Tag Archives: End Game

Via Negativa 8×7: Mondo Bizarro.


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Because I couldn’t bring myself to post one of those “third eye” pics.

I remember being good and truly freaked out by this episode the first time it aired, and I’m not easily disturbed. This rewatch too, I made sure to watch it with the lights on and my door open. Sure, we’re used to creepy paranormal happenings on The X-Files, but these are some dark, dark images. It’s so dark that I had never watched it again until now.

The good news is, that meant that other than knowing it was dark, I had no preconceived notions or solidified memories of it. I came to “Via Negativa” with an open mind.

Uncle Frank wrote this one. And by “Uncle Frank” I mean Frank Spotnitz. Why do I call him “Uncle Frank”? I think it’s some kind of awkward outlet for my tightly governed affections.

When it came to The X-Files, Uncle Frank had a funny way of bringing out the best in everybody else. He was Chris Carter’s right hand man for the mythology episodes, also co-writing Fight the Future and I Want to Believe with him. When he wasn’t making a point of keeping me guessing with the mythology, he was busy cracking me up as part of the John Gillnitz trio (John Shiban – Vince Gilligan – Frank Spotnitz) who specialized in writing crazy goodness. His own solo offerings have been tragically few and far between, but so far I’ve loved all of them: “End Game” (2×17), “Our Town” (2×24), and “Detour” (5×4). So how did the two of us wind up here, Frank, with me sucking my breath through my teeth in the heaviness of horror?

It seems it’s Doggett’s turn to have the best brought out of him; Doggett who’s had a rough time of it being forced to take Mulder’s spot in the X-Files division. It’s time to give him something to do other than be wanting in comparison to Mulder and be rescuing Scully all the time. Here he’s on the trail of a killer who can’t be caught because if you catch him, it really means he’s caught you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t completely understand this plot. But I don’t think it’s about the plot. The plot is a vehicle to bring us the imagery. I don’t understand the imagery either. Except that it’s dark and evil and one can only take so much of it. I couldn’t have sat through it for more than a one hour episode of television. I could barely do that.

Doggett: Just ’cause I’m assigned to the X-Files you want me to think like Scully or Mulder would. You got the wrong guy. I need facts, not wild ideas.

Doggett doesn’t really understand what’s going on either, but he too is disturbed. Yes, he’s a different type of investigator than both Mulder and Scully. His isn’t the ordered scientific mind nor the disordered mind of the fanatic. But one trait he does share in common with Mulder is that he trusts his own instincts. In this case, his instincts lead him to a conclusion that his mind can’t process: Cult leader Tipet is psychically killing people in their sleep.

I’m still not sure why Tipet is killing. I gather that he accidentally reached a lower rather than a higher state of consciousness, or that “Via Negativa” is telling me that those two states are one in the same. It’s suggested that he kills to prevent others from reaching that cursed state, but while that makes sense for his followers, it doesn’t make sense for the two F.B.I. agents, the homeless man or Doggett. Tipet seems reluctant to kill, yet somehow he must. Another thing I’m not sure about is where the threat of Doggett killing Scully came from. Are his visions of her death meant to induce Doggett to kill himself?

If so, he very nearly succeeds. Doggett nearly goes mad trying to figure out what’s a dream and what’s reality. Or does he nearly go mad? Maybe he just dreamed he did.

That whole dream sequence was wonderfully acted by Robert Patrick who finally gets to do something other than just be a good guy. It’s good to see Doggett discombobulated and uncomfortable instead of collected and capable. And I’m glad his first up close and personal experience with the paranormal happened when Scully wasn’t around. This way, she didn’t prompt him to come to certain conclusions. Actually, she seemed to talk him out of his conclusions right there at the end, so I’m not sure if Doggett’s growth has been partially undone or if he’ll be taking this experience with him into the future.

Verdict:

The nice thing about episodes that are low on Mulder and Scully is that some other of our favorite characters get to come to the forefront. So, see? There’s a silver lighting to every cloud. Okay, so Doggett isn’t most people’s favorite. But who isn’t a fan of Skinner? And who doesn’t like the Lone Gunmen? If that’s you, please don’t answer. Some secrets are best kept.

Skinner seems to be drinking the “I am Fox Mulder” Kool-aid which does make me roll my eyes a little. But it’s still good to see him interact with Doggett one on one. I enjoyed that scene they had together in “Without” (8×2) as well and I think they have good chemistry. We’re so used to Mulder and Scully that we don’t get to see two strong male leads share the same screen space very often and it’s a nice refresher.

Doggett also gets introduced to the Lone Gunmen, and while that’s a cute scene, color me confused. I thought Langly’s first name was Ringo? Or maybe it is Richard, nickname Ringo? As in Richard Starkey, Ringo?

Anyways, “Via Negativa” is a risky, shocking, effective episode. It’s a trip down memory lane I’m not sure I’ll ever take again willingly, and I’m quite sure I won’t be taking any acid trips to reach a higher plane. But I must say that Robert Patrick’s looking pretty darn good.

A-

Comments:

Another way Doggett uses his instincts: Checking the hospital register for Scully’s name.

On that note, it’s sweet of Doggett to be so concerned about Scully’s welfare right after his own near death experience.

Watching a man take a razor blade and slice his forehead open is not something I ever want to do again.

At the time, memories of the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult were still fresh, so this kind of story resonated.

Our first look at Doggett’s place – the first X-Files agent with a house.

Those aren’t the footprints of someone who’s walked in blood. Those are the footprints of someone whose shoes are bleeding.

So Scully really is going to be in the hospital every other episode this season.

Yo, 1013. If there’s nothing wrong with the baby, don’t make us think there’s something wrong with the baby. The welfare of The Scully Spawn automatically trumps in importance anything that might happen in a one-off episode. A plot point that major shouldn’t be used as a distraction or, worse, a way to merely get rid of Scully. Thanks. Peace.

Curiosities:

Since when would Mulder consult the Lone Gunmen on paranormal cases? Did I miss something? Am I wrong or did he not use Chuck Burke for that?

Agent Crane is working under Skinner now?

I don’t get Kersh. I don’t get him at all. First he wants real world answers. Then he doesn’t care if he gets any answers. Is he really acting on someone else’s orders or does he just have a psychological disorder? Right now he’s being difficult just to be difficult, and that isn’t the behavior of a character acting logically within his universe but a character who’s being used to create a problem whenever a problem needs to happen.

Why Doggett turns off the lights after having a vision like that is a mystery that will never be solved.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: A third eye?

Frohike: We all have a third eye. If we could open it, we’d see a new reality, one closer to God. At least that’s what Kesey told me on the bus back in ’64.

Langly: You were not on the bus with Kesey in ’64.

Frohike: Hey, I got the pictures to prove it, my long-haired friend.

Langly: Before or after you partied with the Stones at Altamont?

Frohike: Don’t be a boob, Altamont was in ’70s.

Langly: Whatever.

——————–

Doggett: What if Tipet could invade his victims’… consciousness in their sleep? I mean, that’s why you’d be afraid to fall asleep, right? If you thought your nightmares might come true?

Byers: You believe that?

Doggett: No… but if Tipet does… he’ll need more drugs… to keep killing. [Leaves]

Frohike: That’s not bad for a beginner.

 

Closure 7×11: I guess I just want it to be over.


x-files-265

Don’t look any further.

I want to believe so badly, in a truth beyond our own, hidden and obscured from all but the most sensitive eyes, in the endless procession of souls, in what cannot and will not be destroyed.

