Welcome to “Monster of the Week”-Week, 2020! In honor of Halloween Quarantine, we’re bringing you an entire week of episode reviews on a thoroughly binge-able, creepy show: The X-Files! You’ll meet some of our favorite monsters, the least competent conspiracies, and some of Mulder’s most ridiculous-yet-dead on theories! Feel free to break out the pumpkin ale or mulled cider, because we’ll have a running “Drink When…” list for the entire series!
A quick thanks to the podcast Fox Mulder is a Maniac and the web comic Monster of the Week. They are far funnier and more dedicated reviewers than I. If you love The X-Files but also love mocking The X-Files, check them out!
D.P.O. || Season 3, Episode 3
We open on an old school videogame arcade in Oklahoma. A customer in a pizza delivery uniform is working away at a Mortal Kombat rip-off. The arcade is almost entirely empty. Just the pizza guy, and our two notable guest stars for this episode.
Here comes one now! Our pizza guy is approached by Giovanni Ribisi. He’s one of those “that guy” character actors. You might vaguely remember him as Nicholas Cage’s little brother in Gone in 60 Seconds. Currently, he stars in Sneaky Pete on Amazon. Basically, he’s an odd-looking guy who is very good at screaming at people. I would give more praise to him, but Ribisi is a Scientologist. He publicly supports things like propagating that psychiatry is an “industry of death”, so I’m done complimenting him.
Anyway, Ribisi arrives as Darin Peter Oswald, a country boy who’s a little “slow” but very persistent. VERY persistent. He approaches the pizza guy and says that he was playing that game, but had to go pee, and now he’s back and wants the console back.
Well one, TMI, dude. And two, no, I’m playing now. Remember kindergarten? Sharing is caring, dude, and it’s my turn.
…the pizza guy’s dialogue is far ruder than that, but the gist is the same. He keeps playing.
And now our second, vastly superior guest star enters the fray. Meet 1995 Jack Black! He’s here as Darin Peter Oswald’s lackey. Name? Zero. Hair? Grunge-era long. I love everything about this.
Darin and Zero crowd in around the pizza guy, insisting that he give up the game. Oh no, seems we have attracted the local arcade mafia. Best step away, son!
But pizza delivery guy is a bit of a douche and decides it’s time to rough people up. He throws Darin against one of the arcade machines. Suddenly, all the lights go out.
Now, if you’ve ever seen a single second of The X-Files, you know that once lights go out, it’s time to skedaddle before you get strangled by a werewolf or whatever.
Zero is all “Dude, you should not have done that.” Actually, for all of Zero’s dialogue, just assume a minimum of 3 “dudes” thrown in.
Pizza Delivery Douche is all “What’s he going to do about it?” re: Darin.
I’m so glad you asked, Pizza Delivery Douche!
A jukebox on the far side of the arcade comes to life on its own. It puts on a CD instead of a record, and a part of my soul dies.
Pizza Delivery Douche finally gets the hint and heads out. He hops into a convertible, which has the top down. Sir, that seems like a very poor choice for a pizza delivery vehicle.
He tries to drive away, but suddenly the car stalls out with electrical issues. Ruh roh. The car topper sign bursts into flames. Suddenly, Pizza Delivery Douche is seized, as if receiving an electrical shock. The death is actually quite violent, with a 20 full seconds of the man writhing. I can appreciate that.
With Pizza Delivery Douche taken out, Darin returns to his game. Jack Black gives an impeccable Jack Black eyebrow arch. And the boys watch the arcade console come to life.
Our Intrepid Agents are already in Oklahoma, the morning after the death of Pizza Delivery Douche. Pizza Delivery Douche is already getting autopsied by Scully (you can’t get between that woman and a dead body, I swear…).
Obviously, the victim was killed via incredibly high voltage of electrocution. His heart has been barbecued. He has heat-induced cataracts—which I didn’t even know was a thing. Props to this actor who not only has to play a corpse, but had to wear costume contacts.
The only problem (and of course there’s one) is that there doesn’t seem to be a point of contact where an outside source of electricity (a downed powerline, lightning, dancing the electric slide) entered the body.
This is the fifth death by electricity in this small town in just a few weeks.
