Tag Archives: Nisei

Two Fathers 6×11: Word up.


The truth will out.

I remember really, really enjoying this set of episodes the first time around. Probably because they handhold the audience all the way through the history of the mythology and I needed handholding. Unlike actress Aisha Tyler, I didn’t have a conspiracy flow chart above my television set to keep track of the goings on. An oversight I still regret.

The way the story is framed, with Cigarette-Smoking Man filling in the blanks through exposition, works quite well. Though the way the story was originally set up, told through a series of flashbacks, would have been even better. I’ve just read some of the original script that had to be scrapped because the flashback scenes shot with actors who… didn’t look like 1970s versions of themselves any longer, weren’t as effective as they needed to be. But if it could have played out they way it did on paper, it would have been awesome. Now my heart bleeds a little for the episode that could have been.

The thing is, “Two Fathers” lives or dies by exposition. So if you’re like me and you’ve been dying to know what exactly the mythology’s been about all these years, you’re probably a fan. If you’re among the faster minded, or the more diligently obsessed, there’s a good chance you aren’t hearing anything you didn’t already know and I could see how you might be bored. Me, even the things I’ve already figured out don’t bore me. I love that smug feeling of satisfaction confirmation gives you.

Interestingly enough, CSM isn’t the only one dropping knowledge. Cassandra Spender shows up again having ditched the wheelchair and gained its weight in factual information. Why was she able to pick up so much truth during this most recent abduction when for the past twenty something years the conspirators and/or the aliens had her head filled with lies? Now, not all of her information is accurate, but it’s a far sight more informed than what she so cheerfully preached in “Patient X” (5×13). Maybe her new status as a hybrid has opened up her understanding beyond the human.

Too bad her son is still in the dark. I may be the only one, but I feel bad for Agent Spender, so much so that I wish Mulder would go ahead and be nice to the guy. I mean, over the course of this episode he’s rejected by both parents. His father slaps him. Twice. And his mother comes back from the dead only to ask for Fox Mulder, his bitter rival.

While I doubt Mulder would ever see it this way, it’s partially his own fault that Spender has become the enemy. Maybe if Mulder had been a little nicer to him initially, or tried a little harder to avoid the misunderstanding and miscommunication that occurred between them, Spender wouldn’t have been as susceptible to his father’s machinations. Surely a large part of the initial appeal of doing CSM’s dirty work was the chance to take down Mulder, despite the fact that the glory of that is now wearing thin on Spender. It’s not like his newfound relationship with his father is built on sentiment. What’s love got to do with it? CSM doesn’t want a son, he wants a legacy; he wants to see his power continue on into the next generation. His nepotism in regards to Spender is purely selfish in motive but Spender is to naïve to realize that.

It doesn’t help that Krycek has been assigned to Spender as his sort of “big brother” in the Syndicate universe, showing him the ropes as it were. But Krycek wouldn’t be Krycek if he weren’t working toward his own agenda, which brings me to my next topic…

The eponymous two fathers are Cigarette-Smoking Man (aka C.G.B. Spender) and Bill Mulder. On the surface then, their sons, their competing legacies would be Jeffrey Spender and Fox Mulder. However, I believe there’s a third son here and that’s Alex Krycek, the virtual issue of CSM’s loins.

I’ve long thought of Krycek as CSM’s spiritual successor, and apparently that thought wasn’t lost on Krycek himself either. If you have the DVD, there’s a deleted scene you can watch were Krycek boldly comes to CSM requesting to be his heir apparent. CSM coldly tells him the position has already been filled. CSM’s rejection of Krycek and his resentment of it explains his later manipulation of Spender and his efforts to turn him against his father.

It also puts Krycek’s speech before the rest of the Syndicate into context. That overdone performance was for CSM’s sake, so that he could ingratiate himself. With that in mind, it makes more sense that he would abandon his previous position. Last we saw Krycek, he was for resistance, working secretly with Well-Manicured Man to enlist Mulder to their cause. Not that it’s hard to believe Krycek would suddenly turn without warning. He’ll do whatever he needs to in order to survive. That’s what makes him Kryeck.

Now, I realize that deleted scenes aren’t canon, but this subtext is present in this story arc with or without this scene. This moment just makes Krycek’s motivations clearer and so I’m sorry it had to be cut.

