Paper Hearts | K Files | X Files Podcast | Case File 404
The K Files agents are deep into a 10 episode investigation of human monsters on The X Files! Open the drawer labeled S for Serial Killers, pull out the jacket on John Lee Roche, and review Paper Hearts with us below:
Paper Hearts offers an early window into what really happened to Samantha, though we disregarded it when it aired (1996, 10+ years ago, yikes), because we knew it was ALIENS. This episode was written by darkness specialist, Vince Gilligan, directed with motility by Rob Bowman, and features a very extra special performance from the man who would be, Roche, Tom Noonan.
Similar to other killers on the show like Pusher, the monster in Paper Hearts has a special connection with Mulder – they share dreams. Mulder has lots of dreams over the course of TXF, but Paper Hearts is unique in the way it puts Mulder in Roche’s head. Mulder had helped to apprehend Roche several years earlier and his brain has seemingly never stopped trying to solve the case: Roche claimed more victims than were found and Mulder has always wondered. His subconscious seems to be as competent at profiling and solving mysteries as his conscious mind.
That’s our Mulder. Look how athletic he is even:
Dreams are frequently used on the show to provide windows into the fears and concerns of the characters. Mulder has been mulling the Roche case and his beautiful, associo-poetic mind can’t help but see all the connections – later in the seventh season, we discover that while Roche did not kill Samantha, her true fate was not far off. On some level, Mulder has been preparing himself for the eventuality that his sister died a long time ago for many years. But! The strange twist in Paper Hearts is that in this story, the little girl lives! The only real blood in the episode is Roche’s, paying for his sins with death, atonement for the many worlds he destroyed.
When we talk about these human monsters on the show, we’re talking about some very real fears in the hearts of the characters which allow the characters to see themselves more fully and answer the questions they are asking in their lives. Mulder fears that his sister is really long dead and Roche pops up to taunt him with the very real prospect. Donnie Pfaster gives ventilation to Scully’s concerns about the nature of God and how evil men contort that truth.
Killers like these on the show are more chilling than mutants like the Flukeman because they appear human and commit violent acts against other humans – nothing the supernatural can concoct compares to Roche talking glibly about murdering young children.
Paper Hearts in general is very cinematic (kudos to the sophisticated directing from Bowman) and the overall effect combined with the “banally repellant” performance from Noonan makes for a compelling episode.
The truth is already here.