Ah, and right on time, here comes the Small Town Sheriff of the Week! He wants to know why the FBI has invaded his small quiet town, where nothing conspicuous has ever happened, aside from the 5 people who have been zapped to death in the last month.
Turns out Sheriff Teller here isn’t merely a ‘mansplainer’. He is a ‘lightning-splainer.’ Greaaaaaaat.
He’s all “Do you know anything about lightning, Agent Scully?”
Ya know, I’m realllly getting sick and tired of these men feeling compelled to explain things to Agent Dana “I’m a doctor and a physicist and an FBI agent” Scully.
Sheriff Teller describes lightning as if it was a mythological entity that walks among us.
Apparently Sheriff Teller has breakfast at the local diner every day with the scientists who work at the nearby lightning lab. How quaint! And yet you have learned nothing from those scientists, sir. Lightning isn’t a mystical Fae that we know nothing about.
According to Sheriff Teller, people being murdered by lightning totally makes sense, because the local lightning lab harvests lightning through special equipment. UM. Okay, dude, but if the local lab’s activities are resulting in deaths and injuries, that sounds like something to investigate, no?
Somehow, Our Intrepid Agents came all the way out here without knowing about the local lightning lab. How did that not come up until just now? How did they come out to investigate a spree of deaths by electrocution and didn’t pick up on “oh, this place has 1000% more lightning than anywhere else on Earth”?
That means Lightning-splainer Teller gets to smugly go “Well, I guess you didn’t do your homework.” And to be fair, no, no they did not.
Oh, Mulder! You’ve decided to re-enter from hovering in the corner! Way to step aside while Agent Scully, your only friend and partner, gets dressed down by some bumpkin sheriff.
Fox Mulder: he knows ‘teamwork!’
After Sheriff Lightning McQueen totters off, Scully tells Mulder that she hopes they aren’t down here to investigate a government conspiracy and UFOs. …well why not, Scully? That’s practically routine at this point.
But Mulder’s all “oh no, Scully, I have a much crazier theory cookin’ away.”
Mulder points out that the “lightning” responsible for killing 5 people has, of all things, an MO. The 5 people killed were all men between the ages of 17-21. Holy shit, this lightning is breaking all the statistical rules! Let’s put it in mathematical jail!
The agents go to where the latest victim, Pizza Delivery Douche, died. His charred car is just sitting in the strip mall parking lot, which is frankly ridiculous.
The agents know that Pizza Delivery Douche came here after his shift ended at 11:30pm. And what was the only store in the strip mall open at that hour? The videogame arcade, of course!
The agents enter the arcade to find apparently its sole employee, Zero, counting quarters. Hey, it was a rough time in Jack Black’s career, okay? You gotta make ends meet where you can!
Scully shows Zero a photo of the victim. Zero claims to have never seen him before. Scully tells Zero to take a closer look, even though she’s holding the picture inches from his eyeballs. Scully ain’t having it today, Zero!
In fact, Scully does the math for Zero: Okay, well if you were working here, at this counter, right by these GIANT windows that overlook the parking lot, at the same time as this guy was cooked to death mere yards from your doorstep, I think you would’ve seen him, right?
And the expression on Zero’s face is just: ‘…damn it, that math does work out.’
Zero then tries to say “Oh yeah, I saw that guy playing that game over there, but I wasn’t super paying attention, and the next thing I knew he was barbecue. *shruggy shrug*” (Also don’t forget to add the supplemental “dudes” throughout.)
And Scully tries: “Well did you see or hear anything strange?”
“Well it was packed last night and really loud in here,” Zero answers. At 11:30pm? On a Tuesday? In a small town? Yeah, I don’t believe your little arcade is the Studio 54 of Wherever, Oklahoma. Try again, Zero!
“Well do you think anyone else might’ve seen anything?”
“I don’t know, I don’t remember.” Uh huh, okay Zero: you just said that the arcade was (somehow) packed with people last night. So do you think maybe some of those hordes of Pacman addicts might’ve seen something while a guy was microwaved alive in the parking lot?
Somehow, that back and forth is just stupid enough for Scully to let Zero shuffle off.
Mulder calls Scully’s attention to the scoreboard of the machine that Zero said Pizza Delivery Douche was playing last night. The entire scoreboard is taken up by the initials D.P.O.. Hey! It’s the name of the episode! Drink!
