Tag Archives: Anasazi

Gethsemene 4×24: If you’re gonna go, why not go all the way?


The tears of a clown.

Last we left Mulder, he nearly killed his partner and himself in a repressed memory induced swirl of self-pity. No mention is made in this episode of the hidden secrets hinted at in the previous one, “Demons” (4×23), but judging by the unoptimistic closing voiceover delivered by Scully, it’s not an uneducated guess to think that his doubts and demons are still closing in on him. It’s in this atmosphere that Mulder gets blindsided with the biggest disappointment of all. Yes, even more disappointing than finding out your father is a chain-smoking cross between The Grinch and The Cheshire Cat and may or may have not tried to blow you to smithereens on a pile of mutant skeletons.

You see Mulder at last has to seriously consider the possibility that aliens may not be real. And if it wasn’t bad enough to find out that you’re a pathetic and delusional loser, he also finds out that the one person in the world who doesn’t think he’s a crackpot is about to die very likely because of his stubbornness. In other words, it’s an uplifting 45 minutes of television we have here.

Yes, I know that considering the inexplicable reality of both The Alien Bounty Hunter and Jeremiah Smith, it’s hard to believe that The X-Files could seriously expect us, let alone Agent Mulder to believe that there’s nothing remotely paranormal going on in this television universe. But, for me, all I can say is that I relish this chance to come at the mythology from a decidedly normal perspective.

Okay, normal with strong tints of paranoia.

Up to this point, Mulder has been almost religiously convinced as to what the truth is. His conversation on the stairs with Scully, when he asks her what she would do if someone could prove to her the existence of God, brings out into the open a theme that’s been quietly allegorical for the entirety of The X-Files’ run. Mulder’s search for aliens, his stalwart belief in them even when the rest of the world thinks he’s crazy, even though he’s never seen them, it’s all a metaphor for a single man’s search for God, his search for The Truth. Is it an accident that the title of this episode is “Gethsemene”, the name of the garden where Jesus faced his final emotional and spiritual struggle before going to the cross?

Truthfully though, it’s a testament to Scully’s influence on him that Mulder holds back as much as he does in this episode. Season 1 Mulder wouldn’t have hesitated to assume that the “alien corpse” was real. He would have been aglow with boyish excitement until the cold hard truth came crashing down. To Season 4 Mulder’s credit, he’s probably more reserved in his assumptions here than we’ve ever seen him, certainly more cautious. Indeed, this episode readily invites comparison with “EBE” (1×16), the first time Mulder wonders, “Which lie to believe,” after Deep Throat led him on an interstate wild goose chase. It begged the question then and even more so now, are these mysterious men in power merely Punking Mulder for their own amusement?

It’s not an idea without merit. I mentioned “E.B.E” where it’s clear that Mulder is being manipulated to both spread and contain disinformation. Then there’s “Anasazi” (2×25) when Mulder is drugged to discredit him by driving him to violence. And if that weren’t enough cause for doubt, all of Season 3 toyed with the question of whether Mulder’s radical or Scully’s traditional point of view is more accurate. They’re both seeing the same evidence, but is the truth that a secret group of men is hiding the existence of alien life for some nefarious purpose or that these same men are perpetuating a myth to cover up their own all too human atrocities? The idea hasn’t been revisited nearly all of Season 4 but now it’s back with a vengeance, theoretically threatening to undo all the plots that have been twisted over the course of four years of television.

I say threatening because no one in the audience seriously believes (except for me at the age of 14) that the entire mythology plotline has been little more than a hoax. There have been too many inexplicable events. And more than that, no viewer in their right mind (even me at the age of 14) believes that Mulder is dead and David Duchovny out of a job.

Just because it’s easy to refute this episode in all its glory doesn’t make it any less exciting, far from it. In fact, considering the fact that David Duchovny’s continuing contract was quite public at the time, I’m impressed that they were able to create such an atmosphere that it feels as if Mulder could/would really kill himself, even though you know it can’t happen. This is in large part thanks to the emotional notes established in “Demons”.

Verdict:

I don’t know that I ever appreciated before how over the course of this three-episode arc leading into the new season Mulder and Scully’s spiritual journeys head in distinctly opposite directions. Mulder begins affirming his faith only to be robbed of it, Scully starts out removed from her faith only to eventually confess her own neediness. It’s really quite artful now that I’ve finally noticed the parallel.

On an unrelated note, it’s easy to rag on The X-Files and particularly on our dear Chris Carter for the purpleness of its prose sometimes. And, yes, this entire episode arc is full of voiceovers that come across as a little too poetic to represent the people and situations they’re supposed to represent. However, by this point I’m so emotionally involved in these characters and the revelations that I can get caught up in the drama without concerning myself too much with whether or not Mulder would actually say things like, “Byzantine plot.” Call me too lowbrow to care. I’ve rewound this episode so many times I actually have the breaths and pauses memorized.

A

P.S. An extra thought: The smartest thing they did here was not in keeping Mulder’s death vague, but in keeping Scully’s part in all this completely up in the air. Does she really think Mulder is dead? Has she turned to the dark side? Is she blaming Mulder and turning her back on the X-Files? Those were the questions weighing most heavily on my mind come Season 5.

Unnecessary Observations:

I said it before in “Tooms” (1×20) and I’ll say it again: Scully should have been an actress. That woman lies like no other.

Blevins is back without so much as a passing comment as to why he disappeared in the first place.

Kritschgau is one of my all-time favorite guest characters. Heck, his story was so convincing, I believed him.

Is it just me, or is Scully’s denial/arrogance beginning to wear thin? How long can she go on pretending to be completely self-sufficient? Thankfully, not much longer.

Best Quotes:

Scully: Early this morning I got a call from the police asking me to come to Agent Mulder’s apartment. The detective asked me, he needed me to identify a body…
Section Chief Blevins: Agent Scully…
Scully: Agent Mulder died late last night from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

———————–

Mulder: After all I’ve seen and experienced, I refuse to believe that it’s not true.
Scully: Because it’s easier to believe the lie, isn’t it?
Mulder: …What the hell did that guy say to you that you’d believe his story?
Scully: He said that the men behind this hoax, behind these lies, gave me this disease to make you believe.

