Tag Archives: The End

Season 8 Wrap Up – Can’t we just go home and start this all over again tomorrow?


Alone15.jpg

It’s been a hard road. But for all the frustration of David Duchovny being half in, half out all season, and the blasphemy worthy of Beelzebub that is Scully having a partner who’s not Mulder, the bald-faced truth is I actually prefer Season 8 to Season 7.

Stop, stop! Don’t panic! Everybody breathe!

Better?

Okay.

It may not have been the way I would have preferred it to happen, but David Duchovny’s absence woke everybody up. There was passion again and a sense of urgency, from the acting to the writing. For too long, for all of Season 7 – which is ironic since “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×2) was all about Mulder’s renewed will to fight – there had been nothing driving Mulder and Scully, nothing that you felt like they were fighting for. Come Season 8, Scully’s fighting for Mulder’s life and their future with their child, the latter part of which fight Mulder joins when he graces us with his presence again. Also, Mulder leaving meant we had a reunion to look forward to and, while it may have been rushed, these two characters did not disappoint.

But if I may back it up for a moment to the improved writing again, when it comes to Monster of the Week episodes, Season 8 may be the scariest season of them all. I don’t scare easily and while The X-Files has regularly thrilled me, it’s never actually made me uneasy before. But there were moments this season that I thought were honestly frightening. Moments I wouldn’t watch in a room with the lights off. I’m thinking of you, “Via Negativa” (8×7).

I think the writers lost their crutch and found out they could walk again unassisted, albeit with a limp. They couldn’t rely on the failsafe of that old black magic that was the Mulder and Scully partnership. Together, those two could elevate even the most mundane episodes, make an insignificant finding appear the key to all mysteries. And it was on that foundation that Season 7 leaned a little too heavily, with lackluster plots and performances sneaking through and held afloat by desperate appeals to the characters’ chemistry.

In Season 8, since they couldn’t give us Mulder and Scully, and since Mulder and Scully couldn’t give them a head start off the mark every episode, 1013 pulled out all the stops to remind its audience that The X-Files could be freaky. Period. It’s like they figured if they couldn’t squee us, they’d scare us. I honestly have no idea whether it was in desperation or confidence, but our favorite writing team definitely upped their game.

That praise delightfully and duly given, Season 8 still had its problems. Serious problems.

1. Scully starts to slip.

Now, when I say this, it has nothing to do with Gillian Anderson’s performance as Scully. Season 8 is, without question, Gillian’s best year of acting on The X-Files and that’s saying a lot… a lot, a lot. Probably more than we should get into at this hour.

No, Scully was acted beautifully. Some of her characterization, though…

Scully doesn’t have much to do except miss Mulder and worry about her baby…. Scully will never again have much more to do except miss Mulder and worry about her baby. Oops. Spoilers.

Of course she needs to be upset about Mulder, but I wish she’d been given a more active role in investigating Mulder’s abduction. I realize the abduction plot was stretched out to make room for David Duchovny’s return in the latter half of the season, but the result is that Scully spent long stretches of time not even mentioning Mulder let alone looking for him. Instead, she was working through her mixed feelings about her new partner who was both worthy and unwanted.

Some of that may have been necessary, but not all of it. We’ve seen Scully work with temporary partners before. And she did so while still remaining true to her core characterization. Yep, I’ll see your “Chinga” (5×10) and raise you a “Tithonus” (6×9).

This Scully takes ten standalone episodes to gel with her partner and ten episodes to realize that she can’t solve cases pretending to be Fox Mulder. Why would she need to? *whispers* She’s solved them as a skeptic before.

I get that she’s on an emotional rollercoaster and it makes sense for her to resist liking Doggett and it makes sense for her to try to feel closer to Mulder by thinking like he’d think and doing what he’d do. But Scully is a smart and sensible woman. Having her work through the same issues for so long felt like the series had her caught in an ouroboros… and me stuck on a treadmill.

2. In with the new before we’re out with the old.

I’m a fan of Doggett and I like Reyes too. What I wish for them and for the series is that they’d had time to develop as characters away from the looming spectre that was Mulder and Scully.

The idea was to get the audience interested in and attached to them by the time Season 9, if there was a Season 9, started. Season 9 wasn’t confirmed till after the season finale was shot and not long before it aired. If and when Season 9 did come, it would come without Mulder.

Again, I get it. We needed to bond with Doggett and Reyes in time for us to want to tune in to the premiere of a Mulder-less Season 9. But I submit that this plan backfired. Or maybe it was destined to fail regardless, I don’t know. All I can say is that as much as I kept my mind open to Doggett and Reyes and even appreciated their contributions in Season 8, the new skeptic and the new believer sharing screen space with the old skeptic and the old believer only made me more sure that while the show might be able to survive, the magic would be gone.

Episodes like “Empedolces” (8×17) and “Alone” (8×19) showed a promising dynamic between Doggett and Reyes, but up against the hard earned connection Mulder and Scully showed us in their brief scenes in both those episodes, Doggett and Reyes couldn’t help being less interesting in comparison.

It’s impossible to ever know and I may be wrong, but I suspect Doggett and Reyes as a team would have benefitted from being completely removed from Mulder and Scully and given a fresh start Season 9 or placed in their own spinoff.

3. Is that a mythology or are you just happy to see me?

Season 8’s mythology was a jumbled mess of the old and the new, as if 1013 wanted to change things up but were afraid to flip the switch outright. To be sure, most casual fans were so confused by the mythology as it already stood, both the core mythology of Seasons 2-6 and the brief pitstop into creation theory that was the beginning of Season 7, that springing something totally new on them without any connection to what came before probably would have lost them completely.

I concede that the transition to something new needed to happen, but it was a rough, uncertain transition. The character of Gibson Praise was brought back after a two year absence, Jeremiah Smith after four. Both were again dropped unceremoniously, Gibson when he was on the verge of finding Mulder, Jeremiah when he was on the cusp of saving him. And two things we haven’t heard about since the 1998 movie, the Black Oil that was to be the means of alien invasion and the phrase “Fight the future”, both showed up once more only to just as quickly die in episodes “Vienen” (8×16) and “Three Words” (8×18).

1013 is dropping large hints that old things are passed away and all things are become new. At the same time, they’re making inconsistent connections between the old and the new, basing the new mythology of the Super Soldiers on what came before without giving us a reason for or a logic behind the evolution.

I humbly submit that we needed a clear end to the old mythology, with the loose ends tied up and Mulder and Scully set free from their quest, before we moved into a completely different conspiratorial territory that would be uniquely suited to Doggett and Reyes.

4. That’s just my baby daddy.

Baby William. Sweet little baby William. He, for me, becomes the major headache of both Seasons 8 and 9.

We first found out about Scully’s pregnancy in the heart-wrenching cliffhanger that was “Requiem” (7×22). Then and in the Season 8 premiere, Scully seems to be living with the assumption that, despite being declared barren, she and Mulder are having a baby. She all but admits to Skinner that her drive to find Mulder is fueled by her pregnancy, i.e. I don’t want to have this baby and lose its father at the same time.

