Memento Mori 4×15: You think a lot more of me than you let on.


The hug heard 'round the world.

This episode opens with something I’m generally not too fond of: An X-Files voiceover.

You can always tell when Chris Carter has written one and they’re always slightly overwrought and self-consciously poeticized. In this one, Scully sounds marvelously unlike an investigator and even less like a scientist. Who knew she majored in Physics but minored in English Literature? Snarkiness aside though, much of this episode is spent establishing that Scully is Scully no matter what her circumstances are. Sickness doesn’t cause her to call up her mother sobbing because that’s not who she is. She doesn’t run to Mulder in frantic desperation because that would be a betrayal of herself. Why her words would become flowery when her mind is not is beyond me. On the plus side, the monologue does get the point across quickly that Scully is dying and there’s nothing she can do about it.

What kind of reaction will this produce in Scully? Will there be any deathbed confessions? Probably not. Based on their track record, we all know that Mulder and Scully aren’t about to embarrass themselves with any alarming declarations, however we as the audience might hope. The foundation of their relationship is unspoken, like an iceberg, the most important parts remaining invisible but assumed and understood based solely on what we can see. One of the reasons “Memento Mori” is so special is that it does allow us some concrete but still subtle proof of how Mulder and Scully really feel about each other. No more guessing.

To suddenly force Mulder and Scully’s relationship out into the wide open would undermine it at the risk of its losing it’s effectiveness. So what happens? Scully writes a diary that lays her thoughts bare, only for Mulder to read it outside of her presence. This gives loyal fans an incredible payoff but also a reason to keep watching since Mulder and Scully are still fundamentally silent. Everything’s understood, nothing has to be said, our assumptions are confirmed and validated, the status quo is maintained.

Gillian Anderson won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama series for this one. It’s not too hard to see why since she takes Scully to a place of both vulnerability and strength that we’ve never seen from her before. But really, the glories of this episode are almost equally shared between 3 leads, the other two being David Duchovny and Mitch Pileggi who also give us some complicated and incredibly nuanced performances.

Mulder, despite his disavowal of Scully’s fate, I believe is actually less in denial than she is. Scully admits there’s no hope then flatly refuses to face her death or admit that she’s anything other than “fine.” Mulder, on the other hand, recognizes that Scully is dying; it’s just that he refuses to believe there’s nothing he can do about it. Like his relationship to the larger conspiracy, he believes it exists but also believes that he somehow has the power to change it. (In fact, it isn’t until he believes that he’s helpless to affect the outcome of events that he momentarily gives up, but that will be a long time in the future). He doesn’t cry and he doesn’t rant, instead he hunts, throwing himself even deeper to the conspiracy that did this to Scully, into the danger that he brought Scully into, in hopes that he can save her from this threat that he’s partially responsible for. This episode avoids losing itself in sentimentality by forcing its characters into action.

Skinner doesn’t sit idly by either. After refusing to set up a meeting between Mulder and CSM, he wastes no time in making his own Faustian bargain with the chain smoking Grinch. I know there’s a lot of talk about there among Skinner/Scully Shippers as to what this means about Skinner’s feelings for Scully that he would sacrifice himself on the altar of CSM to find a cure for her disease. But as much as Skinner cares for Scully and wants to see her healed, I actually think that this transaction has more to do with his relationship with Mulder who, despite a relatively minor difference in age, seems to be a pseudo-son to him. Rather than allow Mulder to be corrupted, he takes up that cross himself and suffers in silence. It’s really one of Skinner’s most heroic moments on the show. He loses his soul yet somehow keeps his integrity.

Then there are 3 other… bonus heroes. I’m glad that the Lone Gunmen show up in this one because they give the episode that bit of fun that it needs to avoid taking itself too seriously. True, this is a story about the devastation of cancer, but it takes place in a show about alien conspiracies and paranormal activity. The writers can only wax so poetic without risk of losing their audience.

Speaking of the overarching conspiracy, this is the first “mythology” episode since Season 2’s “Red Museum” (2×10), a time when the mythology was still largely unformed, that doesn’t actually present any new mythology information. The underlying plot isn’t advanced, only reaffirmed, which is why I would hesitate to categorize this as a mythology episode at all but really a stand-alone episode with mythology elements. Actually, I should clarify, as there is one new bit of information: some of the human genetic material used to create clones and drones comes from the embryos of abductees, Scully included. But it will take a good 4 years… that’s right, 4 years… before Mulder will reveal this secret to Scully in the episode “Per Manum” (8×8). Although, it happens in flashback so really it took him 3 years, but still.

