If the “Pilot” established that Samantha’s abduction was the driving force behind Mulder’s crusade, “Conduit” takes the idea further by proving that it’s also a deep source of emotional pain for him. While not the scariest or most inventive episode, “Conduit” successfully provides the groundwork for Fox Mulder’s character over the next 9 seasons and so it holds up over time.
There’s something touching about the way Scully, if she doesn’t directly stand up for Mulder, keeps Blevins from breaking his heart. Mulder doesn’t know it, but Scully’s trying to help him by asking her skeptical questions. She’s looking for a reason to defend this case to their superiors. Yes, Scully cares enough about Mulder’s feelings not to tell him what went on with Blevins. Apparently, she hasn’t forgotten their motel bonding in the “Pilot”. Even her later attempt to get him to stop looking for his sister was probably a well-meaning effort to end his suffering. Well-meaning. Misplaced.
Call me over-analytical, but I think this exploration of Mulder’s motivations means that other aspects of the series make more sense as well. Most notably, Mulder’s pain over Samantha’s abduction is easily identifiable with his innate empathy for anything that hurts, be it man or beast. This plays out all the way into Season 8’s “The Gift” (8×11).
In particular, Mulder has the oftentimes irritating desire to rescue maidens all forlorn. No Rapunzels, mind you. They might be in distress but the women Mulder feels drawn to are hardly damsels, they’re damaged. And they are legion… “3” (2×7), “Oubliette” (3×8), “The Field Where I Died” (4×5), “Mind’s Eye” (5×16) and we could keep going. Conduit’s Ruby Morris is the forerunner of all these. Somehow these troubled women are the way that Mulder sees his sister; left to rot, ignored or shunned by the rest of society. I won’t go too much into it here, there are still 9 seasons to go. But it’s gratifying to see the character continuity the show was able to maintain despite the army of writers that came and went.
This episode contains, for me, one of the most uncomfortable moments in the entire series. Scully crossed a line here. She had no business telling Mulder to stop looking for his sister. Who is Scully at this point, to Mulder, that she can take that kind of liberty? This isn’t her emotional battle and she hasn’t been with Mulder long enough in the trenches for her angry plea to carry any wait. I think she’s aware of it since for the rest of the episode she’s more subdued and less argumentative. The expression on Mulder’s face makes you wonder for a moment if he’ll ever forgive Scully. It’s a testament to the trust they’ve already built that he ever lets her in again. But he does, even before the end of the episode. As much as I love Scully, I hope she felt guilty. (Not too guilty, though. She did allow Mulder that illegal grave dig, after all.)
I must admit, that image of Kevin standing in the woods before the light is quite effective. But the off-roading bikers? How many fake-outs can they give in one episode without anything truly dramatic happening? The note from a mysterious stranger, the men in black, none of it panned out into anything interesting. This is a character piece loosely disguised as a mystery.
In the end, we don’t know anything other than that Ruby was abducted, which is exactly what we learned in the teaser. At least now Scully understands the little boy inside her partner better. Maybe that will cause her to be more sensitive in the future… and maybe not. Should I mention “Sein Und Zeit” (7×10)?
And the Verdict is…
Apparently, this episode had to rely on atmospheric gimmicks; a note on the car, a girl who disappears too quickly to be relieved, g-men knocking down the door, and white wolves out of nowhere. However, none of those things bring to mind alien abductions and maybe that’s why this episode doesn’t really work. It’s just a little too introspective for my taste.
It does, however, give us more insight into the psyche of Fox Mulder. It also shows us that while Scully pities him, she’s also frustrated by his annoying ability to see his sister in the face of every missing girl.
This may be where I officially got sick of Samantha Mulder, and it’s only the second episode her ghost shows up in. The obvious parallels between Samantha and Ruby exhaust rather than intrigue me. The matching swimsuit pictures, well… I must be the most cold-hearted X-Phile in the nation, but I remain unmoved.
Still, it’s good to see Mulder’s character fleshed out and explained. It’s one thing to think your sister was taken by aliens, it’s a much more powerful thing to be so consumed by guilt and loss that the only outlet for your grief is tilting at windmills. And if the series hadn’t laid the foundation early on for Mulder’s angst, this whole search for the truth would have seemed hollow, as though Mulder merely wanted to show-off.
So, is Fox Mulder crazy or crazy like a Fox?
Why are defense satellite transmissions coming through little Kevin’s TV screen? How does he hear/see all those little ones and zeroes? And what on earth is the connection to Ruby’s disappearance? What good does it do the aliens to read our transmissions and then transmit them back to the American public? And if they aren’t defense transmissions but important pieces of high culture (where was Bugs Bunny?) then how did the NSA mistake them for defense transmissions?
Is the white wolf the new red herring? What was the point other than to freak out the audience? Oh, wait…freaking out the audience….
There are some series continuity errors here in regards to Samantha’s abduction, but we have to cut the writers some slack. They had no idea how big the show would be and once it was popular, they had to spice up the abduction scenario a little bit.
This is the first and probably last time we’ll see Mulder seeking solace in a church. Was the voice he mentions at the end the government, the aliens, or God? And please don’t say CC was already going all “Biogenesis” (6×22) on me.
I do believe this is also Mulder and Scully’s first interrogation. I can’t say I pictured Mulder as the bad cop.
Love the creepy note-giving. But doesn’t their running across the street give away the charade?
The soundtrack when Tessa disappears in the library is classic Mark Snow. It gives the case an element of eeriness even though nothing special is actually going on.
Call me easy, but I really liked tough biker dude.
Blevins: In essence, Mulder is petitioning the Bureau to assign a case number to a tabloid headline. (Post-Modern Prometheus, anyone?)
Mulder: Who, me? I’m Mr. Congeniality.