But thenPer Manum” (8×8) comes along and with revisionist history comes perplexities of nations. Now we’re told that at some point in Season 7, when we were previously led to believe that Mulder and Scully were having a sexual relationship, Scully either before or after or in the middle of said relationship asked Mulder to donate sperm to her quest for conception. Shocker – the IVF treatments Scully underwent were administered by a fertility specialist who had secretly worked for the Syndicate and was still carrying on experimentation in alien-human hybridization with unsuspecting mothers. Shocker – Scully may have been one of them.

But thenEssence” (8×20) comes along and we’re told that this is a very, very, very special baby. No, it’s not normal. It’s an uber Scully, a super human. And the Super Soldiers want to kill this Super Baby because it carries within itself the potential to resist colonization and possibly save humankind.

But thenExistence” (8×21) comes along and… Psych! Just kidding. Everything’s exactly the way you thought it was at the end of Season 7. We were just messin’ with ya.

Somewhere and at some point, I imagine the conversation went a little like this:

How do we get our audience back? I know! We’ll make them wonder again whether or not Mulder and Scully are a couple. Hey, it’s not like we absolutely said that they were sleeping together, we just showed Mulder splayed out naked in bed. There’s deniability there. And then we’ll tease them with whether or not Scully’s baby is Mulder’s. That’ll work because we know they lurve Mulder and Scully. That’ll get them to stick around all the way to the finale. We’ll make them beg for it, then give the people what they want.

Stop it. Tricks are for kids.

Which brings us to…

5. Lot’s wife syndrome.

Season 8 spent too much time looking backward to Season 7 to spark interest in current events. It should have spent more time making current events interesting.

Everyone knows that Mulder and Scully’s partnership is at the heart of the show, however you may feel about ships and the destinations they sail to. 1013 knows it too and Mulder being gone for half the season only served to intensify the palpable presence of Mulder and Scully’s history, not diminish it.

Since there was bound to be a void due to Mulder and Scully being apart, and since fans were and are ravenous when it comes to the two of them, it seems like the idea was to fill that void by continuing to evolve their relationship… by devolving it.

What I mean by that is that we were retreading old ground. Mulder and Scully are in a romantic relationship… or are they? Mulder and Scully are having a baby together… or are they? Mulder and Scully don’t keep secrets from each other… or do they? Mulder and Scully were having the time of their lives Season 7… or were they?

There’s a real irony here because while Chris Carter once swore that Mulder and Scully would never become a couple, by playing these mind games with the audience, their coupling ended up dominating the series and the search for clear answers about their relationship ended up being the main draw for those loyal enough to tune into the Season 8 finale. This is a tragedy.

All this hemming and hawing and revisionist history also resulted in a crazy pregnancy timeline and, even more irritatingly, Mulder’s magically disappearing brain disease. It’s not even subtle. Mulder was retroactively made to be dying in Season 7 not because the plot would move the characters forward, but to shock the audience. It was shamelessly designed to manufacture tears. Then, that job done, it all goes away like nothing ever happened. Mulder hears the good news of his recovery and couldn’t care less. Scully doesn’t so much as broach the conversation of why Mulder kept her in the dark.

Okay, so I had more to gripe about than I thought.

But I really do prefer Season 8 to Season 7. I’ll take being frustrated over being bored. Though there’s nothing worse than being bored with being frustrated and that point also can and will be reached.

Like I said, Season 8 has momentum. And for all the focus backward, you know that Mulder and Scully are headed toward something: Freedom, if you can believe it.

We needed Mulder to reach this point. We needed him to willingly walk away from the X-Files. If he hadn’t, if things had ended the way they did in “The End” (5×20) and his work was taken away from him, then his era would have ended in tragedy and not in victory. And what a waste of eight years that would have been. No, he had to make a choice.

The Fox Mulder who started the X-Files didn’t have anything more important in his life to rival his work. He lost his family that day when Samantha was taken and his work was all about redeeming that loss and finding Samantha. But now he’s found the truth, more or less and there are two people that now mean more to him than the work that used to give his life purpose. Mulder never said he wanted to spend the rest of his life hunting demons, he said he wanted to find his sister. Well, he found her and he’s found his family.

If he could get the hang of the thing his cry might become: “To live would be an awfully big adventure!”

If our Paranormal Peter Pan is going to grow up, we have to believe that Mulder is leaving behind one great adventure for another, even greater adventure; the adventure of loving and being loved and passing on that love.

And I do. I want to believe.

—————–

So without further ado, the Season 8 awards:

Best Episode You Haven’t Watched Because You Skipped Season 8

Roadrunners

You’re Not Missing Anything

Surekill

AND

Salvage

Work it Doggett

Via Negativa

Gillian Anderson for All the Awards

This is Not Happening

Best Old-School X-File

Invocation

Believe the Banter

Empedolces

 

The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati 7×4: Don’t be so dramatic.


Scully's lost her hair and she doesn't know where to find it.

First off, I think we should walk into this mythology episode review well aware that this is only nominally a mythology episode at all. This is a long overdue character study of Mulder and the majority of it (or it feels like the majority) takes place within his own mind. Not much happens on the mythology side of things except that we learn Cigarette-Smoking Man is still holding out hope that he can turn himself into an alien-human hybrid and so withstand the coming apocalypse. Somehow his desire, Mulder’s condition and American Indian prophecy all come together in some clearly vague way – A connection which will become much clearer, and vaguer, a couple of seasons from now.

We start out with CSM scheming to get his hands on Mulder once and for all, the devilish snake ready to strike the heel of the messiah, and he chooses the most nefarious route possible: His mother. Why would Teena Mulder hand her son over to CSM? And why would CSM need her to hand him over? It’s not like his minions haven’t snuck into hospitals to do his dirty work before. If he wanted Mulder, I don’t see why he would need her permission to get him.

But, whatever. CSM finally gets him and then proceeds to cut his head open and empty the contents thereof, all the while praising him as his son and throwing suggestive grins in the direction of his son’s ex-lover.

This is one of my favorite episodes for the character of Cigarette-Smoking Man. He’s like a cat with a bowl of fresh milk. I strongly suspect we owe CSM’s newfound humor to Chris Carter’s newfound writing partner David Duchovny. CSM never cracked jokes like this before and his dismissiveness of Mulder’s self-important self-righteousness is telling – sounds a bit like the loving jabs taken at Mulder in “The Unnatural” (6×20). It’s also no secret that all this blatant symbolism is David Duchovny’s doing as well. That… I’m not quite as grateful for.

Now, I’m an English nerd and a recovering symbolism addict. I had to attend a long series of group therapy meetings post-college so it’s not like I’m immune to symbolism’s charms. (Hi, my name is Salome and I read too far into things.) But there’s so much symbolism here that at moments there isn’t much room left for story. CSM is randomly throwing out lines like, “The child becomes father to the man.” What does that even mean?? You’re not trying to hint that the repressed child deep down inside the man is going to teach him how life is really supposed to be lived in a sort of “from the mouths of babes” perspective altering catharsis, are you? Because I have no truck with that right now.