Verdict:

By the opening of this episode it’s like the events of “Never Again” (4×13) never happened. To be sure, when death arrives petty disputes have a way of disappearing. But I suppose we’ll never know if Mulder and Scully worked through their issues or just forgot about them when a much larger monster came along that required all their powers of concentration.

It doesn’t really matter. As much as this episode involved a love letter of sorts from Scully to Mulder, it feels like a love letter to the fans. Scully’s cancer, like her abduction that caused it, gives a human face to the conspiracy and reminds us that this whole show really is about 2 people, their trials, tribulations and adventures. We wanted more insight into their characters and now we have it.

But I still could’ve done without that purple prose.

A

Comments:

Grey-Haired Man makes a return. He was last seen in “Apocrypha” (3×16).

The clones are back! Not to be confused with the drones we were introduced to in “Herrenvolk” (4×1) despite the fact that the same DNA created both.

Carter and Spotnitz were working on Fight the Future at the same time as this script. I wonder what that knowledge will reveal when the movie finally comes up.

“It’s part of what makes these such Romantic, heroic characters is that they always put their personal lives on the back seat. In fact they, they really don’t have much in the way of a personal life whatsoever. Um, they’re people on a quest. They’re, they’re really both united and separated by their quest.” – Spotnitz

I feel so justified in my assessments now. See above.

Nice tie in to the visuals of both “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23) and “End Game” (2×17).

Scully really deserved to be chewed out by her mother. I love that this show represents death and dying in a realistic way. People still get mad at each other.

Speaking of people getting mad, it’s still too bad that the scene between Scully and her brother Bill had to be cut. Thankfully, we’ll get another chance to hate him real soon.

Is it Shipper suicide if I admit I’m glad they cut the kiss?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: [Handing Scully flowers] I… stole these from some guy with a broken leg down the hall. He won’t be able to catch me.

———————–

Skinner: So you want to set up a meeting. With whom?
Mulder: Cigarette man. I have no doubt in my mind he’s behind this.
Skinner: You’ve come to be before like this, Mulder.
Mulder: Yeah, well, this is different. This is different, I’m willing to deal now.
Skinner: Find another way.
Mulder: No! I need that meeting.
Skinner: You deal with this man, you offer him anything and he will own you forever.
Mulder: He knows what they did to Agent Scully! He may very well know how to save her!
Skinner: If he knows, you can know too but you can’t ask the truth of a man who trades in lies! I won’t let you.

———————–

Smoking Man: It’s funny. I always thought of you as Fox Mulder’s patron. You’d think under your aegis that he wouldn’t be consigned to a corner of the basement.
Skinner: At least he doesn’t take an elevator up to get to work.
Smoking Man: You think I’m the devil, Mr. Skinner?

————————

Mulder: Pick out something black and sexy and prepare to do some funky poaching.

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32 responses to “Memento Mori 4×15: You think a lot more of me than you let on.

  1. Love reading your reviews!This is the first time I’ve heard the term, “Purple Prose” and I like it. Lol, I’ve always loved the voice overs though. I’m pretty practical and if my words ever turned flowery it would probably be on my death bed too. Good call on Skinner making the deal for Mulder’s sake. I never thought of it that way.

  2. The only thing worse that a Chris Carter-penned VO is a David Duchovny one.

    • Wait, which one did he do?? I’m dying to compare.

      • I thought that DD was responsible for the VO in the Blessing Way/Anazasi and I was wrong. But he did have a co-writer credit, yes? Talk about overwritten!

        Perhaps what I meant was that there’s nothing worse than the 2 of them collaborating on convoluted, superfluous monologues.

        I figured out that what was stuck in my mind was all the ‘dream beach’ bumper sequences in Amor Fati, although those weren’t VOs they were dreams. Oh Lord, those might even be worse 😉 .

        I hope that you go all ‘Temptation of the Christ’ when you hit that one.

        • oh god. beach dream scenes. makes me shudder!

        • From the excerpts I’ve read of The Last Temptation of Christ, it sounds like one very, very, long ‘dream beach’ scene!! I don’t think I could make it through that book.

          Heck, I barely made it through that episode.

          • I’ve never read the book, but watched the movie. And then wrote some weird “Last Temptation of Christ”/”Groundhog Day” hybrid poetry. I suggest you rent LToC around the time you watch that episode.

