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Recap / The X-Files S02 E04 "Sleepless"

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Season 2, Episode 04:

"I keep seeing the faces. Every day I see... ah, what’s the difference? We’re all going to Hell, right?"
Written by Howard Gordon
Directed by Rob Bowman

Mulder: What if Cole has somehow developed the ability to project his unconscious?
Scully: Are you suggesting that Cole killed those people with telepathic images?

When Mulder's mysterious source gives him a tip on a case, Mulder is nonplussed to discover that it is already being investigated by another agent, one Alex Krycek. The case involves a noted sleep scientist who shows every sign of having burned to death—except without any fire. Mulder and his new partner must work together to uncover a government atrocity 24 years in the making—but is Krycek really all that he appears to be?


  • Anti-Villain: Preacher has been left with a decidedly skewed idea of retribution by the experiments that were performed on him against his will, removing his ability to sleep but not his exhaustion from sleeplessness.
  • Do with Him as You Will: Preacher lets the ghosts/apparitions of the Vietnamese civilians whom he and his unit killed during the War and who follow him around kill his former squad-mates and superiors.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When Willig is confronted by Preacher's illusory death squad, he closes his eyes and quietly accepts his fate.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Surprisingly subverted. The climax scene starts out as Cole stares at a jagged pipe below him and contemplates suicide by jumping for it. When he is shot by Krycek, he doesn't lose his balance and fall over backwards to be impaled by the pipe, despite what the lingering shot of the pipe heavily suggested, but he collapses sideways and bleeds out on the floor.
  • The Insomniac: The sleep deprivation soldiers had their brain stems altered to the point where they could never sleep at all. This extends to Preacher, who was a member of that batallion.
  • I Work Alone: Mulder says the exact words to Krycek.
  • Just Following Orders: Dr. Girardi says that of his participation in the experiments. Cole doesn't buy it.
  • Mysterious Informant: We meet X in the flesh for the first time this episode
  • The Reveal: Krycek is a mole for the Cigarette Smoking Man.
  • Scary Black Man: Tony Todd, no less. Averted with X, however.
  • Science Is Bad: Lampshaded by X:
    X: Science had just put a man on the moon. So they looked to science to help win a losing war.
    Mulder: And Willig and Cole were the lab rats.
    X: Lab rats with the highest kill ratio in the Marine Corps.
  • Shoot Him, He Has a Wallet!: Done intentionally by the victim with a bible.
  • The Sleepless: The "cannot sleep" variant.
  • The Vietnam Vet: The experiments to remove the ability to sleep happened to the men during their time serving in Vietnam.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Mulder describes Preacher's dream powers as such.
    Mulder: In all those years without REM sleep, maybe Cole built a bridge between the waking world and the dream world. A collective unconscious. And what if, by existing consciously in the unconscious world, he developed the ability to externalise his dreams and effectively alter reality.

"Good... night."