Fox Mulder is having a poopy day.
His boss sides against him, his former lover steals his job, and Scully… yes, Scully… leaves him blowing in the wind.
Don’t adjust your T.V. sets. That bright sunlight you see is meant to be there and you are still watching The X-Files. The crew at 1013 is taking advantage of their new filming environment by setting the first episode produced in L.A. in the bright desert of Arizona. If they can’t rely on the built-in atmosphere provided by the Vancouver weather, then they might as well make things interesting by taking the audience to places The X-Files couldn’t really go before, bright places.
Thankfully, the story isn’t any less dark than usual and we pick up right where we left off at the end of the movie, with the Syndicate running experiments on a pre-historic cache of the Black Oil, a version that turns humans into incubators. Unfortunately for one of their scientists, he has been infected with the Black Oil virus and accidentally turned himself into a one-man nursery for a very large, very dangerous alien baby.
But this is television we’ve returned to, not the big screen any longer, and the budget that the movie had for rubber alien suits has dried up. It’s a good thing then that The X-Files’ special talent is scaring its audience to death by showing them… nothing. And the alien attack scenes work all the better for us not being able to see the creature.
Death-by-alien moments aside, the best parts of this episode belong to the recently returned Gibson Praise, particularly when he protects Mulder and Scully from Cigarette-Smoking Man by luring him away from the scene of the alien attack and when he dramatically takes sanctuary in the back of Mulder and Scully’s car while they’re distracted. Although I must say he’s become a little too much the prophet for my taste, revealing to the people the truth of their sins. I’m not sure where he got the idea that countering everything someone says to you by telling them what they’re really thinking is a good way to win friends and influence people, but while he’s at it he should really pass a few chastisements Fox Mulder’s way.
Not that I blindly begrudge Mulder his attitude this episode since his world is falling apart like so many pieces of a burnt X-File.
First, Mulder gets spanked at the O.P.R. panel, a plot device recycled from the movie for the purposes of recycling the movie plot; summer was a long time ago and who knows what the audience doesn’t remember? While it makes for a convenient plot device as far as exposition goes and it also serves to push Mulder and Scully into the proverbial corner, the problem is that the seriousness of the panel belies the inherent silliness of the plot.
Everyone at the F.B.I. knows how crazy Mulder’s theories are and in the context of his working on the X-Files, it’s easier to believe that Mulder could go to Skinner, more his friend than his boss, with a working government conspiracy theory that involves corn, spaceships and bees without being laughed out of his office. But in front of a panel of humorless faces made up of strangers and superiors, it makes both Mulder and the plot of the entire mythology look foolish – more foolish than he’s already supposed to look. It’s hard to believe the F.B.I. would actually cut this man a paycheck.
If that wasn’t enough trouble, Scully has professionally bailed on him. Scully doesn’t remember most of what happened to her in Antarctica other than that Mulder saved the day, and the proof of the alien virus that was supposed to be inside the bee that stung Scully isn’t materializing. And you know Scully, she won’t believe anything until the lab results come in.
That’s who Scully is and she’s not about to change, but after everything they’ve been through Mulder is finally fed up with her denial and his frustration isn’t completely unmerited. He just bared his soul and begged this woman to stay by his side, trekked the frozen North to bring her back from the brink of death, and carried her away from danger as alien monsters snapped their spiky teeth at his heels. No doubt he feels a little entitled to some blind faith from her whether she actually witnessed anything or no. And after he’s finally seen the alien life he’s sought for so long with his own eyes, coming home to the same old act from Scully has to be grating.
Still, that’s no excuse for this:
Mulder: Agent Fowley took me to that plant at great risk to herself, where I saw something that you refuse to believe in, saw it again, Scully. And though it may not say it in her report, Diana saw it too. And no matter what you think, she’s certainly not going to go around saying that just because science can’t prove it, it isn’t true.
Mulder: What does it take? For this thing to come up and bite you on the ass? I saw these creatures. I saw them burst to life. You would’ve seen them too, but you were infected with that virus. You were passed out over my shoulder.
Scully: Mulder, I know what you did. I know what happened to me, but without ignoring the science, I can’t… Listen, Mulder… [Grabs his hand] You told me that my science kept you honest, that it made you question your assumptions, that by it, I’d made you a whole person. If I change now… it wouldn’t be right… or honest.
Mulder: I’m talking about extraterrestrial life alive on this planet in our lifetime, forces that dwarf and precede all human history. I’m sorry, Scully, but this time your science is wrong. [Walks away]
Tell me, can you hear me dying from where you are?
Poor Scully. She’s so desperate to make Mulder understand that underneath her skepticism beats the heart of a wannabe believer that she tries to recreate “The Moment”… and Mulder shoots her down.
Coming from the high of the movie where Mulder and Scully were joined in an almost poetic unity a la the greats like Kirk and Spock, to this… Well, it’s like a splash of ice water to the face. I’d almost go back and rewatch Fight the Future to see if what I saw was really what I saw but I just watched it multiple times and I’m quite sure that what I saw was what I saw. I swear, if the events of the film hadn’t happened this would be less painful.