Sure, I’ve skipped the more annoying parts of this voiceover. But if there’s anything an X-Files voiceover does, besides aggravate us with misplaced poeticism, is it gives us a shortcut to the heart of the matter. And this one picks us up emotionally, thematically and chronologically where “Sein Und Zeit” (7×10) dropped us off. The kids are dead, but the kids are alright. We don’t have proof of it, but we want to believe it. We know we should believe it.

I won’t bore you with a rehash of the discussion of being, death, life and walk-ins that was the “Sein Und Zeit” review. That was then. This is Samantha.

The search for Samantha has been the bedrock, the backbone of the show. Even Mulder’s search for the truth of alien life was fueled by memories of his sister’s abduction and his desire to find her or at least find out what happened to her.

Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Mulder hardly mentions Samantha anymore. He’s mostly moved on. Oh sure, she comes up as a token topic of conversation every mythology two-parter. But if you’ll cast your mind back to “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), you’ll remember that even during Mulder’s famous dream sequence, when he imagines his life through a Leave it to Beaver lens and is reunited with his long-lost sister, their reunion lasts one scene. That’s it. “Hey! Luv ya, how ya doin’?” And it’s over. He spends almost no time on her mentally.

I see three main reasons for the growing lack of interest in Samantha:

  1. Hearing about her without making any real progress toward seeing her gets old after a while.
  2. Scully has taken her place emotionally, insofar as Mulder has found the family that he was missing and that Samantha’s abduction destroyed. Way back in “End Game” (2×17) we saw that Mulder was willing to trade the woman he then thought was Samantha for Scully. And in “Redux II” (5×3) we found out that the deepest desire of his heart was not to be reunited to his sister, to find out what happened to her, or to know the truth of alien life. It was to find a cure for Scully’s cancer. Mulder still misses Samantha, of course, but he’s lost the urgency of loneliness.
  3. We really already know what happened to Samantha. We just don’t know what happened after that.

Chris Carter was right to finally give us the last word on Samantha. Like Cigarette-Smoking Man says, “There was so much to protect before. It’s all gone now.” I know Carter wanted to take people by surprise by presenting this story in the middle of the season rather than waiting till the end for the traditional mythology finale. Considering where the series ends up going, and the mythology ends up going, and David Duchovny ends up going, it likely wouldn’t have been possible to give Samantha her proper treatment come season end. And we needed, we needed some emotion from Mulder at this point. Some people say David Duchovny was phoning it in this season. I say there wasn’t much else for him to do. After all, what’s driving Mulder? What’s pushing him? What’s pulling him?

Samantha’s storyline needed an end and we got one. Good. Yet, I still have mixed feelings about the way it went down. Overall, this episode was very well done. Some eye-rolling over the concept of the walk-ins and over the melodramatic language in the teaser aside, this and its predecessor are the most emotionally compelling episodes we’ve had in a long time. However, after all the ups and downs we’ve been through over Samantha… seeing her as a clone (Colony), a drone (Herrenvolk), and even an unknown (Redux II), the repressed memories (Conduit), the new and improved repressed memories (Demons), the strong hints that she’s alive out there somewhere (every frickin’ season)… to have it all end so matter-of-factly, to say that she just disappeared one day into the starlight, feels anticlimactic. And to effectively say all hope was lost long ago, before you ever started watching and wishing, is a bit of a let down.

Ah, Samantha, we never knew ye. You were abducted one night by the Alien Colonists, taken to ensure your father’s cooperation in the plot to take over the human race. Then you were returned and handed over to the Cigarette-Smoking Man, subjected to a series of experiments to try to turn you into an alien-human hybrid because, of course, the Syndicate betrayed the Colonists by trying to create a hybrid race that could withstand takeover by the Black Oil. You suffered for two years, then like the biblical Enoch, you were not, for God took you.

It was over before it had begun.

Mulder’s entire family is officially dead. Ponder that, if you will.

Mulder, for all his grief, or maybe because of it, is more himself than he’s been in a while. He’s sneaking into air force bases again, he’s following his instincts no matter how irrational, and he’s hanging up on Scully like he’s got a bad cell phone plan. He’s irritating. He’s classic. He even drops a flirt in the middle of a seance to find his sister.

Scully: Oh, yay. A seance. I haven’t done that since high school.

Mulder: Maybe afterwards we can play postman and spin the bottle.

How does he drop a gem like that at a seance to find his sister and say it that way? The inappropriateness. The melts. The rewinds. Oh, Mulder. Why do you make me love you so much more after I hate you?

Samantha may be gone but Mulder’s here. God is in His heaven, all’s right with the world.

Verdict:

Dear David Duchovny,

I’m so glad you exist.

A-

Lack of Closure:

It’s never directly stated, but some of Mulder’s speculations in “Sein Und Zeit” had to have been wrong. Teena Mulder probably didn’t have a vision of her daughter dead and never wrote a note. Nurse Ray saw her dead because she was with her and there probably was no note, since Samantha’s death turns out to have had nothing to do with Ed Trulove, the serial killer discovered in the previous episode. It’s only the walk-in connection that ties Samantha to Amber Lynn. Probably Teena Mulder saw a vision of her daughter in starlight at some point afterward and realized she was dead, she just didn’t have the heart to tell Mulder.

But if that’s the case, will someone please explain “Colony” to me? Because that Teena Mulder had no idea her daughter was dead.

At the very end, when Nurse Ray confirms to Scully that Samantha disappeared from the hospital mysteriously, every time I think to myself, “How did we get here? How did we get from walk-ins to Samantha to murder to Samantha and back to walk-ins again?” Every time.

For reals, though. Mulder finds this case that matches another unsolved case. The mother from the first case explains to him about walk-ins. His mother kills herself, probably unrelated to any of this directly. Mulder assumes that his mother must have known about the walk-ins and that his sister is one of them. Then he thinks his sister has been murdered by a serial killer. A random psychic comes and tells him Samantha has been taken by the walk-ins after all. Mulder develops a new theory that Samantha was abducted by aliens, but was returned afterwards to CSM who raised her for a period – true. He also believes she wasn’t taken by walk-ins and is alive somewhere – false. And then, boom. She’s in starlight after all. The story comes full circle but it isn’t the easiest to follow.

The diary idea seems an almost too convenient way to have Samantha speak to Mulder from beyond the grave. But it’s a touching scene nonetheless. Scully’s compassionate reaction to Mulder’s grief is perfect. She doesn’t drop stilted wisdom. She doesn’t try to talk him out of being sad. She’s just doesn’t let him grieve alone.

Who is this Agent Lewis Schoniger that Scully consults with about Mulder’s recovered memories? And why do I have to go to the credits to get his name?

David Duchovny’s 1989 Wig. It should get its own special.

That scene with Scully and CSM – we don’t get enough of those. Apparently, William B. Davis agreed, because soon he’ll give us “En Ami” (7×15). Meanwhile, a juicy little tidbit is embedded in that brief conversation: CSM is sick. In fact, I’d be willing to bet Chris Carter brought him physically to Scully just so we could know that.

Back to the serial killings, was Ed Trulove ever in Idaho? Because if not, he didn’t kill the boy in Mulder’s original X-File about the walk-ins and the mother writing a note referencing Santa Clause doesn’t make sense.

It looks like it isn’t just the walk-ins and the souls they help that live in starlight. All dead people do.

It’s very cool to see Anthony Heald from Silence of the Lambs, even if psychic Harold Piller is so annoying even Mulder almost throws him out.

Scully’s wearing a leather jacket.

There’s this great moment in the diner after Mulder calls out Harold for hiding information only to be persuaded by his words yet again. The expression on Mulder’s face says, “Well, Scully? Can I go with him? Can I?”

