One Son 6×12: Two fathers whose paths would converge in a new battle.


They're heeeere!

Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair District of Columbia, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed G-Men take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with Spender’s death fail to bury their parents’ strife…

“The Mulders vs. The Spenders” doesn’t slide down the throat as easily as “The Montagues vs. The Capulets”, but you get the idea. Once upon a time, C.G.B. Spender slept with Bill Mulder’s wife and the universe hasn’t been at peace since. Now their progeny take center stage. By the end of this epic rivalry, or at least the end of this episode, only one son will be left standing.

And it’s not Jeffrey Spender.

As I said in my “Two Fathers” (6×11) review, what Cigarette-Smoking Man/C.G.B. Spender wants isn’t a family, it’s a legacy. You see, he believes his own myth. His sudden nepotism in regards to his son Jeffrey isn’t born out of sentimentality however he may pose. No, he considers himself some kind of noble hero and his chief desire is to watch his myth carry on into the next generation. In this regard his post-mortem jealousy of his old friend Bill Mulder is palpable; even in death his desires are being carried out through the work of his son (Never mind that Mulder’s paternity is still in doubt. Spiritually, he’s a man after his father’s heart.) CSM is out to prove he’s the better man not by actually being the better man but by manipulating his own son into a position of power over Bill Mulder’s son. Till the bitter end he also blocks every attempt by the Syndicate to heed Bill Mulder’s advice of long ago: Don’t sleep with the enemy.

Oh, how he then must have enjoyed tricking Bill Mulder’s son into accepting the fate his father had fought against, the soul-destroying compromise that he had ultimately left the Syndicate in protest of. Of course, he frames it in such away that Mulder would be damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. If Mulder takes CSM up on his offer of sanctuary with the aliens and saves himself, he’ll have to live with the fact that he abandoned the rest of humanity to its horrible fate. But to refuse the offer would be to insult his father’s gift, to spit on the sacrifice, the Faustian bargain he once made in order to save his son. Is Mulder willing to live up to his father’s ideals by crushing his father’s efforts? The answer is almost “No.”

If Mulder had compromised himself perhaps Spender could have lived. But considering the title of the episode there’s no way both of them would have survived. It’s too bad because I always rather liked Spender. Yes, he’s a brat. But I always felt that he was fundamentally unlike his father and that if he were ever armed with the truth would probably do the right thing. Now that he’s done it, now that he could become an interesting ally to the cause and his possible kinship with Mulder could be explored, down the trap door he goes. That’s so very like you, Chris Carter.

Thank goodness no one ever really dies on The X-Files.

But I’ve skipped ahead. I haven’t even discussed how Mulder made it to his fateful conversation with CSM in the first place. To understand how Mulder ended up breaking into Diana Fowley’s apartment and wound up holding CSM at gunpoint, we’ll need to go back a ways to about right here:

Scully: You tell me that Cassandra Spender is the critical test subject, the one who could prove everything. And yet, who is watching over her? Mulder, I can prove what you’re saying or I can disprove it but not when Diana Fowley is keeping us from even seeing her! Mulder, ask yourself why there is no information whatsoever on Special Agent Diana Fowley. Why she would suddenly happen into your life when you are closer than ever to the truth. I mean, you… you ask me to trust no one and yet you trust her on simple faith!
Mulder: ‘Cause you’ve given me no reason here to do otherwise.

:::Gut-Wrenchingly Painful Silence:::

Scully: Well, then I can’t help you anymore.
Mulder: Scully, you’re making this personal.
Scully: Because it is personal, Mulder. Because, without the F.B.I., personal interest is all that I have. And if you take that away then there is no reason for me to continue.

I have to pause after this whole scene because it’s so intense I need a moment to start breathing again. I mean, literally, I was holding my breath. I think I just saw the life of MSR flash before my eyes.