In a way, all three men are the sons of CSM. True, there are suspicions regarding whether or not CSM is Mulder’s father, but either way Mulder is the product of CSM’s schemes and manipulations, schemes that likely go back to Mulder’s introduction to the X-Files and his partnership with Diana Fowley.

Yes, the truth is out there now: Diana Fowley is in cahoots with CSM. The way that Carter and Spotnitz choose to reveal that truth is both startling and gratifying. I knew that woman wasn’t to be trusted! There’s just one huge problem left… how do we convince Mulder?

And the Verdict is…

I don’t feel the same sense of urgency I did watching it way back when, but I still think “Two Fathers” works. Its only stumbling block is that it’s so much easier to entertain by raising answers than by providing them. Fortunately, I’ve been waiting so long for some clear answers and am so invested at this point that the satisfaction I get from hearing concrete facts is entertainment enough.

We’re a good ten minutes into the episode before Mulder and Scully even show up, but it’s well worth the wait. Perhaps feeling guilty over what they’re about to do to us Shippers in part two of this episode arc, Carter and Spotnitz write a classic scene of Mulder/Scully flirtation. Who knew such a short woman could walk into a room all made of legs? I may or may not have rewound this scene about ten times just now.

Yep, this is rewatchable television. Great performances all around and a hefty dose of payoff; I love that Chris Carter brings the train cars from “Nisei” (3×9) back. Bringing the story full circle by incorporating the past makes for an easily digestible meal.

Next up, there can only be “One Son” (6×12). Which one will be left standing?

A-

Random Observations:

Skinner’s a bit cold to Spender considering his mother, who he had given up for dead, has just been returned to him and he’s emotionally vulnerable. I know Spender hasn’t exactly endeared himself to Skinner, but still.

Before, the alien rebels looked suspiciously like Brian Thompson’s Alien Bounty Hunter character. Now, they’re somebody entirely new. Same race different face?

I never realized it before, but these two episodes are crucial for understanding how Krycek sees himself in future seasons.

Lingering Questions:

Mulder just hacked into A.D. Kersh’s computer remotely in “Tithonus” (6×9). He couldn’t hack into Spender’s as well? He had to break into his office and risk getting caught?

All the crap Mulder’s pulled this season and walking into Spender’s office without permission is what gets him fired? As it is, the information he accessed on Spender’s computer was for a case Spender asked him to look into.

I didn’t realize Cassandra parted with Mulder and Scully on such affectionate terms. What’s with all the hugging?

Why would the Second Elder open the door for Openshaw after he knows Openshaw’s dead? Why make it easy for the Rebel to kill you?

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Hey, homegirl. Word up.
Scully: Mulder, it’s my distinct impression that you just cheated. And that you’re not coming in again today.
Mulder: Oh, Scully, I got game!
Scully: Yeah, you got so much game I’m wondering if you have any work left in you.
Mulder: No, I’m ready to J-O-B, just not on some jagoff shoeshine tip.
Scully: No “jagoff shoeshine tip?”
Mulder: No background checking, jagoff shoeshine tip.

——————-

Cigarette-Smoking Man: I’ve trusted no one. Treachery is the inevitable result of all affairs. Every man believes he has his own good reason.

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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.

Leonard Betts 4×14: I think I got the toy surprise.


"Did I mention that Mr. Betts had no head?"

This is what I’ve been longing for the past seven episodes or so now, a formidable MOTW horror tale.

Not that the main plot here is something we haven’t heard before: A genetic mutant comes along whose strange evolution requires that he kill/feed off of other human beings. Leonard Betts is the most recent in a long line of Mutant Monsters going all the way back to Eugene Victor Tooms in “Squeeze” (1×2). “Leonard Betts” has two main differences from your garden variety Mutant tale, however.

First, we have a mutant that kills only reluctantly. He certainly doesn’t enjoy his position in the food chain the way that Tooms or even Virgil Incanto does in “2Shy” (3×6). This adds a certain pathos to the proceedings. Second, and most importantly, this episode reopens a mythology plot line that had been all but forgotten and reintroduces it in the most memorable way possible.

To Leonard Betts’ credit, he’s a gentle man, who apart from a Darwinian mandate would rather save people than hurt them, choosing to survive on discarded cancers until circumstances force him into a corner. But I wonder, would his behavior be excused if, say, he was a starving man who killed someone for their food? Does needing something give you the moral clearance to take it? To be sure, Betts apologizes before a kill. But the fact is he’s hardly a self-sacrificing man even if he is the most compassionate of the “Genetic Mutant” Monsters of the Week. He could, of course, choose to die rather than become a serial killer. But I guess death is less frightening when it’s someone else’s.