Jeffrey Spender spent at least a couple of years of his childhood raised alongside Samantha Mulder by CSM. How did Spender not ever mention this? That’s a pretty significant piece of information we learned this episode. A piece of information I don’t believe ever becomes relevant again.

As Mulder sleeps, Planet of the Apes plays in the background and we hear, “Don’t look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.” This echoes what Scully said to Mulder in the previous episode. “Don’t go looking for something you don’t want to find.”

Oh, how I had Moby’s Play album on repeat back in the day and his music here is perfect. The vibe actually reminds me a lot of the aesthetic composer Mark Snow has already established for the show.

So that moment in the seance makes me wonder if Mulder and Scully are already sleeping together. But we’ll get to that.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I have this powerful feeling, and I can’t explain it, that this is the end of the road. That I’ve been brought here to learn the truth.” {Editor’s Note: Just in case the audience was tempted to think otherwise.}

 

S.R. 819 6×10: At least you didn’t get your ear bit off.


Call Dr. Scully.

I’m in love with Assistant Director Walter Skinner.

And I know I’m not the only one. For all those who have gone into withdrawal after the admittedly extended period of light-hearted antics that make up the first third of Season 6, we’re about to have four heavy-duty episodes in a row. Sigh no more, ladies. Sigh no more.

Krycek was a deceiver ever. And the official battle between him and Skinner has begun, though it’s been brewing since “The Blessing Way” (3×1) when Krycek and Luis Cardinal put a hurtin’ on Skinner in the stairwell of a hospital. It escalated after Skinner handcuffed Krycek to his balcony in “Tunguska” (4×9) and left him to suffer from exposure. See why revenge is never the answer?

Not that the stoically upright Skinner is a vengeful kinda guy, though it’s clear from his introspective soliloquies in this episode that he doesn’t consider himself any sort of hero.

Well, I do. And Scully’s right, Skinner judges himself too harshly.

Yes, he had to compromise himself early on in his relationship with Mulder and Scully, but it’s obvious Cigarette-Smoking Man had an unpleasant hold on his career, perhaps even wielding blackmail as a weapon. But no sooner does he get the chance than Skinner bucks CSM’s authority and aids Mulder in his quest as early as “Ascension” (2×6). Even before that he showed signs of sympathy. Remember his, “This should have been an X-File” comment in “The Host” (2×2)?

He proved to be Mulder and Scully’s protector in episodes like “End Game” (2×17) where he pummels Mulder’s location out of Mr. X in an effort to save his life and in “Paper Clip” (3×2) when he extorts the safe return of Mulder and Scully out of CSM by threatening to release classified information on the conspiracy. In fact, it’s that episode where Skinner officially crawls out from under CSM’s nefarious shadow. Too bad his hard-won independence doesn’t last long. By the time we reach “Avatar” (3×21), CSM has cooked up a cold dish of revenge framing Skinner for murder. And while Mulder and Scully… and his soon to be ex-wife… deliver Skinner out of that trap, he willingly walks back into CSM’s clutches in “Memento Mori” (4×15) in order to, what else? Save Scully. By “Zero Sum” (4×21) he’s a patsy again, but though his position may be compromised his loyalty never is.

Despite not being much older than they are, Skinner plays the harsh but protective father to Mulder and Scully. He’s willing to get his hands dirty so that they don’t have to, not because his conscience is seared but because the soldier in him is willing to sacrifice to win the war. If Skinner were to die now he would not die in vain. Mulder and Scully would have been dead long ago if not for him.

But not once did it occur to me that Skinner might actually die, no more than I though Mulder might really be dead at the end of “Gethsemene” (4×24), which is the best evidence I can give of Skinner’s unofficial status as the third lead on The X-Files; so indispensable has this character become, this character that was never intended by Chris Carter to be a major role, that it’s hard to take the threat of his death seriously.

I never believed they’d do it, but Chris Carter & Co. did consider it. Mulder and Scully no longer worked under Skinner so he was no longer absolutely vital to the plot and because he had changed over the years from a mysterious and potentially dangerous figure to a stalwart ally, he had become too predictable, too reliable. Fortunately for Skinner lovers, the plot potential in this new hold Krycek gains over Skinner convinced The Powers That Be that interesting things could still be done with the character. Thank heavens because can you imagine Season 8 with no Skinner? ::shudders::

The question is, how does a man as self-sufficient as Skinner, who has already escaped the clutches of CSM himself, wind up with his life in the hands of Ratboy? I confess, I never really understood the plot till now so for those fans as slow on the uptake as I am, here’s a rundown:

It all starts with Tunisia. And if that sets off bells of recognition in your head, it should. If I didn’t know better, I’d say there were some oblique implications here that Syndicate leader Strughold who, as we see in Fight the Future, has his base of operations is in Tunisia, is behind the S.R. 819 conspiracy. That would also explain how Krycek originally got involved since last we saw him in “The End” (5×20) he was working for the Syndicate under the authority of Well-Manicured Man. Since Well-Manicured Man is now deceased (sniffle), it’s safe to say Krycek’s loyalties within the organization have moved on. Or safer to say that his only real loyalty is to himself.

Krycek is working on his own in keeping Skinner alive. We can assume he wants him alive and at his mercy so that he can use him for his own agenda later. The Syndicate has a man at the F.B.I. in Jeffrey Spender, now Krycek has his own man on the inside, reluctant though he may be.

The original plan was to export this potentially dangerous nanotechnology to Tunisia, and possibly into the hands of Strughold and the Syndicate, under the guise of the World Health Organization. Before that happened, S.R. 819 had to pass inspection by scientist Kenneth Orgel and the F.B.I.’s own Skinner, a safeguard that was usually a mere formality. However, Orgel understands the potential consequences of the nanotechnology falling into the wrong hands and goes to warn Skinner, but is infected to keep him from talking. Skinner too is infected and is supposed to be killed but Krycek intervenes.

From what Mulder says to Skinner at the end of the episode and the surprised look on Scully’s face when Skinner claims not to be able to recognize the bearded man who tried to kill him, it looks like Mulder and Scully are aware that Krycek is behind all this. But they still don’t know what he’s up to and they certainly don’t know why Skinner refuses to give him up. As in the first Skinner-centric episode, “Avatar”, Mulder and Scully’s concern for their former boss is touching. As before, they drive the investigation to save Skinner only this time to better effect because Skinner doesn’t sit passively, fatalistically by while they work. The determination he starts this episode with must make it especially grating on him to have to slip right back into his old compromising ways.

Verdict:

I can’t say I love “S.R. 819” the way I love Skinner himself because though there’s a tangible sense of urgency, the plot is a little obscure and aside from Skinner’s pulsing veins, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. But I do appreciate the potential mythology implications and I welcome the return of Krycek with open arms. I was one of those taken by surprise when he reappeared. Maybe even “Stevie Wonder would see that one comin’”, but I didn’t.

If my memory serves me correctly, and that’s by no means a guarantee, this was the series’ final Skinner-centric episode. That’s rather surprising considering there are three more seasons to go but it makes it all the more irritating that there’s no resolution to what happened to Skinner’s wife Karen, a character both introduced and discarded back in “Avatar”.

I wasn’t looking for anything detailed. A brief mention from a hospital orderly would have sufficed. “The patient is Walter Skinner. Widowed. Works for the F.B.I.” or “Walter Skinner – Divorced. No known relatives. In case of emergency contact Special Agent Dana Scully.” See how easy that would have been?

My only consolation is that I think there could be a cleverly veiled reference to “Avatar” here:

Mulder: This morning, you woke up…
Skinner: I woke up.
Mulder: Alone?
Skinner: Yes. Alone.

