November 12, 2016
The X-Files 4.4, Unruhe: Look at This Photograph, Every Time I Do It Makes Me Scream in Terror
Summary: A woman in Traverse City, Michigan, makes a quick stop at Kelso Drugs to have her passport photo taken. Her boyfriend, Billy, is eager for her to get it done so they can continue their plan. While the woman, Mary, waits for the picture to develop, a man enters the store in a yellow raincoat. Mary goes back out to get her money from the car, unaware that the man in the raincoat is following her. He bumps into her, piercing her shoulder with something. When Mary gets to the car, Billy’s been murdered, and it looks like Mary will be next. Back in the store, the pharmacist looks at Mary’s picture, which shows her screaming.
Mulder and Scully head to Michigan three days later; Mary is missing, and there’s no hair or fiber evidence at the scene of her disappearance, thanks to the rain. Billy’s cause of death was a puncture wound through his ear to his brain, possibly made by an awl or long needle. Scully looks at Mary’s passport photo, which the pharmacist said was fine when he took it. He didn’t even know anything had happened to Mary until three years later.
The agents meet with the pharmacist, and Scully checks out his film and photo equipment. She notices that the film, branded Etap, is out of date. The agents agree that the pharmacist, who’s older and walks with a limp, probably had nothing to do with Mary’s disappearance. Scully also thinks that the out-of-date film is to blame for the screaming photo. A police officer arrives and tells the agents that there’s been a development in the case.
He takes them to Mary’s house and introduces them to Inspector Puett, who’s from the Post Office. They’re investigating a case of mail theft tied to Mary, a postal employee. She’s been stealing credit cards, and she and Billy have been using them to commit fraud. Puett thinks Mary faked a kidnapping to avoid being arrested. Mulder asks why she killed Billy, but Puett doesn’t have an answer. Scully doesn’t get what Mulder thinks the connection is with the screaming photo.
Mulder finds a Polaroid camera and takes a couple of random pictures. He tells Scully about a photographer who used to take scotographs, photos that he claimed showed what he was thinking. The Polaroids Mulder has just taken all show Mary screaming. She’s surrounded by faces that look like ghosts. Mulder thinks her abductor was at the house, and his closeness altered the photos. You won’t be surprised to learn that Scully thinks “psychic photography” is a ridiculous idea. She thinks someone doctored the images and planted them to throw the authorities off the track. But Mulder thinks the photos are a glimpse into the mind of a killer.
Mary turns up on the side of a road, wearing a nightgown and looking dazed. She ends up in the hospital, and thought she’s been given an anesthetic often used by dentists, Scully diagnoses her with a different problem – her brain has been pierced. She was given a sort of icepick lobotomy, but it wasn’t exactly up to medical standards. Mary starts to murmur the word “unruhe” in the CAT scan machine, and Mulder tells the doctors to get her out. Just then, an officer announces that someone else has been abducted. This second abductee is with a man who speaks German to her while showing her the giant pick he’s probably going to shove in her brain.
The agents go to the new crime scene, an accountant’s office. The account himself is dead, and the missing woman is his secretary, Alice. Mulder has looked up “unruhe” in the phone book, but he doesn’t think it’s the killer’s last name. Scully agrees; she took German in college and knows the word means “unrest.” She thinks the killer returned to the first crime scene and will turn up in a photo. Mulder disagrees.
A cop tells the agents that they haven’t found any cameras or film at this scene. Scully thinks Mulder should drop his focus on psychic photography, but Mulder thinks they can use them to their advantage. He doesn’t think the killer even knows about his scotographic ability. Scully reminds him that they don’t have any for this abduction. But then she sees a sign for Iskendarian Construction outside the building, and another sign in a photo of the first crime scene. Maybe the killer worked at both construction sites.
Mulder still wants to pursue the scotographs, so he goes back to D.C. to get them analyzed. Meanwhile, the killer gives Alice a nightgown like the one Mary was wearing. In D.C., Mulder gets a photo enhanced by a tech who admires the killer’s composition. The tech is able to get a good human face out of one of the ghostly faces. In Michigan, Scully gets a list of construction employees who worked at both sites, though they’ll have to do a little more to get the names of any off-the-book workers.
Mulder and the tech keep enhancing the photo, able to see a shadow. Mulder sees it as the kidnapper standing over Mary, passing judgment on her. The shadow has incredibly long legs, though. In Michigan, Scully visits a construction site and meets foreman Gerry Schnauz, who spends their entire conversation standing on stilts. He tells her that all of his employees are on the books. Mulder calls to tell Scully that the kidnapper seems to have really long legs. Scully immediately figures out that she’s looking right at the killer. “Unruhe,” she says.
Gerry takes off before Scully can arrest him, but even once he gets out of the stilts and can run faster, Scully’s able to catch up to him. She finds a pick in his pocket, so it’s going to be hard for him to explain his way out of this. He tries, though, telling the agents that he has no clue who Alice is or what’s going on. That pick is just for sheetrock! Doesn’t everyone carry one around with them? The agents ask Gerry about his past crimes, like when he beat up his father and ended up in an institution, undergoing treatment for paranoid schizophrenia. Gerry claims that he’s spent the past ten years making amends by taking care of his father.