Mulder and Scully have been building to this moment since at least the movie when Mulder literally begs Scully not to quit the F.B.I., not because she still had any love for the institution, or because she had a vested interest in investigating the paranormal, but for him. His sorry behind is the only thing keeping Scully in this dangerous game. I don’t even believe she wants to solve the mystery of her own abduction badly enough to keep going. She made it clear in that hallway that she’d walk away if she didn’t think Mulder needed her. Now he’s risking losing her all over again for the sake of his history with a woman he’s not even close to any longer. Thankfully, by the end of the episode they’ve already tacitly agreed to pretend this moment never happened.

I’m forcefully reminded of “E.B.E.” (1×16), when Mulder angrily blows off Scully’s warnings only to quietly follow up on her suspicions later. Then too Mulder is reluctant to believe that someone he has affection for and history with could be lying to him. Yeah, he wants to believe. He wants to believe in his friends. That’s why he passively allows his former partner Jerry to use him in “The Ghost in the Machine” (1×6), why he refuses to allow Scully to persuade him that Skinner is dirty in “Redux II” (5×3), and why it takes him so long to realize that Deep Throat has his own agenda in “E.B.E.”. Mulder would normally be willing to hang governments with the circumstantial evidence Scully collects on Diana Fowley, but it will take a lot more than evidence for Mulder to turn on someone he feels loyalty toward. It will take absolute proof.

Too his credit, Mulder trusts Scully enough to do some checking on Diana Fowley against his own instincts. Maybe he remembers “E.B.E.” too. Unlike in “E.B.E.”, though, he doesn’t get the chance to prove Scully right. He barely has time to rifle through Fowley’s underwear drawer like a common pervert before CSM arrives and interrupts his investigation. It’s a testament to just how much his conversation with CSM rocks his paradigm that he forgets afterward to question what CSM was doing in Diana Fowley’s apartment in the first place. No, there was no smoking gun buried at the bottom of her lingerie drawer, but that CSM would arrive in the middle of the night looking awfully at home would be enough for Mulder if he were in his right mind.

But a new thought occurs to me: What if Mulder’s suspicions are aroused but he has ceased to care? After all, he’s willing to give up and give in to CSM’s invitation, what does he care if Fowley is in cahoots with him? For a minute there he’s thinking the Syndicate was right all along.

This may be perverse, but I enjoy watching Mulder’s self-righteousness get challenged. He has the liberty of being an idealist, his father did not. What would Mulder have done when faced with the same impossible situation? Would he have stalled for time and lives or would he have resisted openly and tempted annihilation? From the way he so easily falls for CSM’s guilt trip, I’d say he could have gone in either direction. It’s a good thing he has Scully in his life. She’s the kind of friend who won’t let him give up even when he wants to… even after he’s rejected her… again… It’s a theme that will come back again to play in the Season 7 opener.

Verdict:

Yes, the Syndicate era of the mythology has been wrapped up and tied with a bow. But fortunately, there are still questions left to be answered:

  • Who are the Rebels and why are they fighting the Colonists?
  • Where’s Samantha?
  • Are there any Syndicate survivors left besides CSM, Krycek, Marita and Fowley?
  • Is Agent Spender really dead?
  • What exactly is the nature of Fowley’s relationship with CSM? Hmm??
  • Will Gibson Praise and alien junk DNA become a major factor in the mythology?
  • If serving the aliens is no longer an option, can humanity still resist?

It remains to be seen if these dangling threads will all be addressed, but it would seem that rather than building to a confrontation with a shadowy government of powerful men, Mulder is now looking directly at an all out war with an alien race. If anything, the stakes are higher than they were.

And really, it’s about time for a clean house. There was only so long Chris Carter could have dragged out this tale without the rubber band snapping. Any more unanswered questions without some definitive resolution would have been untenable, so Carter decided it was time to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. So dies the old guard.

