by Michelle Erica Green

I Wish You Were Dead

"Pusher" Plot Summary:

A group of policemen arrest a man and put him under heavy restraint into a police car. As the driver reaches a busy intersection, the criminal uses the sound of his voice to hypnotize the policeman, causing him to drive right into traffic. In the ensuing accident, the officer dies and the criminal escapes.

Burst, the agent who led the arrest, asks Mulder and Scully to come on the case. He explains that the criminal, Pusher, confessed to a series of contract killings which had all been made to resemble suicides. When the agents find a clue scrawled on the wrecked car, they track down issues of a magazine with ads they suspect were placed by Pusher for work as a hit man. Following the phone number in the ad, they track Pusher - real name Modell - to a driving range where he works, and corner him. Modell wills the arresting officer to pour gasoline over his own body and immolate himself. The officer is saved by Scully, but Modell hypnotizes the judge at his arraignment and goes free.

Modell sneaks into the FBI and begins to go through agency records. When Skinner tries to stop him, Modell compels a secretary to spray mace at the assistant director and escapes with the records he wanted. After Skinner recovers, he reports that it was Mulder's file which Modell wanted. Mulder, Scully, Burst, and a team of officers raid Modell's apartment, but he is not to be found. They do, however, find his epilepsy medication. Scully hypothesizes that a brain tumor triggers Modell's powers, but it might also be killing him, so he may be killing people to try to take them with him.

Modell telephones the apartment while it is being searched and Burst tries to keep him talking long enough for the call to be traced, but Modell makes him suffer a fatal heart attack in the process. They track Modell to a nearby hospital where there are many armed agents; Mulder is afraid that the psychopath might cause a man with a gun to trigger a bloodbath, so he decides to go in himself, unarmed and wired with video surveillance equipment so that Scully can see what he sees. Mulder finds the dead bodies of a technician and a guard, and a chart confirming that Modell is dying.

Modell forces Mulder to play Russian roulette. Scully bursts in just before Mulder pulls the trigger, but the chamber is empty. Then Modell has Mulder turn the gun on Scully, yet Mulder, screaming warnings, cannot shoot her, and she pulls the fire alarm in an attempt to distract the killer. Agents storm the hospital, and when it's all over, Modell is just a patient, near death.


This is not a terribly original premise - killer takes over the brain of good person, making said person perform terrible acts - and the weak scientific explanation that a brain tumor gave Pusher his powers isn't very convincing. Nonetheless this is a gripping episode because it's pretty obvious that the payoff will come when the killer tries to take over the mind of Mulder or Scully. Anticipating that makes up for the rather predictable string of deaths.

It's typical of Mulder's arrogance to assume that he can take on Modell alone...and typical of his ongoing interest in walking on the dark side, getting into the minds of murderers or letting them get into his. I wonder often whether Mulder has a death wish, but prefers to absolve himself of the responsibility of suicide by trying to die in the line of duty. It's interesting to note that Mulder apparently had a much easier time pulling the trigger when the gun was aimed at his own head than when it was aimed at Scully.

This episode originally aired before Scully's brain tumor, so I don't know what to make of the suggestion that people with fatal brain diseases may also be amoral sociopaths who desire to go on a killing spree as a last hurrah. I imagine relationshippers enjoyed this episode a good deal more than fans of serial killers, especially on a second viewing, since much of the impact comes from the risks agents must put one another in because of their line of work (not just Mulder and Scully - Skinner, Burst, etc.)

The directing was terrific, especially the end sequences with the surveillance equipment and the tight shots in the room where Mulder, Scully, and Pusher face off. The script was less successful, particularly from the point where the judge let the criminal walk. I was more interested in the idea of mind-control when it seemed to be a form of hypnosis than when it became just a generic "the devil made me do it" device.

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