. He accidentally locked himself inside and Davey wasn’t there to free him. Something happened that left Banton’s shadow burned into the wall. Scully’s surprised that he survived at all. Mulder translates for us laypeople: Banton basically underwent a really, really powerful x-ray. Davey came in after it happened and thought Banton looked calm, like he was going to experience dark matter in a physical way, like he’d wanted.

Scully thinks the material in the lab is like what they’ve found at the crime scenes, and they could be dealing with spontaneous human combustion after all. Mulder, however, thinks they’re dealing with something else. All the agents know is that they need to find Banton. They go to the train station, and Mulder sits in Banton’s favored spot, trying to see what he was looking at on the floor. Scully doesn’t think there’s any point; Banton’s probably mentally ill.

Scully hasn’t shared any of the weird details of the case with Kelly, which is probably a good idea. Besides, they don’t have a motive or murder weapon. Mulder sees that because of the diffused lighting – soft light – in this part of the station, there aren’t a lot of shadows on the floor. He wonders if Banton kept looking for his shadow on the floor. Just then Banton approaches, running when Mulder sees him. He tries to lose the agents by getting on and off a train, but they catch him.

Banton begs the agents to leave him alone, warning that they’re making a mistake. He stops Mulder from walking into his shadow, saying it’ll kill him. Mulder shoots out the lights above them so the shadow can’t be seen anymore. He and Scully take Banton to a psychiatric hospital, and though they order the doctor to keep his room dark, Banton insists on soft light. He confirms that his condition is connected to dark matter – it’s like a black hole now. It turns matter into energy.

Banton denies that he ever meant to hurt anyone, especially Gail. He went to see her, and she suddenly disappeared. Mulder asks a dumb question, confirming that Banton can’t control what happens. Banton says he’s just trying to figure out the nature of his shadow before the government finds out about it. He’s sure the government is pursuing him and wants to suck out his brain to get the knowledge he’s been hiding. He begs the agents to hide him, thinking that his shadow won’t be tethered to anything if he dies.

Kelly arrives and introduces the agents to another detective, Barron, who’s confused as to why the FBI is involved. Evidence shows that Banton was present at the crime scenes, so he’s probably the culprit. Banton will now be transferred to the city jail. Mulder protests that the police don’t understand how dangerous the situation is. Scully stays quiet, and Mulder accuses her of supporting Kelly’s ambition. For the first time, she’s putting herself ahead of her work. Scully points out that they don’t have jurisdiction and were just doing a favor.

Mulder believes that Banton’s paranoia is well-founded (I mean, really), and that they just handed him over to the people he wants to avoid. Scully says Banton is delusional, despite the evidence they’ve found in the case. It’s not their job to explain what’s going on. Mulder disagrees and returns to the train station, where he meets up with Mr. X. But X can’t help, since his identity has been compromised and he’s not willing to put himself in danger anymore. He tells Mulder not to contact him again unless it’s “absolutely necessary.”

The light outside Banton’s cell is dying, and when it finally goes out, Mr. X arrives. He tells a nurse he’s there to transfer Banton to jail, moving in two men to secure him for the journey. The shadow zaps them, so it’s just Banton vs. Mr. X now. Mr. X lets Banton go, because he’s not about to let himself be done in by a killer shadow. When Mulder and Scully get to the hospital the next morning, they learn that someone turned out the lights purposely, and Banton’s on the loose.

Kelly’s in trouble, since she was in charge of Banton’s transfer, but that’s kind of the least of anyone’s problems right now. Mulder thinks that, since Banton is just trying to control his shadow, he’s on his way back to his particle accelerator. That’s where Davey encounters his old partner, who says he has dark matter inside him and needs to destroy it. But Kelly’s tracked him down and wants to take Banton back into custody. Unwilling to let himself be captured again, Banton takes a step forward and lets his shadow zap Kelly.

The good news is that now Davey believes Banton, so now he can be an accomplice in Banton’s plan to fix everything – or at least that’s what Banton hopes. He locks himself in the accelerator, but Davey won’t cooperate. He’s working with the government and is ready to turn over his partner. Mr. X has different plans, though, and kills Davey as Mulder and Scully arrive at the lab. They find Kelly’s scorch mark, then hear the whirring of the accelerator. They reach it in time to see Banton turn into nothing but shadow.

Mulder sees that the accelerator was sealed from the outside, most likely by Mr. X. Mulder finds his buddy and accuses him of lying – Mr. X knew who Banton was and used Mulder to find him. Mulder refuses to be used again. Mr. X ignores his question about who he answers to, reminding Mulder that he’s never made any promises. Mulder asks for just one: the promise that this will be their last meeting. Mr. X warns that this is a dangerous time for Mulder to try to seek answers on his own. Then he says that he didn’t kill Banton.

Kelly is given a police funeral, which Scully attends on her own. When Mulder meets her at the cemetery, she says she feels horrible that a student came to her for help and wound up dead. Mulder tells her that Morris West, a physicist from Polarity, reported Davey missing. He wonders if Davey, not Banton, was the person they saw in the accelerator. This means Banton is still out there somewhere. More specifically, he’s in a government lab, crying while he undergoes tests under Mr. X’s watchful eye.

Thoughts: Banton is played by Tony Shalhoub.

When I was a kid, I read a book about unsolved disappearances, and the suggestion for one person’s disappearance was spontaneous human combustion. That’s always stuck with me, so this episode kind of freaked me out.

So now we have a unique new way to quit your job: “Sorry, I can’t come in anymore. My shadow might kill you.”

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