———————–

Bill Scully: What are you doing at work getting knocked down and beaten up? What are you trying to prove? That you’re gonna go out fighting?
Scully: Oh, now come on, Bill…
Bill Scully: Do you know what Mom is going through? Why do you think I didn’t tell her when they called?
Scully: What should I be doing?
Bill Scully: We have a responsibility, not just to ourselves but to the people in our lives.
Scully: Hey look, just, just because I haven’t bared my soul to you or, or to Father McCue or to God doesn’t mean I’m not responsible to what’s important to me.
Bill Scully: To what? To who? This guy Mulder? Well, where is he, Dana? Where is he through all this?
Scully: …Thank you for coming.

———————–

Scully: You already believe, Mulder, what difference will it make? I mean, what, what will proof change for you?Mulder: If someone could prove to you the existence of God, would it change you?
Scully: Only if it had been disproven.
Mulder: Then you accept the possibility that belief in God is a lie?
Scully: I don’t think about it actually and I don’t think that it can be proven.
Mulder: But what if it could be? Wouldn’t that knowledge be worth seeking? Or is it just easier to go on believing the lie?

———————–

Kritschgau: That’s just like you, Agent Mulder, suspicious of everything but what you should be.

Advertisements

Terma 4×10: They’re all honorable, these honorable men.


A White Russian.

Believe it or not, I have only just realized, on what must be at a minimum my 6th viewing of this episode, that Krycek is the one who ordered retired assassin Vassily Peskow on his mission in the first place under the name of Comrade Arntzen… Arntzen being the name Krycek gave when he infiltrated Mayhew’s militia back in North Dakota and set off the chain of events that would lead Mulder to him and eventually to Tunguska.

Is Krycek even Krycek? Is he the American-born son of Russian immigrants turned conspiracy double-crosser or is he a Russian-born Soviet plant named Arntzen who has been lying even to the Syndicate this whole time? My bet is that he’s a Russian who infiltrated the American branch of the conspiracy as a spy. It’s the explanation that best matches his nature.

It makes sense that the Russians would be antagonistic. For one thing, the Cold War isn’t so distant a memory from the point of view of the mid-1990’s. But also, it seems that the Russians, as far as we’ve seen, are the only major world power that’s not at least partially involved in the Syndicate’s machinations. “Anasazi” (2×25) is evidence that the Syndicate’s reach extends to at least all the WWII Axis powers that are clearly in on the game (though admittedly it wouldn’t have been tough to convert Nazis to their cause). The French are a little on the outs as we see in “Piper Maru” (3×15) when they’re scrambling for evidence and information, but there’s no indication of any antagonism. The Russian Bear is another story, however, and Krycek is the perfect face for their stereotyped image.

Getting some solid clues regarding Krycek’s backstory is tantalizing enough, but the real scene-stealers of the episode, in my humble opinion, are the darling duo of Well-Manicured Man and CSM. The barely contained antagonism between the two of them is priceless. And for once, CSM has a reason to gloat, an opportunity he relishes since usually he’s the one whose mistakes have to be cleaned up. They’re like foes that are forced to be friends.

Anyway, it would appear that some of the tension between them is caused because not only is Well-Manicured Man’s girlfriend killed, but the implication is that she was targeted because of her research for the Syndicate. She was testing a vaccine against the Black Oil on her convalescent patients. The problem is, the Syndicate wasn’t supposed to have access to the Black Oil, the samples were smuggled out of Russia as we saw back in “Tunguska” (4×9). The Russians, led it seems, by Krycek, decide to put a stop to American progress by wiping out not only those involved with arranging the experiments, but by killing the subjects also eliminating the American stores of Black Oil. This leaves Russia well ahead in the vaccine race.

The American experiments weren’t exactly speeding along anyway, since all they’d managed to do was to force the Black Oil to go dormant in their elderly test subjects. The Russians at least had a vaccine that would expel the Oil even if it didn’t yet protect against reinfection.

Maybe if our national test scores were better?

And the Verdict is…

Just on the sheer weight of its meaty revelations, I actually enjoy “Terma” more than “Tunguska”. Objectively, I’m not sure it’s really a better hour of television, but I certainly get more out of it, especially now that the storyline is finally beginning to make sense to me. Besides, who can resist Mulder sauntering into the Senate hearing to just the right dramatic beat? And who can forget that “tea bag dippin’ hand?”

“He wants you to know the Cold War isn’t over.”

A

P.S. As always, check out http://www.eatthecorn.com/eps/4X09_4X10.htm for some mythology clarification.

P.P.S. Updated to add this because I love it so: http://imadethischriscarter.blogspot.com/2011/09/x-files-4x10terma.html

Annoying Comments:

I love the idea of an older assassin… an assassin who shares his apples and takes the bus. He’s certainly charming enough.

The tagline for this episode, “E pur si muove”, means “And yet, it does move”, which is supposedly what Galileo said what the Inquisition forced him to recant his assertion that the Earth moves around the Sun. No doubt this is meant draw a parallel between our own little Galileo, Agent Mulder, and his, er, enthusiastic stance before the Senate committee. Too bad some of the irrefutable evidence he cited in his speech is now in question. Ah, Mulder. Even when he means well he slides so close to irritating sometimes.

Lingering Questions:

Why did the Syndicate put Senator Sorenson up to this investigation to find out Mulder’s whereabouts if they already knew where he was? I think we’re assume that it’s just to slow up Mulder and Scully’s investigation, but that doesn’t seem like a completely logical step.

Is the version of the Black Oil that we’ve seen in this two-episode arc supposed to be an even more basic form of alien life? The pre-evolutionary version of the more advanced Black Oil that we saw in “Piper Maru” and “Apocrypha” (3×16)? Perhaps this version ended up on earth accidentally via the meteor while the previous version was purposefully sent by the aliens. Or maybe the previous version wasn’t meant to be left on earth either but was a casualty of war… Color me Clueless.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I’m not going to die.
Prisoner: No? Why not?
Mulder: I have to live long enough to kill that man Krycek.