Then again, that’s probably wishful thinking on my part.

B+

The Peanut Gallery:

While I don’t think anyone fell for it, those opening moments of the episode where they would have us believe that Mulder is the F.B.I. agent about to die are well done. I quite like the idea of scaring the audience. If only that silly episode preview hadn’t ruined the surprise…

We haven’t seen Senator Matheson since “Nisei” (3×9) and the truth is, I don’t even remember him in it. The connections in congress Mulder so famously depends upon in the “Pilot” (1×79) have all but become obsolete in the current stage of the mythology. However, I’m glad they brought Matheson back one last time, if only to drive home the point that Mulder has fewer people he can trust than even he once believed. That makes the fact that one of his allies is now seriously compromised… and that he doesn’t know it… even more poignant.

Wouldn’t it have been awesome if Senator Matheson were secretly a member of the Syndicate?

It makes me a little sad to think the ear-biting references might be lost on this new generation.

Mulder and Scully are forbidden any contact with Skinner. Don’t they know there are cameras at the F.B.I.?

Parts of the movie score are recycled several times in this episode. And there’s an overhead shot of the highway that looks recycled as well – there’s no way that shot was in a television budget.

I’ve never read the fanfic, but I’m sure the Skinner/Scully Shippers had a field day with this episode.

That abandoned warehouse set is striking. I especially enjoy the lighting when Mulder walks in on the Senator.

I recently found out that Nicholas Lea (Krycek) is about to guest star on Supernatural. That’s an interesting coincidence since both Steven Williams (Mr. X) and Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) have guest starred on that show for a series of episodes. Ah, when fate binds souls together…

This reminds me of the good old days when Scully often stared in wonder and computer screens looking at scientific data that shouldn’t exist.

I dig the “Chinga” (5×10) reference, John Shiban. I dig it.

Best Quotes:

Skinner: I was boxing. I must’ve gotten tagged.
Nurse: Yes, you did. At least you didn’t get your ear bit off. That’s something, right?

——————-

Dr. Plant: Well, the good news is… your dilation’s back to normal. Plus you still have both your ears.
Skinner: I heard that one.

——————-

Dr. Plant: Well, you’re lucky. He’s on a government HMO – no one’s even bothered to handle the samples yet.

Folie à Deux 5×19: See, if you’re not smiling, they can hear it.


The Natural Look

Vince Gilligan is a television genius and this episode has his sense of humor written all over it, rendering it unnecessary to even check the credits for his name. Telemarketing Zombie Grasshoppers? C’mon. We all know who’s responsible for this.

These… insects… are like something out of a 1950’s B sci-fi movie. It’s only one halting step away from the anonymous office worker who took off his hat one day and revealed an over-large pair of red compound eyes. Maybe the charm of that is lost on you, maybe it isn’t, but the zombies aren’t actually the focus of this episode anyway. They’re just a vehicle to showcase the current depth of Mulder and Scully’s partnership – I say “partnership” but it’s more like an “unbreakable psychic bond.”

Think about the way the events of the episode unfold: Mulder bewails his fate. Scully attempts to share Mulder’s fate. Mulder spares her his burden. Scully insinuates herself anyway. Mulder admits he needs Scully. Scully saves Mulder. Scully bewails her fate.

Yes, actually, I have pretty much described the entire series, I Want to Believe included.

One thing I especially love about Vince Gilligan’s episodes of The X-Files, or one person I should say, is Scully. Underneath the comedic icing of episodes like “Small Potatoes” (4×20) and “Bad Blood” (5×12) are subtly nuanced views of her character. This episode, even though the focus is ostensibly on Mulder, is no different. Where Mulder’s character falls into a foreseeable and highly anticipated decline consistent with everything he’s always been, it’s Scully who takes another imperceptible and yet vital step forward in a progression that will be significant in not only the immediately following season finale, but in the movie and the next season to come.

I bet you think this is where I explain how important and gratifying it is that Scully has come to trust Mulder, how she’s almost substituted his instincts for her own. But what’s more significant for Scully’s character is how far Mulder is now able to trust her. If Mulder’s computer-induced daydream of a roundhouse kicking Scully comes to save the day in “Kill Switch” (5×11) was just that, a daydream. Here’s the real thing.

Scully believes in Mulder so strongly that she can see what he sees. Similarly to the events of this episode but with less humor, Scully was worried about Mulder’s sanity in “Grotesque” (3×14), but she didn’t fall down the rabbit hole with him back then. Now their simpatico is such that she can’t help but adopt his psychosis. Surely, it’s not the phenomenon itself she comes to believe in, even if she does see it with her own eyes. Afterward she falters in her explanation of it before Skinner like a guilty schoolgirl. No, rather, Scully has reached the point where it doesn’t matter if what she sees is real or not, what matters is that she and Mulder are seeing the same thing.

“Folie à Deux” is a partnership-focused episode and in it The X-Files firmly establishes just how far Mulder and Scully have come in their relationship since the beginning, a not so subtle reminder right before “The End” (5×20). It’s especially significant in light of the emotional upheaval Scully’s about to experience with the advent of She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Mulder just affirmed Scully’s place in his life in the most explicit terms he ever has. Does she believe him? I don’t see why she wouldn’t. Will she continue to? That’s complicated.

Scully questions why she follows Mulder back in “Quagmire” (3×22), she pouts over it in “Never Again” (4×13), she’ll complain the fruitlessness of it all innumerable times in the future, and yet she stays. Bottom Line: Scully doesn’t believe in the mission, she believes in the man.

Verdict:

If there’s one complaint, one reason why this episode doesn’t garner as many accolades as it could, it’s that those silly insects, the villains of the story, are so cheesy it’s distracting. But then, after all, how scary can a giant bug be? A spider the size of your hand, that’s scary. Once a pest passes the size of a soccer ball, it crosses the Rubicon into comical. The whole thing would have been more of a fright fest if Pincus had been a straight zombie or vampire and they had bypassed the insect angle altogether, but I don’t think that was ever Gillligan’s intent. The comedic undertones are intentional. And considering our arch-villain Pincus is a man-sized grasshopper, I think the visual effects team did an impressive job.

Dial and smile, Gary.

A-

Zombieland:

Telemarketers or zombies, what’s scarier? Their monotone scripts sound like zombie-speak anyway.

How in the round world did Scully get to Chicago so fast?? She hung up with Mulder just before he was taken hostage yet she arrives in front of the building while the SWAT team is still organizing itself. Just once, couldn’t someone write some actual time into the timeline?

Shirley Temple and Bo Jangles are on the television in one scene. Way to combine classic moments in pop culture.

Nice bit of continuity – Mulder’s finger is still broken from the last episode. Vince Gilligan was always a master of continuity nods.

It’s an episode that starts off seemingly about a crazy man holding people hostage and then turns into another thing altogether. Echoes of “Duane Barry” (2×5), anyone?

This is another classic case of Mulder manipulating Scully into an autopsy.

Why is it that every episode where Mulder “frees” Scully from having to jump into the fray with him, she ultimately refuses to stay away? “Tooms” (1×20), “Little Green Men” (2×1), “End Game” (2×17).

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Monsters? I’m your boy.

———————

Mulder: I must have done something to piss him off.
Scully: What do you mean?
Mulder: Get stuck with this jerk-off assignment. Or have I finally reached that magic point in my career where every time somebody sees Bigfoot or the Virgin Mary on a tortilla, I get called out of my basement ward to offer my special insight on the matter.
Scully: You’re saying “I” a lot. I heard “we.” Nor do I assume that this case is just a waste of our time.
Mulder: Well, not yours anyways. There’s no reason both of us should go to Chicago. I’ll take care of it. [Walks away]
Scully: Mulder?
Mulder: I’m Monster Boy, right?

