Tag Archives: End Game

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…

The Field Where I Died 4×5: I could’ve lived without that just fine.


Well, at least the shots were gorgeous.

You have no idea how I had to brace myself for this one. I seriously considered breaking my own cardinal rule and jumping ahead to “Sanguinarium” (4×6). Then I briefly considered skipping this one altogether in the hope that no one would notice, and if they did notice, that they probably wouldn’t miss it. My obsessive compulsiveness has prevailed, however, so let’s get this over with…

When writers Morgan and Wong left in Season 2, Mulder and Scully were close partners. Nearly two seasons later when Morgan and Wong come back on board, Mulder and Scully’s relationship has taken on epic proportions, both within the show itself and even more so in the minds of the viewers. When they left, there had been no ultimate trade in “End Game” (2×17), no psychic connection in “The Blessing Way” (3×1), no sacrifice of the Holy Grail in “Paper Clip” (3×2), no “Pusher” (3×17), no “Wetwired” (3×23), etc. etc.

This may be blasphemous, but I think the justly praised writing team who helped shaped The X-Files into greatness had lost touch to an extent. Maybe they’d spent too much time away. All four episodes they would write for this season seemed to be forcing new ground on the audience rather than breaking it. A couple did it successfully, like the glorious “Home” (4×3), while others did not.

For this outing, I think it’s clear where Morgan and Wong stood on the topic of Mulder and Scully. Not that there’s anything wrong with their Noromo position. Heck, that was the 1013 party line at the time. But I think what they failed to take into account, maybe because they had been working on other things and didn’t understand it, was the current state of the fandom and the pseudo-sanctity of the Mulder and Scully relationship.

I’m going to set all Shipperhood aside for this one. I don’t even need it. Even under the premise that Mulder and Scully are and should remain perfectly platonic, I have to have reason to believe that Mulder has suddenly made a connection that has a gravitational pull more powerful than or at least equal to the one he has with Scully in order for this episode to work. That doesn’t happen.

Kristen Cloke, the actress who plays Melissa Reidal and who happened to be engaged to Glen Morgan at the time, called the episode “a love letter from Glen Morgan to me” and indeed that’s what it feels like; a personal exploration of themes more so than an X-File. Darin Morgan used to do this except that somehow his themes always added to rather than subtracted from the series as a whole. He gave new dimensions and flavors to something that was already familiar.

This episode is barely connected to the rest of the series either in tone or content. As such, it feels like a personal indulgence. It fails to consider the ramifications of what it’s proposing and it fails to consider the context of the series at large. Take, for instance, this issue of continuity: In one of Mulder’s past lives CSM was a Nazi Gestapo Officer. Yet CSM would already have been alive in WWII, a fact that you would think couldn’t have escaped Mulder once he was no longer hypnotized. How could he be in both lives at the same time? Hmmm?

It’s moments like this that prove the episode doesn’t really serve the characters either. It reduces Mulder to a fool and Scully to a sidekick. “The Field Where I Died” takes place in an episodic vacuum where the events don’t make sense and it doesn’t matter anyway because the emotional ramifications of these revelations will never be dealt with. Mulder’s supposed past life and the loss of his soulmate are issues never to be seen or spoken of again.

Issues of context and continuity aside, even without that problem and taken just by itself, this episode is almost as boring as “Space” (1×9), and it would be if it didn’t get my adrenaline fired up through irritation. I tried to imagine as I watched what I would be thinking if I were watching this and it were just another TV show, not The X-Files at all. Would I have responded more favorably? I think so, but only by about 20% more. Reincarnation is a hard sell to a Western audience and the advertisements here aren’t appealing. It’s a concept that really has to be done well to be engaging, a feat that’s rarely achieved outside of anime.

Melissa’s voices are too goofy to take seriously so the performance is comical instead of affecting. Sidney in particular is way over the top. And since he’s the first voice we’re introduced to, it’s hard to climb back up from there. Then in a chain reaction, since what draws Mulder to her character is something that I find ridiculous, I find Mulder ridiculous. And if I find both Mulder and his X-File ridiculous there’s little left to enjoy. Ah, those hypnosis scenes are like pulling teeth.