As interesting of a character as Betts is, he’s more of a means to an end in this episode. The writers needed a circumstance they could use to bring our minds back to this:

Scully: I went to go see those MUFON members to find out about that woman, Betsy Hagopian.
Mulder: And what did you find?
Scully: I found out that she’s dying, along with a lot of other women who claim to be dying too. All of them who say that they’ve had these implanted in them. It’s the same thing that I had removed from my own neck.
Mulder: But you’re fine aren’t you, Scully?
Scully: Am I? I don’t know, Mulder. They said that they know me, that they’ve seen me before. It was freaky! They know things about me, about my disappearance.
Mulder: That is disturbing. But I don’t think you should freak out until we find out what this thing is.

This moment in “Nisei” (3×9) was the last word we had on the potential connection between Scully’s abduction and cancer. As far as we know, she never delved any deeper into the mystery of what happened to those MUFON women. Now, suddenly, and with one of the most memorable lines ever delivered on The X-Files, Scully is forced to remember.

“I’m sorry, but you’ve got something I need.”

The look of realization on Scully’s face is beyond memorable. Not only does she know exactly what he’s talking about, but it’s clear that despite all her protestations to Mulder, she believes in what Leonard Betts is whether science can explain him or not.

And as if that shocking moment weren’t enough, we launch immediately into Scully’s first ever real fight scene. Scully kicks butt and she does it in heels. It’s almost enough to bring a fangirl tear to my eye.

I could keep going but I won’t because I’ll just end up gushing over every funny and memorable moment in this episode, of which there are legion. This is one of those episodes, like “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4) that are hard to watch without a blissfully empty head and a smile on my face. It’s just great television.

Conclusion:

This episode is definitely one of the highlights of Season 4, if not one of the series’ all time best. It’s the first in a long line of memorable episodes penned by the trio of Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz. The “John Gilnitz” crew will continue to create some formidable X-Files together.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Spotnitz was probably responsible for this episode’s mythology elements, Shiban for the science and Gilligan for the characterization and physical writing. But, hey, with magic like this I don’t care who did what, I’m just glad they kept going.

“Leonard Betts” was famously aired out of production schedule in order to be shown after the Super Bowl. Whatever the consequences this had on the story that would come next, can you blame them? I can hardly think of an episode that’s more quintessentially The X-Files. This is what the show does best; an inkling of scientific truth, gross imagery, gorgeous shots and dark humor. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

I wonder if Scully ever told Mulder what really happened. Doubtful. As then she’d have to admit that she believed in what Leonard Betts was. Maybe she’s not such a die-hard skeptic deep down. After all, she couldn’t cut into that head now could she?

A+

Random Thoughts:

Something about Elaine Tanner’s slavish devotion to her son has echoes of Mrs. Peacock in “Home” (4×3).

Are we sure Betts is dead? Are we supposed to assume that Scully killed him while he was too weak to regenerate?

Did Betts really have to start killing? Couldn’t he have gone a ways down the road to where no one knew him and snuck a few more brown bag lunches of cancer out of a hospital’s disposal system?

For that matter, if you were going to regenerate and live under an assumed name, wouldn’t common sense tell you to move far away from the people you knew before? So your mother’s sick. Move her too.

I know I said I wouldn’t gush over every single lovely moment, but that scene where Mulder and Scully go digging through bio-waste never quite gets old.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Let’s get a slice to go.

———————–

Mulder: Chuck, would you believe that this man’s head had been decapitated?
Dr Burks: [Laughs] Oh, come on. No way.
Mulder: Way.

———————–

Mulder: [Holds up Betts’ detached thumb] Siskel or Ebert?

———————–

Scully: But what you’re describing is someone so radically evolved that you wouldn’t even call him human.
Mulder: On the other hand, how evolved can a man be who drives a Dodge Dart?

———————–

Mulder: What did your examination uncover?
Scully: I haven’t actually performed an examination yet.
Mulder: Why not?
Scully: Well, because I… experienced an unusual degree of post-mortem galvanic response.
Mulder: The head moved
Scully: It blinked at me… I mean, I know exactly what it is. It’s residual electrical activity stored chemically in the dead cells.
Mulder: Blinked or winked? You’re afraid to cut into it. Scully, you’re not saying that it’s alive are you?
Scully: I am certainly not saying that at all.
Mulder: But has it crossed your mind that it is not quite dead, either?