It does seem a great injustice that CSM, the one who for so many years has been responsible for pushing collaboration with the Colonists against his colleagues’ objections, should be the sole survivor of the Syndicate’s holocaust. Despite his claims of noble self-sacrifice for the sake of the next generation, the fact that he murders his own son makes it clear that he’s never been working for anyone’s benefit but himself.

But I would feel bereft if Mulder’s greatest nemesis were to die too. I confess to much satisfaction and relief when I see CSM and Fowley selfishly drive away from El Rico. There’s wiping the slate clean and then there’s breaking the slate altogether – at least we can be sure we haven’t seen the last of Old Smokey.

Love it or hate it, “Two Fathers” marks the most significant turning point of the series. It’s only fault is that it’s a somewhat rushed conclusion to nearly six years worth of build up.

A-

El Rico:

How on earth does Mulder recognize a disheveled Marita from that far down the hallway? When did he get telescopic eyes?
I thought the “date is set” and all that. The Colonists are willing to move up the timetable if an alien/human hybrid is successfully created?

Fort Marlene:

Sure, the cost of these DVDs was astronomic back when I bought them, but being able to rewind a scene where Mulder wanders through the halls of Fort Marlene dressed like Michael Jackson on an off day? Priceless.

Ah, the telltale sign that their relationship has changed: Mulder and Scully are uncomfortable in front of each other naked. That’s never happened before.

I’m actually going to miss seeing Mulder and Scully out in the bullpen. At least there she had a desk.

The scene where Scully confronts Fowley is so tense that my stomach still clenches up over a dozen years later. Now that’s acting.

It looks like the number on Fowley’s apartment door is 66. One more 6 and I would have been satisfied.

We never get a clear picture of who Diana Fowley really is in the conspiracy, but her connection to Tunisia is a good indication that she was working for Strughold, the head of the Syndicate himself.

I love that the mass murder of the Syndicate happens off screen. Hearing their screams in the blackness is more effective than watching them burn could have been.

Despite what he says in “Two Fathers”, CSM had and still does have some feelings for Cassandra. I don’t know if we could categorize it as love, but it’s certainly sentimental. Or maybe the writer in him is just caught up in the poetic tragedy of it all.

What is Krycek, the third son, up to? Like Mulder, he’s late for an appointment to save his own behind. But he’s not busy playing the hero, he’s manipulating the situation for his own profit. He figures that alien fetus will be valuable in the coming war. What good it will do him if he misses his ride and dies? I have no idea. So I can only assume he’s already aware of what the rebels are planning, at least to some extent, even before he goes to fetch the fetus.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: The latest in home security. [Indicating the elaborate series of locks on the Gunmen’s front door]
Frohike: Hey, you get through this, you gotta come through me.

———————

Cigarette-Smoking Man: I remember looking over a gun barrel at you once before, Agent Mulder. You couldn’t pull the trigger then. What makes you think you can do it now?
Mulder: [Cocks gun]
Cigarette-Smoking Man: [Quickly] I came here looking for my son.

———————

Kersh: You have answers now? Why didn’t I hear about those answers before?
Mulder: I’ve had answers for years.
Kersh: Then why didn’t we hear about them?
Mulder: Nobody ever listened.
Kersh: Who burned those people?
Mulder: They burned themselves. With a choice made long ago by a conspiracy of men who thought they could sleep with the enemy, only to awaken another enemy.
Kersh: What the hell does that mean?
Mulder: It means the future is here, and all bets are off.
Kersh: Agent Scully, make some sense.
Scully: Sir, I wouldn’t bet against him.

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31 responses to “One Son 6×12: Two fathers whose paths would converge in a new battle.

  1. I don’t think Mulder recognized Marita from the distance. I think what he saw was someone recognize him and the scuttle away in fear. Why wouldn’t he follow?