———————

Well-Manicured Man: [Smokes a cigarette]
Cigarette-Smoking Man: That’s a nasty habit. It’s bad for the health.
Well-Manicured Man: Health is the least of my concerns at the moment.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: Yes… [Lights a cigarette] According to reports your… personal Physician suffered a serious riding accident here on your property.
Well-Manicured Man: Dr. Charne-Sayre was murdered.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: By whom?
Well-Manicured Man: If I knew, do you think I’d be standing here talking to you?
Cigarette-Smoking Man: So… you need me now, a man of my capabilities, is that it?
Well-Manicured Man: This was a professional hit.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: Really? And you out here all alone, so vulnerable… Were you sleeping with her? Surely you wouldn’t be so foolish as to put the project at risk for the sake of your personal pleasures?

———————-

Scully: Several of the men on this committee are lawyers. It is my experience that lawyers ask the wrong question only when they don’t want the right answer.

———————-

Mulder: It’s good to put my arms around you… both of them.

Wetwired 3×23: You’re the only one I trust.


Mulder for a day.

I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t we already see this episode and didn’t they call it “Blood” (2×3)?

Admittedly, the two episodes are similar in premise. Both are “Half-Caff”, pseudo mythology type episodes (Which, by the way, we haven’t had all Season 3. Believe it or not, there hasn’t been one since “Soft Light” (2×23) and I’ve missed sensing CSM’s shenanigans behind these technology and science driven conspiracies). Both involve technology based mind-control experiments secretly carried on by the U.S. government.

Or do they? In “Blood” the trigger was actually a pesticide, the result was that people saw messages in all sorts of mechanical devices that drove them to violence. “Wetwired” addresses the T.V./Violence correlation specifically and doesn’t bother dragging other modes of communication into the picture. By now I’m sure you can smell the irony; a television show prone to violent images is pondering whether images on television can lead to violence in real life. Talk about self-conscious.

But when you consider the source, the subject makes sense. This episode is written by Visual Effects Supervisor Mat Beck who presided over the show’s first 5 seasons as well as both movies. Is it any wonder he’s interested in the effect of the image on the American public? But most importantly, why didn’t he write more??

Believe it or not, I actually enjoy “Wetwired” more than all the world-class mythology episodes this season. (Shock!) There’s something meaty about it. We have the Lone Gunmen, X, CSM, mind control, a paranoid Scully, and some great emotional beats on the M&S front to boot. It’s so chock full of X-Files goodies that I find myself wondering why Chris Carter didn’t add Mat Beck to the writing staff.

But enough about background and concept and on to the episode itself. You would expect that if anyone on The X-Files would go psycho it would be Mulder. And in fact he’s done it before and under similar circumstances when CSM’s forces drugged him nearly into paranoid oblivion in “Anasazi” (2×25). Mulder also trashed his apartment looking for bugs in “E.B.E.” (1×16) the way Scully does here, but she does it with more flair, don’t you think? Mulder’s always so close to the edge of insanity as it is that it’s more fun to watch cool, calm and collected Scully lose her mind for a bit. It’s more satisfying. In particular, there’s a great moment when Gillian Anderson leans into the camera, wide-eyed and chomping on ice. Classic.

That’s all fun and games but the real meat is what Scully’s paranoid about. It makes sense that Scully’s deepest fear would be Mulder’s betrayal. She’s devoted her life to this man. She’s made her quest her own and has suffered in the process. It’s not like she’s the one looking for a “white whale.” She’s still here, working on the X-Files, because she believes in Mulder, not because she believes in little green men. What a nightmare it would become if she suddenly found it was all a lie. Mulder didn’t trust her. He didn’t depend on her. In fact, he was out to get her. It’s like that moment in “End Game” (2×17) when the Bounty Hunter morphs into Mulder and attacks Scully. It’s horrible because it shouldn’t be. Mulder should be the last person, save Maggie Scully, who would ever hurt her… er, purposefully anyway.

Verdict:

This is definitely one of my favorite episodes of Season 3. It might not be as inventive as some, but it has all the necessary ingredients of a good X-File and is always, always fun to watch.

Both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny turn in some great emotional performances on this one. And it’s nice to have the mutual importance of Mulder and Scully’s relationship confirmed at the close of a season that features a lot of loss and tension in the partnership. The Shipper in me is satisfied.

But I especially love how it ends, with that short but memorable scene between X and CSM. Now we know that X is one of CSM’s hired guns and it’s him X has been undermining in order to feed Mulder information. How long can the apprentice work against his master without being found out? When X looks into CSM’s cold, dead eyes and lies I still get an ominous chill.

A

Questions:

Even after the Lone Gunmen’s short and pithy explanation of the magic of television, we still never learn exactly how CSM & Co. are creating paranoia in the viewing public, just that something must be being transmitted through the signal. And for that matter, how far did this experiment reach? And for how long? They wouldn’t have stopped at a handful of murders.

Surely this episode calls for a follow-up with some exploration of X’s background. So what happened to it? Mulder confronts him on being too much of a coward to fight the power himself, CSM glares at him with thinly veiled suspicion… His character is just begging to be revealed at least a little.

Comments:

He’s red-green colorblind. Finally, an explanation is given for the atrocity of Mulder’s ties.

Did I mention the teaser is awesome? ‘Cause the teaser is awesome.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: It’s just you, me and the drug dealers.
Plain-Clothed Man: Well, this area’s always been known for its criminal element.
Mulder: Especially when Congress is in session.

———————

Mulder: I just watched 36 hours of Bernard Shaw and Bobbi Battista. I’m about ready to kill somebody too.

———————

Mulder: All I know is television does not make a previously sane man go out and kill five people thinking they’re all the same guy. Not even ‘Must See TV’ could do that to you.

———————

Mulder: What do you think, Scully?
Scully: I think television plays a large part in both of these murderers lives.
Mulder: As it does in almost every American home. But television does not equal violence. I don’t care what anybody says. Unless you consider bad taste an act of violence.

