This is one of those episodes where everything works. Not only does Brad Dourif give a chilling performance as Luther Lee Boggs, but it’s like the whole cast and crew are on the top of their game. As a result, this episode is Exorcist creepy.
However, this episode isn’t about the case, or…
I do agree that this is one of the best episodes of Season One. Although I think she’s wonderful in every episode, it’s widely thought to be Gillian Anderson’s best performance that year. But I don’t think this episode is about “Scully, and how she completely falls apart.” Perhaps we have different definitions of what falling apart looks like.
This episode is about Scully’s emotional journey. She is furious at Boggs because she thinks she was set up by him, and she screams at him because she believes he put the life of her partner in jeopardy. This is the woman who held an Air Force security officer hostage at gunpoint to get her partner back.
She goes straight from her father’s funeral back to work, without giving herself time to grieve. She sits at Mulder’s side as he questions Boggs, dutifully taking her notes. Despite Mulder’s skepticism, and her own lack of belief in paranormal phenomena, when she spots the landmarks Boggs described, she puts all that aside and investigates. After Mulder is injured, she goes on to solve the case without his help.
By the ending, she is honest about her fears. She comes to understand the truth about her relationship with her father. She is strong. She is competent. She is fierce. She never falls apart.
All true, all true!
I thought that she is competent and strong throughout, even if her world is shaking, but it was just so good to watch her unravel like this that I may have worded it a bit strongly.