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.

Grotesque 3×14: You never fit your own profile.


Art Therapy

“Grotesque” is a unique episode and admirably ambitious, yet I can’t help feeling that it takes itself a little too seriously at moments. And that, of course, just makes me want to roll my eyes at the most inappropriate times. I appreciate the plot and the concept and while it’s mostly successful, I feel slightly disengaged when I watch it. It’s sort of Mulder’s answer to the Scully-centered episode “Irresistible” (2×13) where the line between the paranormal and natural human evil is blurred, but this one is psychological rather than emotional. Good, and admirably ambitious, but not great.

Last time we actually saw Mulder care about someone’s negative opinion of him we were still somewhere in Season 1, when the memory of his former glory days at the F.B.I. weren’t far behind him and you could tell that the occasional dig still hit a nerve. Skepticism directed at Mulder’s abilities/sanity is nothing new. “Squeeze” (1×2) and even “Lazarus” (1×14) give us a glimpse at how often there’s sniggering behind his back. But every time we meet one of Mulder’s former colleagues, Jerry in “Ghost in the Machine” (1×6) and Reggie in “Young at Heart” (1×14), they have a healthy respect for Mulder’s capabilities. Heck, later on there will be Diana Fowley, another former partner who, er, recognizes Mulder’s strength. Between what we know of these characters’ relationships with him and his current partnership with Scully, to know Mulder is to love Mulder, or at least to learn to appreciate him despite himself. This is the first time we’ve seen someone who worked alongside Mulder actually dislike him. And it’s the first time in a long time that Mulder has reacted to anyone’s dislike. So what is eating Agent Patterson?

We never really find out why Mulder irritates Patterson so. But I remember having this genius friend in High School who aced Latin even though she spent 99% of every class passing notes with me, when she even came to class that is. Our teacher couldn’t stand her. I suspect something similar is going on with Patterson and Mulder. Either that or he’s the stereotypical 1950’s father who can’t tell his son how proud he is of him but put a few drinks in him and he’ll have no problems telling the rest of the world. I’m leaning towards the former as his venom toward Mulder denotes both admiration and jealousy.

His relationship with Scully in this episode isn’t much better. The further down the rabbit hole he goes the more he consciously shuts her out. Season 3 has seen the writers as a whole putting distance between Mulder and Scully in quite a few episodes. Things were too perfect between them in Season 2 to continue that way; they’d lack depth in the long run. But maybe there’s too much distancing going on now. Too often only one of them has enough of a personal connection to solve a specific case. Whatever happened to them figuring it out together? That hasn’t really occurred since “2Shy” (3×6) or possibly “The Walk” (3×7). Even “Nisei” (3×9) and “731” (3×10) saw them going down different investigative paths and drawing different conclusions. I submit that such a device makes logical sense in mythology episodes where the writers need to disseminate lots of material to the audience, and it allows both Mulder and Scully to grow as characters. But at some moments this season I’m left wondering why they’re even partners when they’re not working together.

I think soon the collective writing club at 1013 Productions comes to realize the Mulder and Scully seesaw is tilting too far in one direction and they start adding weight to the other side for the last half of the season, a development which I’m forever grateful for. It’s not that I don’t agree that Mulder and Scully should have independence, autonomy and interests apart from each other and even apart from the X-Files. That was part of what I enjoyed about “Revelations” (3×11) was that Scully had a supernatural niche all her own. I just miss seeing them work as a team rather than acting as an antagonist of sorts in each other’s individual drama.

The Verdict:

Besides the less than inspirational interpersonal dynamics, my other bone to pick with this episode is that the solution is too clear from the beginning. Only someone from the crime team knew the ins and outs of the murders? Then someone from the crime team committed the murders. And it’s certainly no shock when Patterson, obsessed with finding the killer, turns out to have found his killer’s obsession instead. In fact, we’re expecting it. With the 1980’s/1990’s rise to prominence of Criminal Profiling, the tale of an investigator becoming what he hunts isn’t exactly fresh and new. I couldn’t say for sure, but I don’t believe it was fresh in 1995 either.

