All the many times I’ve seen this episode I never realized it had a purpose. It seemed very much a waste to me since we learn nothing more by the end than we knew at the beginning. But that’s not the point. The point is for Mulder to reaffirm his faith in his quest despite all doors being shut in his face. The side-benefit is a history lesson on the Voyager space program.
At this juncture, Mulder is beaten down and world-weary. Gone is the exuberant, self-confident, annoyingly knowing agent we met in the “Pilot” (1×79). Instead, he’s been replaced by his paranoid, self-pitying twin brother. All Mulder’s hopes went away with the X-Files. This is the first time we’ve seen Mulder truly doubt himself. His Achilles heel is that he’s confident to a fault in his own conclusions. Also, this is the first time we hear Mulder express doubt about his abduction memories and about whether or not The Powers That Be, including the Senator, have been using him as a dupe all along. This is a seed of doubt that proves to be especially important in later seasons.
Another aspect of Mulder’s reboot is that now his quest is overtly tied to his friendship with Scully. Without her, he would have no support. And unless she had encouraged him, it’s doubtful whether he would have even picked up the baton again. But why does she bother?
Season one showed us that Scully pities Mulder and that’s part of what attracts her to his character. Her sympathy shows itself distinctly in episodes like “Fallen Angel” (1×9) and “Fire” (1×11). Here her pity and concern are out in full force and justifiably so. Mulder has been, in essence, demoted. He’s being unduly chastised by the FBI, no doubt thanks to CSM, and is on the verge of giving up his sacred mission. Scully, despite the fact that she doesn’t herself believe, would hate to see that happen. Mulder just wouldn’t be Mulder without his belief in little green men. Like George Hale, who cares if he’s delusional as long as he’s useful?
More important than sympathy, Scully is showing Mulder more overt displays of platonic (yes, platonic!) affection this season, which is quite a change from the last. I seem to remember learning in a 9th grade relationship class that in Western cultures, touching or playing with someone’s hair is actually a greater sign of intimacy than hand-holding. This is why it’s gesture that’s usually only reserved for close friends, relatives, and significant others. This is the reason I always get a kick out of Scully scratching Mulder’s head so casually and gently in the parking garage scene. It shows just how far they’ve come that she can take that liberty and it’s not even a big deal. There’s also a brief handhold of understanding in the last scene that they don’t even need to play up. Their solidarity doesn’t have to be put into words. That’s why I love these two. But in case you do need proof, Scully has the key to Mulder’s place.
Interestingly enough, when the episode opens, we’re not really sure where Mulder and Scully stand with each other now that they don’t have the X-Files to bind them. The way that the initial meeting between the two characters is shot is clever. It takes place in a dark, creepy garage after Mulder has what, ignored Scully? Rebuffed Scully? After a Summer’s hiatus (or in my case, 24 hours) the audience isn’t sure. Seeing each of them come out of the dark to face each other makes for a poignant moment. And once we get to Puerto Rico, is Mulder documenting the trip for himself? For proof? As a report for Senator Matheson? It’s a welcome surprise when we find out he’s been making this tape for Scully.
In other news, with Deep Throat dead, who’s going to carry the banner for the conspiracy? Skinner and CSM, that’s who. Already the dynamic is set up, CSM pulls Skinners strings, but Skinner is fully capable of whipping out a pair of scissors without warning. He clearly cares about Mulder, but how much? Enough to risk the ire of CSM? I guess we’ll see.
On the Allied side, we’ve heard about Mulder’s political connections, now we get to meet one of them. So Mulder’s been dealing with a senator powerful enough to hold off a UFO retrieval team and wear suspenders? One wonders why he even needs Mulder if he already knows more than he does. He’s not an informant like Deep Throat. He’s not a puppeteer like CSM. So what is he? Will we ever know?
In a way, this is a very successful episode in that it accomplishes what it set out to do. Mulder has gone from Weary Wanderer to Passionate Pursuer again over the course of a single episode. The problem is that while Mulder is reaffirmed, the audience isn’t. “Little Green Men” doesn’t capture the urgency that “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23) left off with. The overarching plot has hit a temporary lull while Chris Carter plans the genius that will be Scully’s abduction.
Speaking of Scully, she’s the true star of this episode. She proves she’s more than just a scientist in the autopsy room when she waxes poetic, she’s a sensitive soul. She goes to the edge of the earth, or the edge of the USA, anyway, to rescue her friend. And she fools a network of surveillance with such grace that over a decade later I’m still nodding my head and thinking, “My girl Scully.” She plays that fish bit with such genuine indignation that I’m forced to conclude that Scully missed her calling. No lab coat or FBI badge for her. She should’ve been an actress.
Other than moments of Scully-worship, we get some touching M&S interactions in this episode, and that’s about all that’s worth tuning in for. There just isn’t enough action, drama or intrigue here to make my world go round. I don’t dislike this episode, but I don’t choose to watch it very often. And when I do, there’s a lot of fast-forwarding involved.
P.S. Mulder flat out confirms that he hates being suspicious of people. I knew it all along.
If, as Mulder reveals, Deep Throat had a funeral at Arlington, then not only must he have military/political ties that can be investigated, but wouldn’t Mulder have had to figure out his identity in order to spy on the funeral? Why does that never come up again?
If Mulder was trying to beat a UFO recovery team to the punch, where was the downed UFO?
Scully says that Mulder looked like Deep Throat from “back there.” Just how far back was he??
Here nor There:
The budget must be much better this season. The interior of the Hoover building has gotten a facelift and it no longer looks like a 1-800 call center.
Mulder hadn’t given up hope on a romance quite yet. Or maybe the woman on the answering machine is exaggerating when she says he “hounded” her. The beaten down Mulder we’re reintroduced to at the beginning of the episode looks like he can barely get out a proper “Good morning” let alone ask someone out. Or maybe he’s dating because the X-Files have been shut down and he has no choice but to live a normal life. I’d place my bets on that last option. Once Scully and Senator Matheson light the fire underneath him again, off he goes without so much as a warning.
Also, the woman on Mulder’s answering machine sounds suspiciously like the handwriting specialist from “Young at Heart” (1×15). I wouldn’t think he would’ve had to hound her for a date considering how available she made herself.
Our re-introduction to Mulder after last season’s finale (if you don’t count the opening voiceover) is a pile of sunflower seeds. Perfect.
The flashback of Samantha’s abduction varies greatly from what we heard Mulder recount under hypnosis in “Conduit” (1×3).
This episode features The X-Files’ first opening monologue, and it’s a doozy. It’s so broad and philosophical that if I didn’t know better, I’d peg Mulder as a poet rather than an FBI agent. Fortunately, David Duchovny delivers the lines in his sleepy monotone rather than with Shakespearean grandeur. It’s counter intuitively more believable that way. Later on, Agent Scully would prove just as verbally dexterous in her own opening monologues. But I’m jumping ahead again.
Mulder: Four dollars for the first hour of parking is criminal. What you got better be worth at least forty-five minutes…
Scully: You know, Mulder, from… from back there you look like him.
Scully: Deep Throat.
Mulder: No, Jorge, don’t touch that red button. Noho on the Roho.
Mulder: That’s hard, Scully. Suspecting everyone, everything. It wears you down. You even begin to doubt what you know is the truth. Before I could only trust myself. Now I can only trust you. And they’ve taken you away from me.
Mulder: I may not have the X-Files Scully but I still have my work. I still have you. I still have myself.