  3. than* Damn you, fingernails.

  4. Emily Michelle

    No, it’s not shipper suicide. I’m glad they cut the kiss, too. It was the wrong moment, I think.

    Great episode. It’s one of the few mythology episodes that I feel like I understand–although this may be because, as you pointed out, it’s not a very groundbreaking one–and we see how much M&S depend on each other. And I completely love her ridiculously overblown journal entries; scientists don’t usually write that way, but it’s so pretty I don’t mind. Maybe it’s part of the whole girl-in-a-boys’-club thing; Scully’s always trying to prove herself in her profession, so maybe writing convoluted poetry for Mulder is yet another way to show that she’s smart? (That’s a joke.) And the hug. Call me a sentimental old shipper but the hug is the best part.

  5. In re-watching this ep, it is amazing how different M&S are compared to “Never Again”. Your line that “Never Again, never happened” is spot on.

    For some reason their odd behavior reminded me of Dreamland (6×04). Hey, maybe that wasn’t really Mulder in NevAg, it was Morris Fletcher!!? (I guess it is time to put it to rest and move along).

  6. In retrospect, yes, I’m glad they cut the kiss, too. At the time, seeing it would have made my head burst, but it wasn’t the time. The forehead kiss and the hugging was nice. I will say, however, that I’m glad that I’ve gotten the chance to see it. That’s nice.

    Umm…yeah. While I love this show, it did tend to take itself way too seriously at times, especially when it comes to voiceovers (I can’t wait until you get to TrustNo1…or William, for that matter. The dialogue…*shudder*). I have a tendency to be a better writer than a speaker, but there’s still something in both my writing and my speech patterns that make it sound like the same person. I’ll buy that Scully would be writing stuff that she wouldn’t ordinarily say out loud, but that doesn’t mean it would sound like it was written by a lonely philosophy major. I think a lot of these monologues would have much more resonance if they were written in the same manner that the characters actually speak. I remember you mentioning something of this nature back during The Blessing Way. Sometimes…it’s too much.

    • Totally agree, Megan. Those voiceovers get so flowery and crazy and it’s ridiculous! I could do without them 99% of the time. But sometimes I think Scully’s dialogue in general, and Mulder’s, too, is ridiculous in itself. It’s partially just a TV thing I’m sure (think: Dawson’s Creek), but sometimes they say things that just don’t sound like normal people talking.

      Generic example with made up but probably not too far from accurate dialogue:
      [Scully has just discovered something earth-shattering that she must share with Mulder immediately!]
      Scully: Mulder, I’ve found something. Something unbelievable. Something I’m still trying to understand. Something I just can’t quite believe…
      Mulder: What is it, Scully?

      For real! What is it! If you discovered something that profound, wouldn’t you just call him up and SAY it?

      Ha. Anyways. That was my little tangent/rant, and (only a bit) hyperbolic, but this is all to say that I agree wholeheartedly when you say our beloved show takes itself too seriously sometimes.

      • LOL, I love your “generic example with made up but probably not too far from accurate” dialogue between M and S. I agree completely and it is so funny that you brought up the Dawson’s Creek comparison. I was in high school when that show came out and I felt illiterate when I was first watching it. It wasn’t until some careful observation of my peers that I realized I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t speaking in “purple prose”.

    • ROFL!!! Oh my word. It’s hilarious because it’s so accurate. I love it!

      Television has a way of tricking us into thinking that the world is supposed to sound like it’s made up of English Majors.

      P.S. We only make fun of this show because we love it. 😀
      P.P.S. TrustNo1 complaints will be coming. Trust me.

  7. I can’t wait to see what you think of Redux, Salome, considering it’s nearly a full forty five minutes of voice over. 🙂

    Good review as always, I really like how you see the Mulder/Skinner relationship. I actually want to extend the pseudo-son relationship to a pseudo-daughter relationship with Scully. I know there are many Scully/Skinner shippers out there, but I’ve always viewed Skinner as being their father figure. Let’s face it, these are two characters who lose their fathers very early into the series, I think Skinner is the one who fills the gap for them.

    • Would you believe I love Redux? (Spoilers!) Which just goes to show I have no hard and fast rules… or that I’m a flake.

      That’s a really good observation. I never thought about the fact that Skinner drew close to Mulder and Scully just as they were experiencing those losses.

