Two Fathers 6×11: Word up.


The truth will out.

I remember really, really enjoying this set of episodes the first time around. Probably because they handhold the audience all the way through the history of the mythology and I needed handholding. Unlike actress Aisha Tyler, I didn’t have a conspiracy flow chart above my television set to keep track of the goings on. An oversight I still regret.

The way the story is framed, with Cigarette-Smoking Man filling in the blanks through exposition, works quite well. Though the way the story was originally set up, told through a series of flashbacks, would have been even better. I’ve just read some of the original script that had to be scrapped because the flashback scenes shot with actors who… didn’t look like 1970s versions of themselves any longer, weren’t as effective as they needed to be. But if it could have played out they way it did on paper, it would have been awesome. Now my heart bleeds a little for the episode that could have been.

The thing is, “Two Fathers” lives or dies by exposition. So if you’re like me and you’ve been dying to know what exactly the mythology’s been about all these years, you’re probably a fan. If you’re among the faster minded, or the more diligently obsessed, there’s a good chance you aren’t hearing anything you didn’t already know and I could see how you might be bored. Me, even the things I’ve already figured out don’t bore me. I love that smug feeling of satisfaction confirmation gives you.

Interestingly enough, CSM isn’t the only one dropping knowledge. Cassandra Spender shows up again having ditched the wheelchair and gained its weight in factual information. Why was she able to pick up so much truth during this most recent abduction when for the past twenty something years the conspirators and/or the aliens had her head filled with lies? Now, not all of her information is accurate, but it’s a far sight more informed than what she so cheerfully preached in “Patient X” (5×13). Maybe her new status as a hybrid has opened up her understanding beyond the human.

Too bad her son is still in the dark. I may be the only one, but I feel bad for Agent Spender, so much so that I wish Mulder would go ahead and be nice to the guy. I mean, over the course of this episode he’s rejected by both parents. His father slaps him. Twice. And his mother comes back from the dead only to ask for Fox Mulder, his bitter rival.

While I doubt Mulder would ever see it this way, it’s partially his own fault that Spender has become the enemy. Maybe if Mulder had been a little nicer to him initially, or tried a little harder to avoid the misunderstanding and miscommunication that occurred between them, Spender wouldn’t have been as susceptible to his father’s machinations. Surely a large part of the initial appeal of doing CSM’s dirty work was the chance to take down Mulder, despite the fact that the glory of that is now wearing thin on Spender. It’s not like his newfound relationship with his father is built on sentiment. What’s love got to do with it? CSM doesn’t want a son, he wants a legacy; he wants to see his power continue on into the next generation. His nepotism in regards to Spender is purely selfish in motive but Spender is to naïve to realize that.

It doesn’t help that Krycek has been assigned to Spender as his sort of “big brother” in the Syndicate universe, showing him the ropes as it were. But Krycek wouldn’t be Krycek if he weren’t working toward his own agenda, which brings me to my next topic…

The eponymous two fathers are Cigarette-Smoking Man (aka C.G.B. Spender) and Bill Mulder. On the surface then, their sons, their competing legacies would be Jeffrey Spender and Fox Mulder. However, I believe there’s a third son here and that’s Alex Krycek, the virtual issue of CSM’s loins.

I’ve long thought of Krycek as CSM’s spiritual successor, and apparently that thought wasn’t lost on Krycek himself either. If you have the DVD, there’s a deleted scene you can watch were Krycek boldly comes to CSM requesting to be his heir apparent. CSM coldly tells him the position has already been filled. CSM’s rejection of Krycek and his resentment of it explains his later manipulation of Spender and his efforts to turn him against his father.

It also puts Krycek’s speech before the rest of the Syndicate into context. That overdone performance was for CSM’s sake, so that he could ingratiate himself. With that in mind, it makes more sense that he would abandon his previous position. Last we saw Krycek, he was for resistance, working secretly with Well-Manicured Man to enlist Mulder to their cause. Not that it’s hard to believe Krycek would suddenly turn without warning. He’ll do whatever he needs to in order to survive. That’s what makes him Kryeck.

Now, I realize that deleted scenes aren’t canon, but this subtext is present in this story arc with or without this scene. This moment just makes Krycek’s motivations clearer and so I’m sorry it had to be cut.

In a way, all three men are the sons of CSM. True, there are suspicions regarding whether or not CSM is Mulder’s father, but either way Mulder is the product of CSM’s schemes and manipulations, schemes that likely go back to Mulder’s introduction to the X-Files and his partnership with Diana Fowley.

Yes, the truth is out there now: Diana Fowley is in cahoots with CSM. The way that Carter and Spotnitz choose to reveal that truth is both startling and gratifying. I knew that woman wasn’t to be trusted! There’s just one huge problem left… how do we convince Mulder?