Somehow the agents realize on the spot that D.P.O. stands for Darin Peter Oswald: who survived a lightning strike about 6 weeks ago.
The machine clearly shows that D.P.O. got a high score on this game during the exact window of when Pizza Delivery Douche was fried. Buddy, I know that high score is tempting, but you just left a record of being here, at the crime scene, during the crime. That is a bad way to do murder. And worse, your accomplice led the FBI right to it!
We cut to Mr. D.P.O. himself at the mechanic shop he works at. He’s listening to headphones on full blast, playing Hey Man Nice Shot by Filter. DAMN IT that song takes me back.
D.P.O. sees a pair of heels, attached to pantyhose, attached to a skirt approaching and is intrigued. He slides out from under the car, right underneath the woman’s skirt. Yeah, fuck this guy for being a murderer, but extra fuck him for being a total creep.
The woman is Mrs. Kiveat, husband of D.P.O.’s boss, Mr. Kiveat. Oh, awkward…
But the awkward is just getting started. Mrs. Kiveat is here to join Mr. Kiveat for dinner. D.P.O., drenched in ‘desperate’, is all “Oh, are you hungry? I can get you something to eat! I got some jelly doughnuts and they’re from yesterday but they’re still good.” Oh, that’s high CRINGE, right there.
And then D.P.O. is all “Uh, Mrs. Kiveat, about those things I said yesterday…”
Oh, that is hella CRINGE.
I don’t want to know what he said, but I also totally want to know what he said.
Just in time, Mr. Kiveat drives up in his tow truck. He greets his wife and tells D.P.O. that the Eff Bee Eye wants to have a word with him.
A few moments later, Our Intrepid Agents are having a word with Darin in a back office. Darin plays dumb. …Let’s just say that’s not too far of a stretch for Mr. D.P.O..
The interview is suddenly interrupted when Mulder’s cell phone starts smoldering in his pocket.
To this, Darin just says “OK, I’m gonna go now.” And he moseys out.
*Fargo accent* He’s moseying out of the interview! He’s moseying out of the interview!
Later that night, we cut to Darin’s house, which he shares with his sweatshirt, sweatpants wearing mother. I’m not judging—that’s daily life here in #COVIDhell2020.
Mom is watching trashy TV. Darin asks why she watches ‘losers’ on TV. Momma D.P.O. answers “well at least they’re on TV–unlike you.”
Now, I must pause here and explain: Momma D.P.O. is watching a talk show featuring a guy covered in tattoos, talking about his interest in sadomasochism, piercing, and wearing a leather corset to bed. Now you do you, but is Momma D.P.O. actually saying she would prefer watching her son do that?
Darin passive-aggressively uses his powers to mess with the TV, sending it into static.
Zero arrives and the boys head out into the nearby pasture. Darin accuses Zero of ratting him out to the FBI.
Zero swears up and down that he didn’t and neither of these geniuses can realize that D.P.O. left a record, literally with his name on it, placing him at the murder scene.
Darin acts as if he’s drunk. Well, he must be buzzed on milk, because that’s what we saw him chugging mere moments ago. In Oklahoma, there’s nothing like being milk drunk.
He says he’s in the mood for “barbecue.” And Zero’s all “Dude, not the cows again, dude!” I’ve heard of cow-tipping, but this goes too far…
D.P.O. starts calling out to the clouds above, demanding lightning. Zero books it, and Jack Black does the most artistic falling-ass-over-teakettle down a hill that I’ve ever seen.
D.P.O.’s method of screaming at the sky to obey him actually works. He’s struck by bolts of lightning, presumably getting a re-charge.
We cut to the next morning, where D.P.O. has apparently racked up some barbecue. Several electrocuted cows are strewn throughout the field. Dude, this is not how you lie low. This is how you literally get the FBI in your backyard.
Not only are Our Intrepid Agents on the scene, but here comes Sheriff Teller ready to lecture the FBI about lightning some more. He exposits that the local lightning lab can detect any strike of lightning on the planet using radio waves and—oh my GOD, I do not care.
The sheriff figures that since the lightning lab is just a mile away, the lab’s equipment must be the cause of these dead cows. Well gee, if the lightning lab is killing livestock, then once again: you gotta investigate that shit!