Worse than anything is Mulder who is more caught up in himself than we’ve ever seen him. In fact, he’s a selfish bastard in this one. According to Morgan, in the 20 minutes of footage that had to be cut from the episode were some scenes that supported Scully’s point of view, that Mulder’s past as dredged up under hypnosis was false, a result of mixed-up memories and wishful thinking. It’s too bad they weren’t able to fit more of that plot in to balance the story out. Mulder needed a little undermining here.

Once again, he’s out to save a lost young woman who the world would rather forget than help. I’d like to love him for this, I really would, but he’s drawn to women who have already given up on life, who’d prefer to sink than struggle for air. Watching him try to save women who don’t want to be helped, knowing that his mission is doomed, is not television for the faint of heart. I’d rather watch “Oubliette” (3×8) and you know that’s saying something.

What glimpses of magic this episode does have are largely due to consummate director Rob Bowman, who makes it beautiful to watch if nothing else. In fact, I highly recommend just turning the sound off and letting it play. Oh, but then you’d miss a luscious score from Mark Snow so that won’t do. I guess you either just grit and bear it or you don’t.

As I don my Shipper cap again for a moment, let me just say that this episode feels slightly mean-spirited (an unintended slight, I’m sure). Like pouring cold water over a fresh hot meal so that no one will be able to eat it.

Just as uniting Mulder and Scully in a cloud of romance would have drained tension from the show, so too would have building an unequivocal “No” into the narrative. It would have taken away the hope of many. Indeed, I remember feeling rising panic after I first saw this episode (it was already in reruns and nobody warned me), but the fact that Season 5 had already begun to air and there was no trace of the ghost of Melissa Reidal buoyed my spirits.

“The Field Where I Died” takes itself too seriously, bloated on its own weight and import. Overwrought is a word that comes to mind and it’s probably the one episode in The X-Files’ cannon that I would willingly erase, yet…

Entertainment Weekly once famously called this episode “Stultifyingly awful.” In retrospect, I wouldn’t go quite that far. The production value is too high. All in all, it certainly has the best of intentions and you can tell a lot of effort went into this one on everyone’s part. But when I ask myself if I’ll ever watch it again… I get queasy.

It’s Over at Last:

There is that one, brief moment of lightness and joy…

Mulder: Dana, if, um, early in the four years we’ve been working together… an event occurred that suggested or somebody told you that… we’d been friends together, in other lifetimes… always… wouldn’t it have changed some of the ways we looked at one another?
Scully: Even if I knew for certain, I wouldn’t change a day. Well… maybe that Flukeman thing. I could’ve lived without that just fine.

But then…

“I wanted to sum up Mulder and Scully’s entire relationship with that question Mulder asks Scully afterwards, if we had known from the beginning that we had lived all these lives, would it change anything, how would you feel?’ ” Morgan said. “I just wanted to raise that question between the two of them. I’m not sure what the answer is. My feeling is that she is holding on to some skepticism. Her answer in the episode — “I wouldn’t change a day” – might be a little ‘tee-vee.’

Way to quench it, dude.

D+

Keeping it Brief:

John Mark wasn’t the writer of The Book of Revelations. It was another John.

Exactly which version of Mulder was a soulmate of Sidney’s??

The quote from Kristen Cloke is nabbed from here:
http://www.littlereview.com/getcritical/interviews/cloke.htm

The quote from Glen Morgan is shamelessly lifted from here:
http://etc1013.wordpress.com/1997/10/01/cinefantastique-4/

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.

Pusher 3×17: Samurais without masters have to advertise.


A recipe for madness.

“Pusher” is only writer Vince Gilligan’s second solo offering for The X-Files, his first being the solid if slightly underwhelming “Soft Light” (2×23). Legend has it that when he submitted the script to Chris Carter he predicted it would be the best work he ever did on The X-Files, an eerie declaration since, arguably, he was right. Although by the Grace of God he gave us some other episodes that might fit the bill. *cough* Small Potatoes” (4×20) *hack*

My understanding is that “Pusher” started out as an idea for a film before he translated it into an X-Files episode. You can tell. One of the features of his solo offerings on The X-Files is that his stories are like shortened movie scripts. You could almost take The X-Files’ characters out of the scenario and with some adjusting, the plot lends itself to a feature length film. “John Doe” (9×7), “Tithonus” (6×9), “Paper Hearts” (4×8), “Drive” (6×2), etc. These are the episodes you could show to someone who isn’t into the whole paranormal, supernatural, sci-fi thing and they’d still eat them up. And there isn’t a better example of one of his mini-movie episodes than “Pusher”. I was even able to show this one to my mother who would normally scoff at the likes of The X-Files. And well, she did scoff, but relatively little.