  8. Just wanted to add that I absolutely love the scene of Scully with her mom. Huge kudos to Sheila Larken. She nailed it – as usual. My mother would react exactly the same..absolutely authentic. And the scene of her with Gillian in Redux 2 (after the PET scan showed no improvement -sorry for jumping ahead) is among my favorite XF scenes altogether, if not of anything I’ve ever seen on TV.

  9. I struggle with the kiss being cut. A part of me is glad they did, but a part of me wishes it would have stayed. In the shippy land, I have always thought that the cancer arc was when everything became clear (feelings, etc) to both of them – especially Scully. My boss is an XF fan though admittedly quit watching after season 5 or so, said that the near kiss in FTF seemed desperate, and I think given Memento Mori and onward, it wasn’t so desperate at all. They circle around the inevitable for so long.

    Ultimately, I love this episode – it is for sure my favorite episode of the season. The sentimental girl deep down wanted this to be super angsty and sentimental. When, early on, Mulder has his gun on Kurt Crawford and Scully’s nose starts to bleed, I huge part of me wanted him to lose it there. But in reality, I love how XF remained true to what it was, and didn’t turn down a road that might have changed the series.

    Gillian was phenomenal in this episode. I have a friend who I just got started watching the series, and she mentions how Gillian did not impress her until “Beyond The Sea”, and I told her that she needed to buckle her seat belt because Gillian continues to blow us away as the series continues, Memento Mori being among her best.

    I also think I fell in love with Skinner even more at the end there, his loyalty to Mulder and Scully unquestionable at this point.

    As for the voice-overs, I am ashamed to say I liked them. Well, in this episode anyway. Any voice-over done as a field report makes me giggle. I do a similar line of work as they do (LOL not paranormal, but I work for the gov’t in a capacity), and I must say my writing doesn’t sound like a Philosophy 100 assignment. Pretty sure I’d be unable to turn in something like that…

    Finally, I agree with your comment, about this ultimately being about two people. I loved the cancer arc (though watching it air in real time back in 97 was EXCRUCIATING… especially that summer between 4 and 5…) because it really showed the effects of their quest – not on some global level, and not involving a family member being waxed… but involving THEM. It creates this inevitable side thing where Mulder is partially responsible for what is happening. This is one of many reasons why I love this series… it’s so multifaceted, on so many levels – but it executes it in such a way that you aren’t lost/confused.

    My only complaint? What a lucky guess for that computer password with the snow globe. LOL.

    • YES – That password was ridiculously easy. No hacking required.

      95% of the time The X-Files didn’t step over that line into becoming overly sentimental which is part of why Mulder and Scully’s relationship was ultimately as successful as it was. That goodness the fans didn’t get exactly what they wanted when they wanted it. But I agree with you that by the time there was any overt action, it was well-earned. It only would have been desperate and schmaltzy if it had happened too soon.

      • You know, there’s something else I noticed about that nose bleed. It’s a beautiful example of one of the Mulder/Scully “wordless” conversations. He nudges at his nose to get her to wipe hers free of blood. She does, then realizes he’s worrying too much, and says “I’m fine.” which really means, “I’m not fine, but god, we aren’t discussing this… especially now, in front of this third person, who we’ve just taken down and are about to question, and don’t you dare make a scene.”

        And all the third person has heard is “I’m fine,” and given that he doesn’t see the nosebleed, still makes sense in his context of a partner checking up on the other given that there was a pursuit and a takedown. It’s really quite lovely, and while I’m certain it was scripted, I highly doubt it was thought through that thoroughly.

        Then you see her cleaning herself up in the bathroom, and she’s trying to hide from Mulder how severe it was. Gosh. So great.

  10. I’m sorry to keep posting on these, but

    That is all.

  11. This episode is saved by wonderful acting and the scenes with Skinner. Otherwise it would be a pretentious, boring version of One Breath.

  12. Pingback: Per Manum 8×8: Don’t make me guess. | Musings of an X-Phile

  13. Poached eggs.

  14. Pingback: I Want to Believe: I don’t think I’m the one who’s changed. | Musings of an X-Phile

  15. Mitch Pileggi is so incredible in his scenes here. So understated and still saying so much. How does Skinner manage to remain so entirely badass even as he’s “begging” help from CSM. Years after first seeing this episode, I hardly remembered much but the hospital and M&S scenes. Seeing it again now I’m stunned at how well all the mythology is featured here and how significant so many other bits are here. Especially Skinner. Man, he is awesome.

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