Here’s the thing about this episode: It’s hard to believe our military is a match for beings who can literally stop time.
It’s partially because of this that I can’t help feeling there should be something more at stake here than suddenly wimpy aliens trying unsuccessfully to recover technology that the mean ol’ humans stole. And despite my best efforts to take myself back to a Season 1 mentality, where conspiracies were just conspiracies unto themselves and the Cigarette Smoking Man had nothing to do with them, conspiracies where some opaque and sinister organization called “The Military” was solely responsible for inscrutable reasons, it still feels as though the aliens must be holding back their wrath as a part of some grander purpose that ties into the plans of the now conspicuously AWOL Syndicate. Yet somehow, with the military handling the cover-up so poorly that even the TSA can see through it, it’s hard to believe the old wise men of the Syndicate are pulling the strings on this one.
I enjoyed myself, as I always do (or nearly always) watching The X-Files. But I found myself asking questions the entire time, questions that will never have an answer.
The aliens took the assassin in the end because he was literally “holding the bag,” right? So then, they took Max for the same reason and not because he was a repeat abductee? Are these then the same aliens that have been abducting Max or another race/community altogether? And if they returned Max, why didn’t they return Pendrell’s assassin?
But most of all, why couldn’t the aliens have broken into whatever facility the mysterious objects were kept at in the first place rather than mugging innocent commuters in midair? Surely creatures that can halt planes in the middle of the open sky can breach a government security system or two!
S’kay though. When it comes to certain types of X-Files episodes, it’s best not to think on the whys and wherefores but so long. We wouldn’t want to ruin it for ourselves. So leaving issues of incredulity behind, there are only a couple of minor things that struck me.
For the first time since “Memento Mori” (4×15), Scully’s cancer comes back as a plot point. Blink and you’ll miss it because her brief nosebleed is barely a point of reference; it’s only there to remind us that they haven’t forgotten. “Yes, she still has cancer. No, we’re not ready to do anything about it yet.”
I’m actually quite glad that they didn’t fall into the emotional trap of milking Scully’s cancer to death. Then again, moments like this feel a little awkward since Scully et. al. have been acting as though her cancer didn’t exist for the past two episodes and after this will again ignore it for another two. Possibly it would have been smoother if Scully’s cancer hadn’t stopped and started in fits and spurts. Perhaps a mention of a doctor or medication here or there? I’m happy she wasn’t a chronic victim, but these out of the blue reminders make her cancer seem more like an incidental fact to keep in mind rather than a life-changing experience. Then again, having the cancer be a constant presence would have been irritating in the extreme. Oh, I don’t know what I want. I’m just looking for a happy medium.
On a final note, I only want to bring up this:
Mulder: …the object which ultimately brought down this plan, the cause which has eluded you.
“The cause which has eluded you?” No one talks like that. No one.
Mulder: Something happened. Something went terribly wrong, something unimaginable.
Mike Millar: Okay…
“Okay…” indeed. Maybe once in a while, Mulder should just come out with it.
And the Verdict Is…
I’m not sure that The X-Files can ever go home again. The “Tempus Fugit”/”Max” two-parter is a nice change of pace and a welcome nod to things past, but it inadvertently highlights just how much the central core of The X-Files has evolved over the years. At it’s heart, it’s still all about conspiracy and mistrust, but with a web of lies that’s grown almost confusingly intricate it’s possible that an episode like “Max” either undoes the threads or falls itself into the trap. Does this prove that the mythology has already gone too far? That it’s taken on too much? Or does this one-off just pale in comparison? I’m still not sure myself. Possibly both.
“Max” is lacking the high stakes games that were ever present in Season 3, but then again, with the exception of “Tunguska” (4×9) and “Terma” (4×10), the rest of Season 4’s mythology has so far suffered the same fate. Mulder and the Search for the Holy Grail of Scully’s Ova in “Memento Mori” is great fun, but it never felt particularly urgent to me since it’s not like Scully was every really going to die that same night.
Overall, despite my lingering doubts, I’d say “Max” is a worthwhile experiment. Sure, I’ve never gotten over the fact that Agent Pendrell dies off screen without so much as a parting pout for Scully, but if they have to cut back on the mythology revelations to save some goodies for Season 5 and for the upcoming movie, so much the better. At least they spread the goodness out rather than watered it down… for the most part.
What in the heck was Mulder thinking by recreating the perfect storm? Didn’t Max already crash an entire plane by boarding it with that mysterious object in tow? What exactly did he suppose would happen if he bought himself a ticket on another one???
Let me get this straight, the gunman, Pendrell’s killer, never bothered to change his bloody pants even a day or so later? Mulder should have smelled him walking down the gangplank.
One thing you can always count on Carter and Spotnitz for is some great Mulder and Scully dialogue.
Mike Millar: You’re saying, in effect, that Flight 549 was in the grip of a sort of UFO tractor beam?
Mulder: That’s a Hollywood term… but, yes.
Mulder: Do you know where she is?
Scully: In a mental institution.
Mulder: I, I’d go with you but I’m, I’m afraid they’d lock me up.
Scully: Me too.
Mulder: More people are trying to get their hands on this thing than a ‘Tickle-Me Elmo’ doll.
Mulder: I’m standing outside an airplane bathroom where I’ve got the man who shot Pendrell locked up.
Mulder: Yeah and looks like I’m going to miss the in-flight movie. And it was something starring Steve Guttenberg.
Scully: Actually, I was thinking about this gift that you gave me for my birthday. You never got to tell why you gave it to me or what it means, but I think I know. I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women, and extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals, that what can be imagined can be achieved, that you must dare to dream, but that there is no substitute for perseverance and hard work… and teamwork. Because no one gets there alone. And that while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieve them, we cannot forget the sacrifice of those who make these achievements and leaps possible.
Mulder: I just thought it was a pretty cool key chain.