"Duane Barry" has some of the best acting I have seen in "The X-Files"
Dec 20, 2008
In the first episode, against his wishes, Mulder is paired with agent Alex Krycek and they begin investigating the mysterious death of a physician specializing in sleep disorders. It is a strange case, the physician contacted 911 with a report of a massive fire in his apartment and the fire department responded and evacuated the building. When they arrived at the apartment, they found the physician dead with an exhausted fire extinguisher at his side. There is the additional perplexing finding that his body shows internal signs of having been in a fire. Shortly after this, one of the doctor's patients, a man that fought in Vietnam, is also found dead. In his case, the anomaly is that he has internal wounds that appear to have been caused by gunshots, although there is no exterior damage. When Mulder receives information from a mystery informant about a government program to create super soldiers, he discovers that there was such a unit and it involved sleep deprivation. The soldiers in one Marine unit underwent an operation that kept them constantly awake and they were the most efficient in terms of kills. Unfortunately, they also went rogue, actions that the military managed to keep quiet. There is one surviving member of the unit and with his new partner beside him, Mulder tracks him down. He turns out to have strong mental powers of suggestion; able to convince his adversaries that things are happening when they are not. "Duane Barry" is an episode that has you believing two mutually exclusive positions at separate times and that conflict is not resolved in this first of a two-part episode. Barry is a former FBI agent who believes that he has been abducted by aliens and used in their experiments. He manages to escape from a mental hospital and ends up in a travel agency with his attending psychiatrist and three other people as hostages. Since Barry firmly believes in the abduction, Mulder is called in to help defuse the situation. The head agent in charge of the mission tries to get Mulder to perform a by-the-book negotiation with Barry, but given Barry's experience in the bureau, that is unlikely to succeed. When a hostage is injured, Mulder poses as one of two paramedics and they are allowed into the travel agency. Mulder quickly starts to build a rapport with Barry, talking very specifically about his knowledge of abductions and Barry agrees to let the injured man go. Mulder has now reached the point where he believes Barry and tells him so. However, Scully does some investigation and learns that Barry suffered a gunshot wound to the brain and this has affected his moral center. Barry has become a pathological and convincing liar, so Scully warns Mulder not to believe Barry. Mulder continues to interact with Barry, building additional rapport with him, to the point where he convinces Barry to release the two women hostages in exchange for Mulder. After they leave, Mulder tells Barry to lock the door and when he goes to do it, an FBI sharpshooter hits him in the chest. The wound is not fatal and Barry is taken to the hospital, where x-rays reveal three strips of metal in his body exactly where he says the aliens placed them. The one in his abdomen is removed and under magnification, it is clear that some kind of code is engraved on the surface. On a whim, Scully runs it through a supermarket scanner and the code causes the scanner to go berserk. The episode closes with Barry escaping and attacking Scully in her residence. The first episode is another in the saga of "secret government project" that seems to fuel so much of the thriller literature. In that sense it is not terribly new, although it is well acted. "Duane Barry" has some of the best acting that I have seen in an episode of "The X-Files." The actor that plays Barry is very convincing as a victim and as a perpetrator, so real in the dual role that you believe him, even when Scully says not to. He is convincing as a sane and intelligent man losing his sanity by being buffeted by powers he cannot understand or control.
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