This is one of those episodes that define MOTW. As I watched this time I felt myself mentally ticking off all the boxes…

Clever Villain

I can think of less than a handful of other X-Files villains that are as memorable as Robert Patrick Modell. First off, he has three names so you know he’s bad. Only the likes of Eugene Victor Tooms, Donald Addie Pfaster and possibly The Flukeman could run against him for the title of Best Monster of the Week Ever. One thing he has over the other three is his humor and sarcasm. It’s an element of his character that makes the audience actually like him. Even in that amazing opening teaser with benign elevator music and a police raid out of nowhere, I don’t know who he is or what he’s done yet but I’m kind of rooting for him against the Police. Can you blame me? The man has style. He had to in order to be a proper match for Mulder.

Clever Kills

The first example I don’t even think he successfully killed, he just flambéed. Certain people aren’t as susceptible to Modell as others and Agent Collins resists lighting himself up to the point where it’s tragic. Oh, what a great scene as he begs and pleads for someone to stop him. It’s frighteningly convincing.

Detective Frank Burst, on the other hand, doesn’t resist. Instead he insists on listening to Modell until you can almost hear his arterial walls popping open. (No medical professionals were consulted for the making of this review.) What a fabulous, fabulous moment as Mulder and Scully are helpless to stop this man from getting himself killed. And then to hear seconds later that his death was in vain… I still shake my head every time… and there’s always a little twinkle in my eye that probably shouldn’t be there.

Clever Agents

This is one of those rare X-Files where Mulder and Scully solve the whole thing. Usually there’s a mix of investigative work and random happenings that lead them to a conclusion or, more often, a lack of a conclusion. But since “Pusher” is all about setting Mulder and Modell up for a final showdown, mano a mano, it’s important that Mulder proves he’s someone who can match this man in wits and sheer force of will. It’s a testament to the strength of Mulder’s mind that he’s able to resist Modell as much as he does in the Russian Roulette scene.

Scully isn’t exactly useless either. And while she famously shoots down Mulder’s suggestion of “The Whammy” as the cause behind Modell’s effect, she also confirms the pseudo-scientific basis for his condition. Then of course, all would have been lost if she hadn’t pulled that fire alarm in time. Scully may not always understand what’s going on, but she had enough integrity to act on the evidence.

Those are the building blocks, the DNA, of this episode if you will. But it doesn’t end there. There are all sorts of great moments sprinkled throughout such as Modell strolling into the FBI with nothing more than a piece of paper and a permanent marker as his credentials. Then there’s Skinner, another one not easily taken in by Modell, getting beaten up by a girl. And not just any girl, a mouse of a girl. Come to think of it, I’m not so sure that’s a great moment, but it’s certainly a memorable one. Didn’t Skinner just finish recovering from a bullet wound? That can be the only possible explanation for why a bear like him couldn’t take down little Holly. The man is quickly turning into a punching bag. I’m pretty sure he’s bruised in half the episodes we’ve seen him in since “End Game” (2×17).

And, of course, “Pusher” causes Shippers everywhere to rejoice. Not one, but two hand-holding scenes? I’m surprised Chris Carter let it happen. Joking aside, Scully’s concern over Mulder is nice to see and Gillian Anderson plays it with those doe eyes of hers so well. When Mulder suits up for a final confrontation with Modell she looks like a mother that has to let her son go off to war. And that single tear that comes out of Scully’s eye as Mulder points the gun at her… priceless. You can actually feel her horror as she realizes the true tragedy of the situation, that Mulder was about to be forced into the ultimate betrayal.

Verdict:

That’s Modell’s true sense of cruelty and part of why he’s such a successful Monster of the Week. He hones in on the fact that Mulder and Scully are close from the beginning and I believe it was his plan all along to force Mulder into hurting her. That they overcame that situation together is enough to warm any X-Phile’s heart. And you know they’re seriously shaken up anytime they’re willing to be openly affectionate.