  2. Do I detect the possibility that you think this story might have been even better if they had decided to do it as a three parter. You know, given the thoughts and feelings some of us seem to have to the direction the mythology goes in with episodes post-One Son, maybe it might have been a better idea from Chris and Frank to have held off on these episodes until the finale at least. Plus, it’s only halfway through the season and Mulder and Scully are back on X Files cases. Maybe it would have given the season more scope if the entire season had been about them trying to get back to their life’s work.

    Another great review as always, I gotta agree with you on your sentiments on Spender, an interesting character who, just as it seems something really unique is about to be developed with regards to him, is then killed off at the final hurdle. A lot of good insights too and I love all your Shakespeare references. I think if The Bard were alive today, he would definitely be writing this show. 😀

    • You know, I hadn’t even thought of that possibility but if any story arc was worthy of a three parter surely it was the destruction of the Syndicate. More than that though, I really wish they had been able to stick to their original plan for the flashbacks. I understand why they didn’t work out, but even though I already enjoy these episodes I think Chris Carter’s original intentions were much more powerful. Ah, well. Such is life!

      I need to start keeping a running list of characters who were killed off right as they were on the cusp of greatness:
      Deep Throat
      Mr. X
      Agent Pendrell
      Agent Spender
      To be continued…

      • I think X was killed off at the right time- he kept to the shadows and helped Mulder but once he did it out in the open just like Deep Throat, he was met with the same fate. Agent Spender is someone who could’ve had more mileage and it’s really silly they killed him.

        I think you and Eamon are right. They should’ve made this a 3-parter and moved it to the end of the season. I think they should’ve even done an episode where Spender actually tries to investigate an X-Files case when Mulder helps him. But I guess that actually happened in Season 8, when Mulder helped Doggett and that Layla Harrison chick.

  3. The way that Mulder seemingly turns his back on Scully in this episode has a lasting effect on Scully’s behaviour too Mulder in the coming episodes. I remember when i first watched Arcadia i was really taken aback by Scully’s overt unfriendliness to Mulder, but when i realised that the episode listings for Arcadia and Aqua Mala had been switched, it made much more sense. In the original line up, the next episode is Arcadia which explains why Scully isnt being very cutesy with Mulder – she’s still pissed off that he ignored her warnings about Fowley. The episode designated to follow was Aqua Mala. That episode ends with Mulder being made to remember to not take his partner for granted and listen to what she’s saying.
    I wish the original line up had remained, it would have been so much more coherent if it had followed straight on after this episode.

    • I can kinda see that since Scully spends all of Arcadia hilariously rejecting Mulder’s loving husband act. So it does make more emotional sense right after One Son. Certainly from the audience’s point of view it’s nice to see a couple of Scully’s jabs at Mulder after all he put her through. But I don’t see her behavior there as indicative of there being any latent hostility/coldness. Knowing Scully, she probably would’ve responded to Mulder’s shenanigans the same way had the events of One Son never happened. In fact, there are moments in Arcadia where you can see she enjoys rejecting him about as much as he enjoyed being rejected. I read Arcadia more as Mulder trying his darndest to annoy Scully and Scully giving back as good as she got. It’d be different if Mulder had been seriously putting the moves on her and she shot him down.

  4. Another excellent entry, as always! 🙂

    You’ve got the scene with Mulder and Scully “making it personal” so dead on. Literally, you’ve taken the words out of my mouth, and somehow made them sound better than I could have put them in the first place! Great point about them forgetting about this scene by the end of the episode, too. Did these two have a heart to heart at some point about this that we missed? Seriously, you don’t just drop something like this…

    Mulder, Mulder, Mulder! *shakes head in disapproval* You’re right, Mulder really does put a lot of faith into the people in his life. Guess I can’t blame him for that, as you need that to work with someone in the case of Deep Throat and Jerry. However, I think there’s an additional reason when it comes to Dr. Bambi Berenbaum, Phoebe Green (yeah…remember those two?), Diana and even Scully to some degree. Mulder seems to be a sucker for a pretty face. Seems like a woman who bats an eyelash, smiles, or laughs at one of his jokes can win his trust rather quickly.