Mulder discovers some fulgurite in the earth. Fulgurite is when lightning strikes sandy soil and a sort of glass is formed. Mulder notices something very odd (and insanely lucky): a shoeprint has been fused into the fulgurite. Oh you know this is going in Mulder’s trophy case or rogue’s gallery or wherever he keeps his X-Files souvenirs.
Next thing we know, Scully has made a plaster imprint of the boot print. And even more lucky, there was antifreeze on the bottom of the boot.
Boot? Antifreeze? Also this is right behind Darin Peter Oswald’s house? That’s all crack detective Mulder needs! Cleary this kid has lightning powers. What a super lucky guess, Mulder!
Meanwhile, a traffic light at a 4-way intersection is going berserk. Seems there’s mutant shenanigans afoot! D.P.O. is camped out nearby, enjoying the ensuring chaos and skyrocketing insurance premiums. Yeah, this kid is a goddamned sociopath.
Zero arrives. He greets Darin with his 50th “dude” of the episode. *confetti*
D.P.O. regales Zero with his humble plans to confess his love to Mrs. Kiveat and murder Mr. Kiveat. SO-CI-O-PATH.
Now it’s Zero’s turn to do some math! Okay, dude, let’s review:
1) Mrs. Kiveat was your teacher and she failed you. This is not a prime candidate for your star-crossed lover.
2) Mrs. Kiveat is married to Mr. Kiveat, your boss. He dies, you lose your job.
3) Also, Mr. Kiveat fixes stuff and owns a business rather than using lightning powers to constantly break stuff—like cows and human beings.
4) Are you seriously talking about murdering your boss while the FBI is eyeballing you?
But Darin remains committed to proving how special he is to Mrs. Kiveat. Zero has this look on his face like “Uh oh, my best bud’s a sociopath with lightning powers ….Oh this is going to go so badly…”
Our Intrepid Agents have arrived at the Oswald house. While Darin is away at work, aka causing mayhem like Mayhem, Momma D.P.O. lets the agents search his room. To be fair, his mom stands up for him. She insists that while her son has problems, he would never hurt anyone. It’s a darn shame that she’s dead wrong (har, har).
The agents examine D.P.O.’s room. Audience Advisory: there’re a lot of blacklight posters. *shudder* It ain’t pretty.
Scully notices that D.P.O.’s shoe size is the same as the boot print they found. Throw that in the ‘clue pile.’
Mulder discovers that D.P.O. is keeping a yearbook photo of a teacher named “Mrs. Kiveat” in a spare Playboy magazine. …Mulder, what evidence did you think you would find in a Playboy magazine? Just curious.
The agents make the connection that Darin works at the Kiveat Autobody Shop. That’s super cringe, yes, but it in fact has nothing to do with the current investigation.
We return to the aftermath of D.P.O.’s little traffic light prank. Ambulances, the sheriff’s department, and tow trucks are on scene. Included is none other than Mr. Kiveat in his tow truck. Uh oh—seems a trap has been laid!
Mr. Kiveat suddenly has pain in his left arm. Uh oh. He starts to collapse and spots Darin and Zero staring at him from the crowd. I must say, between the two of them, Jack Black delivers a superior death glare.
Paramedics rush to help Mr. Kiveat. Zero says they should go, but Darin approaches the chaotic scene. Seems he has more plans in mind for Mr. Kiveat.
The paramedics get a crash cart to jolt Mr. Kiveat, but “somehow” the battery’s dead. D.P.O. stands directly over Mr. Kiveat, who has this look on his face like ‘get this creep OUT of here.’
D.P.O. lays his bare hands on Mr. Kiveat’s chest and gives him a lifesaving jolt.
Dude, not subtle. Not laying low. Like at all. AT. ALL.
Later, we see that Mr. Kiveat has lived but is hospitalized. Mulder bumps into Mrs. Kiveat and asks her some questions about Darin. Mrs. Kiveat isn’t much help, as she has much more important things to do like stay by her sick husband’s bedside. Fair enough!
Scully arrives and shows Mulder the electrocardiogram of when Mr. Kiveat was touched by Darin. The readout indicates that a strong electrical charge went through Mr. Kiveat’s body.