———————

Mulder: Scully at the risk of you telling me “I told you so”, I think it’s time for you to get down here and help me.
Scully: I told you so.

———————

Mulder: Scully, you have to believe me. Nobody else on this whole damn planet does or ever will. You’re my one in five billion.

Redux 5×2: What does any of this have to do with flying saucers?


Mulder goes down the rabbit hole.

Did he or didn’t he? That’s the question were supposed to be asking ourselves at the start of Season 5. If Mulder didn’t actually kill himself, he was surely thinking about it. But I doubt anyone seriously expected that Fox would pay David Duchovny according to his contract without reaping the benefits of having him on a hit TV show. Oh, no. It doesn’t take more than a thimble full of brains to realize Mulder is very much alive. Instead, the dramatic tension is held aloft by another question: Does Scully know or doesn’t she?

The good news is that the answer is given rather quickly. Mulder’s alive and Scully knows it, she’s just a very, very good actress. Maybe she should quit her day job, although it’s probably too late for that since she’s about to go the way of the Dodo, but still.

Let speed on along right to my favorite moment of this episode, shall we?

Mulder: I need to know who did this to Scully.
Kritschgau: What you can have, what you may find is so much more than that.
Mulder: What?
Kritschgau: What you want most desperately of all.
Mulder: [Hopefully] The cure for Scully’s cancer?

Oh, Mulder. Right answer. Give the man a cookie.

I let out the “squee” heard ‘round the world the first time I heard that one. If the question is about what Mulder wants most, surely he’s going to mention Samantha, I thought. Isn’t the mystery surrounding her disappearance the backbone of the entire series and Mulder’s driving force in life? My how the times are a changing.

There was evidence way back in “End Game” (2×17) that Samantha and Scully had become about equal in Mulder’s mind. But the “Gethsemene”/”Redux”/”Redux II” arc is where the switch flips for Mulder in this little Phile’s opinion. After this, there’s never a question that to get to Mulder, your best bet is to push the Scully button. Consequently, the whole tone of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, or I should say, at least in the direction of Mulder to Scully, changes distinctly for the needy in Season 5. There’s an extra level of protectiveness regarding Scully that we haven’t seen from him since Season 2. Now Mulder pretty much turns into a mad man whenever Scully’s in trouble. He can live, albeit painfully, with the mystery of Samantha. But can he live without his only source of solace?

Speaking of the deep and wide mysteries of the Mulder family, Cigarette-Smoking Man seems to be mourning Mulder with a little more than the respectful regret due to a fallen foe. The way he lovingly gazes at the picture of little Fox and Samantha, it makes one think that the sly remarks he made to Teena Mulder back in “Talitha Cumi” (3×24) were more than just wishful bravado. There had to have been something between them. The question is exactly what relationship he has to Mulder, both biological and conspiratorial. Is he Samantha’s father? Is he Mulder’s father? Does he know he’s Mulder’s father? And taking his not necessarily truthful assertion that he “created” Mulder at face value, all these years has he been manipulating him through the X-Files partially in order to protect him? There’s food for thought.

In case you thought the Cigarette-Smoking Man realm of the conspiracy wasn’t far fetched enough, there’s a new game afoot. According our newly sanctified informant Kritschgau, since The Civil War, America fights wars solely to drive the economy. The alien abduction phenomenon is merely a cover so that the military can get access to our DNA. Why? Not for the sake of creating alien-human hybrids. After all, there are no aliens. But in order to have the tools and the power to successfully wage war, supposedly America’s dearest business. Flying Saucers? Hokum. Little Green Men? Bunkum.

I’m ashamed to say it, but I was initially completely fooled by Kritschgau’s confident assertions. I, somewhat gleeful at watching Mulder be proved wrong, dismissed the alien conspiracy altogether… don’t ask me how. Maybe I was too busy concentrating on MSR because how I explained the existence of The Alien Bounty Hunter to myself I do not know.

Unfortunately for Mulder and Scully, this military conspiracy only serves to point the finger firmly back in the FBI’s direction. And who at the FBI would make the most shocking Judas? Well, since Mulder and Scully haven’t actually depended on anyone else except… yep. Again, we’re back to the Skinner trust issue and considering how many times we’ve already been there, it’s amazing that the tension filled scenes between him and Scully are so compelling. I’d love to say this is the last time dear Skinner’s loyalties will be questioned, but…

And the Verdict is…

This is the second in a three-parter and as such, is heavier in information and exposition than actual action. But let that not be held against it. The revelations, true or not, are of the game-changing kind. And Mulder has finally been brought to recognize his own arrogance. Who would’ve thought that could happen?

This has always been my favorite mythology story arc, and deservedly so when I see again how little the tension deflates in “Redux”. Usually, part two can be all but assumed to be a bit of a dud when it comes to a three-part arc. Not so here because while it’s low on action, the drama between Scully and Skinner and Mulder and Himself only escalates. Not to mention, I love those Pentagon scenes.

We end with Scully on the verge of death and Mulder powerless to help her. If that doesn’t compel you to tune in to the next episode, what will?

A

Peanut Gallery:

What’s interesting about Mulder’s near suicide is that what stops him is Scully. What propels him and prevents him is Scully. He can’t let her go it alone when he got her into this mess.

Mulder: If only the tragedy had been mine alone, might it be more easy tonight to bring this journey to its end.

Oh the voiceovers in this one. I say voiceovers, but it’s really one giant voiceover. Thankfully, I’m so caught up in the drama that it doesn’t turn me off. Besides, it’s nice to get some primary source insight into the mind of Fox Mulder.

Nice touch bringing Scully back to Blevins’ office. There’s some beautiful déjà vu going on in “Redux”.

Again, we have Mulder and Scully on the same hunt but on two different trails. I love it when they do this.

I read somewhere, maybe one day I’ll find where it was, that Season 5 was supposed to mark a division of trust between Mulder and Scully, starting with Mulder killing Osselhoff and Scully not knowing whether to believe he’s telling her the whole tale about the man’s death. If that’s what they tried, they failed, because all I read from that scene is Scully’s almost unnerving ability to believe the best of Mulder. With one significant exception, Season 5 ends up being the most delightful example of Mulder/Scully solidarity since Season 2.

Best Quotes:

Cigarette-Smoking Man: I’ve always kept Mulder in check. I put this whole thing together. I created Mulder.
Elder: Agent Mulder is dead. Our FBI source confirmed it this morning. Mulder killed himself. Mulder was an asset. Without his partner you may have underestimated his fragility.
Cigarette-Smoking Man: I’ve never underestimated Mulder. I still don’t.

———————–

Kritschgau: You’ve heard the recent denials about Roswell by the military and the CIA? And what’s been the effect? Even wilder and more widespread belief; the American appetite for bogus revelation, Agent Mulder.
Mulder: But I’ve seen aliens. I’ve witnessed these things.
Kritschgau: You’ve seen what they wanted you to see. The line between science and science fiction doesn’t exist any more. What this is about is control… of the very elements of life: DNA. Yours, mine, everyone’s.

Memento Mori 4×15: You think a lot more of me than you let on.


The hug heard 'round the world.

This episode opens with something I’m generally not too fond of: An X-Files voiceover.