If you’ve been following along, you’ve already heard read my complaints frustrations about the off and on tension between Mulder and Scully this season. I won’t repeat too much of it here. After all, my Season 3 analysis is just around the corner. But let me just say, God bless you, Vince Gilligan. There’s been so much distance between Mulder and Scully and with this one episode it’s all but forgotten.

A+

Running Commentary:

Nothing. I was too busy enjoying myself to jot down superfluous thoughts.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Hey, I think you drooled on me.
Scully: Sorry.

——————-

Modell: You and your pretty partner seem awfully close. Do you work well together?

——————-

Scully: So he’s a killer and a golfer?
Mulder: Rings a bell, huh? Let’s go G-woman.

——————-

Modell: I believe you owe me five dollars.
Mulder: Oh, your shoe’s untied.
Modell: [Looks down]
Mulder: Made you look. How do you do it?

——————-

Mulder: Well, ninjas are said to have the ability to cloud the minds of their opponents.
Scully: Are we talking kung fu movies, Mulder?
Mulder: He certainly clouded the mind of that judge, Scully.
Scully: Even if Modell could, he didn’t need to. We barely had a case against him.
Mulder: Oh, we had enough to get past a simple preliminary hearing. Modell psyched the guy out. He put the whammy on him.
Scully: Please explain to me the scientific nature of the whammy.

——————–

Mulder: Hey, Scully, check this out. Mango Kiwi Tropical Swirl. Now we know we’re dealing with a madman.

——————–

Mulder: I think it’s like you said. He was always such a… little man. This was finally something that made him feel big.

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.

Guest Post – X-Files: A Shipper Guide, Part 4


*Editor’s Note: Nina is a long time X-Phile and shipper extraordinaire. (Seriously. You guys thought I was rabid.) You can find more of her humorous insights into The X-Files, Supernatural, 24 and other fandoms on her tumblr at myspecialhell.tumblr.com. Here’s part 4 of her rundown on Mulder and Scully’s relationship in Season 1. You can check out parts 1, 2 and 3 herehere and here. Agree/disagree with her observations? Duke it out in the comments section. We can’t wait to hear what you guys think!

And with that, take it away, Nina!

Biased, completely personal, with tongue firmly planted in cheek

Chapter two

How things change

Aka The second half of the first season

Beyond the Sea is the episode which made me realize that there was Scully, that she wasn’t just Mulder’s sidekick and his love interest. It was one of the episodes that defined Scully as a character on her own. Beyond the Sea is a wonderful episode, one of the favorite among the Philes, both for the casefile which was brilliant and for the characters. For the first time we saw a reversal of their roles: Scully in this episode was the somewhat reluctant believer and Mulder was the skeptic.

There were reasons behind this twist, which I wish they had kept in latter seasons when Scully point blank became a believer and Mulder turned skeptic.

With the death of Scully’s father, just after Christmas  – and I got to say this: guys what’s the what with Scully and Christmas? I mean, in the first season she loses her father and in the fifth season there’s the whole Emily thing…

For the first time we saw Mulder letting  go of the professionalism and the distance he had put between Scully and he, when he called her by her first name.

We Philes learned very soon that they would never going to call each other by first names, Mulder did it from time to time, and we knew that he didn’t want Scully to call him Fox. To this day I still don’t know why…I mean, ok, his name sucks, but why he didn’t let her call him Fox ?

Even in the train wreck the last season has been, in the fan-fiction episode (trust no one), while she was physically shaking while reading his e-mail she still called him Mulder. She was forever his, but she still called him Mulder. (one could argue that in the last season the writers didn’t even remember Mulder’s first name, but that’s beside the point!)

I have a theory  – I always have theories concerning the X-Files, this doesn’t come as a surprise. –  which I’ll illustrate later in the essay.

Anyway, back to the episode, Mulder called Scully: “Dana” and gently touched her face, which I’m sure is a gesture every FBI agent is trained to do to comfort a grieving peer (insert my snort in here)

Mulder was ready to face a demon from his past, from the days at VICAP: Luther Lee Boggs, terrifically played by Academy Award nominee, Emmy™ nominee Brad Dourif . Boggs was a serial killer Mulder had profiled and sent to jail, where he was waiting for his execution.