And the Verdict is…

I don’t feel the same sense of urgency I did watching it way back when, but I still think “Two Fathers” works. Its only stumbling block is that it’s so much easier to entertain by raising answers than by providing them. Fortunately, I’ve been waiting so long for some clear answers and am so invested at this point that the satisfaction I get from hearing concrete facts is entertainment enough.

We’re a good ten minutes into the episode before Mulder and Scully even show up, but it’s well worth the wait. Perhaps feeling guilty over what they’re about to do to us Shippers in part two of this episode arc, Carter and Spotnitz write a classic scene of Mulder/Scully flirtation. Who knew such a short woman could walk into a room all made of legs? I may or may not have rewound this scene about ten times just now.

Yep, this is rewatchable television. Great performances all around and a hefty dose of payoff; I love that Chris Carter brings the train cars from “Nisei” (3×9) back. Bringing the story full circle by incorporating the past makes for an easily digestible meal.

Next up, there can only be “One Son” (6×12). Which one will be left standing?

A-

Random Observations:

Skinner’s a bit cold to Spender considering his mother, who he had given up for dead, has just been returned to him and he’s emotionally vulnerable. I know Spender hasn’t exactly endeared himself to Skinner, but still.

Before, the alien rebels looked suspiciously like Brian Thompson’s Alien Bounty Hunter character. Now, they’re somebody entirely new. Same race different face?

I never realized it before, but these two episodes are crucial for understanding how Krycek sees himself in future seasons.

Lingering Questions:

Mulder just hacked into A.D. Kersh’s computer remotely in “Tithonus” (6×9). He couldn’t hack into Spender’s as well? He had to break into his office and risk getting caught?

All the crap Mulder’s pulled this season and walking into Spender’s office without permission is what gets him fired? As it is, the information he accessed on Spender’s computer was for a case Spender asked him to look into.

I didn’t realize Cassandra parted with Mulder and Scully on such affectionate terms. What’s with all the hugging?

Why would the Second Elder open the door for Openshaw after he knows Openshaw’s dead? Why make it easy for the Rebel to kill you?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Hey, homegirl. Word up.
Scully: Mulder, it’s my distinct impression that you just cheated. And that you’re not coming in again today.
Mulder: Oh, Scully, I got game!
Scully: Yeah, you got so much game I’m wondering if you have any work left in you.
Mulder: No, I’m ready to J-O-B, just not on some jagoff shoeshine tip.
Scully: No “jagoff shoeshine tip?”
Mulder: No background checking, jagoff shoeshine tip.

——————-

Cigarette-Smoking Man: I’ve trusted no one. Treachery is the inevitable result of all affairs. Every man believes he has his own good reason.

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24 responses to “Two Fathers 6×11: Word up.

  1. I thought that this episode was great.
    Nice work, Salome on the Krycek-as-third-son idea. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Boy oh boy do I love to hate Krycek.
    High five to Mulder for using the word “jagoff.” Is that used in other parts of the country? I thought it was just a PA thing.

    That is one sweet, sweet mustache.

    • This dude is like Tom Selleck in the good old days.

      I so, so wanted Kryeck to pick up where CSM left off. But with the network not greenlighting Season 9 until the week the Season 8 finale aired, twasn’t to be.

  2. “I didn’t realize Cassandra parted with Mulder and Scully on such affectionate terms. What’s with all the hugging?” I was wondering the same thing!

    • In fact, wasn’t Mulder rather cold to her the last time he saw Cassandra? I can’t figure out why Scully acts like Mulder will be Cassandra’s Cracker Jack Box surprise. I feel like that whole warm family scene is more for the audience’s sake, a way of welcoming Cassandra’s character back.

      • I took the hugging and affection to be a mark of having survived something pretty awful together. I’d have to check my notes but the last time Scully saw Cassandra was the horrible incident on the bridge, right? Scully & Mulder were scared about what happened and now they knew she was (somewhat) okay. The hugs made sense to me.

        • It makes sense (sort of) for Scully because of their shared experience. And even before Cassandra disappeared she and Scully had the connection of being abductees. But Mulder?? Even if he were happy that she were alive, why does Cassandra act like Mulder is her long lost son? They didn’t get along like gangbusters before. Yes, Cassandra had asked to see Mulder in order to tell him some things, but I don’t see why it would be such a personal joy.

  3. Whilst I do love these two episodes, I can’t help but feel a pang of sadness every time I watch them. Like the Cigarette Smoking Man states at the opening, this is the end.
    Post-One Son, the mythology is never the same. The biogenesis trilogy is fantastic, but it always feels more like a side origin/character narrative separate from the main conspiracy plot. With these two episodes, the mythology begins to burn out. True there is still the Samantha story plot, but with the growth of the Syndicate over the years, the mystery and sense of urgency surrounding Samantha’s disappearance doesn’t feel as relevant or important anymore – I mean look at that the fact that A) she hasn’t really been mentioned since Redux II and B) the remark that Cassandra makes her that she is still ‘out there’, doesn’t generate the emotional punch it did in the past.
    The end is nigh… or at least it should have been…

    • Looking back I think perhaps they should have resolved the Samantha storyline not too long thereafter, building on what we learned in these episodes. By the time the mystery surrounding her pops up as a plot again, I’d lost interest. Like you said, the sense of urgency was gone. It felt more like they were wrapping Samantha up so they could move Mulder on to other things.

