Tag Archives: The Erlenmeyer Flask

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.

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.

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


The hug heard 'round the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

A

Comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

———————–

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

———————–

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

————————

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

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


Walking in Memphis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reality check, Scully. I believe he is.

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

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

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

Ah, yes. The fight.

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of sex…

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

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

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

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

Scully: Sometimes I wish I were that impulsive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdict:

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

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

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

B

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

Running Commentary:

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

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

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

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

———————

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

———————

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

———————-

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

Herrenvolk 4×1: Don’t unlock doors you’re not prepared to go through.


Eight hours after he left her in the wind...

This will be relatively quick and painless because I spent most of this episode trying to unravel the conspiracy more so than anything else. Consequently, I have more questions than answers.

Last we left off, the Bounty Hunter had cornered Mulder, Scully and Jeremiah Smith. Smith was secretly released by CSM in exchange for curing his cancer, but the Bounty Hunter is still out to exterminate him for revealing his powers by healing people in a public restaurant, therefore risking the project’s exposure.

After a successfully unsettling teaser, we pick up in media res with Mulder scrambling to save Jeremiah Smith and so save his mother, since he believes Jeremiah can heal her. Unfortunately for Mulder’s plans, Jeremiah is too busy to save one woman when he can save the world and he demands that Mulder comes with him so that he can first learn the truth. Why characters in movies and television never tell the truth but invariably insist that in must be seen resulting in the truth never actually coming to light, well, there will never be a reasonable explanation except that what would be the point of making people watch?

I mentioned back in “Talitha Cumi” (3×24) that maybe Chris Carter needed to give us a background primer on all the species and sub-species of alien and clone. Maybe we need a primer on viruses too. I’ll warn you that I’m unqualified to give such a lesson, but I’ll share what I (think I’ve) pieced together so far…

The virus that killed the electrical technician in the teaser was some particularly potent strain of Smallpox. It’s neither the “Purity Control” virus, which we were introduced to back in “The Erlenmeyer Flask” (1×25) or the still to be revealed Black Oil virus (right now the Black Oil is still an enigmatic alien form of sentience). Why the Syndicate is manufacturing Smallpox, I have no idea.

But we do know that up until Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1979, the Syndicate was using Smallpox vaccinations to catalogue and inventory the American public, the inference being that since this is a worldwide conspiracy, international conspirators were making similar arrangements in their home countries. This provides a confirmation of what we learned earlier in “Paper Clip” (3×2), but it still doesn’t tell us what they’re categorizing the public for. The why makes sense since the WHO’s efforts to eradicate the virus would have all but ensured that nearly every child born on the planet would be exposed to the vaccine giving them a built-in cover for the conspiracy.

And kudos to Chris Carter because it’s a nice touch to let Scully solve, at least in part, this aspect of the conspiracy without the help of Mulder. This is how Scully is able to shine this episode when, emotionally, the story is all Mulder’s. Speaking of which, I love that scene where Mulder lays his head on Scully’s shoulder as he mourns his soon to be dead (or so he thinks) mother. It’s so well played by both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. They don’t overdo it, but you can feel Mulder’s anguish and grief and Scully’s responding compassion. This is why I love these two. ❤

Verdict:

X had to go, I suppose, and at least he died in the throes of drama. There wasn’t much left that they could do with his character in terms of developing the mythology plot, though I still feel a twinge of regret that we’re left with so little insight into his motivations. He comes back from the dead in a flashback episode, “The Unusual Suspects” (5×1), couldn’t he have come back again to reveal the origins of his relationship with Deep Throat? Even a few seconds of it?

I’ll miss you, X. I was never much the fan of your successor.

A

Random Musings:

I remember being worried that the writers were about to start something with Mulder and Marita Covarrubias, which would have turned my show into a soap opera. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Though it eventually did turn into a soap opera.

Now, where else have I seen a car crash into a telephone booth… ah yes, The Matrix.

This episode features one of the most aggravating “Mulder Ditches Scully” moments of the series. Where is that man’s sense of timing? “I need you to know that I’m okay, Scully. I’m fine.” Yeah… No one asked how you were doing.

