The Cave's X-Files Commentary Archive: Krycek

The Best of Rats,
the Worst of Rats


FOR SEVEN YEARS The X-Files ran periodic episodes featuring the character of Alex Krycek--FBI rookie, smooth-talking assassin, pawn of the Cigarette Smoking Man, victim and victimizer.  No doubt in the beginning the writing staff had a laundry list of requirements for this character to fulfill:  move storylines along, add to the air of growing conspiracy, provide conflict.  And no doubt these building blocks could have resulted in another unremarkable bad guy we could safely hate and then forget about when the hour was over.  But then this still-paper character was put into the hands and care of Nicholas Lea.

What we got once the cameras rolled was much more than a rubber-stamped villain.  We got a deceiver who was nevertheless genuinely fascinated with his victim; who killed but was nervous; who wasn't in smug, confident control but when asking for information from his employer, was taken aback at the chilling response that he had no rights, only orders to be carried out.

Krycek is a villain caught, as Shakespeare says of Laertes, in his own treachery, sucked into the workings of the larger conspiracy of which he has become a part but over which he has no control, convinced in his conscious practicality that he needs first and foremost to save himself, and that Mulder is naive and self-focused.  Still, he seems impressed by Mulder's constancy and conviction.  When he learns of the alien rebel threat, it is Mulder he goes to for help, not the members of the Consortium who have chosen the supposedly safer path of capitulation over the fragile possibility of saving their human selves intact.  Mulder and Krycek are parallels, moving on opposite sides of the fence with different methods and tactics, one more blatantly 'light' and the other more sharply 'dark' but both equally unwilling to give up on the human race, whether consciously or unconsciously, whether for selfish or overtly ethical reasons.

Most of us love to cheer the good guy and boo the bad, but in the case of Alex Krycek the bad guy was not so easily discounted.  Nick Lea gave us a character who extended far beyond the boundaries of both the traditional villain and the scripted lines created for the character.  His Krycek was by turns nervous, cocky, manipulative, terrified.  He lured Mulder with tidbits of information in a voice like smoke on sandpaper but cried out when his occasional efforts at straightforwardness were met with a punch in the gut.  In spite of his role as spy and assassin, he was palpably vulnerable.  When he was nervous, he shook, and when the black oil that had infected him started to pour out through his eyes and nose and mouth, we knew exactly how horrible that experience must have been.  In spite of his actions, we were unable to easily dismiss him because he was so palpably real, a man full of contradictions, of high resolve and faltering action, of cruelty and regret. 

Unfortunately, the last few seasons saw the writers using Krycek more and more as a plot device, not choosing to explore the fascinating, multidimensional character Nick had crafted for us.  But in spite of the professional costs Nick suffered in sticking with the show, he consistently gave his all to Alex Krycek's portrayal, right down to the final wrenching scene where, still reaching for that common ground with Mulder which remained elusive, he found himself unable to kill his rival and met his end at the hands of AD Skinner.

There are those who condemned the character of Alex Krycek for his duplicity and lack of ethics, and those who loved him for his tenacity, boldness, and willingness to take hard, necessary actions at the point where conventional wisdom fails to save us.  As Nick himself has said, Alex Krycek was often misunderstood.  But thanks to Nick's compelling portrayal he was complex, human and always vital.  He will be missed... and remembered.

                                                                                              - bardsmaid

If you've never really paid close attention to Alex Krycek, here are a few sound clips that demonstrate the depth and complexity Nick Lea put into this character.  Click to listen or right-click to download.

Krycek's disturbing final minutes shook many fans of the character and the show.  Several days after the episode aired, the question, "What if the scene in the parking garage had run just a few minutes longer?" started to rattle around inside my head.  Being a writer at heart, I sat down and started tinkering with the idea.  If you'd hoped for a little more resolution than *Existence provided for Alex Krycek, you might give this a spin.

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