———————-

Scully: I was so sure, Mulder. I saw things and I heard things, and… it was just like world was turned upside down. Everybody was out to get me.
Mulder: Now you know how I feel most of the time.

———————-

Smoking Man: Have you completed your work?
Mr X: All the personnel and hardware has been removed. But Mulder still has one of the devices.
Smoking Man: That proves nothing. What about Mulder’s source?
Mr X: He’s been eliminated.
Smoking Man: And his source? Who’s he working with?
Mr X: That person remains unknown.

Piper Maru 3×15: High Noon in Hong Kong.


I've got a little something in my eye.

The legendary Black Oil makes its first appearance on The X-Files. Huzzah!

Now, I’m as excited as the next Phile about the introduction of new levels to the overall mythology mystery. But I’m beginning to notice a trend where the writers are giving us new information every mythology episode without necessarily providing new answers. We learned about the UFO at the bottom of the ocean in “Nisei” (3×9) and we found out about the disk in “Anasazi” (2×25), but we still haven’t found out what’s on the disk besides the location of the UFO let alone the significance of the downed UFO itself. Instead, Carter and Spotnitz bring in the Black Oil which is more than sufficient to distract us from the fact that we still know nothing. This isn’t a complaint because I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. But I’m starting to understand why cracks in the mythology’s wall expanded in later seasons. Some holes have to be plugged before you can drill new ones.

Apparently the writers are planning to introduce a new foreign power in every mythology episode, just so we’re constantly reminded that this is a global conspiracy. “Paper Clip” (3×2) belonged to the Germans, “Nisei” to the Japanese and now the French make an appearance, the first non-WWII Axis power to do so. What exactly do the French want with the UFO anyway? More than likely, they just want to become “a player”, as CSM would say. Other than that, they don’t seem to have any kind of historical stake in the conspiracy. I suppose that’s why they don’t last long since I don’t believe we ever hear from the French again. We move onto the Russians in Season 4. I’m still wondering why we never hear from the Italians. Too romantic?

But enough rambling. Krycek is back and we have to enjoy him and his sliminess because after this arc we won’t see him again for almost a full season. It looks as though he’s managed to crack the security protocols on that Defense Department disk he ran off with in “Paper Clip”. This means he’s one of the few people in the world who know the scope and scale of the conspiracy outside of the Syndicate. He’s capitalizing on that, literally, by selling the Syndicate’s secrets to the highest bidding government. Meanwhile, no one in the Syndicate outside of CSM knows that Krycek is even alive and that the disk hasn’t been destroyed. Surprise!

On the emotional end of things, Scully finally gets to grieve for her sister Melissa. When Skinner mentions that it’s only been 5 months since her death (another case of 1013 Production’s date smudging) there’s a sense of incredulity I feel every time I hear that. Scully lost her sister but essentially went through the last 12 episodes without showing any signs of loss, sadness or melancholy. Odd, yes But I don’t believe it’s an oversight. Season 3 is the season where not only does the mythology take on a recognizable form and continuing narrative, it becomes distinct, even completely separate from the stand-alone episodes. Except for a passing comment in “D.P.O.” (3×3) where Scully references “all we’ve been through”, Mulder and Scully act as though most major mythology events never happened… until they reach the next mythology episode and things pick up where they left off. It’s not a bad thing, really. It allows the viewer to breathe for stretches of time and just enjoy the more genre specific episodes without worrying about keeping up with overall storyline.

There isn’t much to discuss as far as character development because the mythology is quickly becoming a mini action adventure series within a series where Mulder and Scully, for the most part, are just stand-ins for the audience. They’re there to solve the mystery and don’t have much time to explore their own inner workings, though that starts to change again in Season 4. But I have to give one last note on my man Skinner. We’ve already seen Skinner battle Mr. X on Mulder’s behalf in “End Game” (2×17), now it’s Scully’s turn to earn Skinner a beating. Skinner’s attitude with CSM’s goons is so awesome, but he’s turned into such a noble hero that it’s not surprising when later on the writers decide to put some cracks in his armor with “Avatar” (3×21). Maybe he’s gotten a little too cool for school. I don’t know, but I enjoy it so I don’t care. Skinner’s a bear and Mulder and Scully are his cubs. Play at your own risk.

Final Verdict:

These Season 3 mythology episodes are some of Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter’s best work on the show. They were able to strike the right balance of emotional and thrilling moments. Since this rewatch I’ve made it my mission to understand the ins and outs of the mythology plotline I’m enjoying it even more. But even back when I understood nothing I loved the Black Oil. Who wouldn’t? Throw in a cowardly Krycek and noble Skinner into the mix and I’m sold.

Oh, and that vision of a pilot kept alive by an alien entity banging on his plane window at the bottom of the ocean? Awesome.

A

Lingering Doubts:

That a man Scully new briefly in her past, that she wasn’t even close to, would hold key, first-hand information about the Black Oil situation is a real stretch to me. Carter and Spotnitz really make it work, though, and that flashback scene is effective.

It’s kind of a copout that Krycek was magically able to get the disk translated and copied when it was supposedly impregnable. But, then again, that was only a plot device in “Paper Clip”. In “Anasazi” Scully was able to print out the information to have it translated.

In the “Nisei”/”731” arc it’s hinted that the ship Talapus was on a mission to salvage a UFO and now that’s been confirmed. They salvaged it and CSM had it moved knowing that the disk with the secret of the UFO’s location was on the loose. But if Talapus had already made it to where the Black Oil crash landed with the UFO, why didn’t the Black Oil come up to the surface with one of the men of Talapus instead of staying with the P-51 Bomber? I can only assume that Talapus never sent a man down there but somehow brought it up by purely mechanical means, but that seems a stretch.

Random Tidbits:

A very young Michael Bublé is recognizable as one of the men aboard the submarine Zeus Faber.

I like that the teaser doesn’t necessarily read as a mythology episode. We have no way of knowing if this strange black entity is alien or if it’s just a new, freaky phenomenon that Mulder and Scully will have to investigate.

