Written by Vince Gilligan & John Shiban
Directed by Kim Manners
At first, Monday plays like an episode that’s ripping off half a dozen other concepts that were ancient when it first aired in 1999, from Groundhog Day to Xena. It certainly starts out like another light-hearted episode which seems more determined to be a lark than anything serious. But what comes to the surface is a far more serious episode that traffics in a concept no less than the idea of free will versus fate. X-Files has already delved into the subject a couple of times before, and will deal with it a few more times after this episode, but rarely with as solemn a method at the center.
It doesn’t seem that way at first, because Monday plays as yet another episode determined to break down Mulder and Scully’s lives, this time by repeating the same day over and over again. In order for it to seem that way, it deals with the mundane far more than any other episode: Mulder and Scully are fighting against in being on time for the most boring meeting in FBI history, Mulder being thwarted not by the Syndicate, but by an ATM machine being out of service. It also seems a lot more light-hearted because what seems to be the axis on which the chain of events turn is the fact that the waterbed that Morris Fletcher installed in Dreamland II – another episode that screwed around with time with no apparent consequences to our heroes – springs a leak, which shorts out Mulder’s alarm, causing him to oversleep, wreck his cell, etc. We therefore feel fairly safe that nothing’s going to happen to our heroes, knowing that even though this story ends up with them being blown up in a bank, will lead to a reset.
The episode also has our heroes more directly have a discussion about fate versus free will when every time the loop restarts – Mulder trying to come down on the side of predestination, Scully doing to the same for free will. It’s an interesting debate, because while the events repeating over and over again would seem to argue in favor of predestination, the constant variations every time the events start replaying, prove that there are too many variables – the different ways that Mulder walks from one room of his apartment, always tripping over his shoes, the different ways Bernard writes his note to the teller, the way a different customer ends up reacting in panic. What makes this all seem ironic is that the only person who seems to know that the events are repeating – Pam – seems certain that everything is predetermined and that no matter how hard she tries to stop this from happening in always turns out the same way.
And what this apparently light-hearted episode does is completely wrong-foot us. We’re so used to seeing Mulder and Scully as the central figures of the story that we don’t realize what should’ve been obvious to Pam – that she is the key variable, and that the universe doesn’t want Mulder and Scully to live, but rather for Pam to die. Carrie Hamilton gives a masterful performance as Pam, playing a woman utterly lost in what seems to be pure hell, who has done everything in her power to stop this event from happening to the point that by the final act, she has given up all hope. The agony on her face is terrible, and it pretty much has to be, so that when Bernard finally kills her by accident, she manages to maintain a look of pure joy, even as the life ebbs out of her.
Monday is also a rarity in the lexicon of the series. We’ve had so many episodes that start out as serious, but turn out to be brilliant comedies (mainly, of course, from writers like Gilligan) that we aren’t prepared for this episode, which starts out as a laugher and ends up as one of the most wrenching ones in the series. It’s done so well this episode that you wonder why Gilligan never tried it again (well, on this show anyway).
Vince Gilligan (well John Shiban has a key part writing this episode to) continues to demonstrate why, at this point in the series run, he is the shows most consistently brilliant writer. He’s handled the transition to Hollywood far better than any of the other writers to the series (then again, he was a screenwriter before he joined the staff) and he’s still the only one who has managed the perfect blend of drama and comedy. Monday is yet another feather in his cap, and makes you realize that there are few series that could pull off a masterpiece like this.
My score: 5 stars.