Not that my impatience affords me the right to ignore the famous Mulder dream sequence. I have to tell you, as a teenager watching this episode when it first aired I didn’t know The Last Temptation of Christ from Rocky & Bullwinkle. I’d heard of it, sure. But what was it to me? And I wonder how much of the viewing public was with me – a little lost as to what Mulder’s dream sequence, heavily inspired by the aforementioned book/film, was supposed to mean.

The whole thing is borderline esoteric, its symbolism only becoming clear as the reality of it unravels before Mulder’s eyes. But you don’t need any exposure to The Last Temptation of Christ to understand it, though I’m sure that helps (I wouldn’t know). All you have to do is go back and watch “One Son” (6×12) again. What happens in that episode? Oh, nothing. If you can call Diana helping to lure Mulder into soul-sacrificing complacency and Scully stirring him up from his sleepy defeatism “nothing.”

If “One Son” is the reality then “Amor Fati” is Mulder spiritually awakening to that reality. Both women have appeared at his bedside in “The Sixth Extinction”. Both women’s minds and hearts were completely open to him thanks to his new ability. He knows what Diana wants: For him to give in and save himself. And he knows what Scully wants: For him to hang on and fight.

I think the initial reaction a lot of fans had to this episode was horror over any scenario, dream or not, where Mulder would bed, even wed, Diana Fowley and seem to be happy about it. But while Mulder still may be attracted to her on some level, they had been lovers after all, I don’t think what we see here is any real indication that Mulder wants Diana so much as he’s tempted by what she represents. What she wants him to do, and what part of Mulder wants to do, is stop fighting, stop suffering, take the world off of his shoulders and let the inevitable happen – Would colonization be so bad if they could only be at peace? Therefore, the crux of Mulder’s dream isn’t that he chooses Scully over Fowley, it’s that he chooses courage over complacency.

Poor Diana Fowley, we barely knew ye. No sooner do you grow a conscience than it’s your time to go – That’s how The X-Files works. We can’t have you spilling secrets that would give Mulder too much help too soon, now can we?

Fowley’s motivations are becoming clearer to me now. Maybe I never really understood because I never really watch this set of episodes. (Telling, I know.) And so, if you don’t mind, I’m going to take some time out to dissect her because unless I’m much mistaken, she’s never mentioned ever again.

This isn’t cannon but as best I can understand it, Diana Fowley’s situation went down something like this:

Diana knew about the aliens, colonization, all of it. How or when or why she knew isn’t important, but somewhere along the line she went to work for the Syndicate and CSM in particular. Probably under their/his orders, she led Mulder to the X-Files as a way to both put out disinformation and to control what he knew. Once Mulder was established as a crank and he was no closer to the truth than he was to China, off she goes on her next assignment which was that of an international agent. What she probably didn’t count on was falling in love with Mulder, which she did. Although who knows but that seducing him was originally part of the assignment too?

However her affection for Mulder began, she didn’t forget him all those years she went away, a fact that CSM was probably aware of. So he gives her a new, very palatable assignment: Go back and befriend Fox Mulder again. He’s too close to the truth.

The problem is, despite their surface similarities, Diana and Mulder are incompatible. He’s an idealist, she’s a pragmatist. He wants to save the world, Diana wants to survive. She wants to survive with Mulder at her side and she’s clearly hoped that eventually he’d see that they had no other choice but to cooperate with the conspiracy and save themselves. That’s why she was willing to wait for him; they could never really be together, because they couldn’t survive the coming apocalypse, unless she helped the Syndicate succeed in creating an alien-human hybrid.

Another option is that Diana discovered the truth while she was working on the X-Files with Mulder, only she didn’t share everything she suspected, perhaps because she knew Mulder wouldn’t be comfortable with her pragmatic approach, and left to work for the Syndicate because she was sympathetic to their agenda. In some ways, that would make it worse. Her reasons are completely selfish. As long as she gets Mulder and they survive, that’s what matters.

But I’d still love to know, what exactly did CSM ever do to engender this kind of loyalty in Fowley? Or was she only going along with his agenda so that she and Mulder could be safe, and once his agenda conflicted with Mulder’s safety her surface loyalty evaporated? This mysterious confession she made in “The Sixth Extinction” (7×3) is tantalizing:

I know you know about me… That my loyalties aren’t just to you… but to a man you’ve grown to despise. You have your reasons, but as you look inside me now you know that I have mine.

I think deep down she realizes that Mulder isn’t going to be OK with her plans, which is why she hasn’t made a case for her position to him even after the eradication of the Syndicate. He already knows about the agenda of those men, surely she wouldn’t be threatening those plans now by spilling the beans, she’d only betray her own treachery and risk losing Mulder for good. Maybe that’s why she agrees to be complicit in CSM’s scheme to steal Mulder’s power – He could be putty in her hands. Fortunately, her long dormant conscience resurfaces before it’s too late, possibly pricked into action by guilt over Scully’s example of uncompromising loyalty to Mulder, and despite the fact that she knows it most likely means she’ll never have Mulder, she secretly gives up his location to Scully. Bravo?

By the end of this trilogy, I was sick of Diana Fowley, exhausted by the overarching plot, and not a little worried about the future of my show. I was hoping for answers in “Amor Fati”. Instead, I got Mulder making love to Diana Fowley, which, despite all my philosophically understanding prattle above, still makes me ill. I was tired of waiting for more news on the conspiracy, whether it was dead or alive. I was tired of waiting for information on Samantha’s whereabouts. And I was mostly tired of waiting on this unnecessary love triangle. By the time it was over, the superb ending was somewhat lost on me; sort of like pearls being cast before very impatient swine.

But it is superb. Truly.

Mulder: Scully, I was like you once — I didn’t know who to trust. Then I… I chose another path… another life, another fate, where I found my sister. In the end my world was unrecognizable and upside down. There was one thing that remained the same. You were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant… my touchstone.
Scully: And you are mine.

As I watched this time, somewhere behind my teary eye (I can only watch this scene with one eye open) the Song of Solomon kept coming to mind: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” I want to congratulate my subconscious for making the connection and at the same time berate it for making it so late – These are, in essence, Mulder and Scully’s wedding vows.

That sounds horrendously sappy, I know, but it’s true. They’re expressing, once and for all, before a television audience full of witnesses, their faith in and their commitment to each other. (Part of me twinges a little at the thought of making any mere, fallible mortal your constant and your touchstone. But, whatevs. I get what they’re giving.)

I remember the first time I watched it feeling slightly confused. (So they’re together now… right?) I wasn’t sure if I was witnessing their official coming together or what. After this are they a romantic pair? Well, there’s been a lot of debate over the years as to exactly when Mulder and Scully initiated the romantic stage of their relationship, with even Chris Carter & Co. inadvertently sending conflicting messages. Did Mulder pop up at Scully’s place the next day with red roses and a bottle of wine? Heck to the no. But, I do believe what we’re seeing here is the disintegration of all emotional, psychological and practical barriers between them. I said these were their “wedding vows”, right? Well, think of this moment as the ceremony – Everyone present knows the wedding night is coming but it’s not like there’s a bed waiting at the end of the aisle.