It has to be said that Mulder didn’t want Scully to follow that case so soon after her father’s death, but she claimed she needed to work, she needed to focus her mind elsewhere. We have here a first glimpse at Scully’s way of coping with tragedy and things she can’t accept: she doesn’t; she runs away, she goes in full denial.

Throughout the episode Mulder was very concerned about Scully, he was very protective of her. And that was the first time we actually saw a side of Mulder which was going to become prominent from second season on: namely, how Mulder wanted to protect Scully.

And how Scully deeply cared about Mulder.

Scully was surprised by Mulder in this episode. She saw a side of him she had rarely seen since they had been working together: she saw Mulder as the f***ing brilliant interrogator, the f***ing  VICAP/VCS/BSU’s golden boy. She had glimpsed that side of him during the interrogation scene in Conduit  – which, to this day, is still one of my favorites – but in Beyond the Sea she saw that in glorious Technicolor when he interrogated Boggs.

Beyond the Sea dealt a lot with mortality, with frailty…with beliefs and regrets. Scully who had just lost her father, came close to lose Mulder when he was shot. It was the first time in their partnership one of them was really injured, and its effect was devastating on Scully.

The scene where the ER doctors treated Mulder was heartbreaking to watch: Scully was so distraught over what was happening that she couldn’t even move, she couldn’t even get closer to Mulder. The noises around her faded, and the only thing she could do was to close her eyes.

That scene was another glimpse at how Scully reacts to loss: she implodes for a moment.

I’m not a Scullyist, in case you didn’t notice I’m a Mulderist all the way, yet never have I liked Scully more as in the scene where she went to Boggs ..

You set us up. You’re in on this with Lucas Henry. This was a trap for Mulder because he helped put you away. Well, I came here to tell you that if he dies because of what you’ve done, four days from now, no one will be able to stop me from being the one that will throw the switch and gas you out of this life for good, you son of a b****!

I love this scene…love it with a passion! In the script of the episode there is one difference in the scene which, in my opinion spoke volume of Scully’s feelings for Mulder :

I came here to tell you that if I lose him too because of what you’ve done […]

Too bad the scene wasn’t kept this way.

Scully had a complete faith in Mulder’s  nature. She might tell Mulder that he was crazy, she might get frustrated, but she knew, that when all was said and done, Mulder was a decent, honest, good man. Just like his father…

It is a cold, dark place, Scully. Mulder’s looking in on it right now.

SCULLY: It may be a cold dark place for you but it’s not for Mulder and it’s not for my father.

There is something I want to discuss about Morgan and Wong’s episodes. They seemed to think that Scully saw some kind of a father figure in Mulder. They subtly suggested it in this episode and said it aloud in Never Again.

Wrong. On so many levels.

Morgan and Wong were two very gifted writers, they wrote One Breath which is one of my favorite episodes of the whole series, right in the top five, but they weren’t in favor of a Mulder and Scully’s relationship…and it shows!

Scully didn’t see Mulder as a father figure, an authority figure…besides, can you imagine two people more different than Scully’s father and Mulder? C’mon!

Morgan and Wong did a terrific job with this episode, which was a step up in Mulder and Scully’s relationship. In the end, Scully decided not to hear Boggs and the message her father had for her. She chose to sit at Mulder’s bedside.

As I said, in the second half of the first season we saw a shift in Mulder and Scully’s relationship…we saw how Mulder became more and more protective of Scully and how Scully kept Mulder grounded.

So much for Jerk!Mulder! uh?

Gender Bender and Lazarus showed how Mulder’s behavior toward Scully had changed.

On a purely shallow level: I love the way Mulder held Scully at him in Gender Bender after he rescued her from Father Andrew pheromone’s filled paws. He gently closed her shirt, and held her at him.

It was the first time they were so close physically; granted they had examined each other, they walked as if they were glued, he had brushed her cheeks and touched her forearm, but they had never been that close.

I’ve always thought that at the beginning of their partnership they needed to have that kind of distance, not to touch each other. In the pilot episode Mulder saw Scully in her underwear and gently touched the small of her back – which, incidentally, or maybe not, is the spot he always touches – she had touched his neck and shoulders, but they didn’t touch each other…and I think they needed to.

One can poke as many holes in my theory that they have fallen for each other at  first sight, and by all means: knock yourself out! It’s undeniable, though, that the chemistry they had was unmistakable, it was so thick that you had to cut it with a chainsaw!

