The X-Files: Roland   Rewatch 
March 19, 2020 9:24 PM - Season 1, Episode 23 - Subscribe

Scully and Mulder are called to the Mahan Washington Institute of Technology, in Colson, Washington, to investigate the death of a propulsion research scientist who had gotten locked into a wind tunnel with a turbine engine, both of which were then activated via the lab's computer, though there was no one else in the lab at the time but a janitor with an I.Q. of 70.
posted by orange swan (3 comments total)
This episode has one of the most gloriously twisted dark-humor sight-gags I've ever seen -

The cold open shows the janitor killing someone by first dunking his head face-first into a vat of liquid nitrogen, and then pulling him out after several seconds and then just dropping him to the floor. Cue the opening credits at that point.

Then, when we come back from the opening credits - it's the next morning, and the police are investigating the murder. The first thing we see is the chalk outline of the victim's feet on the ground. Then the camera slowly starts to pan up, along the legs, to the waist....then we see the arms and shoulders....

…and then just past the shoulders, there's a whole scattered bunch of little chalk blobs and circles, depicting where each of the head chunks had scattered after the freeze-dried head had been dropped.

So So So dark and twisted, I loved it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:16 AM on March 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

The frozen head death isn't actually in the cold open (the cold open is the "locked in the wind tunnel and blown into the wind turbine" death), but otherwise, yes. The shot of Roland's boot heel coming down on the piece of ear and crushing it into fragments was pretty good too.

Arthur seems to have been a particularly cold-blooded man. He got his long lost twin brother that job at the lab, which might have been seen as an act of kindness and familial love, but he did it without telling Roland or anyone else that they were twin brothers. Given that he also arranged for his head to be frozen, it seems he was doing it in order to make sure his work was finished and credited, but how would he have known he could control Roland after his death? It suggests that there was some kind of psychic connection between them before he died. And damn, were those deaths all gruesome.

Incidentally, the way Arthur and Roland's mother dropped Roland off at an institution and left him there in mid-fifties was period accurate. In the mid-twentieth century, many people placed their seriously mentally or physically handicapped children in institutions, and sometimes rarely or never saw them after that. A former co-worker of mine, who is now 56, told me she had a mentally handicapped older sister who was placed in a home as a child in the sixties, and that her family basically acted as though she didn't exist. They did not visit her; they did not mention her. Her parents had immigrated to Canada as young adults and were having a very difficult time financially, and I suppose they simply couldn't manage to care for their daughter, and so took that path.

Mulder's kindness and gentleness with Roland is lovely, as his care for people always is. The dream Mulder had about his father is a bit of foreshadowing.
posted by orange swan at 2:49 PM on March 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

Jeez, so that’s where I got those liquid nitrogen nightmares from.

Also interesting to see those old IBM battleship keyboards as a weapon.
posted by Monochrome at 7:11 PM on March 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

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