For once, both Mulder and Scully know exactly where they stand at exactly the same time and I think it’s clear that there will be no threat of any future “Diana Fowleys.” There’s only one barrier left, more of a technical formality really, and that’s the physical one, which Chris Carter will see fit to break not too long from now. After that, all bets will be off.

And to think! We were almost robbed of this episode’s redemption. This was not the original ending planned and in fact, was filmed much later after the rest of the episode – hence Scully’s noticeable haircut. I’ve read what is supposed to be the original ending and it in no way provided sufficient emotional closure between Mulder and Scully after all the angst of this episode. So hats off to whoever decided to change it – I don’t know who you are except that you’re my constant, my touchstone.

Verdict:

I know some fans wish that Mulder and Scully had kissed here, but I want to go on record as saying that for all my teenage confusion back in the day, I’m oh so glad they didn’t. Turning it sexual would have cheapened the moment because what they’re expressing here goes so much deeper than that. At the same time, it makes an eventual kiss inevitable. How do you love someone any more than that?? Where else are they supposed to go with it? Why do Mulder and Scully keep having their most significant moments in Mulder’s hallway?

So I’ll see you Shippers next time when Chris Carter finally lets Mulder kiss the bride.

B+

The Mystery Continues:

Just when you thought I was done, I’m about to wind it back. Remember “The End” (5×20)? Remember how Diana Fowley was guarding Gibson Praise while secretly working for CSM? Remember how shocked she looked when Gibson told her she was about to be shot? Yeah, why was that?

The Options –

  1. CSM didn’t tell whomever he sent to kidnap Gibson that Fowley was one of theirs – The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. Lingering resentment over the events of this episode also might explain why Fowley came to distrust CSM enough to betray him.
  2. They shot Fowley on purpose, surprising her, in order to ingratiate her to Mulder – How could he doubt her after she nearly died for the cause?
  3. Fowley was given orders by CSM to protect Gibson and genuinely thought that’s what he wanted – This would explain why anyone coming to get Gibson would have to attack Fowley to get to him and why she was so surprised.

The question remains, why didn’t Gibson hint at her disloyalty? He seemed comfortable enough with her. I guess he was too busy fanning the flames of the love triangle to warn Mulder and Scully that they had a traitor in their midst

And yet another question remains. Just how far did Fowley’s relationship with CSM go? Between the way they look at each other in “One Son” and CSM’s not so subtle leer in Fowley’s direction after delivering his, “I’ll carry the burden from here on in” line, I suspect that either they were sexually involved at some point or that their eventual sexual involvement was one of CSM’s secret goals. Talk about a Father-Son competition.

Bepuzzlements:

What’s still not clear is what in the Aunt Jemima Krycek is up to now. Why kill Kritschgau? Is he independently working toward hybridization? Working for the rebels? What? – Oh, and how about that digital Nick Lea impostor?

Why do women keep giving Mulder the Salt-n-Peppa, “I think I wanna have your baby” speech on this show? Is it because he’s a “mighty good man?” My man is smooth like Barry and his voice got base…

Okay, so Scully has a DOJ passkey. But how does she know where to go?

And I’m Done:

Notice how Mulder keeps flipping things back on Scully. “Mulder, help me”, becomes, “You help me.” “I know she was your friend”, becomes, “You were my friend… you were my constant, my touchstone.” Scully tries to comfort him at the loss of Diana, his first priority is to comfort her. Oh, the days I could go on with this stuff…

Best Quotes:

CSM: Your account is squared — with me, with God, with the IRS, with the FBI.

——————-

CSM: You’re not Christ. You’re not Prince Hamlet. You’re not even Ralph Nader. {Editor’s Note: HAHAHAHA.}

——————–

Scully: Bum a cigarette, Agent Fowley?
Diana Fowley: I don’t smoke.
Scully: Really? I could swear I smell cigarette smoke on you.
Diana Fowley: Let’s cut the crap, shall we?
Scully: Yes. Let’s.

Biogenesis 6×22: Who had the audacity for such invention?


Say what now?

Disclaimer: I am in love with Chris Carter. I am in love with The X-Files. I would sooner lose a finger, in fact, let’s make it my thumb, than I would have missed out on watching this series – the whole series – all of it – including the nauseating moments. So please understand that when I complain, and I will complain, I complain with love. Kapish?

Good, because my complaints start right at the beginning. I am so sick of these self-important, perfunctory mytharc opening monologues I’m about ready to curse. And I don’t curse!! I get the idea. I know. This is epic. Epic, epic, epic. All of life is about to be explained. All of life is at stake. J’nough. Let’s move on.

Now, on the more diplomatic side of things, at least we know right out of the gate that the turn The X-Files is taking is grander and more fundamental than any conspiracy created by men merely to hide information. This is the mythology’s new beginning. The Syndicate is dead, the slate has been wiped clean, almost any plot is possible and this is the plot they choose: Aliens as God. The implications are… bottomless. And they’re making my brain hurt.

In its defense, this plot is only overtly going where The X-Files has already gone before. Mulder’s mission to prove the existence of alien life, his quest to find absolute truth, it’s all analogous to a man’s, and mankind’s, search for God. I get that. It’s subtle. It’s good. Sometimes it’s not so subtle. But it’s still good. It’s like a biblical parable; all the more effective for concealing the truth inside a fiction.

But in this bit of fiction, an alien spaceship has supposedly popped up, plain as day on the coast of a well-populated continent, yet no governments take notice. No spy satellites, no missiles are aimed in its direction. No soldiers are sent out to guard it or to confiscate it. Instead, a bunch of independent science nerds have free access to it without having to answer to anyone. The news of this discovery never leaks to the vigilant folks at MUFON. The media never takes notice.

Rubbish. Rubbish, I tell you.

To be honest, the very idea causes my eyes to roll so far into the back of my head they disappear. It took me a while to convince them to come back. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to ignore the mythology aspect of this mythology episode for most of this review.

On to our heroes… Scully is trying to convince Mulder that their job at the F.B.I. is done. After all, they’ve won, haven’t they? The conspiracy is kaput. Never mind that earth is still on the verge of being invaded and humanity is still scheduled to be destroyed, someone else can see to those details. Why can’t she and Mulder move on? Ah, but Scully has forgotten about the most important thing of all, the quest that predates Mulder’s mission to take down the Syndicate’s conspiracy: the search for Samantha. But who can blame her? I’d pretty much forgotten myself and I’m probably not the only one. Which is why this moment is not so covertly placed here, I suspect. Chris Carter needed to remind the audience that there’s a reason Mulder and Scully are still on the X-Files and therefore there’s a reason we’re still watching this show. Some truths have yet to be uncovered.

Meanwhile, some truths are never fully uncovered. Enter Diana Fowley.

We’ll get to more of the eternal mysteries surrounding her character come Season 7, but for now it’s enough just to figure out why, for the love of all that is watchable, Chris Carter felt it necessary to have her strip down in Mulder’s apartment and force us to watch. Since, logically, we can’t really expect that she was about to seduce a man barely well enough to hold a brief conversation, we can only assume that it was meant to get a rise out of the audience. And it certainly got a rise out of this audience. I remember rising to my feet in righteous indignation. (Chris Carter, don’t you make me come out there.)

