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Recap / The X-Files S01 E20 "Darkness Falls"

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Season 1, Episode 20:

Darkness Falls
Don't let the bed-bugs bite.
Written by Chris Carter
Directed by Joe Napolitano

Scully: An insect is a complex animal. It would take years and years to evolve.
Mulder: Well, then maybe what we’re dealing with isn’t a mutation at all. What if it’s some kind of... extinct insect larvae in that ring, deposited during a period of volcanic activity, brought up through the tree’s root system. Ancient insect eggs. Thousands, maybe millions of years old lying dormant until...
Spinney: Until those loggers cut down that tree.

Mulder and Scully are called out to the Olympic National Forest in northwest Washington state to investigate the possible involvement of an ecoterrorist group in the disappearance of a logging crew. There, they meet Larry Moore (Jason Beghe), a park ranger who's also investigating the disappearance, Steve Humphreys, the head of security for the logging company, and Doug Spinney (Titus Welliver), the leader of the ecoterrorists suspected in the loggers' disappearance. Instead of ecoterrorism, however, they instead find a new species of insect that was accidentally released by the loggers when they chopped down an old-growth tree, which swarms at night and cocoons its victims alive. And given that the tires on Moore's truck are blown, they're all now trapped in the forest with a dwindling supply of fuel for the generator...


  • All Webbed Up: How the victims are found.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: Spinney and his fellow ecoterrorists. Despite the episode otherwise featuring a Green Aesop about logging, they're still portrayed as assholes who only make the problem worse.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Averted; this is one case where Scully has no particular objection to Mulder's theories about what they're dealing with.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Scully asks why they are looking at a photo of loggers.
    Scully: Right, but what am I looking for?
    Mulder: Anything strange, unexplainable, unlikely... boyfriend?
  • The Big Board: Mulder's slideshow.
  • Bug War
  • Don't Go in the Woods
  • Doomed Contrarian: Humphreys.
  • Eaten Alive: The bugs suck all the fluids out of their victims' bodies while the victims are still alive.
  • Fade to White: Fade to Green in this case, as the last three survivors are swarmed by the insects in a jeep.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Metaphorical. The bugs attack because they were let out when the ancient (protected) trees were cut down.
  • Green Aesop
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Both the loggers—who routinely cut down trees they're not supposed to—and the environmentalists—who sabotage everything including the equipment the survivors need to get out when the bugs are released—are not viewed sympathetically.
  • Hassle-Free Hotwire: Averted. It seems to have taken Humphreys hours to actually get it to work, and that's before you get to the drive that came after it…
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Doug Spinney, which is promptly lampshaded when their escape vehicle is stopped by one of his own Caltrops.
  • Hospital Surprise
  • Karmic Death: Spinney alleges this in the case of the loggers. He himself is done in by his own caltrops.
  • My Car Hates Me: The pickup truck certainly seems to hate Humphreys. Him not just getting out of the vehicle is justified by the car door being blocked by a rock lying on the road.
  • Pop the Tires: Ecoterrorists set up a tire spike on a road in the woods. Mulder, Scully, a guy from Federal Forest Service, and a guy from the logging company are screwed up because they have only one spare tire and must hike to the place they were heading.
  • Primal Fear:
    • Spiders. The bugs aren't really spiders, but they look similar to them, weave cocoons out of spiderweb-like thread, and are even referred to as spiders a few times.
    • Darkness. The bugs swarm in darkness.
      Spinney: The darkness is our enemy.
  • The Swarm
  • Tempting Fate: "Come on, Scully, it'll be a nice trip to the forest."
  • Villainous Rescue: The shadowy government agents show up in hazmat suits to save Mulder, Scully, and Moore before they were completely drained of fluid. The show ends with them promising to use massive pesticides in the region to ensure the bugs are wiped out.