I’m going to start with a bit of an unusual premise here and say that “Tempus Fugit” and it’s follow up episode “Max” (4×18) aren’t really mythology episodes at all, instead they’re more like the pre-mythology conspiracy episodes of Season 1; think “Deep Throat” (1×1), “Fallen Angel” (1×9), and “EBE” (1×16). Taken at its most basic, this is your standard The Aliens are Here and the Government Won’t Admit It fare. What elevates the story is that this time it’s personal. “Tempus Fugit” is an episode about the casualties of war, the lives that are being lost whose deaths and whose pain will be meaningless unless Mulder and Scully can ultimately find a way to unravel this whole alien thing. Otherwise, Mulder and Scully could just as easily go the way of Max and Pendrell, and all those who were collateral damage will have died in vain.
The actual and potential loss, largely represented by the incredibly realistic crash site, is sobering. Mulder and Scully have precious few family members left for Chris Carter to kill off so he had to find another way to remind the audience of what’s at stake in this quest that Mulder and Scully are on and he did so by killing two friends and a whole plane full of people. It’s not all fun, games and Black Oil.
Speaking of the Black Oil, where is it? Here, not only is a character from Season 1, Max Fenig, brought back, but the mythology plot is subject to a rewind as well. There’s no Syndicate, no CSM dropping ash all over the place, no Krycek simpering. It’s just a straight up alien abduction meets government cover up. Mulder back to unreservedly and unwisely blasting his opinions from the rooftops rather than playing his hunches close to the vest, another throwback to earlier Seasons when Mulder got on his superiors’ nerves not by his actions but with his words. He never knew when to reel it in.
In the sense that they hark back to a simpler time in The X-Files, these elements are welcome. But in some ways it’s a little too late because now I’ve been conditioned to expect otherwise. Consequently, I spent the entire episode trying to figure out how what’s happened to Max fits into the overall mythology at large. The problem is I’m not sure it does. It’s more like a side plot.
Are the aliens that abducted Max the same ones that are working with the Syndicate? I find that hard to believe since the Syndicate seems to be secretly scared to death of those aliens, but a lone fighter pilot easily defeats these aliens. Speaking of which, how is it that creatures who possess technology we can only dream of and who can manage to travel light years to earth without a problem are no match for our military? That takes the bloom off their rose, doesn’t it?
I have no proof, but I’d be greatly surprised if these are the same aliens behind the plans for colonization. They’d need a lot more power. And besides, if I were them, I’d start colonization early if those human peons started shooting down my ships.
And the Verdict is…
I confess that I’m still not completely sure how I feel about this one, and I’ve been stewing on it for a good while. On the one hand, it’s good to see Max again and I enjoy that element of continuity and the nod to long time fans by giving them the payoff of bringing back a much loved, if oft forgotten character. On the other hand, why do I still feel a little bored?
Sure, we get that great birthday scene between Mulder and Scully, opening the window a little more into their quite comfortable and predictable relationship. That’s worth the price of admission. And Mulder’s short but sweet vigil beside Max’s body is poignant and memorable. Likewise, Scully’s last tender moments with Pendrell are just shy of heartbreaking. But still, I can’t help feeling like all of this isn’t leading much of anywhere. This is only the first in a two-parter, however, so I guess we’ll see.
In regards to the more technical end of things, director Kim Manners has almost outdone himself with that airplane crash. It’s almost too realistic… I have to not watch it too closely lest I have flashbacks during my next airplane flight. And that crash scene looks exactly like what we saw a few times too many on the news during the 1990’s. It’s just stellar work from everyone involved.
But did they have to kill Pendrell??? I’m going to miss that little geek.
How could Max’s sister’s motel room fall from 29,000 feet as Mulder says? Wouldn’t the aliens have had to take the whole motel lest someone notice a few walls missing? Forget that, why not just take the person alone???
Would Mulder have remembered Scully’s birthday if Scully wasn’t dying?
It’s only funny when Mulder says, “We’re not gonna make it” because we know very well that he is.
I sincerely doubt Mulder and Scully would have been allowed in that TSA meeting or even less likely at the crash site.
On a related note, I realize that in order to keep things fresh and interesting, Mulder and Scully constantly have to be forced into new situations. Even so, why does Mulder going diving without experience feel like too much of a stretch to me? Combine that with Mulder and Scully’s free access to an airplane crash investigation and I’m starting to wonder how much disbelief I can suspend. It’s somehow less jarring to my rational mind to watch a mutant grow a new head.
Scully: Mulder, you have never remembered my birthday in the four years I’ve known you.
Mulder: That’s the way I like to celebrate them, every four years. It’s like dog years that way.
Scully: Dog years? Thank you.
Mulder: You’re welcome. Oh, I got something for you.
Scully: Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.
Mulder: It’s just something that reminded me of you.
Scully: What? An alien implant?
Mulder: Two actually. I made them into earrings.
Scully: Oh, please tell me this isn’t leading to something really embarrassing.
Scully: You sure know how to make a girl feel special on her birthday.
Motel Manager: Look at this! I don’t know what kind of game she was playing in here. She blew the door right out of the jamb. I doubt insurance will cover it.
Mulder: Does your policy cover the acts of extraterrestrials?
Scully: We’ll take care of it.
Bruce Bearfield: Have you worked at this depth before?
Mulder: Not exactly.
Bruce Bearfield: What exactly is your experience?
Mulder: Once I got a quarter off of the deep end of the Y pool.