Last we saw Teena Mulder she was selling her son to the Devil in drag, Cigarette-Smoking Man as you might call him, in “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), an issue that was never, ever discussed. I had a few questions for her then, I don’t mind telling you. Well, I have several more questions on my mind now.
Why is it, somebody tell me why, that just as characters start to get interesting on The X-Files, they die? Deep Throat, X, Agent Pendrell (sob!), Diana Fowley (dry eyes), Jeffrey Spender… Is there an unwritten rule somewhere? Is it written into the actors’ contracts? I realize no one ever really dies on The X-Files, but do they have to die at all?
It’s not that I was ever particularly attached to Teena Mulder, or even attached at all. But… dagnabit, woman!
Did you have to leave your son to cry with that face?
Was her disease about to disfigure her in the next few days that she couldn’t have waited to die until she talked to Mulder? She’d rather leave him floundering, wondering forever than take an extra day or two to give him what answers she has? And she couldn’t just die without saying anything she had to burn what little proof Mulder would have found? Why did she let him flail about like an idiot looking for Samantha for so many years when she knew she was already dead? There are answers I need from this woman.
And that final phone message. Do parents, even emotionally distant parents, speak to their children with phrases like, “I hoped you’d call upon your return,” with anything other than irony? Then again, Mulder and his mother have always seemed to have an affectionate, but slightly formal and distant relationship. Very New England. It doesn’t help that every member of the Mulder family seems to have secrets. Except for Mulder. He’s an open book. Too open at times.
Well, I’m done kvetching at a fictional dead woman. But I still think that after watching her burn the last pictures that she had of Mulder and Samantha that she killed herself more from guilt than fear of a painful death. Also, think of the timing. This missing girl case has clearly rattled her.
Ah, Amber Lynn LaPierre. The JonBenet of The X-Files. Even her doting parents are duly under suspicion. Not that the police don’t have reason to suspect them. Their story is suspect. And Mrs. LaPierre is the one who wrote the not-quite-ransom note, after all.
We’ve had missing girl cases before: “Conduit” (1×2), “Oubliette” (3×8) and “Paper Hearts” (4×8). All of them make obvious parallels to Samantha and Mulder’s continued emotional turmoil over her loss. Scully warns Mulder in “Sein Und Zeit” that he’s personalizing this case. But Mulder personalizes every case. Or at least he used to. I miss the days when Mulder looked emotionally invested in an X-File.
When Scully first shows up at Mulder’s California motel room I’m a little worried she’s going to turn into an insensitive nag the way she did in “Conduit” and “Oubliette”. She doesn’t, thank goodness. She’s just a little annoyed that Skinner has sent her all the way across country just because Mulder refused to pick up his phone. She tries to keep Mulder from going off the edge and lectures him about playing well with others, but she always does that.
Scully’s sensitivity actually shines in this episode and the next. That scene where she has to break the news to Mulder that his mother’s suicide was real, not staged, when Mulder breaks down and she steps in seamlessly to comfort him… X-Files Gold.
Finally! Some meat! Season 7 is cute and all but a girl can’t live off of popcorn and Skittles. I need some sustenance. I need an X-File with protein. I need something to get excited about.
Skinner: Billie LaPierre is asking for him. She’s got something to say and she’ll only talk to Mulder.
Scully: It’s not a good…
Mulder: What is it?
Skinner: This case has heated up. I’ve booked two flights for us.
Scully: Well, then you better book three.
All that said, this is an episode that’s hard for me to enjoy absolutely, not because it isn’t a good episode, but because it’s a dark one. Not darkly titillating like the previous “Signs and Wonders” (7×9), but darkly somber. There’s a sense, even from the opening teaser, that sweet little Amber Lynn is never coming home. From Amber Lynn’s disappearance and the specter of Samantha’s continued disappearance, to Teena Mulder’s suicide and the shocking final shot of a field full of tiny graves, the grimness of death hovers over this episode.