You can always tell when Chris Carter has written one and they’re always slightly overwrought and self-consciously poeticized. In this one, Scully sounds marvelously unlike an investigator and even less like a scientist. Who knew she majored in Physics but minored in English Literature? Snarkiness aside though, much of this episode is spent establishing that Scully is Scully no matter what her circumstances are. Sickness doesn’t cause her to call up her mother sobbing because that’s not who she is. She doesn’t run to Mulder in frantic desperation because that would be a betrayal of herself. Why her words would become flowery when her mind is not is beyond me. On the plus side, the monologue does get the point across quickly that Scully is dying and there’s nothing she can do about it.

What kind of reaction will this produce in Scully? Will there be any deathbed confessions? Probably not. Based on their track record, we all know that Mulder and Scully aren’t about to embarrass themselves with any alarming declarations, however we as the audience might hope. The foundation of their relationship is unspoken, like an iceberg, the most important parts remaining invisible but assumed and understood based solely on what we can see. One of the reasons “Memento Mori” is so special is that it does allow us some concrete but still subtle proof of how Mulder and Scully really feel about each other. No more guessing.

To suddenly force Mulder and Scully’s relationship out into the wide open would undermine it at the risk of its losing it’s effectiveness. So what happens? Scully writes a diary that lays her thoughts bare, only for Mulder to read it outside of her presence. This gives loyal fans an incredible payoff but also a reason to keep watching since Mulder and Scully are still fundamentally silent. Everything’s understood, nothing has to be said, our assumptions are confirmed and validated, the status quo is maintained.

Gillian Anderson won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama series for this one. It’s not too hard to see why since she takes Scully to a place of both vulnerability and strength that we’ve never seen from her before. But really, the glories of this episode are almost equally shared between 3 leads, the other two being David Duchovny and Mitch Pileggi who also give us some complicated and incredibly nuanced performances.

Mulder, despite his disavowal of Scully’s fate, I believe is actually less in denial than she is. Scully admits there’s no hope then flatly refuses to face her death or admit that she’s anything other than “fine.” Mulder, on the other hand, recognizes that Scully is dying; it’s just that he refuses to believe there’s nothing he can do about it. Like his relationship to the larger conspiracy, he believes it exists but also believes that he somehow has the power to change it. (In fact, it isn’t until he believes that he’s helpless to affect the outcome of events that he momentarily gives up, but that will be a long time in the future). He doesn’t cry and he doesn’t rant, instead he hunts, throwing himself even deeper to the conspiracy that did this to Scully, into the danger that he brought Scully into, in hopes that he can save her from this threat that he’s partially responsible for. This episode avoids losing itself in sentimentality by forcing its characters into action.

Skinner doesn’t sit idly by either. After refusing to set up a meeting between Mulder and CSM, he wastes no time in making his own Faustian bargain with the chain smoking Grinch. I know there’s a lot of talk about there among Skinner/Scully Shippers as to what this means about Skinner’s feelings for Scully that he would sacrifice himself on the altar of CSM to find a cure for her disease. But as much as Skinner cares for Scully and wants to see her healed, I actually think that this transaction has more to do with his relationship with Mulder who, despite a relatively minor difference in age, seems to be a pseudo-son to him. Rather than allow Mulder to be corrupted, he takes up that cross himself and suffers in silence. It’s really one of Skinner’s most heroic moments on the show. He loses his soul yet somehow keeps his integrity.

Then there are 3 other… bonus heroes. I’m glad that the Lone Gunmen show up in this one because they give the episode that bit of fun that it needs to avoid taking itself too seriously. True, this is a story about the devastation of cancer, but it takes place in a show about alien conspiracies and paranormal activity. The writers can only wax so poetic without risk of losing their audience.

Speaking of the overarching conspiracy, this is the first “mythology” episode since Season 2’s “Red Museum” (2×10), a time when the mythology was still largely unformed, that doesn’t actually present any new mythology information. The underlying plot isn’t advanced, only reaffirmed, which is why I would hesitate to categorize this as a mythology episode at all but really a stand-alone episode with mythology elements. Actually, I should clarify, as there is one new bit of information: some of the human genetic material used to create clones and drones comes from the embryos of abductees, Scully included. But it will take a good 4 years… that’s right, 4 years… before Mulder will reveal this secret to Scully in the episode “Per Manum” (8×8). Although, it happens in flashback so really it took him 3 years, but still.

Verdict:

By the opening of this episode it’s like the events of “Never Again” (4×13) never happened. To be sure, when death arrives petty disputes have a way of disappearing. But I suppose we’ll never know if Mulder and Scully worked through their issues or just forgot about them when a much larger monster came along that required all their powers of concentration.

It doesn’t really matter. As much as this episode involved a love letter of sorts from Scully to Mulder, it feels like a love letter to the fans. Scully’s cancer, like her abduction that caused it, gives a human face to the conspiracy and reminds us that this whole show really is about 2 people, their trials, tribulations and adventures. We wanted more insight into their characters and now we have it.

But I still could’ve done without that purple prose.

A

Comments:

Grey-Haired Man makes a return. He was last seen in “Apocrypha” (3×16).

The clones are back! Not to be confused with the drones we were introduced to in “Herrenvolk” (4×1) despite the fact that the same DNA created both.

Carter and Spotnitz were working on Fight the Future at the same time as this script. I wonder what that knowledge will reveal when the movie finally comes up.

“It’s part of what makes these such Romantic, heroic characters is that they always put their personal lives on the back seat. In fact they, they really don’t have much in the way of a personal life whatsoever. Um, they’re people on a quest. They’re, they’re really both united and separated by their quest.” – Spotnitz

I feel so justified in my assessments now. See above.

Nice tie in to the visuals of both “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23) and “End Game” (2×17).

Scully really deserved to be chewed out by her mother. I love that this show represents death and dying in a realistic way. People still get mad at each other.

Speaking of people getting mad, it’s still too bad that the scene between Scully and her brother Bill had to be cut. Thankfully, we’ll get another chance to hate him real soon.

Is it Shipper suicide if I admit I’m glad they cut the kiss?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: [Handing Scully flowers] I… stole these from some guy with a broken leg down the hall. He won’t be able to catch me.

———————–

Skinner: So you want to set up a meeting. With whom?
Mulder: Cigarette man. I have no doubt in my mind he’s behind this.
Skinner: You’ve come to be before like this, Mulder.
Mulder: Yeah, well, this is different. This is different, I’m willing to deal now.
Skinner: Find another way.
Mulder: No! I need that meeting.
Skinner: You deal with this man, you offer him anything and he will own you forever.
Mulder: He knows what they did to Agent Scully! He may very well know how to save her!
Skinner: If he knows, you can know too but you can’t ask the truth of a man who trades in lies! I won’t let you.

———————–

Smoking Man: It’s funny. I always thought of you as Fox Mulder’s patron. You’d think under your aegis that he wouldn’t be consigned to a corner of the basement.
Skinner: At least he doesn’t take an elevator up to get to work.
Smoking Man: You think I’m the devil, Mr. Skinner?

————————

Mulder: Pick out something black and sexy and prepare to do some funky poaching.

Never Again 4×13: You’d break my heart over a cheap redhead?


Walking in Memphis.

Before we start, let’s take a moment to consider what could have been:

“They had long wanted to write a story about Lincoln’s ghost haunting the White House, and thought this would work splendidly on The X-Files; finally, Mulder and Scully go to the White House! But their disappointment over the changes they were forced to make ‘Musings of Cigarette Smoking Man’ caused them to withhold the ghost story and look for something else. ‘I had done a lot of research and I had always wanted to write a feature about Lincoln’s ghost,’ Morgan said, ‘But I felt they didn’t want my heart and soul anymore, so I wouldn’t give this one to them.’

Why cast pearls before swine? Instead of Lincoln’s ghost, we got Jodie Foster’s disembodied voice. It’s a pretty even trade.