Wait. Back up. What was she doing in Mulder’s apartment in the first place?

According to what Fowley says both to Cigarette-Smoking Man over the phone and Scully in person, Mulder called her after he collapsed in the stairwell. Not that I take as gospel a single word she tells Scully, I’m inclined to think that she has no reason to be dishonest with CSM. The puzzle then is why would Mulder call her? Well, he’s already figured out he can’t trust Skinner. Scully’s off hunting Dr. Sandoz. I’d give him the excuse of being out of friends, but where the Lone Gunmen unavailable?

Whatever. He calls her. If trusting her even after she miraculously survives the events of “One Son” (6×12) isn’t proof he’s earned the padded cell he’s finally given this episode, I don’t know what is. Or perhaps he has doubts we don’t get to see?

Now, please bear with me here because I’m about to force you to scroll. Below is a scene from the script of “Biogenesis” that was cut. (Darn those brief 43 minutes). And while I’ll cry along with the purists that since it didn’t air, it’s not canon, I think it helps illuminate some plot points that otherwise remain murky. I’ll go more into detail on my case for its inclusion afterward.

{Editor’s Note: I don’t make this stuff up. You can find my sources here: http://www.mitchpileggi.net/The_X-Files/Libby/ (Click on Season 6 episodes and scroll down to Biogenesis. This is the version I recommend.) And here: http://www.fortunecity.com/lavender/tombstone/178/6x22_cutscenes.html And here: http://members.tripod.com/cactus_ian/xf6x22.html}

FOWLEY: Fox?
A faint clatter from another room gets her attention. She turns to see… Mulder exiting the kitchen past her. He is pale, dazed, disheveled – markedly worse than when we last saw him. He shuffles into the living room, seemingly oblivious to her presence. Fowley watches him pass, shaken by his strung-out appearance.
FOWLEY: Fox..? Are you alright?
Mulder shuffles to the living room window, peers out through the closed blinds. He doesn’t look at her. Silence for a long, uncomfortable beat.
MULDER: Where did you go?
FOWLEY: You were asleep, and I…
She trails off, shrugs. Mulder is still staring out the window. Now, he finally looks to her – pins her with a look, actually.
MULDER: Where did you GO?!
FOWLEY: I… I went home. (Off his silence) Maybe I shouldn’t have.
MULDER: Were you alone?
Fowley eyes him, taken aback by the question.
MULDER: Were you by yourself?
FOWLEY: Yes. Of course. What kind of question is that?
CLOSE – MULDER
We creep in on him as once again we hear strange AUDIO HITS – the disjointed clamor of voices in his head. We recognize FOWLEY’S VOICE rising from the din. We make out words, fragments of phrases: “it’s starting…”, “the artifact…”, he doesn’t suspect…”
Mulder struggles to clear his head.
MULDER: You were talking. Who were you talking to?
By all outward signs, Fowley is puzzled by the question.
FOWLEY: To you. I’m talking to you.
Mulder presses his hand to his temple. The cacophony in his head grows louder. More snippets from Fowley: “not possible…”, “gain his trust…”, “I just left him…”
MULDER: You’re lying.
FOWLEY: I’m lying? (beat) What am I lying about?
Mulder says nothing. Wary, he watches as Fowley moves closer.
FOWLEY: Fox, you’re not well. I think I need to take you to a doctor.
MULDER: I’m not going anywhere with you.
FOWLEY: Fox, please…
She reaches for him. Increasingly paranoid, Mulder pulls away. Another quick AUDIO HIT: the voices rise in a muffled, incomprehensible crescendo.
MULDER: No. Uh-uh. First Skinner and now you. You’ve betrayed me. (louder) You’re here to spy on me aren’t you? AREN’T YOU?!
In a sudden frenzy, Mulder SWIPES everything off the top of his desk, hurling it across the room. Unnerved, Fowley takes a step back. Mulder upends the coffee table, sending books and papers flying.
FOWLEY: Fox, calm down –
Breathing faster now, Mulder turns on Fowley, approaches – angry eyes fixed on her.
MULDER: Tell me the truth…
Nervous, Fowley discreetly unbuttons her jacket. We catch a glimpse of her pistol tucked in its holster.
FOWLEY: You’re not making sense. You need help. (backing off) Please — calm down.
Mulder doesn’t. He keeps advancing.
MULDER: TELL ME! –
A LOUD ELECTRIC SNAP. Mulder winces. His legs give out.
FROM BEHIND MULDER
He collapses to the floor, revealing the STUN GUN in Fowley’s hand. She kneels into frame by his body. Despite what we know of her treachery toward Mulder, we see some glimmer of real concern for him on her face.

First of all, this is an emotional confrontation between Mulder and Fowley that, in my humble opinion, needed to happen. After his unwavering integrity, after remaining loyal to her to his own hurt and risking his relationship with Scully even because he refused to turn on a friend, this needed to happen. I actually consider it twice as necessary for the sake of closure than any confrontation between Fowley and Scully.

Second of all, this brief scene reveals a lot about Fowley’s character and I’ve been itching to get inside that woman’s head a little. She knows exactly what’s going with Mulder which means she’s way ahead of him as far as what he’s learned about the aliens/colonists/whomever. That tells me she’s reasonably high up on the conspiracy chain. This is also our first glimmer that she really does care about Mulder. Prior to this she’s been a blank femme fatale, all calculating action with no feeling. Now we see that she’s conflicted and I find it interesting that she’s still afraid to tell Mulder the truth even though she knows he can read her mind.

Third of all, this clears up how Mulder went from lying weakly in bed to winding up a raving maniac in a padded cell. It also explains Fowley’s efforts to keep Scully from seeing him once he’s in that cell, because God forbid he somehow communicated his suspicions about Fowley to Scully. It would have been on.

Fowley and Scully don’t exactly end this episode on the best terms as it is, and I can at the very least say I’m grateful that Season 6 Scully gets to close us out with a bang. She’s already shown us so many different sides of herself this season… Weasel-Me-This Scully, Slap-A-Pimp Scully, Bimbo!Scully, and now Ain’t-No-Holla-Back-Girl Scully. So what triggers this latest incarnation?

Diana throws a couple of digs Scully’s way by implying that she’s in Mulder’s “In Group” while Scully’s in the “Out Group.” “Thank you for coming,” and, “He was asking for you last night” make it sound almost as though Diana’s family and Scully’s just a friend. Yet, self-possessed as ever, Scully is able to ignore all that until…

Fowley: [Mulder] said I was the only one who’d believe him.

One. Lie. Too. Far. Someone must not have told Fowley to watch “Folie a Deux” (5×19). If she had, she would have learned that, “Nobody else on this whole damn planet does or ever will” believe Mulder like Scully. Might he have called Diana because he trusts her too? Sure. But would he have told her she was the only one? Never. And Scully calls her on it immediately in a moment that’s probably the highlight of the episode for me. Long gone is the uncertain, insecure Scully of “The End” (5×20). Good riddance.