Best Quotes:

Scully: I’m just constantly amazed by you. I mean, you’re working down here in the basement, sifting through… files and transmissions that any other agent would just throw away in the garbage.
Mulder: Well, that why I’m in the basement, Scully.
Scully: You’re in the basement because they’re afraid of you, of your relentlessness. And because they know that they could drop you in the middle of the desert and tell you “The Truth is Out There” and you’d ask them for a shovel.
Mulder: That’s what you think of me?
Scully: Well, maybe not a shovel. Maybe a backhoe.

————————

Wayne Morgan: What the hell is that?
Mulder: Looks like the fuselage of a plane.
Scully: It’s a North American P-51 Mustang.
Wayne Morgan: Yeah, sure is.
Mulder: I just got very turned on.

————————

Skinner: Who are you guys?
Grey-Haired Man: We work for the intelligence community.
Skinner: Remind me not to move there.

————————

Krycek: I didn’t kill your father.
Mulder: Now you tell me.
Krycek: It wasn’t me.
Mulder: Oh yeah. Then who was it?
Krycek: I don’t know.
Mulder: Either way, Krycek, you’re a liar.

731 3×10: Since when did they start issuing you guys piano wire instead of guns?


You been gainin' a little weight, Mulder?

We open with a vision of creatures being slaughtered; creatures that look a lot like the deformed bodies we saw in the boxcar in “Anasazi” (2×25). Is it a coincidence?

It’s tempting to initially think this is connected to what we saw earlier, we quickly find out that it isn’t…. and it is. This is yet another set of tests being done on humans by another set of scientists, different from the experiments exposed in “Anasazi” but still governed by the mysterious men of The Syndicate.

So let’s start with The Syndicate, shall we? Scully is introduced to yet another Syndicate member this episode, The Elder. He feeds Scully the truth, or parts of it, but for what purpose? To save the creature trapped on the train? Is this shadow government responsible for testing on civilians as a part of a secret plan for alien colonization… or are they doing it to win a Cold War that ended years ago? I’ve said it before but I’ll complain again, why didn’t we get even more of these Syndicate guys? Sure, they needed to remain mostly mysterious for effect. Yet the few times that their characters were delved into, even just a little bit, were memorable. Just think of Well-Manicured Man in Fight the Future.

But since The Elder isn’t ready to bare his soul, the real character that steals the show this episode is our very own Mulder. When I think of who Mulder is as a character, the Mulder we see in this episode fits my personal definition to the letter. Mulder is a frustrating jackass but he’s a heroic one. Right after I want to strangle him I want to pat his head and give him a hug. It’s not that Mulder hasn’t been reckless before. In fact, “End Game” (2×17) comes to mind. But that was Desperately Seeking Mulder and this is Mind-Blowingly Frustrating Mulder. There is a difference. From him foolishly jumping on the train to his self-sacrificing decision to ignore Scully’s attempts to save him and have the train car dropped in the middle of nowhere, it’s amazing how annoyingly loveable David Duchovny managed to make this character. He’s self-righteous and arrogant and just as equally endearing.

Mulder’s Mulderishness has been slowly escalating. In Season 1 he was a bit of an outcast upstart, but still fresh-faced and relatively docile in comparison to his later years. Season 2 proved he can be downright hostile to anyone who gets in his way, but it also showed that he could be sensitive and very protective, especially when it came to Scully. Season 3 is when I think Mulder’s core personality is solidified as 2 parts teeth gnashing and 1 part pitiable and he stays fundamentally the same till the end of the series. He’s more absurdly reckless than ever but in a way that let’s you know he’s somewhat conscious of his charms and he knows those who love him will forgive him.  He hangs up on Scully in the train car knowing that she’ll figure out what he’s about to do and knowing that she’ll love him for it even as she hates him for it.

Scully’s doing a lot of zigging while Mulder zags this season. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re at odds, but they’re not quite the unified front they were pretty much all of Season 2 and most of Season 1. This distance becomes even more pronounced over the next few episodes. So in the end, who’s right? Does Mulder’s belief in an alien conspiracy hold up despite the current evidence to the contrary? Or has Scully stumbled upon a greater evil, that these men are using aliens as a cover story to hide their insidious crimes. It seems as though there’s a little of both going on. Dr. Ishimaru/Zama certainly had his own agenda. Exactly what that was we’ll probably never know.

Conclusion:

I couldn’t talk about this episode without discussing Mr. X and his Sophie’s Choice; rather than save the leper or hybrid or whatever you choose to believe it is, from the train car as he was sent to do, X rescues Mulder’s foolish behind instead. This may be his best moment in the entire series, but that’s hard to say since he’s had some fabulous ones. What’s X’s motivation? He once said in “One Breath” (2×8) that he used to be a man much like Mulder and more and more it appears that he really still is. We never find out why he chose to help Mulder after Deep Throat died and, ruthless as he is, it seems out of character for him unless he has a soft, tootsie roll center that he’s keeping hidden inside a hard candy shell. (I’ve only had one cup of coffee as I’m writing this so you’ll have to excuse me).

Come to think of it, the supporting characters steal a lot of the show in “731”. We’re also introduced to the Red-Haired Man of the not so red hair, yet another worthy adversary gone too soon. How can you not love an assassin that fixes his hair in the mirror after a kill? I appreciated the fact that no one is safe on The X-Files and that pretty much every character outside of Mulder and Scully are in danger of being killed off in the blink of an eye. But seeing Red-Haired Man’s quick demise I can’t help but wonder if Chris Carter & Co. were a little too quick on the trigger sometimes. Characters were gone just as they were starting to make an impact.

On a final note, isn’t it a little strange on some level that Scully so easily dismisses the idea of aliens? Has she already forgotten Purity Control?

A-

Useless Commentary:

A juicy little tidbit is thrown out early on in the episode that because of her implant, the conspirators may have had access to Scully’s every thought for the past year. What an awesome concept. If only it had been explored further.