I don’t think “freshness” is a concern here regardless. It’s a vehicle to let David Duchovny strut his emotional stuff, which he certainly does a solid job of. This episode is about exploring more of the tragic side of Mulder’s nature and his ability to intuitively understand people, the gift that’s actually a curse. Writer Howard Gordon, even more so when working with partner Alex Gansa, has a propensity toward the solemn and the serious when it comes to giving us X-Files. His previous offerings include “Conduit” (1×3), “Born Again” (1×21) and “Sleepless” (2×4), all episodes with a rather grim sense of loneliness, a theme echoed again here. He also successfully adds poeticism into the mix in “Dod Kalm” (2×19). “Grotesque” reminds me a lot of “Dod Kalm” in tone and theme; both show us a man slowly turning into what he hated and both are continually swathed in blue light.

After all that tepid to cold praise, I do like this episode. It’s a brave departure from the norm. I just wouldn’t turn it on to have a good time.

B

Peanut Gallery:

It’s a little difficult to believe Mulder went that crazy that fast, but then, they only have 43 minutes.

I kinda dig the exploration of insanity vs. demon possession. Which is which and how do we know? Like “Irresistible” before it, we don’t get a straight answer in the end.

Didn’t Mulder already have his tortured soul moment in “Oubliette” (3×8)? Maybe that doesn’t count since this one brought up Samantha and this one has absolutely nothing to do with his sister issues?

Scully’s one moment of glory in this episode, as she cocks her chin in Skinner’s office, is my favorite part.

Best Quotes:

Scully: So you’re not going to tell me when your love affair with Patterson ended?
Mulder: Patterson never liked me.
Scully: I thought you were considered the fair-haired boy when you joined the bureau.
Mulder: Not by Patterson.
Scully: Why not?
Mulder: Didn’t want to get my knees dirty. Couldn’t quite cast myself in the role of the dutiful student.
Scully: You mean you couldn’t worship him.
Mulder: Something like that, yeah.

——————–

Mulder: Patterson had this saying about tracking a killer. If you wanted, uh, to know an artist, you have to look at his art. What he really meant was if you wanted to catch a monster you had to become one yourself.

——————–

Agent Patterson: I have to tell you, I am really disappointed in you.
Mulder: Well, I wouldn’t want to disappoint you by not disappointing you.

——————–

Agent Patterson: My advice to you, Scully: Let Mulder do what he has to do. Don’t get in his way and don’t try to hold him back… because you won’t be able to.

——————–

Skinner: Are you worried about him, Agent Scully?
Scully: No, sir.
Skinner: Off the record.
Scully: [Cocks her head]
Skinner: So am I.

Nisei 3×9: Monsters begetting monsters.


$29.95's worth.

“Nisei” is about foreign scientists, war criminals, allied with the Federal Government and more specifically, The Syndicate, who experiment on unwitting citizens in an attempt to create an alien-human hybrid. If that sounds familiar, it should. It was the plot of “Paper Clip” (3×2). The main difference is that we’ve moved from talk of the Nazis to another World War II Axis power, Japan.

There are other repeats such as Mulder seeing what he thinks is a spaceship hidden from perfect view. That happened in both “Deep Throat” (1×1) and “Fallen Angel” (1×9). Scully has also confronted X over Mulder’s whereabouts before in “End Game” (2×17), but of course that time it was the other way around and she wanted to find him not keep his location a secret. And as I’ve already mentioned, as in the season opener the writers are using the horrors of history to scare us. What’s more frightening than the truth?

Since we’ve already heard this tale told in a different way, Chris Carter had to find a way to set this one a part and I think he successfully did that by tying in this set of experiments to Scully’s abduction in a more specific way: These Japanese scientists were the ones who performed tests on her when she was taken.

Now we know for sure that the chip found in the back of her neck during “The Blessing Way” (3×1) is connected to her abduction. If that weren’t enough, we find out that Scully wasn’t alone and we meet the other women who were there with her for at least part of her ordeal. Imagine walking into a room full of people who know all about you but you don’t know them. Talk about creepy.

Scully’s character certainly gets an uplift from the previous couple of episodes where she is relegated to the role of Debbie Downer. Here she’s still the skeptic but she’s a thoughtful one and gives this investigation the attention it deserves. It’s about time the question of why she still doesn’t believe is brought up as we’ve reached a point in the series where it makes less sense for Scully to even be a skeptic in the face of all she’s been exposed to. That’s why some of the previous episodes didn’t work as well as they might have because her knee-jerk skepticism seems out of place, as though she were just going out of her way to be difficult. The tantalizing teasing that goes on about the mystery of Scully’s abduction is a set up to explore her character further in future episodes. It pays off well.

