Piper Maru 3×15: High Noon in Hong Kong.


I've got a little something in my eye.

The legendary Black Oil makes its first appearance on The X-Files. Huzzah!

Now, I’m as excited as the next Phile about the introduction of new levels to the overall mythology mystery. But I’m beginning to notice a trend where the writers are giving us new information every mythology episode without necessarily providing new answers. We learned about the UFO at the bottom of the ocean in “Nisei” (3×9) and we found out about the disk in “Anasazi” (2×25), but we still haven’t found out what’s on the disk besides the location of the UFO let alone the significance of the downed UFO itself. Instead, Carter and Spotnitz bring in the Black Oil which is more than sufficient to distract us from the fact that we still know nothing. This isn’t a complaint because I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. But I’m starting to understand why cracks in the mythology’s wall expanded in later seasons. Some holes have to be plugged before you can drill new ones.

Apparently the writers are planning to introduce a new foreign power in every mythology episode, just so we’re constantly reminded that this is a global conspiracy. “Paper Clip” (3×2) belonged to the Germans, “Nisei” to the Japanese and now the French make an appearance, the first non-WWII Axis power to do so. What exactly do the French want with the UFO anyway? More than likely, they just want to become “a player”, as CSM would say. Other than that, they don’t seem to have any kind of historical stake in the conspiracy. I suppose that’s why they don’t last long since I don’t believe we ever hear from the French again. We move onto the Russians in Season 4. I’m still wondering why we never hear from the Italians. Too romantic?

But enough rambling. Krycek is back and we have to enjoy him and his sliminess because after this arc we won’t see him again for almost a full season. It looks as though he’s managed to crack the security protocols on that Defense Department disk he ran off with in “Paper Clip”. This means he’s one of the few people in the world who know the scope and scale of the conspiracy outside of the Syndicate. He’s capitalizing on that, literally, by selling the Syndicate’s secrets to the highest bidding government. Meanwhile, no one in the Syndicate outside of CSM knows that Krycek is even alive and that the disk hasn’t been destroyed. Surprise!

On the emotional end of things, Scully finally gets to grieve for her sister Melissa. When Skinner mentions that it’s only been 5 months since her death (another case of 1013 Production’s date smudging) there’s a sense of incredulity I feel every time I hear that. Scully lost her sister but essentially went through the last 12 episodes without showing any signs of loss, sadness or melancholy. Odd, yes But I don’t believe it’s an oversight. Season 3 is the season where not only does the mythology take on a recognizable form and continuing narrative, it becomes distinct, even completely separate from the stand-alone episodes. Except for a passing comment in “D.P.O.” (3×3) where Scully references “all we’ve been through”, Mulder and Scully act as though most major mythology events never happened… until they reach the next mythology episode and things pick up where they left off. It’s not a bad thing, really. It allows the viewer to breathe for stretches of time and just enjoy the more genre specific episodes without worrying about keeping up with overall storyline.

There isn’t much to discuss as far as character development because the mythology is quickly becoming a mini action adventure series within a series where Mulder and Scully, for the most part, are just stand-ins for the audience. They’re there to solve the mystery and don’t have much time to explore their own inner workings, though that starts to change again in Season 4. But I have to give one last note on my man Skinner. We’ve already seen Skinner battle Mr. X on Mulder’s behalf in “End Game” (2×17), now it’s Scully’s turn to earn Skinner a beating. Skinner’s attitude with CSM’s goons is so awesome, but he’s turned into such a noble hero that it’s not surprising when later on the writers decide to put some cracks in his armor with “Avatar” (3×21). Maybe he’s gotten a little too cool for school. I don’t know, but I enjoy it so I don’t care. Skinner’s a bear and Mulder and Scully are his cubs. Play at your own risk.

