“Vienen” feels like The X-Files’ version of a buddy flick, only the buddies aren’t buddies.
Mulder and Doggett started to bond slightly in “Empedolces” (8×17) but I think it’s safe to say they still irritate each other more than they understand one another. Ironically, they were psychically and emotionally closer before they ever actually knew one another back in “The Gift” (8×11).
“Vienen” is designed to bring Mulder to the place where he’s willing to give Doggett his blessing and pass the X-Files torch. Considering where the two characters are in their relationship at the beginning of the episode, that’s a long bridge to cross over. Somehow they manage it, though. More or less.
The other thing “Vienen” does is close the door on the Black Oil plot. You remember the Black Oil, the alien virus that possessed people’s bodies and minds and would sometimes use them as gestation pods for angry baby aliens. The Black Oil was supposed to be the means of alien invasion, the viral infection spreading throughout the human race until no humans remained.
That plot has already been superseded by the new, unnamed infection that threatened Mulder and transformed Billy Miles into who-knows-what in “Deadalive” (8×15), a new infection that in some ways is a rehash of the old. Again a virus is the means of invasion, except instead if it possessing humans or turning them into flesh and blood cocoons it’s physically replacing them in a way that has yet to be defined.
Really, they should have wrapped up the one plot before bringing in the next. A mere few episodes ago I was still looking for answers about the Black Oil and wondering whether that plot had died. Well it had. Bringing it back from the dead to kill it again is redundant.
Besides, we learn nothing new about it. A store of the Black Oil has been accidentally tapped into by the unsuspecting crew of an oil rig. All of them are now possessed except for a couple of genetically immune indigenous natives. (See that? The human race could have survived invasion all along.) The Black Oil is receiving instructions from the Mothership via the oil rig’s communication system. Instructions to do what, we don’t know. But in the end the drilling is forced to stop. Voila, no more Black Oil.
However, there’s nothing here to convince me that the Black Oil is now irrelevant and no longer a threat. I realize that’s what they’re telling me, but I’m not convinced. We’ve been led to believe that the Black Oil is buried all over the earth, that it beat us to the planet. It’s been found everywhere from Texas in Fight the Future to Russia in “Tunguska” (4×9). Just because this well is closed off, why does that mean it can’t bubble to the surface of the earth some place else?
And as far as its irrelevance, what I need to hear is that the aliens know that humanity has a working vaccine for the Black Oil and found the need to use a new, unstudied virus to continue with their plans for colonization. Of course, then that would make this new plan for invasion look awfully silly in the face of “Deadalive” since the new virus was already bested by not a carefully engineered vaccine but by a regular course of known antivirals. That would make it even less dangerous than the Black Oil.
“Vienen” is more of a soft afterthought of a goodbye to the Black Oil than any sort of real explanation or resolution. The Black Oil is merely a means to an end to force the old guard to recognize the new. Mulder’s era ends right along with the Black Oil and a new conspiracy, investigated by Doggett, becomes the focus of The X-Files from here on out. New virus, new man.
Mulder and Doggett never quite gel, it seems to me. But they do develop a grudging respect for one another. In the end, I’m not sure whether Mulder has real confidence in Doggett or whether he’s just tired of the whole thing and Doggett’s there and wants the job.
It’s almost hard to believe it took this long for Mulder to get fired, but he doesn’t really care that it’s happened. He’s not even sentimental over his precious X-Files. Mulder has bigger fish to fry than to fight with the F.B.I.. There’s a little uber Scully in the oven.
I have to say, just like I preferred watching Skinner and Doggett to Scully and Doggett, I was more interested in watching Mulder and Doggett spar for one episode than I’ve been in Scully and Doggett’s partnership all season. It makes me wish we’d had more opportunities for all male match ups on The X-Files. I would’ve gladly taken more Mulder and Krycek too.
But as interested as I am in the two of them, I’m not interested in the overall plot. Maybe it’s just too little too late. We haven’t seen the Black Oil since Fight the Future and the momentum has been lost.
And even the evolution of Mulder and Doggett’s relationship is a little forced and rushed. Forced because Mulder’s working hard to be himself at his most aggravating and Doggett doesn’t bother to attempt an open mind the way he did with Scully. Rushed because they can barely stand each other two scenes before Mulder shakes Doggett’s hand and walks out of the X-Files office without a second look.
The baton was passed because it needed to be, but it was little more than perfunctory.
Only three more episodes left to say goodbye to my main man. Let’s hope the remaining ones leave me feeling full and satisfied instead of like I had to leave the table after the appetizers.
Niggles and Wiggles:
As Mulder and Doggett are having their opening argument, you can see the ritual symbol from “The Gift” on the board behind Doggett. That symbol also represents their potential for understanding.
Mulder’s face as he realizes Doggett has read every X-File is hilarious.
So Doggett knows a little Spanish.
Why is the virus dead now? Is it because of the man’s immunity?
Now Doggett’s seen the Black Oil too. He’s seen a lot. Is he starting to bend yet?
My favorite part of this episode is Mulder and Scully talking on the phone, Mulder being his irreparably reckless self even knowing that Scully’s pregnant, and Scully not even in fear or anger but exasperation effectively saying, “I can’t with you right now. Put Doggett on the phone.”
What are the aliens trying to do? Are they trying to get the infected men to land so that they can infect the populace? If they are, then why do they blow the rig?
They could’ve infected Mulder and Doggett by letting the oil seep through the door.
Mulder: We got to quarantine this rig.
Scully: No Mulder, you need to get off the rig. Have Agent Doggett give the order. We can quarantine you and the crew when we get back here.
Mulder: Scully, if these men are infected the last place we want to is onshore where they can infect other people. You’re sitting on the answer right there, Scully. The body, you find the virus, you can find what knocks it out, you can find what kills it.
Scully: And what if I can’t?
Mulder: When he’s old enough… tell the kid I went down swinging.
Scully: [Exasperated] Let me talk to Agent Doggett.
Doggett: I never would have believed it. These stories about you.
Mulder: Really, what stories are those?
Doggett: That you can find a conspiracy at a church picnic.
Mulder: What church?