I’m not so sure I buy CSM’s “We can’t turn Mulder’s quest into a crusade” excuse. I’m not so sure why the Bounty Hunter does.

Mulder tells Scully she can’t use her gun on the Bounty Hunter. So what does she do? She immediately pulls her gun on the Bounty Hunter.

Jeremiah Smith doesn’t talk like a human being, he talks like a writer.

I’m hungry.

Random Questions:

Why didn’t Mulder and Smith stop to get gas on the way to the farm when they knew they were headed to the middle of nowhere and might run out?? What’s more, Smith already knew about the bees and that they could kill Mulder. He wouldn’t have poured a tank of gas over his head ahead of time just in case? Those bees were flying around long before the Bounty Hunter started chasing them.

Why give all the Jeremiah Smiths the same name? Isn’t that a tip off?

How did CSM get away with releasing Jeremiah Smith last episode?

The Bounty Hunter can heal so quickly from even mortal wounds, why then is he still covered in bee sting scars at the end of the episode? I suppose this is so we know he’s not just another Jeremiah Smith in disguise?

Best Quotes:

Jeremiah Smith: You have to understand something. I must perish. Whatever the consequences to that end they are incalculable to the preservation of the larger plan.
Mulder: The larger plan? You mean colonization.
Jeremiah Smith: Hegemony, Mr. Mulder. A new origin of the species.
Mulder: I don’t understand.
Jeremiah Smith: I can show you.

———————

Scully: What I’m saying is that I think this protein is a tag. Some kind of genetic marker that was applied to me when I was inoculated against Smallpox as a child.
Senior FBI Agent: Why you?
Scully: Not just me, all of us. Quite possibly anybody who’s been inoculated over the last 50 years.
Second FBI Agent: Agent Scully, frankly, this sounds like something we might have expected from Agent Mulder.

———————

Bounty Hunter: Everything dies.

———————

Marita Covarrubias: Not everything dies, Mr. Mulder.

———————

Scully: Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it. So that’s a place to start. That’s where the hope is.

———————

CSM: You see, the most ferocious enemy is the one who has nothing left to lose. And you know how important Agent Mulder is to the equation.

Guest Post – X-Files: A Shipper Guide, Part 5


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

And with that, take it away, Nina!

Biased, completely personal, with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Tooms

~ It’s amazing how things change, isn’t it?
 – Mulder (Tooms)

Eugene Victor Tooms is one of the most beloved mutants among the Philes, and Tooms is the episode all the Philes recall for two things mostly: the introduction of Assistant Director Walter Skinner[1], a character who would become more and more important in the show, and for the infamous conversation in the car.

Just out of curiosity: what’s the what with Mulder, Scully and stakeouts, anyway? Between Tooms and Pusher one can’t help but wonder!

I remember when I first saw Tooms and the conversation in the car. I remember that my jaw hit the floor. For a moment I really thought they were going to go at it. I mean, usually, when a scene like that happened in another show, next we knew the two lead characters were kissing like there was no tomorrow.

How naive, uh?

Even before the scene in the car, it was clear that Mulder and Scully had truly become partners  at work: there was trust, there was complicity. Scully didn’t hesitate to put herself on the line for Mulder, when talking to Skinner.

She was supposed to be the spy, she was supposed to be the tool to close the X-Files…and yet, there she was, defending Mulder.

Skinner had ordered Scully to make sure things were done by the book, and yet when she went to Mulder, while he was checking on Tooms, it wasn’t the job she was worried about. Do you remember Deep Throat? In the episode she was worried about what she was going to write in her report. She had come a long way from that night…and she showed it.

SCULLY: Mulder, you know that proper surveillance requires two pairs of agents, one pair relieving the other after twelve hours.

MULDER: Article 30, paragraph 8.7?

SCULLY: This isn’t about doing it by the book. This is about you not having slept for three days. Mulder, you’re going to get sloppy and you’re going to get hurt. It’s inevitable at this point.

MULDER: A request for other agents to stake-out Tooms would be denied. Then we have no grounds.

SCULLY: Well, then I’ll stay here. You go home.