Final Verdict:

These Season 3 mythology episodes are some of Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter’s best work on the show. They were able to strike the right balance of emotional and thrilling moments. Since this rewatch I’ve made it my mission to understand the ins and outs of the mythology plotline I’m enjoying it even more. But even back when I understood nothing I loved the Black Oil. Who wouldn’t? Throw in a cowardly Krycek and noble Skinner into the mix and I’m sold.

Oh, and that vision of a pilot kept alive by an alien entity banging on his plane window at the bottom of the ocean? Awesome.

A

Lingering Doubts:

That a man Scully new briefly in her past, that she wasn’t even close to, would hold key, first-hand information about the Black Oil situation is a real stretch to me. Carter and Spotnitz really make it work, though, and that flashback scene is effective.

It’s kind of a copout that Krycek was magically able to get the disk translated and copied when it was supposedly impregnable. But, then again, that was only a plot device in “Paper Clip”. In “Anasazi” Scully was able to print out the information to have it translated.

In the “Nisei”/”731” arc it’s hinted that the ship Talapus was on a mission to salvage a UFO and now that’s been confirmed. They salvaged it and CSM had it moved knowing that the disk with the secret of the UFO’s location was on the loose. But if Talapus had already made it to where the Black Oil crash landed with the UFO, why didn’t the Black Oil come up to the surface with one of the men of Talapus instead of staying with the P-51 Bomber? I can only assume that Talapus never sent a man down there but somehow brought it up by purely mechanical means, but that seems a stretch.

Random Tidbits:

A very young Michael Bublé is recognizable as one of the men aboard the submarine Zeus Faber.

I like that the teaser doesn’t necessarily read as a mythology episode. We have no way of knowing if this strange black entity is alien or if it’s just a new, freaky phenomenon that Mulder and Scully will have to investigate.

Best Quotes:

Scully: I’m just constantly amazed by you. I mean, you’re working down here in the basement, sifting through… files and transmissions that any other agent would just throw away in the garbage.
Mulder: Well, that why I’m in the basement, Scully.
Scully: You’re in the basement because they’re afraid of you, of your relentlessness. And because they know that they could drop you in the middle of the desert and tell you “The Truth is Out There” and you’d ask them for a shovel.
Mulder: That’s what you think of me?
Scully: Well, maybe not a shovel. Maybe a backhoe.

————————

Wayne Morgan: What the hell is that?
Mulder: Looks like the fuselage of a plane.
Scully: It’s a North American P-51 Mustang.
Wayne Morgan: Yeah, sure is.
Mulder: I just got very turned on.

————————

Skinner: Who are you guys?
Grey-Haired Man: We work for the intelligence community.
Skinner: Remind me not to move there.

————————

Krycek: I didn’t kill your father.
Mulder: Now you tell me.
Krycek: It wasn’t me.
Mulder: Oh yeah. Then who was it?
Krycek: I don’t know.
Mulder: Either way, Krycek, you’re a liar.

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11 responses to “Piper Maru 3×15: High Noon in Hong Kong.

  1. I forgot how much I liked this episode. The Black Oil was always such an interesting and spooky plot device, it’s great that it’s finally here.

    Not to discount the early seasons, but I am enjoying the series increasingly now that the major mythology elements are coming into place (and Scully’s hair is calming down…).

    Wasn’t the boat, Piper Maru, named for Gillian Anderson’s real-life kid, the pregnancy for which caused her absence/abduction in Season 2?

  2. Hands down, best moment of the episode is the smirk on Krycek’s face when he sees that it’s a woman at the urinal next to him – right before she grabs him and black oils him.

  3. I’ve only seen a smattering of episodes during their original run and although I remember bits and pieces, I’m essentially watching the show from start to finish for the first time. So without any spoilers past the next episode “Apochrypha”, can anyone tell me how the black oil supposedly body jumped from the fighter pilot into the french diver (who was sealed in a deep diver suit)?

  4. By the way; no sub commander worth his salt would have said “open this door;” he would have said “open this hatch.” It’s also fun to hear Scully say “Johansen,” which is also my last name!

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