I confess I can’t wrap my heart around this walk-in version of the afterlife (and there have been many competing, conflicting, and even coexistent versions of the afterlife on The X-Files). The short story goes like this: The walk-ins are good spirits who step in… sometimes… when they see a child about to die a horrible and painful death. They spare the child that painful experience changing them from matter into energy, effectively taking them straight from life to death without the nasty business of dying. Their energy resides and manifests itself in starlight, occasionally making return visits to earth and to their unsuspecting parents’ bedrooms. Said parents may or may not be blamed for their child’s disappearance adding yet another layer of tragedy to their loss. I thought the walk-ins were supposed to be helping?
It feels like a saccharine fairytale to me – Children rescued from pain, living and playing (eternally?) in the starlight. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather spend eternity with my loved ones in heaven.
But I think the idea touches a spiritual nerve. That nerve that tells us that life can’t be defeated by death. The life of these children may be over here on earth, but it’s not over ‘cause it’s over. Ironic given the source of the episode’s title.
Forgive me for waxing philosophical here since I’m not qualified to do so. It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve taken a class or touched a book on the subject. However, given the direction this story is taking I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the meaning of Sein Und Zeit or “Being and Time” in English. It’s a reference, one can only assume, to philosopher Martin Heidegger’s magnum opus, in which he, well, philosophizes over what it means “to be.” From what little I know about it, a simplified version of his conclusion might be that existence is fundamentally linked to time, or rather, that being is time and that human existence is the span from birth to death and that to truly live, we have to live with a conscious anticipation of the end of our existence.
I suppose that sounds deep on some level, but “Sein Und Zeit” is really about the continuation of souls, in starlight if you must, whose existence can’t be defined or swallowed up by death. They exist now outside of time, not hemmed in by in, and ride on waves of light that started eons ago. Chris Carter seems to be getting back to his “I Want to Believe” roots, with spiritual hunger and the desire for hidden truths overrule the need for scientific proof. This sense of hope, that one should hope, is dauntless and compelling. Universal and compelling.
After seven seasons, we’re finally nearing the truth of a mystery that’s been a bedrock of the show since the Pilot: what happened to Samantha.
We’ve found out bits and pieces, there’s been a lot of red herrings and misinformation, outright lies, in fact. But with all this talk about walk-ins and starlight you should be getting the nagging feeling by now that Mulder will never see Samantha on this side of terra firma again.
And don’t make yourself interesting on The X-Files. It’s a death sentence.
Besides the scene in Mulder’s apartment, my next favorite part of this episode would be the teaser, when Chris Carter uses Bud LaPierre to defend his doomed series, Harsh Realm, that was canceled after only three episodes made it to air.
Bud LaPierre: [Watching Harsh Realm] This is great.
Or maybe this part…
Bud LaPierre: I was watching TV in here.
Mulder: What were you watching?
Bud LaPierre: I never heard of it before. It was good.
That moment when Chris Carter sneaks in yet another indignant defense of Harsh Realm.
Watching the authorities swarm the LaPierre residence, for the first time it occurs to me that there must’ve been a similar scene in the Mulder household when Samantha was taken. Even if Samantha’s parents knew the truth about her abduction, for appearance’s sake there would have been police all over – questioning, searching.
How did Teena Mulder understand the connection between Amber Lynn and Samantha when the information about the ransom letter hadn’t yet been revealed in the media? I have even more questions about this next episode…
Boy, Mulder keeps making awfully good time on those cross-country flights. I know this was pre-9/11, but still.
Those little graves in the final shot make for a startling image. But one has to wonder, why didn’t he bother burying them deeper? No one goes back there? He must really not have been concerned about getting caught.
I may be the only one who cares, but the guy who plays Bud LaPierre is definitely the cult leader from “Red Museum” (2×10).
And to top that nugget off, “Red Museum” was when the topic of walk-Ins first came up.
One wonders how Skinner ever explained to his superiors how he, Scully and Mulder discovered “Santa” and his field full of graves. “Well, sir, we went to interview the LaPierres again and the mother said she’d had a vision of Amber Lynn repeating the number ‘74,’ then we drove up Route 74 and Scully saw one of those year-round Christmas places on the map and she remembered the letter, so we stopped and there were videos and the man ran and… graves.”