Oh the adorably dorky Agent Pendrell, does anyone else wish Scully had noticed him a little more? I suppose the earth shattering news he delivers to her would distract any girl, but he’s just so pitiful that it’s sweet.

It’s a rare mythology episode indeed that doesn’t feature CSM. He makes little more than a cameo appearance at the end of the episode, just so that we remember that he’s still pulling the strings.

Priceless X-Files Moment #385: Mulder’s life hangs in the balance as Scully reads off a number that will either save him or kill him and all she can say is, “Yeah… yeah I’m pretty sure.”

Best Quotes:

Agent Pendrell: This kind of neural network could be not only collecting information, but artificially replicating a person’s mental processes.
Scully: You could know a person’s every thought.
Agent Pendrell: Frightening.

——————-

Scully: Well done, Agent Pendrell. Keep up the good work.
Agent Pendrell: Hey, thanks. Keep it up yourself!
Scully: [Leaves]
Agent Pendrell: [To self] “Keep it up yourself”… what a doof.

——————–

Elder: The ruler of the world is no longer the country with the greatest soldiers, but the greatest scientists.

——————–

Red-Haired Man: You’re going to die. You know that?
Mulder: What do you care? You were trying to kill me anyway.

——————–

Mulder: We’re both going to die in here. The difference is, I’m going to die quickly. As an employee of the National Security Agency you should know that a gunshot wound to the stomach is probably the most painful and the slowest way to die. But I’m not a very good shot. And when I miss… I tend to miss low.

——————–

Scully: Mulder. I think I’ve got something here.
Mulder: What is it?
Scully: I think I may have a code for you. I’m watching Zama punch it in to a keypad in one of the train cars.
Mulder: What are you watching?
Scully: Your alien autopsy video.
Mulder: You mean I might get my $29.95’s worth after all?

———————

Mulder: I don’t need an apology for the lies. I don’t care about the fictions they create to cover their crimes. I want them held accountable for what did happen. I want an apology for the truth.

Paper Clip 3×2: Progress demands sacrifice.


Smoke this.

“I was a dead man, now I’m back.” – I just want to start this review by congratulating David Duchovny on delivering this line with a straight face.

With that out of the way…

If “Anasazi” (2×25) is when the scope of the conspiracy is hinted at, “Paper Clip” is where it begins to take shape. The Syndicate, just like the legitimate U.S. Government, was willing to strike a deal with the devil in order to achieve their goals, and the project impacted nearly every American child born during a certain time period; every American that was given the Small Pox vaccine. Chris Carter has often said that The X-Files is only as scary as it is real and grounding the events of this episode in a framework of legitimate facts gives the events that take place a deeper sense of possibility and makes them all the more disturbing.

Introducing the real world history of Operation Paper Clip into the narrative poses some interesting parallels. If the U.S. Government was willing to make a Faustian bargain for the benefit of its citizens, might not these shadow men who have far less accountability on their shoulders? We know that these men are trying to use alien DNA to make an alien-human hybrid, and not to give out a huge spoiler, but we eventually learn they’re in cahoots with the aliens. The question is never sufficiently raised of whether these men were actually evil in making such an alliance. There’s an argument to be made that they felt they were doing the best thing at the time, much like men in the U.S. Government may have felt that it was better to make the Nazis work for you then to leave them to their own purposes.

Now, no doubt in the real instance it was a vile transaction. But the aliens weren’t vanquished Nazis, they were an uber powerful galactic force that could wipe us out anytime they wanted to with or without our cooperation. Call me a sympathizer, but maybe Mulder could have cut The Syndicate some slack. Regardless, it’s certainly no stretch to think that same Nazi scientists who experimented on innocent Jews would be willing to test alien DNA on American civilians. That it’s done through something so innocuous as an inoculation is truly classic X-Files.

It’s an interesting choice to bring Mulder so close to the whole truth and nothing but the truth this early in the game. We know now that everything he’s been saying all these years is true and the proof exists, but he was faced with a decision: know the truth and have no way of disseminating the information or give up the truth and live to fight another day. It’s obvious what Mulder would have chosen if it hadn’t been for Scully and her sister, which is why all those “Mulder is a selfish bastard” haters need to take it down a couple of decibels.

Speaking of Mulder and Scully, I always thought, as most do, that MSR was purely a result of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny unwittingly creating it out of the passion and tension that played out between their characters. Almost like magic, it was there before anyone knew what was happening. That’s fair enough and I still feel that way for the most part. But watching this episode again it occurs to me that the writers are nearly as much to blame. OK, maybe it’s 70/30, but still. They were complicit the Shipper Shenanigans that went on.

Mulder and Scully became larger than life because they wrote them as such; they gave them a freaking psychic connection and thought that, what? The audience wouldn’t respond to it emotionally? The characters were written into a corner and eventually they had nowhere to go but into each other’s arms. I mean, imagine just for a second that Scully, even this early in the series, decided to start dating. I can just hear her explanation to her significant other now:

Dear, let me tell you about my friend Mulder. Yes, he’s straight and he’s hot, but he’s really just a friend. A very good friend. We have such a spiritual connection that I even know it when he stops breathing. And when in mortal peril, he visits me in visions. But like I said, friends. There’s no reason this should come between you and me.

It would be a futile exercise. Mulder and Scully have passed the point of no return. No, they’re not in love. But there are only two real options at this point. Their bond can weaken and they grow distant and divided, an idea that the writers toy with for part of Season 3 and even Season 4. Or their bond can grow, in which case, unpolitically correct as it is, it would no longer be believable if the relationship remained forever platonic. If I had to pinpoint it, I’d say this is the moment when, as Nina mentioned in her guest post, they become each others’ “significant other.” It’s not romance in the erotic sense but it’s beyond mere friendship.

Back to the story at hand, Mulder and Scully finding all those medical files hidden away at an abandoned mining company has to be one of the most iconic moments of the series. Vaccinations are as American as apple pie. Even now, all but the most paranoid of parents make sure their children receive them. That something so innocent could be used by a shadow government to track and test its citizens is almost as creepy as the fact that Social Security Numbers were created with the promise that they wouldn’t be used for identification purposes. Interestingly, identification was the cover story for these vaccinations; the government was gathering genetic data so that citizens could be identified in case of a nuclear holocaust. It was the Cold War, you recall, and that would have been a believable party line.

