Tony Black looks at the fifth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas anthology, ‘Desperately Seeking Mothman’…
Written by Jim Beard.
Edited by Jonathan Maberry.
Did you chuckle at the title for the fifth story in The X-Files: Secret Agendas as much as me? I bet you did. It’s a nice play on the 1980’s Madonna/Rosanna Arquette vehicle Desperately Seeking Susan, but you may be surprised that Jim Beard’s ‘Desperately Seeking Mothman’ isn’t actually a comedy. It’s certainly not without its darkly comical elements but this tale is much much more of a trippy, strange headf*ck for Fox Mulder which you don’t almost see coming. Beard does a great job here of making you think, especially from that title, that Mulder & Scully are dealing with one paranormal element when he’s simply doling out a huge slight of hand. It’s clever and rewarding when Mulder does start tumbling so heavily down the rabbit hole of perception and persuasion.
Taking place roughly within the show’s fifth season, Beard sets this as a case of Mulder venturing off into the middle of Virginia to pursue a wild theory, while being cautioned over the phone by Scully – and pretty immediately, Beard nails both characters, Mulder’s dry wit particularly. It doesn’t take him long either to throw Mulder into the thrall of the mysterious Maeve, and it’s precisely the point that Mulder is presented as a rather sexless character for such a sexy actor playing him, which allows Beard to enjoy putting the character in a situation where he acts very against type.
It allows him to tap into the historical Mothman legend while also subverting it, in many respects having his cake and eating it – while combining Mulder’s search for the truth alongside perhaps his own ego a touch, so keen once seduced by Maeve to help a damsel in distress he is sucker-punched by the thrall she puts him under. That allows Beard to place Mulder, whose perspective the entire story flows from, into some eerie situations – specifically his trawl through the woods as he’s assaulted by weird sounds, haunting echoes and the kind of paranormal elements linked to the Mothman legend and beyond which would look great on screen.
Come the end of ‘Desperately Seeking Mothman’, as Mulder has been so compelled by the strange woman he reacts almost violently to the sight of Scully, you’re really left feeling our intrepid agent has been tested across this X-Files tale, and that’s a testament to Jim Beard that he managed to craft that with such few words.
Check back tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Jim Beard about his story!
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