      • I’ll take the Samantha plotline any day over Conspiracy Mythology II…. but I’ll that leave that opinion off the table until you get to the train crash also known as ‘Provenance’ and ‘Providence’

        There aren’t nothing divine there…

  4. I gotta agree with geo here. Although there are some bright sparks coming up later (Closure, Requiem and the events of season eight), the mythology not only reaches a wonderful crescendo with these episodes, but it leaves it with very few places to go afterwards too. I’m not a big fan of the Biogenesis episodes, and after this things become very unfocused, but I gotta agree with your comments here Salome, this is a wonderful review. I remember how hyped up for these episodes I was the first time they aired, they are very substantial, feature one of William B Davis’ best ever performances on the show and I just love your comments on Krycek. If you haven’t, you should listen to the audio commentary Frank Spotnitz does on that deleted scene you mentioned because he actually talks about Krycek in much the same way. The more I think about it the more I think CSM is like King Lear with his three sons; Spender, Mulder and Krycek and I just love how he tells Spender that he pales to Mulder. That was such a great line delivery.

    • Oooo! I love that King Lear thing! Would that they had explored the emotional aftermath of the mythology instead of branching off into the detour that was Biogenesis. After all, it started with family – Samantha – before the mythology proper even started.

      The Frank Spotnitz thing doesn’t surprise me. He may not know it, but he and I are simpatico.

  5. Just a random thing that I wanted to comment on, Cassandra has remarkably tanned and toned abs for an older woman who was in a wheelchair for many years! I was watching the episode last night (motivated by this write-up) and she has got a great body!

    • Yes! That scene where they cut her tummy. That always makes me mentally salute Veronica Cartwright for whatever workouts she was putting herself through.

  6. Yes, that bit of information regarding Krycek’s motivations is revelatory; thanks for sharing. I’d almost given up on it, since the guy’s so freakin’ hard to follow.

    And yes, you were not alone in your sympathy for Spender. I, too, think Mulder shot himself in the foot with this one.

    • I don’t think I’d ever really paid attention to that before either. Krycek’s actions in this episode always confused me. I know I’d watched the deleted scenes, but I don’t think I but the plot pieces together.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks Mulder could’ve made more of an effort!

  7. I LOVE the scene where CSM bitch-slaps Spender twice and then tells him that he pales in comparison to Mulder. Love. It.

  8. Keeping my comments just to this episode and One Son will be once I watch it here when I am finished 😀

    Anyway, aside from agreeing with your stance – that this is confirmation (and satisfying confirmation) of what we obsessives already know – here’s my real question. CSM says in his narrative (which turns out to be one side of a conversation with Fowley…) that he’d been working on the project for 50 years. Now. How the hell old is CSM then? I didn’t really place him more than 60, 65 max. If he started work on the project when he was 20 (which, there’s no way in hell), he’d be 70. I’d assume he’d be between 25 and 30 when he started it, which would put him at 75-80. He is not that old. I am just saying.

    I also expected a bigger outrage from Mulder when he discovered that CSM was Spender’s father. It didn’t come.

    I never felt sorry for Spender until halfway through this episode when he’s finally up to speed on what’s been going on. I felt sorry for him then, because I think he comes to this self-actualization.

    Finally, I remember watching this when it aired and was so outraged and shocked when, at the end, they cut to Diana Fowley. I think there was a bit of foreshadowing with the scene where we see her name with Spender’s on the door. But I think I’d convinced myself back then that it HAD to be Skinner that CSM was talking to. Quite glad it wasn’t. Anyway, onward…

    • I thought the same thing! I think CSM was supposed to be in his seventies. That’s the only thing that makes sense if he was supposed to be around for the original Roswell. Perhaps he just aged gracefully despite his chain smoking.

      And I do think Mulder took that revelation a little too well. But by now I suppose he already knew someone was backing Spender and there had to be a reason. Finding out that it was CSM and why was probably just confirmation of his paranoia. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

      • There’s a moment in “Triangle” that I think is often overlooked: Scully answers the phone in Spender’s office and the CSM talks to her as if she’s Diana. The conversation isn’t explicitly revealing, but it does clearly identify Diana as one of his allies/more than she appears. It always annoyed me that they didn’t go back to that scene as one of the reasons Scully is so suspicious of Fowley in these two episodes. The conversation isn’t part of Mulder’s dream sequence, but even if it were, it would suggest he was already harboring some serious doubts.

  9. Little secret about me; I’ve only ever really watched this ep for the flirty scenes. I’m sure I must’ve registered the mythology stuff at some point, but the way Mulder eyeballs Scully when she walks into the gym…good enough for me.

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