So when I saw Mulder holding Scully at him, I was overjoyed. I might even have flailed a little. But hey, the first time I saw the scene I was 18, can you blame me?

There is a thing I need to say: I’m writing this essay relying on my memory. I have seen each episode of the X-Files at least three times (and I’m talking about those I didn’t like: *cough*Teso dos Bichos*cough*), but for the most part, I have seen them hundreds of time. I’ve distanced myself from the show, but I have still an excellent memory for the episodes.

I may not remember the specifics of the plots but as far as character’s development and relationship’s development I *do* remember it.

Mulder’s reaction to what had happened in that house cracks me up:

I know what I saw, Scully…and I know that I saw you about to do the wild thing with a stranger…

Wild thing? Who in the hell says wild thing? Sex. Its name is S-E-X!

That said…I have noticed that although there is any kind of innuendo between Mulder and Scully the word sex is rarely mentioned. And something else: did you notice that Mulder never picked up cases which involved S-E-X ? Or sexual abuses for that matter…or anything of remotely sexual nature? I can think of very few episodes: Excelsis Dei, Small Potatoes…and about Excelsis Dei…Scully picked up the case, Mulder was very reluctant about it.

I think that is just one of the signs of Mulder’s respect for Scully.

Since we had had a former lover of Mulder’s, Lazarus showed us a former lover of Scully’s.

Jack Willis. I know I may sound like a rabid shipper…but Jack Willis? He crept me out! How could Scully have fallen for him? I said that Morgan & Wong subtly suggested that Scully saw in Mulder an authority figure she could relate to, a father figure…

Maybe, just maybe, with Mulder, Scully broke the cycle instead. We know of two relationships of Scully – three if you count Minette, four if you take seriously the whole Ed Jerse’s fiasco, five if you count Padgett, which I don’t –

From what we have gathered of Scully’s past relationships, she had indeed unconsciously looked for a father figure, a strong male figure in her life. Both Jack Willis and the guy from All Things were older than her, they were patronizing and they didn’t treat her as an equal. They were indeed authority figures: Jack was one of Scully’s instructors at Quantico, while the guy from All Things was her professor.

As I said, Scully broke the cycle with Mulder.

Mulder was just three years older than her, he might have been the supervisor of the X-Files, an older agent, but as I have previously said, he didn’t care about hierarchy. He treated her as an equal.

He did feel the need to protect her, but without smothering her, without being patronizing and condescending; Mulder felt the need to protect Scully not because he didn’t trust her ability to take care of herself, but because he cared about her. He didn’t want her to be any different from what she was. He valued her for what she was, not for what he wanted her to be.

There was an equal level of trust, need, care. Although there have been times, especially in latter seasons where I have doubted of Scully’s feelings for Mulder (it’s a long and boring story, which, I will tell later, when it comes to the hell also known as the sixth season ) I never doubted this axiom: that they were equal.

Remember?

“You were my constant, my touchstone”

And you are mine

(Amor fati)

And:

“I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you”

(Tooms)

And:

I feel, Scully… that you believe… you’re not ready to go. And you’ve always had the strength of your beliefs. I don’t know if my being here… will help bring you back. But I’m here.

I had the strength of your beliefs.

(One Breath)

Besides, on a totally shallow level: no offence to the guys who played Scully’s past lovers …but David Duchovny is hot!

It looked like Scully and Jack Willis were still friends, unlike Mulder and Phoebe they had parted on good terms, so much that she went helping him with a robbery case, and of course being the X-Files, things went to hell in a hand basket.

Jack Willis was shot and Scully supervised the ER treatment. I have thought about it a lot, especially considering the similarity to what had happened in Beyond the Sea…and what was going to happen in End Game.

I believe Scully supervised Jack Willis’ treatment on the ER because what had happened didn’t have the same resonance the events of Beyond the Sea had. Scully cared about Jack but she didn’t lose it when he was shot…whereas in End Game she revived Mulder’s heart herself…because she was the only one who could help him.

Mulder was suspicious of Jack Willis even before knowing about the man’s past with Scully. I didn’t see jealousy in him, Mulder has never struck me as the jealous type, except in Bad Blood and Milagro and even then he was surprised more than anything.

