Written by John Shiban
Directed by Rob Bowman
In rewatching some of these episodes, it is difficult not to let certain predispositions towards their creators come into ones opinion. Perhaps no writer better demonstrates this than the one who makes his X-Files debut with this episode, John Shiban. About his ability it is difficult to speak with any confidence. For while I consider him to be one of the weakest writers for the series, the fact remains he would stick with it far longer than many of the better ones, lasting until the very last season. He wrote some truly terrible episodes, it is true (we’ll be encountering one such later this season) and he also wrote some gems, but because so many of the latter were collaborative efforts with much better writers, one wonders just how good they were. (Vince Gilligan clearly thought very highly of him; Shiban would be one of the fellow writers who would be on the staff of Breaking Bad more than fifteen years later.) Unfortunately, given the nature of the majority of his scripts, one can’t help but consider him a poor man’s Howard Gordon.
One can see the comparison with his debut episode, which seems at first glimpse an homage to Gordon’s Sleepless last season. What makes it have a flavor of its own is the fact that Shiban updates it to the First Gulf War. There’s a real coldness to the rage of Rappo Trimble when Mulder finally confronts him, and he calls him— and by extension, the audience— for watching the War on cable like it was a video game with no concern for the boots on the ground. In its own way, it could be considered an indictment of how the average American views war these days— except I seriously doubt Shiban was that prescient.
There’s also a coldness to the way Trimble enacts his revenge against his victims in this episode that was lacking—- he’s not interested in anything as simple or as merciful as simply killing them, no, he makes them feel a far worse fate by killing their families and refusing to allow them what they consider the mercy of death. The teaser is one of the most gruesome we’ve had on the show so far, and considering just how far we find Trimble willing to take this; perhaps the most chilling thing in The Walk is watching how long it takes for General Callahan, standing firm and reassured to become utterly a shell of himself to the point of putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger.
So we will give the episode a fair amount of credit for it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that it’s just another supernatural revenge story, and considering that it’s already the third this season, one is starting to wonder about the general laziness of a writer who decides to debut with that kind of episode. Oh, I’m not going to deny that the technical aspects of the episodes are spot on. The scene where Janet Draper is murdered by what appears to be phantom in a swimming pool is very chilling, even if it is a ripoff of Val Lewton’s Cat People. And the scene where General Callahan’s son is stalked twice is very chilling, and I’m not going to lie about how unsettling it was to see a child murdered among his toy soldiers. But it takes Mulder an awful long time to finally reveal to Scully what the hell is going on here, which is not like him at all. (I’m still not a hundred percent sure how those dental X-rays did it or what exactly they were supposed to prove.) And considering how quickly the killer is acting, the fact that he waits until two more people have been murders seems pretty damn negligent to me. I’m surprised Scully waits so long to call him out on it. But unfortunately, like the last several episodes have been demonstrating, once again our heroes seem completely detached from all of the action. The confrontation at the end doesn’t have much tension because they don’t really do anything in order to prevail, once again, an outside factor removes the killer from the equation— this time, permanently.
When it comes down to it, I’m more inclined to be favorable to The Walk then I am the last couple of episodes. There’s a bitter pang to this one that make it a bit more satisfying then the last couple, and the technical aspects are much better too. (At the very list, it had a better use of insects than The List did). But considering we don’t get much motivation for Trimble’s action, a couple too many blind alleys, and too much of an anticlimax, it’s not going to rank as one of the great ones either. Still, given who the author is, it’s a lot better than it has a right to be, which says more about Shiban than the episode in general.