D.P.O., this is how you get arrested and sent to X-Files jail, okay? You can’t be pulling Rescue 911 stunts like this!
Mulder announces that he’s going to look at D.P.O.’s patient file from when he was struck by lightning several weeks ago. Oh, what a whacky world we lived in before HIPPA.
Mulder discovers that when Darin was struck by lightning, he had abnormal electrolyte readings. That’s it! That’s all the evidence Mulder needs! It’s a Lightning Man!
We then get an impressively bad dialogue exchange:
Scully: “So you’re saying he’s a lightning rod?”
Mulder: “No, Scully, I’m saying he is lightning—and we must act before he strikes again!”
Oh god, Mulder, even you are better than that line.
The agents return to the Oswald residence to see D.P.O. heading out to the pasture. They call out to him, but Darin seems to think he can just mosey away from this problem. And why not? They let him mosey out of an interview earlier.
Mulder makes the mistake of reaching out and touching D.P.O.. He doesn’t get shocked or anything, but he does get screamed at by Giovanni Ribisi, which is very unpleasant and scary.
Somehow, this is enough to bring Darin in for questioning.
Scully’s all “Why did you run when you saw us?” And D.P.O.’s all “I was just out for a walk.” And to be fair, he is correct: he did not run, he merely moseyed.
Darin makes the point that he saved his boss’s life. And Scully answers that “we’re not so sure.”
…Well he did actually do that, you just don’t know if he caused the man to need saving in the first place.
D.P.O. does the worst ‘I’ll ask questions to pretend I’m innocent’ routine. Like “Oh yeah, well who’s even been saying stuff about me? Have you been talking to Zero? Zero didn’t tell you I have lightning powers and have been murdering people right? Because I totally haven’t!”
Mulder is unsatisfied with the lack of THE TRUTH in the interview. He says “We should run a full set of lab tests on this guy.”
And how do you plan on getting a warrant to do that, buddy? I would love to know. “We may have found the next Static Shock! …Or, I guess, the anti-Static Shock!”
The agents decide that the only person they have to turn to for answers is Mrs. Kiveat. …wait, how? The suspect literally brought up his buddy Zero. Like, maybe Darin’s afraid you’ll talk to Zero and LEARN EVERYTHING.
But no, the agents go off to pester Mrs. Kiveat. We find out that Mrs. Kiveat has been having a real rough time, ya’ll. She reveals that Darin has been stalking her via phone calls and such for months. She said she felt sorry for him, so she never told anyone. Hey all: fuck that politeness. If someone is doing that to you, they get no more “feel bad for me” cards.
It turns out that D.P.O. told Mrs. Kiveat a few days ago (remember the earlier scene when he was all “about what I said”?) about him having lightning powers and being a murderer. Mrs. Kiveat, once again, is not really a ‘take initiative’ sort. She didn’t take him seriously at first, and then was afraid for herself and her husband. Yeah, and that worked great! Now your husband’s in the hospital!
Scully makes the very silly statement that Mrs. Kiveat and her husband don’t have to be afraid and are safe now. Really, Scully? Really? How, exactly? A mad man with lightning powers is out to get them. Is the plan to charge D.P.O. because he told someone he has super powers? I don’t see that going over well.
The agents head back to the local sheriff’s station where they left D.P.O. in lock up. But he’s bolted, as it were.
Sheriff Lightning-splainer says he released their suspect. …fair enough given that their arrest warrant basically said “We’ve captured the human Pikachu.”
Mulder then conveniently wanders off while Sheriff Teller tells off Scully (of ALL fucking people!) that there is no scientific basis for this charge. Damn it, Mulder!
With D.P.O. on the loose, the agents rush to the hospital to protect the Kiveats. But while the agents have completely forgotten about Zero’s existence, D.P.O. certainly hasn’t.
Back at the arcade, Zero is turning off all the lights at the end of his shift. But suddenly the Mortal Kombat rip-off comes to life.
“Dude?” he asks of the darkness.
The jukebox flares to life and plays Hey Man Nice Shot. Ruh roh…
Zero tries to make a run for it… but not really. He starts to run, then just kinda stops and stomps his feet saying he didn’t do anything.