I think Mulder learned how to control jealousy with Phoebe. One might argue he was jealous of Doggett in the eighth season, but I don’t think so…he wasn’t jealous of Scully…he was pissed off because he felt like he didn’t fit in any more…and because Doggett had the X-Files.

Did this mean that he didn’t love Scully if he wasn’t jealous or didn’t show it? I really don’t think so. But I will write more about jealousy later.

When Scully revealed that she had dated Jack Willis the case became more personal…to both of them, especially when Scully was kidnapped.

When he realized Willis/Dupré had kidnapped her, he couldn’t help calling her Dana once he heard her voice. It was like, for a moment, he totally forgot about their being partners at the FBI. Mulder the man spoke…and tried to reach her.

We saw Mulder fighting to save Scully in this episode, we saw him being a real G-Man while Scully experienced an X-File first hand. We saw as Mulder realized the importance of Scully in his life. He was the one who solved the case, who spoke with the kidnappers.

I don’t know about FBI rules and protocols, but every time we have seen Mulder treating a hostage situation during the series (Duane Barry, Folie a Deux, Monday) he has always been perfect, totally by the book. Yet, I highly doubt this exchange could be considered part of the rules:

MULDER: (on phone, threatening) You listen to me —- you lay one hand on Scully, and so help me, God ——

It is to be considered that the phone conversation between Mulder and Lula was being recorded. Yet, Mulder didn’t seem to care, so much, that when they got Scully’s whereabouts and planned the operation he concluded saying:

MULDER: And for those of you —-who don’t know already (voice unsteady) this one’s important to me. So, uh, let’s do it right. Thanks.

It’s interesting to note a few things about the episode: originally it had to be Mulder who swapped souls with Warren Dupré, the network decided otherwise, but there were still traces of the original concept in the episode.

Jack Willis was no Mulder, but he was some kind of a profiler, he worked at VCS, and was obsessed with the case. I think, though, that the similarities were just on surface. As I said Jack was no Mulder, and his relationship with Scully was way different.

The ending of the episode offered an insight on Mulder that, in my opinion, deserves to be addressed. Remember the pilot episode? Mulder said he wanted the truth, he said that nothing else mattered to him. Nothing had ever stopped Mulder from looking for answers, for the first time, at the end of this episode, Mulder chose Scully over the truth.

SCULLY: What does that mean?

MULDER: It means … It means whatever you want it to mean. (gently) Good night.

Mulder’s honesty…his absolute faith in the truth, has always been one of his most fascinating traits…yet, time and again, Mulder chose Scully over the truth…to protect her, not to cause her pain.

It happened in Lazarus for the first time, but we saw it happening in One Breath…and don’t forget the last episode of the series: Mulder was ready to die in order to deliver Scully from knowing the truth, a truth he was afraid it could crush her spirit. This alone is proof enough of Mulder’s feelings for Scully.

In Lazarus, Mulder gave Scully the chance to believe in what she wanted to believe…the chance to have closure. The chance to grieve without questions.

E.B.E” was another step up in Mulder and Scully’s relationship. On a totally shallow level: Mulder found remotely plausible that Scully was hot.

You kept me honest[1]

I don’t know why, the first time I watched the movie and I heard Mulder saying those lines, the first scene which came to my mind was the one which had taken place in Scully’s kitchen in EBE, when Mulder and Scully butted heads over the false photograph Deep Throat had given Mulder.

There have been other moments before the movie where Scully had kept Mulder honest, but that scene was the first, which my mind conjured. To me, the scene in Scully’s kitchen is pivotal.

I don’t think Mulder had still doubts about Scully’s loyalty to him and the X-Files by the time the events of EBE took place, but if even shreds of them had remained, they would have vanished.

Mulder realized that it didn’t matter whether she believed or not in aliens…she wanted the truth, just like him, and was determined to find it even if it meant fighting him and the trust he had in Deep Throat.

Mulder realized that Scully was ready and willing to put everything on the line for him.

Mulder and Scully’s interaction in EBE is terrific: there is teasing, trust, sexual tension and care. For the first time we saw Scully visiting Mulder’s apartment, we saw how comfortable Mulder looked at Scully’s place.

Among the episodes written by Morgan & Wong during the first season, EBE is probably the best, as far as Mulder and Scully’s relationship is concerned, even more so than Tooms….and its infamous conversation in the car.


[1]              Fight the future