(Mulder sighs.)

I’ve always loved how Mulder seemed genuinely concerned about Scully’s career in the scene in the car. I think that was the first time Mulder actually voiced concern about Scully’s career. He had come a long way too from the pilot episode and the infamous lines:

“So, who did you tick off to get stuck with this detail, Scully”

And

MULDER: That’s pretty good, Scully.

SCULLY: Better than you expected or better that you hoped?

MULDER: Well… I’ll let you know when we get past the easy part.

When Scully was assigned to the X-Files, she had basically zero experience on the field, Mulder had seen her becoming a good agent, one whose career he felt the need to protect, feeling his was already in the crapper. The fact that he acknowledged that he had put Scully’s career and reputation and her possible future within the Bureau in jeopardy, spoke volumes of the depth of their bond at that point.

MULDER: They’re out to put an end to the X-Files, Scully. I don’t know why, but any excuse will do. Now, I don’t really care about my record, but you’d be in trouble just for sitting in this car and I’d hate to see you to carry an official reprimand in your file because of me.

After such an opening from Mulder, it was no surprise that Scully felt the need to do the same.

(Scully sighs.)

SCULLY: Fox…

Why did she call him Fox?

Why was she embarrassed while she said his name?

They were venturing into an unknown territory. Mulder and Scully sucked at those kind of emotional displays, if we choose to consider the original timeline of the series, they had been working together for two years, yet, that was the first time either of them opened up that way. Mulder had just told Scully that he valued her work, that he valued her both as a person and an FBI agent and Scully wanted to…open up as well, by calling him Fox.

(Mulder laughs. Scully looks at him.)

MULDER: And I… I even made my parents call me Mulder. So… Mulder.

I think Mulder was panicking. He was surprised by Scully, by the shyness in her voice, and by the sudden turn that conversation was taking…so he panicked. It’s not a fanwank, it’s not fanon…it’s the only plausible explanation I’ve ever been able to give to what he said…

Although I think Mulder fell for Scully at first sight, I really don’t think he was ready to explore the feelings he had for his partner, he didn’t have the energies to focus on anything else that it wasn’t the X-Files.

I believe, I strongly believe that at the time the events of Tooms took place, Mulder was in full denial, as far as his feelings for Scully were concerned.

He had too much going on through his head, his life was devoted to a cause that was not only time consuming but demanding everything out of him. It took him a couple of tragic events to wake up and smell the coffee.

So Mulder panicked, and babbled about making even his parents call him Mulder. Scully, though, needed to tell her truth, for once.

SCULLY: Mulder, I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you.

Mulder’s look when Scully told him those words was priceless: he was floored by Scully’s admission.

In “Squeeze” Mulder had said that the need to mess with people outweighed the milestone of humiliation. While I think that he wasn’t lying to Scully when he  told her that, I also believe that at that point, Mulder needed someone to trust…and needed someone to have faith in him, to trust him.

Mulder had been alone for quite some time, whether it was willingly or not, is not important…his work on the X-Files had slowly shaped into a crusade, I’d wager Mulder felt the loneliness, the frustration that came from being unheard. I don’t think he gave a damn about what people thought of him, but the human need to be believed, especially knowing that he was telling the truth, had to be quite a burden.

He had accepted the loneliness as one of the prices to pay, to sacrifice at the altar of his faith: the truth. He hadn’t lied to Scully when he had said he had a life…the X-files were his life. However, to hear such a line, bearing an implicit trust, a commitment, and mostly faith in him, I think it floored him.

Mulder had another proof that he wasn’t alone in his search, that there was someone who would look for the truth with him, someone who, finally, believed him, believed in him.

MULDER: If there’s an ice tea in that bag, could be love.

SCULLY: Must be fate, Mulder. Root beer.

(Mulder kiddingly sighs.)

You’re delirious. Go home and get some sleep.

He reacted with humor. That’s a coping mechanism Mulder used all the time. When things got difficult he eluded fear and panic with humor.

My God, how much I still love the guy!