Bill Mulder himself believed it, which brings us to the other major revelation of this episode: Samantha wasn’t randomly abducted. She was chosen by her father to be the “guarantee” for the family. Mulder was the one originally scheduled to rendezvous with the Mother Ship. Finally we know what Bill Mulder was trying to say to his son before he was killed. What a sadly powerful moment when Mulder confronts his mother about having had to make a choice. It wasn’t the abduction itself that drove the Mulder family apart.

Now there’s another family suffering. If we thought Scully was “involved” before because of her abduction, it’s even more personal now that her sister Melissa has been White Buffalo sacrificed on her behalf. Finally, she shares Mulder’s quest. And poor Maggie Scully is just put through trauma after trauma. The writers need to stop making bad things happen to that woman. The nobility on her face kills me. Somehow, though, I never do miss Melissa…

Conclusion:

This episode is full of lots of fun, memorable moments. The scene in the mine when Mulder and Scully stumble upon rows of endless files I’ve already mentioned but there’s also CSM turning on Krycek, his mini-me, with a car bomb and my personal favorite, watching Skinner finally give CSM the old what-for with Albert Hosteen at his side. It’s worth all the magic and mysticism we had to put up with in “The Blessing Way” (3×1) just for that moment.

Another highlight for me is watching Scully get mad which, like smiling, she doesn’t do nearly often enough. I can only imagine that as a physician she is particularly offended by the atrocities conducted not only by men like Klemper but that the government would abuse citizens’ trust by taking vaccinations meant to help and using them to test and catalogue people.

We don’t learn much else about The Syndicate. Apparently they just sit around in a smoky room and rule the world. But it’s enough for now to know that they’re so powerful that even CSM has to answer to them. There’s no need to rush the reveal.

A-

P.S. This is where the mythology starts to edge its way towards massive. If you’re having trouble keeping track, like me, go to: http://www.eatthecorn.com/eps/2X25_3X01_3X02.htm

Questions:

We’re told that the DAT copy is protected and can’t be printed or copied, but didn’t we see Scully give a print out for a lady to translate in “Anasazi” (2×25)? And hasn’t Albert Hosteen been walking around with his translated copy that can be copied over?

Why is Well-Manicured man helping Mulder, really? I guess we’ll have to watch and see.

Comments:

When conducting secret experiments on innocent civilians with the help of Nazi scientists, it would probably be best not to take damning photographs together.

Please note that Skinner had to be double-teamed in the stairwell for those wimps to take him.

Napier’s Constant is actually 271828 not 27828 as Scully claims.

Best Quotes:

Scully: I went to your father’s funeral. I told your mother that you were going to be okay.
Mulder: How did you know?
Scully: I just knew.

——————-

Well-Manicured Man: What is it Victor?
Victor Klemper: Oh, I was just paid a visit by the son of one of our old colleagues.
Well-Manicured Man: What did you tell him, Victor?
Victor Klemper: I told him that you were the most venal man I’ve ever met. Beyond that I told him nothing.

——————-

Scully: What do you think your father would have been doing here?
Mulder: I don’t know, but he never came home wearing a miner’s cap.

——————–

Mulder: Lots of files.
Scully: Lots and lots of files.

——————–

Mulder: Why are you telling me this?
Well-Manicured Man: It’s what you want to hear, isn’t it?
Mulder: Is there more?
Well-Manicured Man: More than you’ll ever know.

——————–

CSM: Are you sure?
Krycek: I’m sure of this. If I so much as feel your presence, I’m going to make you a very, very famous man. You understand?
CSM: Yes. Thank you. I’m going to report that to the group.

——————–

Scully: I’ve heard the truth, Mulder. Now what I want are the answers.

The Blessing Way 3×1: Well, it’s definitely not buckshot.


Mr. Hosteen says "Hello."

“Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable.” First off, this is the most ridiculous thing ever said in an X-Files voiceover. Ever. And that’s saying something. Second, do those sound like the words of an American Indian wise man to you?

It’s almost as though someone told Chris Carter that there wasn’t enough buttercream icing on the cake so he made a fresh batch and poured that on top too. Now, lest you think I would commit blasphemy against the creator of my favoritest show ever, let me just say that I consider Chris Carter a brilliant writer. His writing only suffers when he waxes philosophical.

It’s not entirely his fault. This episode is completely on trend with the 1990’s fascination for all things American Indian. For those old enough, I’m sure you can find in your “immutable memory” films like Geronimo: An American Legend (1993), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and the still famous Dances with Wolves (1990) which featured a slightly younger Floyd Red Crow Westerman… that’s Albert Hosteen to you.

Looking back, it’s not a trend that aged well. Just because you put the phrase “ancient Indian saying” in front of a sentence does not make it profound, or more importantly, believable, or even more importantly, interesting. Please understand, I’m not denigrating ancient Indian sayings, I just question this episode’s heavy reliance on spiritualism. It’s distracting. It’s idealized. It’s hokey.

And before I jump off this bandwagon, let me give you the worst example of mysticism run amok. After breaching the barrier to the spiritual world through a hypnosis session, Scully has a vision of Mulder back from the (near) dead. So what does he tell her? The secret of life? The secret of death? Oh no.

Mulder: I have been on the bridge that spans two worlds. The link between all souls by which we cross into our own true nature. You were here today looking for a truth which was taken from you, the truth which was never meant to be spoken, but which now binds us together in a dangerous purpose. I’ve returned from the dead to continue with you, but I fear that this danger is now close at hand and I may be too late.

Did you just laugh out loud? I rest my case.