And the Verdict is…

I’ve kvetched enough. Now it’s time for me to admit that this episode is actually a lot better than I remember it being. Parts of it I can even say I enjoyed. The action is suspenseful and continuous, the performances are spot on, the images, the music… on a surface level, we’ve had much, much worse.

But as much as I do like watching Mulder lose his mind, and as much as I love that he still calls out for Scully even from the bowels of insanity, it’s the basic premise of “Biogenesis” that’s hard for me to get past.

Are these life-giving aliens the same ones that are about to take human life away? It seems to me that if the alien colonists have had this much power all along, not only would the Syndicate have been pretty useless to them, the whole plan to colonize us is superfluous. They planted us, they can harvest us just as easily. Throw new genetic material into our atmosphere or something, I don’t know. But there’s no longer any need for elaborate machinations; if they have the power of God they can simply use it.

This was why it was better when The X-Files only asked the great questions and didn’t attempt to answer them.

B

Bepuzzlements:

I have a question. How do we know when these spaceships first appeared on the earth? Is there some reason everyone is assuming that these multi-cultural writings pre-date the cultures and religions they document? And in that vein, how do they know that the aliens didn’t copy that information from humans rather than give it? I can’t believe Scully never seriously suggests it. Her brief, “How did the aliens get it?” is a throw away line.

Languages evolve. The Navajo of a hundred years ago isn’t the Navajo of today. So, if I’m to understand this correctly, not only thousands, but billions of years before the Navajo existed the aliens phonetically wrote in their language? Did the aliens give us all our respective languages too?

If our progenitors were alien, if they put us here, why are we trying to thwart their plans? Surely they know better than we do. And, after all, they’re only taking back what’s rightfully theirs.

Why does everyone keep throwing the rubbing in Mulder’s face? He tells Scully he thinks it’s the cause of his dissonance, she opens it up and breaks it out. Chuck Burke clearly states that he believes Mulder when he says the rubbing is bothering him, so what does he do? Put it up on the big screen.

Mulder is affected by the rubbing because he was once infected with the Black Oil virus back in “Tunguska” (4×9) where he was also treated by a vaccine for the virus developed by the Russians. In the movie, Scully is also infected with the Black Oil virus and is later given a vaccine that was stolen by the Syndicate from the Russians. Will someone please explain to me why only Mulder is affected? Had the second vaccine been tweaked? Was Scully’s version more effective?

Peanut Gallery:

A room full of monkeys in cages where a scientist is murdered? “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23) much?

Chuck Burke! It’s been a while.

Use of recycled movie music – Yes, we know. Again, this is epic.

Skinner just called Scully “Dana.” Somewhere the Skinner/Scully Shippers rejoice.

Clever – We cut directly from Mulder having an attack to Scully looking like she might be having an attack in the hospital in New Mexico. Then that close-up shot of Scully as she hears… what is it? The alarm? Or is she experiencing dissonance too? Ah, it’s the alarm. But, clever. Very clever.

Come to think of it, it might actually have been more fun to watch Scully lose her mind a la “Wetwired” (3×23).

I think I may have upped this episode’s grade just for the discovery of Dr. Merkallen’s body in the trash compactor.

Ah, Scully. I love your new fashion sense but it seems to me a linen suit isn’t going to serve you well on the beach.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: I am just a hired gun for the F.B.I.

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.

The Beginning 6×1: I see your renowned arrogance has been left quite intact.


Puh Puh Puh Poker Face.

Fox Mulder is having a poopy day.

His boss sides against him, his former lover steals his job, and Scully… yes, Scully… leaves him blowing in the wind.

Don’t adjust your T.V. sets. That bright sunlight you see is meant to be there and you are still watching The X-Files. The crew at 1013 is taking advantage of their new filming environment by setting the first episode produced in L.A. in the bright desert of Arizona. If they can’t rely on the built-in atmosphere provided by the Vancouver weather, then they might as well make things interesting by taking the audience to places The X-Files couldn’t really go before, bright places.

Thankfully, the story isn’t any less dark than usual and we pick up right where we left off at the end of the movie, with the Syndicate running experiments on a pre-historic cache of the Black Oil, a version that turns humans into incubators. Unfortunately for one of their scientists, he has been infected with the Black Oil virus and accidentally turned himself into a one-man nursery for a very large, very dangerous alien baby.

But this is television we’ve returned to, not the big screen any longer, and the budget that the movie had for rubber alien suits has dried up. It’s a good thing then that The X-Files’ special talent is scaring its audience to death by showing them… nothing. And the alien attack scenes work all the better for us not being able to see the creature.

Death-by-alien moments aside, the best parts of this episode belong to the recently returned Gibson Praise, particularly when he protects Mulder and Scully from Cigarette-Smoking Man by luring him away from the scene of the alien attack and when he dramatically takes sanctuary in the back of Mulder and Scully’s car while they’re distracted. Although I must say he’s become a little too much the prophet for my taste, revealing to the people the truth of their sins. I’m not sure where he got the idea that countering everything someone says to you by telling them what they’re really thinking is a good way to win friends and influence people, but while he’s at it he should really pass a few chastisements Fox Mulder’s way.

Not that I blindly begrudge Mulder his attitude this episode since his world is falling apart like so many pieces of a burnt X-File.

First, Mulder gets spanked at the O.P.R. panel, a plot device recycled from the movie for the purposes of recycling the movie plot; summer was a long time ago and who knows what the audience doesn’t remember? While it makes for a convenient plot device as far as exposition goes and it also serves to push Mulder and Scully into the proverbial corner, the problem is that the seriousness of the panel belies the inherent silliness of the plot.

Everyone at the F.B.I. knows how crazy Mulder’s theories are and in the context of his working on the X-Files, it’s easier to believe that Mulder could go to Skinner, more his friend than his boss, with a working government conspiracy theory that involves corn, spaceships and bees without being laughed out of his office. But in front of a panel of humorless faces made up of strangers and superiors, it makes both Mulder and the plot of the entire mythology look foolish – more foolish than he’s already supposed to look. It’s hard to believe the F.B.I. would actually cut this man a paycheck.

If that wasn’t enough trouble, Scully has professionally bailed on him. Scully doesn’t remember most of what happened to her in Antarctica other than that Mulder saved the day, and the proof of the alien virus that was supposed to be inside the bee that stung Scully isn’t materializing. And you know Scully, she won’t believe anything until the lab results come in.

That’s who Scully is and she’s not about to change, but after everything they’ve been through Mulder is finally fed up with her denial and his frustration isn’t completely unmerited. He just bared his soul and begged this woman to stay by his side, trekked the frozen North to bring her back from the brink of death, and carried her away from danger as alien monsters snapped their spiky teeth at his heels. No doubt he feels a little entitled to some blind faith from her whether she actually witnessed anything or no. And after he’s finally seen the alien life he’s sought for so long with his own eyes, coming home to the same old act from Scully has to be grating.

Still, that’s no excuse for this:

Mulder: Agent Fowley took me to that plant at great risk to herself, where I saw something that you refuse to believe in, saw it again, Scully. And though it may not say it in her report, Diana saw it too. And no matter what you think, she’s certainly not going to go around saying that just because science can’t prove it, it isn’t true.