I don’t think Scully was hurt by Mulder’s reaction. I mean…c’mon, she had eyes! And she could read him pretty well…she knew that he had gotten the message, and she knew it was appreciated.

Maybe that’s a fanwanking…but I’ve always loved how Mulder didn’t let Scully go after Tooms. On a practical reason, I know it was because of Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy, but to me that was other than a very sweet gesture, just another proof of how protective Mulder had become of Scully…especially if you compare this with such episodes as Ghost in the Machine.

The final scene let us understand that things were going to change very soon, for Mulder and Scully. Mulder watched a caterpillar cocoon and commented on how amazing it was how things changed.

He said a change was coming for them…

Of course he was talking about the X-Files…but the caterpillar cocoon symbolized their relationship as well.

The X-Files had to be shut down, their relationship had to die a little for it to really blossom.

The Erlenmeyer Flask

Aka: they’re shutting us down

~ I should know by now to trust your instincts.

Why? Nobody else does

 – Mulder and Scully (The Erlenmeyer Flask)

The Erlenmeyer Flask was a painful episode for me to watch. It was the first mytharc episode, it was the episode where Deep throat[2] died. Mulder and Scully had their first taste of hell…of the conspiracy in its glory, and they were burned by it, badly.

Scully came to a few important understandings concerning Mulder and his crusade. In the pilot episode he had told her that there were people who were trying to cover up the truth. I’ve always thought that she hadn’t really believed …not even when their motel rooms were burned down…but the episode showed Scully that there was indeed a conspiracy, that Mulder was nowhere near as paranoid as he appeared.

She witnessed things…for the first time and she felt the need to apologize to Mulder, who, on the other hand didn’t think apologies were necessary.

The look in Mulder’s eyes when Scully apologized to him, was priceless…in Tooms she had told him that she wouldn’t put herself on the line for anybody else…and in The Erlenmeyer flask, she told him she believed him, she told him that she trusted his instincts.

They had really come a long way from the pilot episode. In Ice, Mulder had told Scully that he wanted to trust her, but throughout the first season Scully had never really said anything about trust.

Of course, she had showed her trust to him, in such episodes like Young at Heart, EBE, Darkness Falls.

It was somewhat heart breaking to hear Mulder’s reply to Scully’s words: “Why? Nobody else does.”

I love how Mulder, who apparently brushed off Scully’s words, showed how he actually took them into consideration…he showed it when talking with Deep Throat and told him to cut the crap and talk already, to skip the whole Obi-wan kenobi routine…

It showed how Mulder valued Scully’s words, how important they were to him. She had been assigned to the X-Files to be a spy, but in the end she had become his only ally, the only one who would tell him the truth.

But Scully did more than telling Mulder that she trusted his instincts, she risked her career, her life, to save Mulder when he was kidnapped.

At the end of Tooms, Mulder had said he felt a change was near, and never truer words were spoken. The last scene of the first season finale…is heart breaking, the circle closed with two scenes similar to the final scenes of the pilot episode: Mulder called Scully to tell her that the X-Files had been shut down.

They’re shutting us down

There is a world in this line. As much as Chris Carter’s writing became sloppy in the latter seasons, as much as I still have issues with him, the final scene of the last episode of the first season is so powerful that it took my breath away and it still does. The scene is very dramatic, but in pure X-Files fashion is downplayed, to let the viewers absorb the blow.

“They’re shutting us down”

For Mulder, Scully had become part of the X-Files, for Mulder, Scully had become his partner. The X-Files were the core of Mulder’s life… for him to include Scully, to acknowledge her role in them, was a testament of how much she meant to him.

Scully was incredulous at the news: she had really come to love her job, she had really come to an understanding about her job, she knew that she would always be Mrs. Spooky, chasing little grey men, to people, but she knew as well that their job, was important. They had become partners and friends…and their new found strength was taken away from them.

The X-Files were closed, but their relationship was going to enter a new level very soon.


[1]              Played by Mitch Pileggi

[2]              Played by Jerry Hardin

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


Mr. Hosteen says "Hello."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

B+

Comments:

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

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

Best Quotes:

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

——————

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

——————-

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

——————-

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

——————–

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