"Let's forget for the moment that there's no scientific theory
to support it."

I've always been able to forgive the scientific inaccuracies of
this somewhat convoluted version of "Me and My Shadow" because it
was a solid first effort from Vince Gilligan. The writing was tight
(with a few minor exceptions - Mulder makes some pretty big leaps)
and it held my attention in an enjoyable manner even if the premise
always sounded a bit stupid. I'm a sucker for interesting character
moments and am impressed with the character development in this
script that proved not only fun, but also insightful. Plus, there
were those wonderful moments of actual continuity - I laugh out
loud when I see the skeptical Dr. Scully eyeballing the grate in
the hotel room - and some would say she doesn't open herself up to
extreme possibilities. There are also references to the fictional
Morley tobacco company who put the cancer in CancerMan.

From a character standpoint this episode contains quite a bit of
humor - one of my favorite moments being the exchange I open this
review with. The whole Mulder/Scully interaction in the first scene
with the "I've heard a lot about you" / "We'll talk later" bit was
a welcome warm moment - complete with a rare Scully smile.

I also appreciate this episode for being one of the few times that
Scully actually acknowledges the difficulties of being a woman in
her profession. She corrects Mulder for assuming the killer is a
man, and talks a bit about the "boy's club". I've often thought a
lot of what makes Scully what she is - a woman who at times seems
to try desperately to hide her emotions - is because of the way
she deals with this difficulty. She is so afraid of being perceived
as weak because of her physical size and gender that she has
overcompensated in the other direction throughout her life and
career. Mulder's response to Scully's feminist stance is well done.
He recognizes what makes her a good agent, telling her "You never
put yourself ahead of your work." Too bad we can't always say the
same thing for him.

Something can be learned in this episode from the presence of X.
Too many times in non-mythology episodes when one of the informants
appears it is merely to hand over gift information - they are a plot
device used to cover weak writing. This is not the case in "Soft
Light". First off, X doesn't even help Mulder at all - he actually
uses Mulder to get the information that he needs and his presence
actually helps further our understanding of his character. Here we
get hints of what we learn much later about X - the part he plays
in the shadow government. Plus, as a bonus, he doesn't utter the
words "bee husbandry" once and Steven Williams serves up a menacing
and edgy performance that is sorely missed these days. That moment
when you see his face suddenly appear through the door's small window
is first rate.

From a supporting actor standpoint kudos also go to Tony Shalhoub
for his performance as the haunted Dr. Banton - there is a moment
where he stands facing X, his mouth duct taped and hands tied that
just gives me the chills. Technically, there was a lot to appreciate
about this episode. Mark Snow's score which starts the wonderful
theme in the teaser has always been one of my favorites amongst so
much great work from him. The cinematography makes me miss John
Bartley all over again and the shadow blue light special effects
were cool. 

Random Musings

-Retreads: Det. Ryan (Kate Twa) was the female half of the
Genderbender alien and Kevin McNulty  (Dr. Davey) was Agent
Fuller in "Squeeze" and later "Apocrypha".

-Scully's connection to Det. Ryan has always confused me. She
is said to have been a student of Scully's at Quantico and yet
she is a police detective in Virginia. It makes me wonder if the
FBI is in the habit of training other law enforcement officers
in forensic techniques or if Ryan was just a washout with the FBI.

-I always liked X, but having to hear him say "I'm afraid I
can't help you" yet again always made me want to just throttle
him. What is that? His signature line?

-While the actual zapping effects were cool, they just couldn't
make up their minds as to what those scorch marks should look
like. One time it looks like grease on tile, another time like
a pile of chunky ashes, another like a black smudge, and another 
like lumpy tar. Find something and just stick with it.

-Why in the world was Dr. Banton looking for his colleague Dr.
Morris West at an upscale hotel in the beginning? Doesn't this
guy have a home like everyone else?

-Don't let the fact that Scully actually gets to introduce us to
the case distract from the point that they actually have no business
being there for this one. Does the FBI have a special travel budget
for personal favors?

-I don't know about you all, but I've never been fingerprinted
when I stayed at a hotel. Which would make it pretty hard for Det.
Ryan to check the prints on a light bulb against all the hotel
guests some of whom have already left.

-Ever wonder just how deep those pockets are in Agent "I don't
need no stinking purse"  Scully's trenchcoat? She always seems
to have just what they need. I wonder if she has more than one
kind of prophylactic tucked away down there.

-I'm pretty amazed at Mulder's ability to go through a week's
worth of video tape so quickly here - especially as it doesn't
appear that they are even using fast forward.

-Just how does Mulder get in touch with X here? Put an X in his
hotel room window? Hmmm…

-The shot used to establish the site where X meets Mulder at the
end has actually been used before - in the episode "Sleepless".

"For your birthday I'll buy you a utility belt"

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