Friday, August 02, 2013

Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (X-Files)

The all powerful, mysterious villain from The X-Files known as The Smoking Man or The Cancer Man (owing to his penchant for Morley cigarettes) is a well crafted (and well acted by William B. Davis) character. Starting from all black, the character starts showing vulnerabilities of a normal human-being as the series progresses.

The episode Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man reveals a lot about the history and character of this person whose real name till this point is only a matter of speculation. He has been a master assassin in his youthful days who was actually behind the assassination of historical figures like John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King (both well shot re-enactment sequences in sepia; written and directed even better) in past. He has been running an alternate power center about which even the presidents are not aware (I work hard each day so that no president knows that I even exist), where he reprimands J Edgar Hoover for letting Martin Luther King situation out of hand and decides to take the matter in his own hands (I will do it myself. I have too much respect for the man). What more - he may have even fixed Olympic matches (What's the matter. Don't you believe in miracles ?).

The humane part is shown when we learn that this ruthless-scheming-powerful man's secret desire is to become a successful albeit anonymous spy thrillers writer. He is inspired by Howard Hunt, the writer who exposed Watergate conspiracy (All The President's Men) and wants to write like Tom Clancy (The writer of Jack Ryan series). A particular ironic but well enacted scene is when this hard talking, domineering character bungles and bumbles like an expectant new writer while discussing his first story with a publisher on phone where is his idea of story cover is struck down. And when the story does get published, he excitedly buys the magazine from the stand and is utterly crestfallen that editor has changed the ending.

This character has been bestowed with some great hard-boiled dialogs but the dead-pan monologue which he goes on to expound immediately after this disappointment while seated beside a rag picker munching a chocolate from a trash-bin is classic stuff :

"Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable(sic), because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you're stuck with this indefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there's nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there's a peanut butter cup or an English toffee but they're gone too fast and taste is fleeting. So you end up with nothing but broken bits of hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. If you're desperate enough to eat those, all you got left is an empty box filled with useless brown paper wrappers."

I am a fan of The X-Files not because of their main characters but because of characters like him and Deep Throat (Jerry Hadin) amongst others. They were written well and played by better actors.