    “It looks like the number on Fowley’s apartment door is 66. One more 6 and I would have been satisfied.” Couldn’t agree more with you there. Don’t think I can find anything good to say about her if I tried. Fowley haters unite!

    • I’m so glad you liked it!

      Interesting you should mention Mulder and his harem because I was just thinking about this aspect of his character last night. I think it’s not pretty women, but all women that Mulder is a sucker for, down and out women in particular. Mulder’s one of those men that seems to have a natural sympathy toward the fairer sex. Maybe it’s partially because of what happened to Samantha? Maybe it’s partially his natural personality? Whatever it is, he’s been sensitive to Scully since the Pilot. Heck, I wrote up the review to Monday not long ago and he showed sensitivity to a random hysteric in the bank! He’s just one of those guys that gets along well with women and that women gravitate toward. It’s just a testament to… his character? the all-consuming nature of his quest?… that he doesn’t take advantage of that more.

  5. Is it just me, or were most of the questions about the Syndicate, the Rebels and possible human resistance after “One Son” just left hanging in the air? There sure was potential to go off that, but I don’t really feel that much of that was really touched upon later. All I remember after Samantha were William and the silly Super Soldiers. Or maybe my brain is just mushy right now.

    Also, when I noticed that production code on “Arcadia”, I started watching it right after “One Son”. :>

    And I think it’s spot-on that Mulder is generally good with women, I noticed that myself a while ago. Personally, I think that adds a nice touch to the Mulder/Scully relationship dynamic, because she is such a privy, case-to-case basis person with men and jealous of her men paying attention to someone else. ;D

    • It’s not just you. There were lots of threads waiting to be woven into something, but most were left dangling. But One Son did have the potential to be the start of something new and not just the end of the old.

      And it’s funny, but the more I think about it the more Mulder had personable tendencies that seem to be overlooked. He’s sympathetic to (some) strangers, certainly very loyal to his friends… I suppose he would have turned out a normal, social human being if his quest hadn’t consumed him.

  6. You know, I think you are onto something here…Mulder just might be a sucker for all women, and Samantha might be the driving force behind that.

    Another Phile friend of mine brought up the idea that in many ways Scully took over Samantha’s place in Mulder’s life. Obviously, not meaning as his sister, but as someone he was close to, felt protective about, and cared for deeply. Really hadn’t thought of their relationship like that before, but kind of like it. Makes me feel a little better about how the “Samatha arc” ended, thinking that perhaps he didn’t find his sister, but found the aspects of his sister that he needed in his life in Scully. 🙂

  7. My biggest question:

    Was there glass separating Mulder and Scully in the shower or just a low partition?

  8. My biggest question:

    Was there glass separating Mulder and Scully in the shower or just a low partition?

  9. Firstly: THE SHOWER SCENE! THE LOOKS! *&$^#&*^$&#^&$#%$#

    Sorry.

    Secondly, I am still giggling over the “there must be some mistake, I signed up for the aromatherapy treatment.”

    Thirdly, I hate you Diana Fowley.

    I’m with Eamon’s comment – wouldn’t this have made a great ending to the series? (With much more work/elaboration, of course.)

    I am bothered by the fact that Mulder wasn’t outraged/suspicious/etc with CSM in Fowley’s apartment. Maybe you’re right, maybe he doesn’t care. Maybe he knows deep down that Scully’s right about her. Who knows?

    I think though. I am left frustrated with all the loose ends and unanswered questions. Especially given the way the series takes off after all this.

    • Back then it wasn’t frustrating because I believed the answers would eventually come. Now it’s only mildly frustrating… I was always more of a MOTW gal. But I’m hoping this rewatch I’ll find answers to loose ends I never knew where there. Maybe??

  10. Oh, this episode.

    Let’s start out with the really good stuff. In both this episode and Two Fathers, I loved that everything was spelled out. I definitely needed the handholding — even if it was only just for confirmation of everything that I suspected was going on. I thought they did a great job of providing some answers, even if they did leave open-ended questions.