Mulder asks about Gerry’s sister, who committed suicide the same year Gerry beat up his father. Did anything else happen that year? Gerry won’t answer, so Scully asks where Alice is. He doesn’t respond. Mulder shows Gerry the photo with the enhanced face, asking if it’s Gerry’s father. Judging by Gerry’s response, it is. Mulder thinks that when Gerry went after Mary, he saw his father in his mind’s eye. Mulder asks about Alice, and Gerry says, “She’s safe from howlers. She’s all right now.” When the agents and police find Alice, she’s dead.
Scully’s shaken by the turn of events. Mulder’s stuck on the word “unruhe” and the “howlers” from Mary’s picture, but Scully thinks the case is over, so it doesn’t matter. Mulder thinks the photo is a scene from Gerry’s nightmares. He wants to know what they’re really dealing with here. Scully doesn’t. Gerry’s taken to jail, where he’s fingerprinted and photographed. But when his mug shot comes out of the printer, it’s now a photo of the officer with him, dead. Gerry grabs the cop’s gun and makes the photo reality.
The agents are again called to a crime scene, and Mulder tells Scully that the photo doesn’t match what happened. In the picture, the cop has been shot in the head, but Gerry shot him in the throat. Scully announces that there was an armed robbery at the pharmacy where Mary was taken. The agents head over and talk to the pharmacist, who confirms that Gerry was the robber. He took a camera, Etap film, and drugs to anesthetize his next victim. Since there are apartment buildings around the construction site where Scully found him, he may have already picked out who’s next.
Mulder sends Scully to the site alone while he does something with a photo machine. Scully shares their theory with the police, who head to the site. Gerry’s not there, though – he’s under Scully’s car, waiting to drug her and make her his next victim. Inside the pharmacy, Mulder gets a new photo developed, this one showing a screaming Scully. By the time he runs outside to save her, Gerry is already on the move in Scully’s car.
The car turns up abandoned, and another car is stolen from nearby, so Mulder figures Gerry’s going to keep switching cars for a while. He studies the picture of Scully and sees a skeletal hand with six fingers reaching for her. The police can’t come up with any addresses where Gerry might have gone. Mulder looks through Gerry’s wallet and finds his father’s obituary, which says that he was a retired dentist. Well, that explains where Gerry’s been getting his anesthesia.
Mulder and some cops head to Gerry Sr.’s former office, which has clearly been abandoned for years. Mulder finds a footprint left a little more recently and realizes that Gerry took a dental chair. He’s set it up in his lair, along with a light that will allow him a better view of Scully’s face when he jams his pick into it to puncture her brain. (I hope you weren’t eating while you were reading this recap.) Gerry speaks German while Scully tries to convince him to let her go, telling him it’s already over.
Scully speaks German back to her abductor, telling him she doesn’t have any unrest and doesn’t need to be saved. Gerry says everyone does, especially Scully. She wonders if she reminds him of his sister. Did their father do something to her? Gerry blames the howlers, which live in your head and make you do and say things you don’t mean. You have to have help to remove them. Gerry touches Scully between her eyebrows and says, “You’ve got them right there.” (This is MAJOR foreshadowing that will be addressed in a few episodes.)
Scully says she doesn’t have howlers, but Gerry thinks they made her say that because they know he’s going to kill them. Scully suggests that he made up the howlers to explain the things his sister said their father did. Gerry yells at the howlers that he knows their tricks and they can’t fool him. Besides, he saw them in the picture Mulder showed him, and pictures don’t lie. Scully argues that if howlers exist, Gerry’s the only one who has them. He walks away to get a camera, returning before Scully can reach for the pick. He turns the camera toward Scully, then back toward himself, taking his own picture.
Mulder’s almost out of ideas, but another look at Scully’s picture makes him think of something. There are five headstones in the photo in Gerry Sr.’s obituary. Gerry Sr.’s would make six, the sixth finger on the skeletal hand. Mulder takes the police to the cemetery where Gerry Sr. is buried and tells everyone to search there for Scully. He spots a piece of construction equipment nearby. In Gerry’s lair, he shows Scully the photos he took of himself and asks what they mean. She tells him he needs help, but he thinks he’s running out of time.
As Gerry picks up the pick, ready to make Scully his next victim, he hears a noise outside. Mulder’s at the door of Gerry’s lair, which turns out to be an RV. When Mulder sees that the key in the ignition is on a keychain shaped like a tooth, he knows he’s in the right place. He yells for Scully, who yells back while Mulder smashes windows to get inside. Gerry tries to continue his operation, but Mulder’s able to shoot him before he can do any harm to his patient. Scully leaves the RV as soon as she can, leaving Mulder behind with Gerry’s photos, which show him dead on the floor.
Post-case wrap-up: Scully says they found Gerry’s diary, written in the second person and addressed to his father. It includes the names of all the women he wanted to “save,” including Scully. She can’t explain the photos or what might be coming. She admits that her captivity made her dependent on Gerry and even sympathize with him. To understand monsters, “we must venture into their minds. Only in doing so do we risk letting them venture into ours.”
Thoughts: Gerry is played by Pruitt Taylor Vince, who’s always good in everything he’s in.
If only the howlers here had been like the ones in Harry Potter. This episode would have been very different.
I like that Scully finds out who the killer is halfway through the episode. It’s nice when mysteries unfold a little differently from usual.
No “Mulder, it’s me” in this episode, but we do get to hear Mulder yell, “Scullay!” a few times.