We open with an amazing teaser. The audience already learned what happened to Scully at the end of the last episode. Now we get to watch as Mulder finds out and realization registers on his face. The look, the gulp… priceless.
Mulder rushes to Scully’s apartment and now the present scene is cut with glimpses of Scully’s kidnapping. Is this Mulder the behavioral profiler surmising what happened? Is he having visions? Or are they just flashbacks so that the audience can see how it all went down? It might be all three. We’ll never really know.
It’s here that we see Mulder and Mrs. Scully together for the first time. And may I say they make an amazing pair. Both in this episode and in the later “One Breath” (2×8), it’s as if Mrs. Scully instinctively gets who Mulder is and isn’t phased by the more troubled side of him. She knows that he cares deeply about her daughter and seems to be a wise, patient woman. She’s also more spiritually aware than Scully and that makes for an interesting family dynamic.
All that and that was just the teaser! Whew!
The rest of the episode doesn’t disappoint either. We learn the depth of CSM and Krycek’s collusion and villainy. Finally Mulder begins to understand that this isn’t happening to Scully because of Duane Barry, it’s happening because of him. Mulder had to be stopped and if the conspirators couldn’t do it be taking him off the X-Files they’d do it by stripping him of his only ally.
The conspirators, however, are finding out that they’ve created a new set of problems. If Mulder is relentless in his pursuit of the truth he’s downright murderous in his pursuit of his friend. The scene where he chokes Duane Barry is powerful. Mulder’s anger is all the more frightening because he’s trying to control it. It’s a still anger, the kind that percolates waiting to erupt. That single blink he takes as he listens to Duane’s explanation is enough to send a tingle down your spine. And if that’s not proof enough he’s just a few loose screws short of crazy, let’s not forget that crazy climb up the tram at 10,000 feet. Clearly Mulder has very few boundaries when it comes to finding Scully.
Mulder has a right to be angry. He lost his sister Samantha to an alien abduction and now Scully has been taken away from him in a similar fashion. Scully, who I more than suspect is a surrogate Samantha to Mulder. And if she wasn’t before, she certainly is now. I’m sure Mulder hadn’t realized how much Scully meant to him.
On top of that, he’s struggling to come to terms with a new reality. Before Mulder thought that the government was just hiding their knowledge of the existence of aliens. Now it’s dawning on him that the government is using the alien abduction set-up to push their own agenda. Duane Barry is a victim of this agenda; he’s like a television and they keep moving the antenna.
If Mulder has one chocolate bar in a sea of vegetables, it’s that he finally gets his beloved X-Files back courtesy of Assistant Director Skinner. Skinner shows that while he’s not a man free to do as he pleases, his sympathies do lie with Mulder and Scully. Are the X-Files truly what “They” fear the most? That remains to be seen, but at the very least Skinner is rebelling against an order from CSM and that’s a start.
We end with Fox Mulder taking on a new position: Keeper of Scully’s Faith. Can he live up to the job?
This show is getting soooo good! (Excuse me while I squeal like a fangirl).
I was struck this time by how many tiny, tiny moments and facial expressions in this episode are pure gold. They create depth where the story could have read flat. I won’t bore you by cataloging them all, they are legion, but if you feel so inclined go back and take a look. One thing Chris Carter excels at as a director is attention to detail.
I actually enjoy this episode more than “Duane Barry” (2×5). It has more emotional verve, whereas “Duane Barry” was an exercise character exploration and a set up for the rest of Scully’s abduction arc. “Ascension” has death-defying stunts, murder, angst and intrigue.
The only complaint I have is that I wish Krycek had more time to spy on Mulder before his true allegiances were revealed. It would have been interesting to see what kind of damage Krycek could have done if Mulder had learned to trust him a little rather than just tolerate him. Most importantly, maybe if Krycek had been along for the ride we wouldn’t have been subjected to the injustice of the next episode.
How did Krycek and CSM know that his cover was blown? I suppose they assumed that Mulder would notice the cigarettes in the car.
How did Krycek explain how he and the tram operator disappeared on Mulder and that the tram operator was later found killed?
Why didn’t Krycek just stop the machine again when Mulder climbed out of the tram? They could have played stop and start all night.
Mulder has visions of Scully’s abduction the way she later on has of his.
Another parallel is the way that Mulder shows up just a minute too late to save Scully. Scully has a similar problem when she arrives moments too late to bring Jeremiah Smith to Mulder’s rescue in “This is Not Happening” (8×14).
The scene were Mulder consults the pathologist at Quantico is poignant. You can see that he’s acutely feeling the loss of Scully. It’s Scully who should have been there. Ironically, Scully would have kept him clued in.
The episode opens and closes neatly by bringing Mulder and Mrs. Scully together. And why shouldn’t it? They make a great pair. It’s too bad he never gels with the rest of the Scully clan quite the same way.
Krycek: You know, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, they were all linked to sleep deprivation. The US Department of Transportation estimates that over 190,000 fatal car crashes every year are caused by sleepiness?
Mulder: Did they estimate how many people are put to sleep listening to their statistics?
Krycek: You know he could have tracked her down with that implant.
Mulder: Well that’s the easiest explanation. It’s also the most implausible.
Krycek: There’s another possibility?
Mulder: Somebody could have given him her address. I don’t know who.