The mythology keeps expanding to include more conspiracies within the conspiracy. It’s exciting and yet… this is both good and bad news. While the scope of the conspiracy is why it attracts an audience, it’s also part of its eventual, inevitable decline. You can only push the circle outward for so long before people forget the juicy center.

Conclusion:

You’ll think me shallow, but what I love most about this episode is that it’s a party. So many honored guests are in attendance: Skinner, Mr. X, The Lone Gunmen, even Senator Matheson who is no doubt summoned because Skinner washes his hands clean of this situation. We also have a first-time participant in Agent Pendrell. We’re only missing Krycek who Chris Carter is saving for later in the season.

Mulder again proves there’s no length of crazy he won’t go to. He’s such a wonderfully frustrating hero. You want to punch him then hug him all in the span of two seconds. Scully’s parallel journey for the truth is just as compelling, but in a less action packed, more emotional sort of way. It’s fun to see them investigate on their own and then come back together and share notes, so to speak. Whether they’re communicating over the phone or in person they make such a great team. And the banter and humor sprinkled through this two-episode arc still makes me smile.

If “Paper Clip” was about the Germans, “Nisei” is all about the Japanese. It’s a natural progression to move on to the next Axis power. But whatever happened to the Italians? Not scary enough?

A-

Lingering Questions:

Why wasn’t Scully subjected to the hybridization tests that created mutants out of the others? Maybe that was reserved for the sick and they used healthy young women for another, equally sinister purpose…

We know Scully is going to get cancer, it’s only a matter of when. The question is, why does she end up with cancer relatively quickly when the other abductees took years and many abductions before they died? I would guess that the abductions themselves somehow saved them.

I still don’t understand why this episode is called “Nisei”. The scientists involved are first generation Japanese immigrants, not second generation Japanese-Americans. Surely there’s a clue that slipped by me.

Random Musings:

The Japanese “diplomat”, Kazuo Sakurai, doesn’t sound like a Japanese diplomat at all, judging by his speech patterns. He sounds more like a Yakuza gangster. I’m wondering if it’s an element of the plot that they didn’t have time to delve into, that he’s an agent of the conspiracy posing as a diplomat for nefarious purposes.

Sakurai: [Japanese] M***** F******, I’m absolutely gonna kill you.
Mulder: You speak English?
Sakurai: [Japanese] What are you babbling about? *Editor’s Note: This is much more offensive than I can translate.
Mulder: Great.

And then he knows Karate, because all Asians know some form of the Martial Arts. *Eyeroll*

Best Quotes:

Scully: That’s not your usual brand of entertainment. What is it?
Mulder: According to the magazine ad I answered, it’s an alien autopsy. Guaranteed authentic.
Scully: You spent money for this?
Mulder: $29.95… plus shipping.
Scully: Mulder, this is even hokier than the one they aired on the Fox network. You can’t even see what they’re operating on!
Mulder: But it does look authentic, I mean the settings, the procedures. I mean it does look as if an actual autopsy is being prepared, doesn’t it?
Scully: Well technically, I don’t know why they would be wearing gas masks.
Mulder: Well maybe it’s because of this green substance they seem to be extracting from the subject. Can you identify that?
Scully: Olive oil? Snake oil? I suppose you think it’s alien blood?
Mulder: It’s widely held that aliens don’t have blood, Scully.
Scully: I guess this begs the question, if this is an alien autopsy…
Mulder: …where’s the alien? But what so intriguing to me is the striking lack of detail here.
Scully: Well, what do you expect for $29.95?

——————

Scully: I don’t know, Mulder, it just doesn’t track. What would a Japanese diplomat be doing in that house with a dead man with his head stuffed in a pillowcase?
Mulder: Obviously not strengthening international relations.
Scully: Well, what do you want to do now? Drop it?
Mulder: I’ve paid my $29.95, Scully. I think I’m entitled to a few more answers. Don’t you think so?

——————

Mulder: Scully, after all you’ve seen. After all you’ve told me you’ve seen. A tunnel filled with medical files, the beings moving past you, the implant in your neck. Why do you refuse to believe?
Scully: Believing’s the easy part, Mulder. I just need more than you. I need proof.
Mulder: You think that believing is easy?