Or this:

Mulder: What does it take? For this thing to come up and bite you on the ass? I saw these creatures. I saw them burst to life. You would’ve seen them too, but you were infected with that virus. You were passed out over my shoulder.
Scully: Mulder, I know what you did. I know what happened to me, but without ignoring the science, I can’t… Listen, Mulder… [Grabs his hand] You told me that my science kept you honest, that it made you question your assumptions, that by it, I’d made you a whole person. If I change now… it wouldn’t be right… or honest.
Mulder: I’m talking about extraterrestrial life alive on this planet in our lifetime, forces that dwarf and precede all human history. I’m sorry, Scully, but this time your science is wrong. [Walks away]

Tell me, can you hear me dying from where you are?

Poor Scully. She’s so desperate to make Mulder understand that underneath her skepticism beats the heart of a wannabe believer that she tries to recreate “The Moment”… and Mulder shoots her down.

Coming from the high of the movie where Mulder and Scully were joined in an almost poetic unity a la the greats like Kirk and Spock, to this… Well, it’s like a splash of ice water to the face. I’d almost go back and rewatch Fight the Future to see if what I saw was really what I saw but I just watched it multiple times and I’m quite sure that what I saw was what I saw. I swear, if the events of the film hadn’t happened this would be less painful.

I know that for the sake of television drama Chris Carter couldn’t have Mulder and Scully continue on in such carefree, like-minded bliss. But I’m a closet sap and it’s not even the Shipper in me that this bothers so much, I just hate division between close characters of any kind. I love it when I see teamwork and unselfish love and idealism come through my television set in waves of red, green and blue light. Watching the trust between my favorite team of all wane cold, even temporarily, is like a knife through this grown geek’s heart. And for Mulder to compare Scully unfavorably with Fowley… Thrust the blade in deep and get it over with why don’t you, Chris Carter?

The only benefit to this painful rift I can see is how impressive Scully is throughout it. She behaves as a true friend, giving Mulder not what he asks for or what he wants, but what he truly needs. All along she works behind the scenes to get Mulder the proof that would validate his theories, and his very existence, really. That she does so despite Mulder’s coldness is a testament to her integrity.

I can safely say that Scully is in love with Mulder because if she wasn’t before Antarctica, she is now. You can call me “Mulder” but I don’t need scientific proof of that. It’s understood, woman to non-existent woman. But I love that she compartmentalizes that fact so well, even in the face of Mulder’s emotional rebuffs. It looks like the confidence she gained in their relationship through the events of the movie is still carrying her through, enough that she knows Mulder needs her even when he doesn’t realize it.

Meanwhile, Diana blindly accepts every word that proceeds out of Mulder’s mouth. What does that tell you?

I do like the fact that her character has become more of an enigma. Is Mulder right and she’s a closeted ally? Or is Scully wise to be suspicious of her loyalties? Last we saw her she was shot protecting Gibson, a fact that lends itself to Mulder’s point of view since if she were playing for the other team she would have handed them over. No need for a near death experience. But her coming onto the scene just as Gibson the Boy Wonder is revealed… you’d be crazy not to question her motives.

Her new partner on the X-Files, Agent Spender, is also becoming more interesting. He’s sold his soul to the devil, his own father, CSM. For doing his bidding and making Fox Mulder’s life miserable he probably expects to advance up the ranks in the F.B.I. However, he doesn’t appreciate daddy hovering over him and we can wonder at what point he’ll turn on CSM, career or no career. Meanwhile, Mulder’s greatest antagonist at the F.B.I. now has charge over his precious files.

Or maybe his greatest antagonist is his unsympathetic looking new boss, A.D. Kersh.

And the Verdict is…

I’ve been trying hard to understand why it is I don’t care for this episode even though it gives us so much information and so much drama and, no, it’s not because of anything to do with the Fowley-Mulder-Scully love triangle. Somehow, it’s all a little lackluster. In fact, it’s slow in parts and bogged down by (probably essential) exposition. The climactic hunt in the nuclear plant lacks urgency. Maybe if Mulder and Diana had any real chemistry or if they had done more than watch the alien through a window. Mulder is on the verge of finding all the answers he’s sought. Heck, he actually has tangible proof for once! And yet I find myself not particularly invested. Scully hands Mulder test results confirming alien life and still I find no reason for my butt to leave its comfortable spot on my chair, whereas the best episodes have me squirming in nerdy excitement.

In particular, the big reveal, that the alien monsters from the film and the little green men we’ve seen doubtful glimpses of before are one in the same, is disappointing. Clever, but disappointing. The alien monster is merely a gestational stage; probably its lethality is an evolutionary form of protection while the more vulnerable adult form continues to develop on the inside.  Me, I prefer the scary monster. Can you imagine if the earth were repopulated with those? But that’s a pipe dream. We’ll never see those well-manicured claws again.

I understand why this episode is titled “The Beginning” because there are a slew of changes here and with the pace that new revelations are coming at, it’s clear this is the beginning of the end as well. How Mulder copes with it all remains to be seen, but let’s hope he does what Scully asks and starts trusting her again because that’s not just the foundation of their partnership, it’s the foundation of the X-Files.

His boss secretly aids and abets him, his former lover takes him on a field trip to see an alien, and Scully… yes, Scully… gives him the proof he’s been searching for all these years.

Maybe things aren’t quite so bad after all.

B

Mind Reading:

Why do Mulder and Scully walk away from Gibson to talk as though he can’t read their minds from across the room?

This episode could be subtitled: How Scully Got Her Groove Back Only to Have Mulder Strip it Away Again

Whatever happened to Scully being assigned to Salt Lake City Utah? When she took back her resignation did that plot point just disappear? Did Skinner pull some strings?

Pardon me, but didn’t Scully confirm the existence of alien life in the form of bacteria back in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×23)? Purity Control, anyone? Does switching it to a virus radically change anything?

What exactly did Mulder plan to do once he found the alien? Lasso it?

You know, the joy of having favorite fictional characters like Fox Mulder is that they live on in your mind and memory, timeless. But then there are moments like this, where Mulder openly compares Scully to Diana and finds Scully wanting, that indeed I wish he were real so that I could end his existence.

Even if the DNA from the virus, and from the claw and from Gibson all match normal, junk DNA, does that really prove that DNA is alien? Couldn’t it all just be perfectly human? What if the “aliens” came from us rather than the other way around?

In “The End” (5×20), Chris Carter was moving around his pieces, now he’s called checkmate on Mulder.

Best Quotes:

Assistant Director Bart: These spacelings, Agent Mulder, they weren’t something I saw in Men in Black?
Mulder: …I didn’t see Men in Black.
Assistant Director Bart: Well, a damn good movie.

———————–

Smoking Man: You can kill a man. But you can’t kill what he stands for… Not unless you first break his spirit. That’s a beautiful thing to see.

———————–

Mulder: It’d help if you’d shut the door. It would make it harder for them to see that I’m totally disregarding everything I was told.

The End 5×20: So you two know each other.


"Why, Mulder? Why did they have to bring in The Fowl One?"

