by Michelle Erica Green

Justice Gets a Second Chance

"Redrum" Plot Summary:

In prison on December 8, Martin Wells watches a spider spin a web. He has no memory of how he got there. During a transfer to a van outside, a man Wells recognizes shoots him in the chest. As Scully calls for a medic, the dying Wells notices that her watch is running backwards.

On December 7, Wells again wakes in jail. There is no evidence that he's been shot, though he still has a scar on his cheek. Scully and Doggett arrive to ask him to identify a key card from his building; when Wells says it's probably his, they accuse him of tossing it in a dumpster after murdering his wife. Wells is horrified and weeps, but Doggett scoffs at his friend's protestations of innocence and confusion. At the bail hearing, lawyer Wilson argues that since Wells is a prosecutor, he would be in danger in prison, but the judge denies bail. Wells tries to explain that if they transfer him, his father-in-law will shoot him, but no one believes him.

Back in his cell, Wells smashes the spider. He has flashbacks of a knife and of broken glass at his home. After his daughters visit, he asks his lawyer to retrieve a teddy bear from his apartment, which contains a hidden camera to spy on the nanny. Wilson wants to know why he didn't mention this earlier, but Wells says he never met her before the bail hearing. On the tape, the only person visible after his wife comes home is Wells himself, making him the obvious suspect.

December 6. Wells wakes without a scar on his face, and with the spider overhead. He is introduced to Janet Wilson, who doesn't believe she has met him before. She expects the upcoming bail hearing to go well, for the police have nothing to tie Wells to the crime scene since they haven't found his key card. Later, inmates whom he sent to prison harass Wells. A man with a spiderweb tattoo on his hand cuts Wells across the face.

When the FBI agents visit, Wells gives Scully a warm greeting and tries to explain that he is living backwards, for some reason he can't understand. She suggests that if this is true, perhaps he has the answer within himself. The prisoner looks at the photos from the murder scene and has another flashback, seeing the murder weapon in a hand with a spiderweb tattoo.

On December 5 when Wells wakes at Doggett's house, he learns that police are looking for his key card. He tells Doggett that he knows who killed Vicky, but there's no one with a spiderweb tattoo in lockup. Wells realizes the killer has not yet been arrested, and begs Doggett to take him home so he can find the nanny-cam tape. Watching the video, Doggett says Martin appears to be innocent since the sun was already up when he arrived home; someone must have tampered with the tape.

The two men visit nanny Trina Galvez, asking if she knew about the remote control for the nanny-cam. Galvez denies being at work that night, but Doggett says that's the wrong answer; she was supposed to say, "What nanny-cam?" Inside they find Cesaro Ocampo, the man with the spiderweb tattoo. In private, Wells explains to the man that he never prosecuted a case against him. Cesaro says Wells prosecuted a case against his brother Hector, repressing evidence that would have exonerated the younger Ocampo. "Because it was easy, you broke the law," Cesaro accuses. Hector died in prison.

Wells wakes on Monday, December 4 in the middle of the night at a D.C. hotel. He calls his home in Baltimore, but gets the answering machine. Rushing to Doggett's home, Wells begs his old friend to warn the police that Vicky will be murdered in a few hours. "I'm being given a second chance," explains Wells, confessing that he repressed evidence in the Hector Ocampo case, even though Wells knows Doggett will have to report that information. At Wells' home, the police have found nothing -- not even Vicky. She comes home after the police leave to search the area. Would-be-murderer Ocampo breaks in, but Doggett and Scully arrive just in time to shoot him when he attacks Vicky Wells. She survives, but her husband goes to prison for his crimes as a prosecutor.


This excellent, moody episode has unexpected twists, in the theme as well as the murder mystery. Initially it appears as though Wells may be guilty of murder, with the time-reversal working as a bizarre symptom of the madness that allows him to kill Vicky. But it would be disturbing for The X-Files to present an upper-middle-class African-American prosecutor as his wife's psychotic amnesiac murderer, so as soon as the spiderweb tattoo appears in Wells' flashback, it's easy to guess that the tattoo's owner is the real killer.

But even though he's innocent of the bloody stabbing, Wells is a criminal deservedly caught in a spiderweb of bars. In the uncompromising justice of this episode, he has committed a crime no less heinous than Ocampo's. The prosecutor has betrayed his position as a defender of the law, condemning an innocent man just because he could. We have evidence that Hector Ocampo wasn't the only one, either, since another inmate tells Wells that he got him convicted of carrying a concealed weapon that was really a household tool.

Scully and Doggett appear only as supporting players, and only because Wells and Doggett are friends; this case isn't ever really an X-File. We get a few more glimpses into Doggett's life, who appears to live in a spacious house rather than an apartment, with lots of books and videos, awards on a mantel, some art on the walls, but no photos that I noticed. Wells is his old friend, one of many people with whom Doggett seems comfortable on a first-name basis. Predictably, he is contemptuous of what he believes is an attempt to fake an insanity defense, but when he believes Wells is using reverse tenses to work up to a confession, he listens. Scully seems just as unconvinced of the temporal reversal, though she doesn't get angry as quickly when she thinks Wells is trying to cover his guilt.

It's impossible to feel sorry for Cesaro Ocampo no matter what happened to his brother. The man's a vicious thug with no respect for the lives of other innocents. But it's also hard to feel too sorry for Wells. He does the right thing in saving his wife, but he deserves what he gets afterwards. At the end, the prosecutor sits in prison, reflecting that being outside the bars doesn't free one from one's own character. It takes a murder in his family to expose him to the system where he routinely sends people as part of his job, and to make him realize the great consequences of violating the trust placed in him as a representative of the law. The courage he displays to save his wife doesn't excuse his crimes. It is to the credit of Wells and Doggett that they both understand that, and don't shirk the consequences.

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