    Then, there’s the shower scene. Which I almost can’t watch because of the tension. Almost. And I love the scene where Mulder tells Scully that she hides her feelings quite well. Just, love it. There’s so much of an undertone there, it makes me squee.

    But, then, of course, there are the not-so-great things . . . like the scene at the Long Gunmen’s. I’ve always tried to justify Mulder’s actions in my mind, and always come up wanting. Even if Mulder and Fowley were married, even if they once meant a lot to one another, even if he just doesn’t want to face the thought of another betrayal . . . . Come on. This is Scully. Put your money where your mouth is and TRUST HER. Seriously, that scene is so heartbreaking. Even the Lone Gunmen are like, geez Mulder, that was below the ovaries.

    And then. THEN. The scene in Fowley’s apartment. As I was watching this, I was overcome by the distinct memory that they kissed here. And I was like NO IT CANNOT BE YOU ARE JUST REMEMBERING MULDER’S CRAZY DREAM LIFE LATER ON. And then CSM came in and he and Mulder had a nice little talk and it was fine and I thought, surely, I must have been mistaken. But no. Indeed I was not. That little nugget obviously stuck in my brain for a reason. And even though it was brief and I can rationalize it away, I still think WHY, Chris Carter, WHY.

    Thank God Mulder and Scully have this great agreement where they always pretend like anything that ever impacts them emotionally didn’t happen. Because otherwise, this whole thing could have been much, much worse.

    Anyway. That was kind of long. With a lot of caps. But, hey, I guess that’s just how this two-parter makes me feel.

    Excuse me, I need to go rewatch FTF now.

    • OMW, I felt the exact same way after The Beginning! I needed to go wash my eyes out with MSR.

      I’m glad that you brought the Lone Gunmen up because they’re reaction to Mulder’s cold-hearted ridiculosity was priceless. You could FEEL the ice water fill the room.

      And there really is no excuse for that kiss. I think it’s supposed to be kiss of gratitude, that he would invite her to join him and be saved, but we’re supposed to compare and contrast her reaction with Scully’s who doesn’t try to save herself but rallies Mulder to do the right thing and not give up. It’s a theme they’ll play out more obviously in Amor Fati. Still no excuse, mind you. Not one.

  11. Naked shower time!!!!!

    That is all.

  12. These 2 episodes (along with The Beginning) were the ones that made me realize there was no endgame, no master plan, for the mythology and that Chris Carter was making it up along as it went along. Not bad episodes really, but severely underwhelming.

    Two Fathers/One Son should’ve been 3 episodes, the second half of “One Son” feels very compressed, and rushed. The whole set piece with the moving train, either they ran out of money, or the footage they captured was useless. It’s poorly staged, inexplicably, since this was a Rob Bowman episode.

    With the Syndicate gone, it’s a shame they couldn’t go with the supposed original plan of having Krycek and Marita take over as main bad guys. Those supersoldiers/replicants were just a terrible, cheesy idea straight out of a b-movie.

    Not every mythology episode after this was garbage. I liked the introduction of Doggett (Requiem/Within/Without), if only it didn’t have that retcon about Mulder having been sick for the entirety of season 7, and not telling Scully.

  13. Goodbye, agent Spender! How I loved to hate you… 😥
    I will miss Chris Owens. I really liked his acting.

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  19. I actually followed the mythology closely so far in my binge watching so I was not surprised with the revelations of this ep and Two Fathers. I thought they were well done and I especially liked the work of CSM. (well the acting of CSM :))

    I’m not sure where they can or will go with over three seasons left in the series. ?

  20. As far as the series goes, was this two-parter equivalent to the resolution of the Laura Palmer case?

  21. “uncomfortable in front of each other naked” ? – they were clearly checking each other with those little glances. Brilliantly done, very understated.

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