I know that for the sake of television drama Chris Carter couldn’t have Mulder and Scully continue on in such carefree, like-minded bliss. But I’m a closet sap and it’s not even the Shipper in me that this bothers so much, I just hate division between close characters of any kind. I love it when I see teamwork and unselfish love and idealism come through my television set in waves of red, green and blue light. Watching the trust between my favorite team of all wane cold, even temporarily, is like a knife through this grown geek’s heart. And for Mulder to compare Scully unfavorably with Fowley… Thrust the blade in deep and get it over with why don’t you, Chris Carter?
The only benefit to this painful rift I can see is how impressive Scully is throughout it. She behaves as a true friend, giving Mulder not what he asks for or what he wants, but what he truly needs. All along she works behind the scenes to get Mulder the proof that would validate his theories, and his very existence, really. That she does so despite Mulder’s coldness is a testament to her integrity.
I can safely say that Scully is in love with Mulder because if she wasn’t before Antarctica, she is now. You can call me “Mulder” but I don’t need scientific proof of that. It’s understood, woman to non-existent woman. But I love that she compartmentalizes that fact so well, even in the face of Mulder’s emotional rebuffs. It looks like the confidence she gained in their relationship through the events of the movie is still carrying her through, enough that she knows Mulder needs her even when he doesn’t realize it.
Meanwhile, Diana blindly accepts every word that proceeds out of Mulder’s mouth. What does that tell you?
I do like the fact that her character has become more of an enigma. Is Mulder right and she’s a closeted ally? Or is Scully wise to be suspicious of her loyalties? Last we saw her she was shot protecting Gibson, a fact that lends itself to Mulder’s point of view since if she were playing for the other team she would have handed them over. No need for a near death experience. But her coming onto the scene just as Gibson the Boy Wonder is revealed… you’d be crazy not to question her motives.
Her new partner on the X-Files, Agent Spender, is also becoming more interesting. He’s sold his soul to the devil, his own father, CSM. For doing his bidding and making Fox Mulder’s life miserable he probably expects to advance up the ranks in the F.B.I. However, he doesn’t appreciate daddy hovering over him and we can wonder at what point he’ll turn on CSM, career or no career. Meanwhile, Mulder’s greatest antagonist at the F.B.I. now has charge over his precious files.
Or maybe his greatest antagonist is his unsympathetic looking new boss, A.D. Kersh.
And the Verdict is…
I’ve been trying hard to understand why it is I don’t care for this episode even though it gives us so much information and so much drama and, no, it’s not because of anything to do with the Fowley-Mulder-Scully love triangle. Somehow, it’s all a little lackluster. In fact, it’s slow in parts and bogged down by (probably essential) exposition. The climactic hunt in the nuclear plant lacks urgency. Maybe if Mulder and Diana had any real chemistry or if they had done more than watch the alien through a window. Mulder is on the verge of finding all the answers he’s sought. Heck, he actually has tangible proof for once! And yet I find myself not particularly invested. Scully hands Mulder test results confirming alien life and still I find no reason for my butt to leave its comfortable spot on my chair, whereas the best episodes have me squirming in nerdy excitement.
In particular, the big reveal, that the alien monsters from the film and the little green men we’ve seen doubtful glimpses of before are one in the same, is disappointing. Clever, but disappointing. The alien monster is merely a gestational stage; probably its lethality is an evolutionary form of protection while the more vulnerable adult form continues to develop on the inside. Me, I prefer the scary monster. Can you imagine if the earth were repopulated with those? But that’s a pipe dream. We’ll never see those well-manicured claws again.
I understand why this episode is titled “The Beginning” because there are a slew of changes here and with the pace that new revelations are coming at, it’s clear this is the beginning of the end as well. How Mulder copes with it all remains to be seen, but let’s hope he does what Scully asks and starts trusting her again because that’s not just the foundation of their partnership, it’s the foundation of the X-Files.
His boss secretly aids and abets him, his former lover takes him on a field trip to see an alien, and Scully… yes, Scully… gives him the proof he’s been searching for all these years.
Maybe things aren’t quite so bad after all.
Why do Mulder and Scully walk away from Gibson to talk as though he can’t read their minds from across the room?
This episode could be subtitled: How Scully Got Her Groove Back Only to Have Mulder Strip it Away Again
Whatever happened to Scully being assigned to Salt Lake City Utah? When she took back her resignation did that plot point just disappear? Did Skinner pull some strings?
Pardon me, but didn’t Scully confirm the existence of alien life in the form of bacteria back in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23)? Purity Control, anyone? Does switching it to a virus radically change anything?
What exactly did Mulder plan to do once he found the alien? Lasso it?
You know, the joy of having favorite fictional characters like Fox Mulder is that they live on in your mind and memory, timeless. But then there are moments like this, where Mulder openly compares Scully to Diana and finds Scully wanting, that indeed I wish he were real so that I could end his existence.
Even if the DNA from the virus, and from the claw and from Gibson all match normal, junk DNA, does that really prove that DNA is alien? Couldn’t it all just be perfectly human? What if the “aliens” came from us rather than the other way around?
In “The End” (5×20), Chris Carter was moving around his pieces, now he’s called checkmate on Mulder.
Assistant Director Bart: These spacelings, Agent Mulder, they weren’t something I saw in Men in Black?
Mulder: …I didn’t see Men in Black.
Assistant Director Bart: Well, a damn good movie.
Smoking Man: You can kill a man. But you can’t kill what he stands for… Not unless you first break his spirit. That’s a beautiful thing to see.
Mulder: It’d help if you’d shut the door. It would make it harder for them to see that I’m totally disregarding everything I was told.