I know this show isn’t real. I’m cognizant that I’m having a fictional adventure when I watch it. But I tell you, when that Fowley woman comes on screen I have a visceral reaction. There are unnatural noises and convulsions intermittently mixed with weeping and gnashing of teeth. I’m keenly aware of my irrationality, of the pseudo-inappropriate nature of my response. But it is what it is.

I hate to do it to you, but I’m going to have to Ship here for a moment.

Last episode, we had this sweet, glorious moment where Mulder declares his need for Scully, pronounces her the only person he can depend on, and begs her to be his friend with the puppiest of puppy dog eyes. To take an MSR hungry audience from that kind of a high to such a FOWL low amounts to pop culture cruelty. Chris Carter, thou art guilty.

I still haven’t fully forgiven that man.

Scully has been the woman in Mulder’s life for a good long time now. His sister has been taken from him. He and his mother’s relationship, though loving, is distant. He has no love, no friend, no one who would or could challenge Scully’s place in the hierarchy of his relationships. And based on Mulder’s famous “one in five billion” declaration last episode, Scully feels reasonably secure in her position.

But what if she wasn’t the only “Scully” he ever had? I’m sure the question never occurred to Scully before Diana Fowley came along. Sure, there was Phoebe Green in Mulder’s past, but that relationship was hardly more than misplaced puppy love, and he never trusted her, he only lusted after her. This… this Diana Fowley situation, is much more dangerous.

Even now, after the show has long since ended, we know very little of the history of their relationship except that there was one. Whether it began before or after Diana Fowley helped Mulder uncover the X-Files, we don’t know. Did she walk out of Mulder’s life against his will? With his blessing? No one can say. But what’s painfully obvious is that he trusted her and trusts her still.

Maybe I’m projecting, but I suspect what disturbs Scully most is how secretive Mulder’s being about his past relationship with Diana. There is precious little Mulder holds back from Scully, and it generally either involves the minutiae of a case they’re working on or something relating to her ova. (Alarmingly, I speak the truth here.) So not only does he trust someone else, but he doesn’t trust Scully enough to explain who that someone else is.

Well, he probably doesn’t tell Scully because he’s embarrassed and uncomfortable, but she doesn’t know that.

I’ve said before that Scully senses very early on in Season 1 that Mulder needs her. She validates him, justifies him, humanizes him. David Duchovny once aptly called her Mulder’s “human credential.” And long before Scully was personally invested in the mythology of the X-Files, it was her refusal to abandon a friend who needed her that kept her in the game

More than even knowing she’s needed, Scully likes being needed. Who doesn’t, right? And Mulder’s appreciation of her talents, skill and intelligence validate her and his admiration is about all she has considering the trajectory of her career. But it’s not until Scully begins to consider that Mulder may not need her, or even want her, as much as she thought he did that she seriously contemplates leaving. But now I’m delving into Fight the Future territory.

Despite her ties to the conspiracy that will come to (a very murky) light later on, Diana Fowley never plays a significant role in the mythology at large which I consider a waste. But watching “The End” back again, I begin to believe that she was never meant to. She’s a foil for Scully and merely a tool/weapon to cause tension in a relationship that had already survived the likes of abduction, cancer, and Morgan & Wong. After all, why should they be happy together?

Verdict:

It’s tough for me to admit that I’m not sure how useful this episode really is.  Gibson Praise is presented as the Key to Everything, but how? How would his telepathic abilities unlock all the mysteries of the X-Files? What does he have to do with, say, spontaneous human combustion? Mutant worms? Vampires? Jeffrey Spender’s “Luke, I am your father” moment with Cigarette-Smoking Man is a little anti-climactic since we knew about that already. Worst of all, though I have a low tolerance for love triangles to begin with, Archie, Betty and Veronica not withstanding, this one moves the mythology and the greater plot forward not at all. Not for now, anyway. It does shake Scully’s head out of the sand, however, for which a small and begrudging part of me is grateful.

The plot development that bodes best for the rest of the series is the return of Cigarette-Smoking Man. The mutual uneasy dislike between him and all the other members of the Syndicate is a treat that I wish had been explored further. Though why these men who secretly control the world are incapable of ridding themselves of a 12-year-old without him begs credulity.

There’s a lot to dress up these faults, however, and “The End” grabs your attention if it’s ultimately not very meaningful, thanks in no large part to Mark Snow’s evocative score, parts of which were clearly harvested from the upcoming movie’s soundtrack. It’s exciting if not fulfilling so I can’t be too mad at it.

Like Gibson, Chris Carter is merely moving chess pieces into place with this episode, putting them into position for what would hopefully be a summer blockbuster and a hit season of television beyond. It remains to be seen what kind of play he’s planning to make.

B+

P.S. Stay tuned for the Season Wrap Up where we can’t help but figure out where Mulder and Scully currently stand before the movie comes along and USTs us to death.

Queen’s Gambit Accepted:

This was The X-Files’ last episode shot in Vancouver with the crew that had been their since the beginning. As it was also R.W. Goodwin’s last episode on the show, it was only fitting that he should direct it. All those extras in the chess tournament scene? Yeah. Those were real fans. Philes fill stadiums.

Somehow, this game has been rigged from the beginning by Cigarette-Smoking Man. He’s edging out Mulder and his precious X-Files to make room for his precious Jeffrey. But why does Mulder have to suffer in order for Spender to make a name for himself? And why, even with scientific proof that something’s afoot, is the wunderkind Mulder’s downfall? Surely the powers that be have heard stranger tales from him. Why they’d balk at Gibson Praise of all things is beyond me. You’d think they’d gleefully subject him to further testing.

Fowley isn’t the only one creating tension. If Spender was at odds with Mulder before, now he’s downright antagonistic. And it’s not like Mulder’s attitude is going to help bring them together.

Why does Gibson keep referring to Scully and The Fowl One as “girls?”

Anyone notice that Mulder can’t so much as look Scully in the face when he says, “You know what to do, Diana?” Coward. Traitor. Bastard.

He lets her call him Fox. – There are no words.

For an ever so brief second in the car there, it looks as though Scully might cry.

I spent much of my first viewing of this episode alternately screaming and whining at my television screen. Not much has changed.

Clearly, sadly, frustratingly, the one thinking about Mulder is Diana. And judging by their secret glances during the car ride earlier, she’s the one he’s thinking about too. My only consolation is that Mulder was loath for Gibson to let the truth be known. Is he afraid of Scully’s reaction because he knows she’d be justifiably discomfited to know about he and Diana Fowley’s past relationship? Or does he not want to give Diana the satisfaction of knowing her presence has affected him since he’s too proud to fall back into a relationship with her just because she’s decided to come back after all these years? Either way, I’m slightly comforted by his discomfort.

Best Quotes:

Gibson Praise: I know what’s on your mind. I know you’re thinking about one of the girls you brought.
Mulder: Oh?
Gibson Praise: And one of them is thinking about you.
Fowley: Which one?
Gibson Praise: He doesn’t want me to say.

——————–

Mulder: You’re insulting me when you should be taking notes.

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


The Natural Look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

Dial and smile, Gary.

A-

Zombieland:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

Mulder: Monsters? I’m your boy.

———————

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

———————

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

———————

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