At the risk of sounding like a Negative Nancy, this episode has another flaw, one that I don’t think is nearly as obvious. On paper, it only makes sense that Scully would feel defeated after losing Mulder. Despite her valiant efforts in “The Anasazi” (2×25), Mulder is supposedly dead and she’s left holding the bag; no disc, no job, no honor. Even with that in mind, the first half of the episode plays out as though Scully is more concerned with her flickering career prospects than the fact that her best buddy was just blown to bits. I’m not saying there should be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but some kind of emotional acknowledgement would be nice.

There is a single moment where we see Scully show up at her mother’s door in tears. If you have the DVD and can access the deleted scene that pops up right after this, you’ll understand why they mercifully cut this scene short in editing; it only makes it painfully clear that Scully is agonizing more over potentially getting fired than the loss of Mulder. I realize it’s only natural that Scully would question the wisdom of her actions in the previous episode under the circumstances. And I also realize that this is supposed to play into the fact that Scully is spiritually connected to Mulder and knows deep down that he isn’t dead. But how did she go from Wonder Woman to Stick-in-the-Mud so quickly? She may question herself, but I just can’t believe that Scully would ever regret saving a friend.

She isn’t a complete loss this episode, however. The writers are finally addressing what happened to Scully during her abduction last season. We were tantalized back in “One Breath” (2×8) with visions of experiments being performed on Scully. Now her repressed memories are coming up for air and that bodes well for the mythology of Season 3. And that little surprise in her neck… this is why I love The X-Files. Where else can you watch a scenario as creepy as going through a scanner and then finding out there’s been a computer chip implanted in your body?

That significant event aside, Scully’s real shining moments are reserved for her interactions with other characters. It’s great to see Scully get someone else to play with besides Mulder. His character is normally the one hobnobbing with informants and geeks. Her scenes with Skinner in particular are quite juicy. Scully is The Good Child so watching her have at her boss makes for some wonderful tension. Naturally, Skinner gives back as good as he gets culminating in that final cliffhanger. I think we all know who is going to walk through the door by the end but that doesn’t make the moment any less great.

Scully also has her first interaction with Frohike since Season 1’s “E.B.E.” (1×16), their brief meeting while she was comatose not withstanding. Yes, if you can believe it, we’ve had to wait that long for Frohike to get another shot at her. I must say, The Lone Gunmen and Frohike in particular, even though we’ve only seen them briefly in 4 episodes up to this point, are incredibly endearing. From the way Frohike shows up in a tux to visit the dying Scully in “One Breath” to him coming to her door bottle in hand, wounded over the loss of Mulder, the man is a Mensch. (Yiddish. Look it up.) That The Powers That Be did what they did to them in Season 9… I’ll never recover.

But the interaction that I most enjoy is Scully’s introduction to Well-Manicured Man, played effortlessly by John Neville. My personal highlight of the episode is the way he delivers the line, “Do you have someplace you might stay?” The subtle changes of expression on his face are just amazing and I find myself wishing that The Syndicate had been explored more as individual characters.

Ah yes, The Syndicate, or The Consortium. They go by both names even in this, their introductory episode. It’s like a perfect nightmare: The world is secretly run by a group of ruthless, wealthy old men. Finally, we have a set of faces to go with the eponymous “They” that Mulder keeps referring to. Whoever “they” are, they’re powerful enough that even CSM has to answer to them. Was Deep Throat once a part of this group? More than likely.

Speaking of Deep Throat, it’s a bit of a shame that his “return” is marred by a plethora of Purple Prose. Bill Mulder’s message from beyond the grave isn’t any better. “The lies I told you are a pox and poison to my soul.” Seriously, why not just put a plague on both their houses while you’re at it?

Conclusion:

Alright, that’s enough of my complaints. Other than being tainted by overdone mysticism and suffering from the natural curse of being the second part in a three-episode arc, there are some very fun elements to this episode. Its weaknesses don’t destroy it, they just mean that there are lower lows between the highlights. In fact, if they had found a way to weave the story together without relying so heavily on spiritualism and Shakespearean prose, I daresay it would have been fantastic.

“The Blessing Way” is the reverse equivalent of “One Breath”; this time Mulder is the one laid up in limbo between life and death and Scully, unable to help him, is left to find the answers. It’s a great chance for her character to go out and explore the world on her on, unaided by Mulder’s quack theories. There are also some exciting hints that the circumstances of her abduction will finally be addressed this season.

And while I still wouldn’t call The X-Files an ensemble show, the current cast of characters means that every scene is potentially touching or explosive. Yep, the crossroads of Season2/Season 3 was a good time of life for the show.

There’s so much going on in this episode that I won’t bore you by attempting to cover it all. By now you’ve noticed that I didn’t even address Melissa’s shooting. We’ll save that last one for “Paper Clip” (3×2).

B+

Comments:

Skinner refers to Mulder’s apartment as “a place we can talk in private.” Did someone not tell him about the listening devices, poisonings, and assassination attempts?

Now I’m sure. CSM really didn’t know he’d (almost) killed Mulder. An argument could be made that he hoped he had, but it’s entirely possible that he was still “protecting” him in his own mind.

Best Quotes:

Frohike: He was a good friend. A redwood among mere sprouts.

——————

Smoking Man: Did you ask her about the tape?
Skinner: She says she doesn’t have it.
Smoking Man: Is that what she says?
Skinner: Yes. That’s what she says.
Smoking Man: Well that’s unfortunate for everyone.

——————-

Albert Hosteen: You must be careful now to end the ceremony properly. If you leave, you must not do any work, change clothes or bathe for four days.
Mulder: That’s really going to cut into my social life.

——————-

Scully: Who are you?
Well-Manicured Man: I’m a member of a kind of consortium, we represent certain global interests.
Scully: What kind of interests?
Well-Manicured Man: Interests that would be extremely threatened by the digital tape that you are no longer in possession of.
Scully: Threatened enough to murder?
Well-Manicured Man: Oh my, yes. – *Editors Note: Brilliance.

——————–

Scully: You’re not protecting me, you’re protecting yourself.
Well-Manicured Man: Why should that surprise you? Motives are rarely unselfish.
Scully: What kind of business are you in?
Well-Manicured Man: We predict the future. The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Good day young lady.