Thunder rumbles above and Zero gets fried by a bolt of lightning. …somewhat hilariously, his pockets spill all their quarters. Coins go flying across the parking lot.
The agents arrive at the hospital and Mulder, for once, is proactive. He tells the floor nurse to call security and get the hospital shut down. The agents meet up with the Kiveats. Scully must now rather awkwardly admit to Mrs. Kiveat that she was talking out of her ass about the whole “you’re safe” bit.
Suddenly, the lights go out. The floor elevator dings and the doors start to open. The agents very responsibly point their guns at a closed elevator door. But as the doors open, they only reveal a very dead Zero.
…well how the hell did Darin get his body all the way over here? Did he use some galvanism to make the body walk around, Frankenstein style? Cause that would be super cool! …oh, what’s that script? You took a nap and forgot about how to explain that? Well all righty…
Mulder tells Scully to stay with the Kiveats, he’ll go catch D.P.O.. Oh, time to split the party again!
Mulder tries to catch D.P.O. in the stairwell, but somehow D.P.O. is already in the hospital ward.
Scully draws her gun on D.P.O. and orders him to stand down. …but it’s Scully so we might as well set a timer for when she’ll have that gun taken away from her by the villain. D.P.O. ignores Scully and commands Mrs. Kiveat to come with him.
Mrs. Kiveat, terrified, acquiesces to D.P.O.’s demands. …and Scully just kinda lets this happen.
Great person, fantastic doctor, worst FBI agent.
D.P.O. and Mrs. Kiveat wind up in the parking lot, holding hands. Aw, how sweet—oh that’s right, this is a hostage situation, my bad.
A terrified Mrs. Kiveat asks where they’re going. D.P.O.’s plan didn’t get this far. It probably just read “Use Zeus powers for videogames + murder (pew pew!); Threaten my teacher into going out with me; ????; Profit!”
But Darin assures that they can go wherever they want. He gestures to cars in the lot and they come to life. Yes, remotely turning a car on, a preternatural wizardry we take for granted in 2020.
They could take an Accord, or a Maxima… Ah yes, only the best getaway cars for his lady hostage.
At this point, Sheriff Teller decides to arrive. Mrs. Kiveat immediately bolts and D.P.O. chases after her. Mulder finally fucking shows up and snags Mrs. Kiveat, bringing her into the shadows.
D.P.O. stands in a clearing, getting very upset that Mrs. Kiveat won’t come out and be his hostage.
Sheriff Teller approaches, trying to assert some kind of authority, and you can imagine how well that goes. Zap zap! Where’s your lightning-splaining now, Sheriff?
D.P.O. starts screaming his fucking head off, raging. You could have this scene with no electricity powers involved and it would be just as terrifying. Honestly, I hope they only had to do this in one take, because it looks like the actor is about to scream himself into an aneurysm.
Suddenly a fury of lightning bolts strike D.P.O.. Seems the lightning is fully over his bullshit. D.P.O. collapses to the ground, twitching and smoking.
We next see Mulder and Scully observing D.P.O. in a cell at a psychiatric hospital. Somehow the local DA has no idea how to possibly build a legal case against Darin. …uh, even though he stalked and abducted a woman? How about that?
That’s what I don’t get—I’m all for the Batman approach of ‘meh, let’s put these freaks in a hospital instead of jail.’ But D.P.O. wasn’t ill—he’s just someone who wants to hurt people.
We see inside D.P.O.’s cell that he at least has a TV… and he’s changing the channels with his powers…
We’re played out by a Vandals’ song that screams ‘diarrhea’ repeatedly. Well that’s unpleasant. Thanks, episode.
This is a well-remembered ‘monster of the week’ episode. It has notable guest stars who do a great job, it has funny moments, and the plot is one of the most straight forward you could hope for.
But the episode lacks elements that make for a ‘great’ X-Files episode. Everything is a half measure. For example, Mulder and Scully actually do their jobs and yet accomplish nothing for the entire episode.
The quintessential ‘creepy’ factor beyond the character D.P.O. being a garden-variety creep. The special effects are muted. D.P.O. even has makeup marking a vicious scar on his back from when he was struck by lightning, but you can barely see it in any of the shots. But maybe for some viewers, this is an episode that doesn’t make you want to puke–rarer than you might think!