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Review of X-Files - Episode 3x17 (66) - Pusher

by David Bjerre, September 2004

David Bjerre is the star reviewer of this site - and others.

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07 June 2006

“Made you look... How do you do it?” Mulder to Pusher

The show that changed the face of serialised one-hour dramas forever is in its absolute prime here in the third season. The dynamics between Mulder and Scully work perfectly, the sexual tension is still unresolved, and the whole UFO thing has been not milked dry yet.

Collins survelling, 28 kb

Gunpoint, with Roger C. Cross, 33 kb

A man walks through a supermarket picking random items from the shelves. He’s being watched. As he approaches the counter he notices a police car arriving in the parking lot, and that seems to be his cue. He reaches toward the customer in front of him, and pulls away a panel on his jacket, revealing an FBI logo. The next moment he is on the floor with about a dozen agents on top of him. The man calls himself Pusher, and he’s more dangerous than you can imagine.

On his way to the police station Pusher starts talking to the cop driving the car. He talks about the color blue, how it’s almost like a breeze. The annoyed cop tries to ignore him, but suddenly he drives onto the main road, straight into a big blue truck, almost as if he didn’t see it.

Mulder and Scully are contacted by a local agent, who was in the passenger seat when the car crashed. He explains what happened to them, and Mulder speculates that Pusher is using a hypnosis-like suggestion to will people to do anything. But it turns out that even though Pusher escaped from custody, he originally turned himself in, confessing to a series of hired hits, believed to be suicides.

Mulder believes that Pusher isn’t really interested in turning himself in - he’s just looking for a worthy opponent. Someone who’ll be a match for him in his little manipulative game of wits. Somebody he can take with him when he goes out in a blaze of glory. That someone might be Mulder...

Working the lighter, 28 kb

Engulfed, 16 kb

My favorite “X-Files” director Rob Bowman is at the helm of this classic episode, written by Vince Gilligan. Bowman directed many of the best conspiracy episodes and “X-Files: The Movie”, while Gilligan is responsible for many of the best stand-alone episodes (“Soft Light”, “Paper Hearts”, “Drive”), including some of the funniest ones (“Small Potatoes”, “Bad Blood”). In other words, a solid team.

Robert Wisden is the centerpiece of the episode, with a chilling portrayal of Robert Patrick Modell aka Pusher. It’s great to see our two agents go up against a regular man who can potentially kill them both before they even know they’re doomed. Mulder’s smartass remarks and Scully’s cool analysis will be useless once Pusher gets his hands on them, putting the agents in the deep end of the pool, which is usually where they are the most entertaining.

The fourth act finale with Mulder alone in a room with Pusher and a gun, is very effective. It may seem ridiculous now, but I remember that the first time I saw the episode I was truly scared that something bad might happen to poor Mulder. Maybe that‘s because there’s a great sinister tone running through this episode, a feeling that something could go terribly wrong!

UFO’s are great, but the show’s true strength lies in the way it plays on the edge on reality. Pusher could be real, his suggestive abilities are not that farfetched. Mulder even links his behavior to the way commercials affect us.

“Pusher” is also one of those episodes where we get a little underplayed moment between Mulder and Scully that hints at the fact that they are not just regular colleagues. These much-treasured moments were some of the strong elements in the early seasons of the show, and one of the reasons I fell in love with it in the first place.

“Pusher” was such a hit that the episode got a sequel in season 5 with “Kitsunegari”, which is also worth checking out.

On the ground, 40 kb

Steve Bacic stars as Agent Collins.
Bacic quote: “You have the right to remain silent...”

Not bad. Steve Bacic may “only” play a low-level agent of the FBI, but he is the first character to be introduced after Pusher in the supermarket scene. He’s also the one who gets to read him his rights and escort him out.

Next time we see him, though, it’s time for his grand finale. Pusher is hiding, and Collins is the first to arrive on the scene in full SWAT gear. Despite being at gunpoint, Pusher talks to him in a calm soothing voice, and soon Collins drops his gun and his guard.

When the X-Files agents arrive moments later, Collins is standing outside, having drenched himself with gasoline, carrying a lighter in one hand and the can of gas in the other, crying his eyes out. “Stop me!” he yells repeatedly as he tries to light the lighter. But the agents are helpless. Collins finally manages to light his lighter and the flames swallow him.

Not only is this a a truly gruesome death-scene, but Collins’ pleas for help are nothing short of 100% convincing. This is the moment in the episode when Pusher’s full potential begins to dawn on us, when we realize that nobody, not even the two agents, is safe. Sorry Steve, old boy, but you die to serve the needs of a good TV-show. It’s a worthy cause, and a show-stopping scene.

Burned, 30 kb

“Pusher” is one of the truly classic “X-Files” episodes with good reason. Based on a sinister little idea, the story is beautifully paced, littered with dead bodies, and has a near-perfect ending that will make any “X-files” fan jump screaming out of the chair. Everything I demand of a good TV-show.

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