I don’t like this episode. And I know that just as much as it was hated when it first aired it’s become something of a critic’s darling over the years. Even so, I still can’t see it. I think most of this praise stems from the fact that the episode and the content thereof is admittedly daring for The X-Files. But showing us a new side of Scully’s character, while a worthy goal, isn’t merit enough for me considering the side the side of Scully they decided to show.

I think the fairest way to look at this episode is the way that writers Morgan and Wong intended it, outside of the shadow of “Leonard Betts” (4×14). These two episodes were shown out of broadcast order because The Powers That Be felt that “Leonard Betts” would be a better episode to air directly after the Super Bowl. I have to say they were right. “Leonard Betts” is a better representation of what the show is all about. “Never Again” not only could potentially alienate a large segment of fans (the Shippers), but it could leave the new audience that Fox was trying to recruit a little confused. After all, unless you know the history of Mulder and Scully’s day-to-day relationship this episode loses a lot of its power.

So for the majority of this review, I’m going to consider the episode as written: Scully has no idea that she may have cancer. Her actions have no impetus or inspiration outside of her own psyche.

There’s an interesting assumption subtly put forth here in the beginning of the episode that Mulder and Scully have a lot more cases, most of them mundane and unfruitful, than we as the audience get to see. It’s actually a great idea and would explain why Scully’s skepticism still holds sway even in the face of all that she’s seen if she’s actually seen more that can be dismissed than that can be proved. The problem is, as late as “Teliko” (4×4) Scully is typing up case report #74, which is the same as the episode number give or take a combined abduction arc or two. That would mean that up to this point in the series, what we’ve seen is all there is to see. And if Scully’s seen exactly what we’ve seen, her petulant ennui seems rather misplaced. At the very least, she shouldn’t dismiss Mulder and his informant so easily. What was that she said to Mulder way back in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23)? “I should know by now to trust your instincts.”

Sometimes I think Morgan and Wong were reading from a completely new playbook.

Not that their unfortunate characterization of Mulder is completely out of left field. He is rather self-righteous and self-absorbed. But he’s certainly proven that he can be selfless when it comes to Scully. Episodes such as “End Game” (2×17) and “Paper Clip” (3×2) are evidence enough of this. Sure, when he says obnoxiously obtuse things like, “You don’t want it to be?,” in response to Scully’s complaint that his work has become her life, he’s rather asking for a slap. But then again, hasn’t she already affirmed in episodes like “Herrenvolk” (4×1) that they’re in this thing together? Hasn’t he given her escape routes that she refuses to take in episodes like “Tooms” (1×21) and “End Game”? If Mulder is presumptuous when it comes to Scully, it’s only because she’s set herself up for it by being so faithful.

What’s more, this line always raises my eyebrow:

Scully: Refusing an assignment? It makes it sound like you’re my superior.

Reality check, Scully. I believe he is.

Oh, I don’t know if he’s technically her superior, but he’s certainly the Senior Agent having graduated from Quantico 4 years before Scully even began at the Academy. Not to mention that he’s way ahead of her in this whole paranormal gig. And as far as her holding down the fort while Mulder’s on vacation, isn’t that her job? Is she even allowed to refuse an assignment except that her close relationship with Mulder gives her leave to do so?

Considering the nature of their working relationship and the precedents she herself has set, Mulder’s annoyance at Scully’s sudden shift in behavior is somewhat justified.

“I thought Scully gets jerked around a lot by Mulder, and this is time for her to stand up for herself,” Morgan said… Sometimes friends suddenly seem troubled and you don’t know why and they won’t tell you. I think he is concerned, even though they get into a little fight… Scully doesn’t do a good job at telling him what’s wrong. She’s inarticulate about it, and I don’t think he understands what she’s trying to say. Mulder should have said, ‘Well, what’s making you feel this way?’ or ‘I don’t understand.’ But in the case of a lot of friends, he just gets frustrated, and sort of blows out. He’s a psychologist, but when it comes to his own life, it’s a forest for the trees type situation. It’s just too close to him.”

Ah, yes. The fight.

The fact that Scully doesn’t have a desk makes Mulder look like a jackass. But frankly, “Why don’t I have a desk?” is a silly question. “Why haven’t I asked for a desk?” is a better one. I’m sure she can requisition one without Mulder’s assistance. (In Morgan and Wong’s defense, this argument was inspired by internet fans whose hawk-like eyes had noticed that Scully still hadn’t earned a place to sit in 4 years).

This sudden wedge between them feels slightly artificial, especially since we know that Scully takes over the desk any old time she pleases. Without the context that “Leonard Betts” gives, it seems as though the writers are looking for an excuse to drive a wedge between our two leads.

“My understanding at the beginning of the year was that we were going to drive to a point where Mulder and Scully didn’t trust each other,” Morgan said. His own scenario for plotting out the season was somewhat different from what Carter and the other writers came up with this year, but the fundamental issue was the same: trust. “I would have slowly split Mulder and Scully up over the course of the season, then in the last episode have Scully put Mulder away for his own good, which he would perceive as the ultimate betrayal,” Morgan said. “And then the next season, they would have had an entire year’s healing to go through.”

And there it is. Yet another example of why it was so important that Chris Carter hold tightly to the reigns of his own creation. It’s not that Morgan’s plan wouldn’t have made for a good drama. And certainly, the 1013 crew did create some tension between Mulder and Scully to keep the audience on their toes. But I dare say that if such a plan had come to fruition, The X-Files would have been The X-Files no longer but some kind of sci-fi soap opera (a fate that it wouldn’t teeter close to till much later in the series).

What if Morgan and Wong’s other plans had gone through? What if Melissa Scully had become Mulder’s love interest? What if CSM had killed Frohike? What if Scully had had sex with Ed Jerse, not just permanently altering her characterization but forever changing the tone of the series? Objectively, I can see why stories like that would be more fun to write. But as a fan, they potentially would have killed my love for the show.

Speaking of sex…

I’ve said before that Mulder and Scully are heroes in the Romantic literary tradition. Humanizing them is one thing. Even Odysseus had his faults. But there’s only so, well, “gritty” you can make a hero before they lose their status altogether. If we had witnessed the same Scully who once famously said, “Hard to imagine in this day and age someone having sex with a perfect stranger,” do the deed with a perfect stranger after only a few drinks to numb her inhibitions, she would have lost her dignity.

Look at the reaction the Detectives have to finding her in Ed Jerse’s apartment the morning after. Do they take her seriously in that disheveled condition? Hardly. And as a woman in the F.B.I., Scully would have had to work hard for her reputation and for respect. A woman with so much to lose would be more cautious. To not do so could put her career at risk.

“As to why it was cut, Morgan said that Carter and the other writers felt that every other woman on television was jumping into bed, and they had worked very hard to differentiate Scully from other female television characters. Morgan’s response: ‘She’s different, but the way she is now, she’s not human.’”

It’s not human to be celibate? Or to at least hold out for a while? Scully doesn’t have to be realistic a la The Sopranos to be believable. Besides, Scully is a sentimentalized vision, as is Mulder in his own way. Scully represents an ideal of intelligent, unexploited womanhood. Taint that at your own peril.

Scully: Sometimes I wish I were that impulsive.

Ed Jerse isn’t even Scully’s type. Judging by her past and future track record in episodes like “Lazarus” (1×14) and “all things” (7×17) she’s more into the intellectual sort as a rule. This is rebellion. Pure and simple. That said, unlike Mulder and Melissa in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5), their chemistry is believable, even if it’s not of the life long sort. Besides, he doesn’t seem to be bothered when he essentially tells him that he’s nothing more than a proverbial giant pack of cigarettes to her.

