Not that it was intentional as they weren’t filmed in this order, but “This is Not Happening” effectively and emotionally winds up as the second of a three-parter, being sandwiched between “Per Manum” (8×8) in which Mulder’s paternity of Scully’s baby is questioned for the first time and “Deadalive” (8×15) in which Mulder… well, spoilers. “Per Manum”, besides making our heads hurt with timeline questions, builds the unction and the drive to find Mulder and makes us ready for this episode. Now Scully has to find Mulder so that together they can figure out whether what’s growing inside her is a baby or an abomination.
Joining Scully, Skinner and Doggett in the hunt for Mulder is Doggett’s friend, the quirky Agent Monica Reyes. I honestly didn’t remember that this was the moment she first showed up. I skip so much of Season 8 so often that I had forgotten. Shame on me.
Monica Reyes is our new resident believer since David Duchovny’s, and therefore Fox Mulder’s, days on the show are numbered. Played by Annabeth Gish, Reyes is a breath of fresh air. She’s childlike. No, she’s not childish, but she’s childlike. She has an awkward, cheerful air about her and a naturally open and trusting disposition. Unlike Mulder’s brooding belief in the paranormal, Reyes’ take on the supernatural has more of a spiritual, New Aged tinge. And whereas Mulder’s humor was pointed and sardonic, it’s Reyes’ unintentional goofiness that gives her a certain charm.
How good her chemistry proves to be with Doggett remains to be seen, but at least she isn’t a copycat of Mulder just like Doggett isn’t a copycat of Scully. I’m still not convinced that the Unbending Skeptic/Knee-Jerk Believer dynamic is fundamentally necessary to The X-Files, that it’s not merely the way the Mulder/Scully dynamic expressed itself instead of being in and of itself a requirement for solving strange cases. But Fox and 1013 Productions appear to be unwilling to move forward without the familiarity of this established dynamic and, if that’s the case, Doggett and Reyes are about as good a team as I could ask for. I still fear that echoes and ghosts of Mulder and Scully will only prove to be the show’s undoing, however. It’s impossible to compare two very similar partnerships and not find one wanting.
I am impressed by how effectively and efficiently they introduced Reyes considering how much else is going on in this episode. We also have the introduction of Absalom, the return of Jeremiah Smith who we haven’t seen since “Herrenvolk” (4×1), and most importantly of all, the hunt for Mulder has reached its crescendo.
The threat to Mulder has multiplied triple fold. Not only is he at the mercy of the aliens, not only does he have a brain disease, but now we find out the abductees are being returned dead, a development we’ve never seen before in The X-Files. That means that even if Scully finds Mulder she’s likely to find him dead. And even if she finds him and finds him alive, he’s likely to die anyway. This is what Doggett means when he says Scully’s afraid to find Mulder. At least with him missing, there’s a vague hope that he can be saved.
Scully is afraid and we don’t see her like this often. It’s heartbreaking watching her realize what Mulder must have gone through, and even worse, watching her realize that she probably won’t be able to save him. Her vulnerability is a great excuse for some much needed Skinner/Scully bonding, but Skinner’s slightly awkward ministrations only remind me that he can’t comfort Scully like Mulder can.
Doggett feels for Scully too, but from a distance. He’s still too new in her life to reach out to her the way he seems to want to. There are more hints courtesy of Reyes that Doggett has experienced the loss of a loved one and can identify with what Scully’s going through. But it still remains to be clarified exactly what that loss was. You have to feel bad for Doggett, though. He really wants to help Scully but he can’t give her what she needs. What she needs is Mulder.
Meanwhile, Mulder… is already dead. Despite the seeming close call of the emotional ending, Scully first realizes Mulder is dead when she has that dream of him looking decayed in his torture chair. Then she sees his soul in starlight which is a dead giveaway (no pun intended). It’s even confirmed later in “Deadalive” that Mulder was dead for days before they found him.
I kinda wish that hadn’t been the case, not only because seeing Mulder’s spirit visit Scully from the beyond felt like a knife through my heart, but because knowing Mulder is already dead takes away from the tension and anticipation of finding him. Absalom and Jeremiah Smith had already indicated that if Teresa Hoese had died it would have been too late for them to help her. If that was the case, then a dead Mulder was already beyond saving and all that was left for me was to watch Scully’s heart break in two. And boy, did it break.
Gillian Anderson gave one of her best performances of the series in this episode; actually, in this episode and the next. There are so many little moments… like when you see the tears in Scully’s eyes as she questions Absalom. And then there are the big moments… like the very tangible anguish of Scully finding Mulder dead and trying and failing to bring Jeremiah Smith to save him.
Ugh. Why must The X-Files keep trying to kill me? I’m only a fangirl. I’m not indestructible.
The mythology seems to be headed somewhere, but it’s still unclear whether we’re going backwards to answer questions raised by characters like Jeremiah Smith years ago or whether we’re going forward into something new or both. This is the last we ever see of Jeremiah Smith, but before he leaves he and Absalom drop some knowledge on us: that the invasion is still on and that it looks different than we thought it would.
Right now we think Jeremiah Smith was saving the abductees from death, we’re about to find out he was saving them, and the world, from a lot more than that. We were told in “Requiem” (7×22) and in “Within” (8×1) that the aliens were taking these abductees in order to clean up evidence of the hybridization project. If that were the case, they wouldn’t be dumping the abductees back to earth. No, it appears we were deceived, but it’s one of the lesser reneges of Season 8. The aliens weren’t cleaning up, they were restarting the project in a new form. And Mulder’s a part of it.
Really though, that moment when Mulder visits Scully in starlight is physically painful.
Reyes is a less aggravating, more intelligent take on the late Melissa Scully with all her talk of “cosmic energies.”
Reyes recognized this guy Absalom after seeing him from a distance in the dark?
The phrase “This is not happening” also showed up in “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” (3×20).
Wait. This counts as one of David Duchovny’s eleven episodes doesn’t it? Dagnabit.
Doggett: I got 46 of your followers rounded up out there at your compound. You make me go to them for a straight answer it’s only going to make it worse for you.
Absalom: How many times can I tell you?
Doggett: Night’s early. Coffee’s hot.
Scully: What is it you specialize in again? Ritualistic crime?
Reyes: Right. Satanic ritual abuse. Or, I should say claims of it. We never found any hard evidence.
Scully: We should talk sometime.