But, why Ed Jerse and why now? She sees the picture in his apartment with his face burned out. She knows this man is troubled. Such reckless behavior is unlike Scully who here-to-fore has been rational to a fault.

“My gut feeling is that Scully does see Mulder as a father figure,” Morgan said… “In ‘Never Again,’ I don’t know if she’s rejecting the message, but she’s rejecting the father. At times their relationship becomes so oppressive. When I was married and unhappy, I would just go through these things where things would build up, and then I would just do something stupid. And I’d go, ‘What the hell is that? That’s not even me.’”

I’ve already made an argument for why I don’t think the comparison between Bill Scully and Mulder is on point. The details are in my review for “Quagmire” (3×22), but to summarize, just because Scully called her father “Ahab” does not mean that he was actually an Ahab-like figure the way that Mulder is. Bill Scully was no post-modern Don Quixote, unlike Mulder who wears his hopeful neediness on his sleeve. Rather, I believe that Scully sees Mulder as this tragically heroic figure, one whose quest she’s drawn to at least partially out of her own sense of awe and adventure. Again, this is why stripping Mulder and/or Scully of the Romantic aura that surrounds them would disrupt the whole course of the show.

Scully: I’ve always gone around in this, uh… this circle. It usually starts when an authoritative or a controlling figure comes into my life.

Mulder? Authoritative? Controlling? “All consuming,” I’ll give you. But despite the fact that he has a very effective puppy dog face, Mulder is certainly no puppet master. And as far as authoritative, Scully’s consistently sarcastic remarks in response to his theories would say otherwise. This is hardly a teacher-pupil relationship. Scully brings just as much to the table as Mulder. And yet, here she is painted as that same, stupid little girl sucking poison into her lungs not because she likes cigarettes, but because some perverse part of her wants to piss off the father she loves and that she knows loves her. It’s rebellion at its silliest.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Scully wants to be her own person. That’s a natural desire and it can’t be discounted. Mulder’s right, they do need to spend some time apart so that Scully can remember who she is and what she wants. If this episode achieves anything, it forces both Mulder and Scully to recognize just how entrenched their relationship has become, such that both are unsure of their identities without it.

“I feel that Mulder had come to respect that there’s more to this than just him, that Scully is now a part of his life and he’s a part of hers. I think that she learned the danger of exploring the rebellious side, and that it has to be accompanied by responsibility. What she did almost got her killed.”

Their communication skills leave something to be desired. But since the very next episode leaves the events of “Never Again” all but forgotten, I think we can safely say that no permanent damage was done. Not that they didn’t come very, very close what with Mulder making cavalier jokes about Scully’s tattoo and all.

“’I hope we helped Chris out,’ Wong concluded. ‘I think we did a good job. It was a lot of work; we basically did a season’s work in half a season, but I hope that didn’t show in the quality of our X-Files and Millennium episodes. We have very fond thoughts of the people we worked with.’”

Morgan and Wong did do an awesome job, even if much of their work on Season 4 leaves me a little wary and grateful that they decided to move on when they did. Some seasons of life are good while they last, but they shouldn’t be artificially enjoyed past their expiration date. Besides, the quality of their work has never been in doubt. It’s their X-Files philosophy that I sometimes take issue with.

Oh, I know that Mulder and Scully aren’t perfect. And they don’t act perfectly toward each other. But imperfect doesn’t automatically translate to dysfunctional. Why do we have to believe that they’re together because of some twisted and unhealthy psychological need?

There’s a far more simple and compelling, if less melodramatic explanation: They’re friends.

Verdict:

Taking this episode as it was aired, after “Leonard Betts”, everything about it is much easier to accept. Scully doesn’t know how long she has to live, so why not throw off any and all constraints? There’s always a risk of infection and allergic reactions with tattoos, not to mention the risks involved in sex with a stranger, all things that Scully, as a doctor, would be more than aware of. But if she’s dying anyway, what’s the use in being the good girl? In the light of cancer, seeing Scully suddenly question the trajectory of her life makes perfect sense. What was satisfactory a week ago when you thought you had all the time in the world to find the things you want in life suddenly looks bland and meaningless.

Yet even considering that, there’s only so “grounded” these characters can be and still be able to function in a series where the fantastic happens on the regular. Like it or not, Mulder is the Indiana Jones of the F.B.I. We can’t hate Indy and cheer him on.

I confess I still don’t understand sending Scully to the dark side without rhyme, reason or impetus. It’s hard to reconcile this new image of Scully with the fact that her biggest rebellion on record is giving up medicine… to work for the government.

B

P.S. The excerpts are from an interview with Morgan and Wong that can be found here: http://etc1013.wordpress.com/1997/10/01/cinefantastique-4/

Running Commentary:

Scully has a fight scene for the second episode in a row. Rock on, Scully.

It’s always more believable when Mulder and Scully seek and discover an X-File rather than when an X-File stumbles upon them.

Scully pieces together that the blood with the strange toxicology found in the victim’s apartment is most likely Ed’s. Ergo, she must realize there’s a good chance he’s the killer, yet she unloads her suspicions on him without any precautions as though a trip to the doctor’s office is all that’s in order. Is she just taking “innocent until proven guilty” to a ridiculous extreme? Woman, you should have had your gun in hand.

It’s interesting to note that there were some reservations about the script of “Small Potatoes” (4×20) calling for a near kiss between “Mulder” and Scully after he plies her with some alcohol. After all, no one wanted Scully to appear easy…

“In December 1996 someone on the old AOL discussion group posted that they wished Scully would get a love interest. Glen Morgan emailed the person and told her that he was writing just that, and for ‘Shippers to be afraid … be very afraid.’ This caused a heated debate among Shippers/Non-Shippers/Shipper Haters and everyone else. As a result, Morgan posted something on AOL to defend himself: ‘Well, this is almost as embarrassing as the recent Chargers-Patriots game. I swear … I have nothing against either side. Mulder and Scully may love each other, they may not. But, as in any relationship, it should be challenged to see if it is strong. Long live the debate! I love this series. I love the fans. I *HATE* Entertainment Weekly (as long as we’re being honest). Jim and I would never write anything with the sole intention of making anyone angry. If that is a reaction to an episode, however, great! It’s better than being boring. The comment that was posted was a joke. And if it was meant to be a public joke, then it would have been. My apologies if anyone was upset. Never again — Glen.’” Source: http://cleigh6.tripod.com/CTP/CTP-neveragain.html

Best Quotes:

Scully: Your contact, while interesting in the context of science fiction was… at least in my memory, recounting a poorly veiled synopsis of an episode of Rocky & Bullwinkle.
Mulder: “Eenie Weenie Chili Beanie, the spirits are about to speak?”
Scully: Rocky and Bullwinkle are looking for an Upsidasian mine. Boris Badenov alters the road signs, which causes them to walk onto a secret military base, where they are picked up by a car with no windows and no door locks, and there are silent explosions from a compound called Hush-a-boom.
Mulder: So you’re refusing an assignment based on the adventures of… [Boris Badenov voice] “Moose and Squirrel?”

———————

Scully: Sometimes I wish I were more impulsive.
Ed Jerse: Careful what you wish for.

———————

Scully: Look, Mulder, I have to go.
Mulder: What? You got a date or something?
Scully: [Silence]
Mulder: You… you’re kidding.
Scully: I have everything under control. I will talk to you later.

———————-

Mulder: All this because I… because I didn’t get you a desk?
Scully: Not everything is about you, Mulder. This is my life.
Mulder: Yes, but it’s m…