Tag Archives: The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati

The Sixth Extinction 7×3: Some truths are not for you.


Don't be subtle or anything, Mulder.

It’s tough being a middle child and “The Sixth Extinction” is the somewhat forgotten child sandwiched between two attention-hungry siblings. “Biogenesis” (6×22) is about the origins of the universe while “The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati” (7×4) contemplates the coming of the messiah. (Grandiose much?) Bracketed by such life-altering concepts, what job is left for “The Sixth Extinction” to take over?

What I like about this one is that it’s more action oriented than either of the other episodes. Between the plagues, the apparitions, the zombie… Chris Carter was clearly trying to bring the show back to its creepy roots and I appreciate that.

I also wholeheartedly welcome the return of Michael Kritschgau. One wonders what his character must have felt when, after all Kritchgau did for him, giving up his job and his reputation to testify for Mulder, Mulder stops listening to him and turns back to his alien ways. Briefly the thought crosses my mind, “Since when was his character involved in Remote Viewing experiments and since when did Mulder know that?” but it’s quickly hushed. Maybe Mulder can read minds from across the city. I don’t care. What’s a plot point or two between friends?

And some might find his scenes in the hospital with Mulder and Skinner boring, but I think they’re a lot of fun. It’s always a treat to see Skinner get in on the action and I believe his heavy presence here is a harbinger of things to come this season. He doesn’t get his own episode, per se, but he comes out from behind his desk in a major way. I’m also surprised to hear him admit so freely his belief that Mulder’s disease is extra-terrestrial and I suddenly realize that while Skinner’s been involved in the mythology of The X-Files since Season 1, he’s always been on the human side of the plot. To my recollection, he’s never said one way or the other whether he believes the Syndicate’s conspiracy was hiding the truth about alien life, though I suppose his support of Mulder all these years is evidence to that effect.

As for Mulder, I’m dying to know what he’s thinking now that he knows what everybody else is thinking. Ultimately, mind reading is a power I wouldn’t want. Some things are better not to know. But I relish the chance to experience it vicariously and watch Mulder waste away in (mostly) silent angst.

I may even have to rethink my position on that cut scene from “Biogenesis” where Mulder confronts Diana Fowley. Yes, that knock-down, drag-out would have been awesome. But if it had happened in the previous episode I would have been robbed of the thrill of realizing that when Mulder says, “They’re coming,” it’s Diana he’s referring to. Oh, how vindicated I still feel to finally know once and for all that he’s onto her.

Now we come to what I think is the most interesting part of this episode, and not just because I’m a Shipper. Carter sets up two scenes of bedside vigil for the dying Mulder, one with Diana Fowley and one with Scully. We’re invited to compare and contrast their reactions to Mulder’s condition, to the answers that he’s found, and the knowledge that he has, even the knowledge of their own thoughts.

Fowley professes her love for Mulder, and since we know she knows that he knows what’s going on inside her head, she must be telling the truth. She also confesses her allegiance to the Cigarette-Smoking Man, which she defends, though at least she has the grace to look a little embarrassed about it. Most importantly of all, she reveals what sounds like her primary motivation: she and Mulder can be together now that he knows the truth.

Maybe it’s just me, but I get the impression that she’s wanted to tell Mulder all of this all along but couldn’t either because to do so would be to betray her mission within the Syndicate or because she knew how Mulder would react and that she’d lose him forever. Now she’s hopeful that since he can see into her motivations and her reasons, he’ll understand and agree and they can walk into colonization hand in hand, two alien-human hybrid lovers together forever.

Does this woman creep anyone else out?

Seriously. I was having flashbacks of Kathy Bates in Misery. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not so cold-hearted that I don’t feel bad for her. But it’s plain now that she’s doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. She loves Mulder, yes, but it’s a selfish sort of love. She doesn’t want what’s best for him, she wants him for herself. All this time she’s been plotting and scheming, or going along with someone else’s plots and schemes, in hopes that one day she could have Mulder for good with out any pesky alien colonization getting in the way.

Since Mulder plays possum the entire time she’s in the room, I’m going to put it out there and say her chances are looking slim. It’s hard to say what Mulder’s thinking at that moment, but the fact that he masks his awareness in front of Fowley tells us all we need to know. However sincere her feelings may be, he can’t trust her; she’s still on the wrong side.

By contrast, we can see Mulder struggling to focus on Scully when he realizes she’s coming into his hospital room. And what does Scully do when she reaches him? Does she pounce on his silence as an open opportunity to confess her love? No. All she does, all she beautifully, perfectly does is beg him to live. That’s it. She just needs him to hang on.

I don’t even need to comment further – the selflessness speaks for itself.

Verdict:

I have to say that “The Sixth Extinction” is better than I remembered. I’m still not and never will be sold on the premise. (Was the aliens’ master plan to throw the world into confusion by inundating them with conflicting doctrines? Is this a Tower of Babel scenario? Create disunity so mankind can’t get up to too much mischief?) It feels absurd in a way that even alien abductions and a conglomerate of rich old men running de-humanizing tests on an unsuspecting public didn’t. Methinks the origin of life is too vast a topic to handle in primetime. But if you’re going to do something, do it well, and the scope of this production ultimately keeps my interest even if I’m not jumping up and down with excitement.

The focus is quickly shifting from God, aliens, and the origins of the universe to Mulder and the personal consequences of his quest. Early on in the episode, even in his tired state, he seems excited about what he is, happy despite all his suffering to have become the proof he’s been searching for all this time. And yet I start to wonder.

Kritschgau: How far should it go?! How far would Mulder go?!

He’s dying. Mulder has proven many times before that he’s willing to die in this fight, to die for his cause, but does he actually want to? Is it possible that even Mulder, trapped as he is in silent torture, has a limit?

Ah, but then just when I find myself ready to get excited at the emotional possibilities… This.

Dr. Ngebe: It is the word of God.

Oh, for the love of…

B+

Comments:

Hmm. Scully’s hair grew and Mulder’s hair shrank.

Mad props to David Duchovny for best performance of a mute paralytic ever.

Whatever else we get or don’t get from this episode, Scully wielding a machete is pretty cool.

Mulder wrote that note to Skinner awfully neatly for a psychotic man writing in his own blood.

I love that brief shot we get of Skinner from the POV of Mulder’s strapped down leg. It emphasizes how vulnerable Mulder currently is.

Scully looks awfully fresh for a woman who’s just come off of a 22-hour flight.

Scully’s continuing monologue in Mulder’s direction reminds me very much of “Memento Mori” (4×15), only this time Mulder’s the one that’s dying.

The last time Scully was confronted in a car by a supernatural apparition of a black man? “Fresh Bones” (2×15). I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that I can say, “The last time.”

Questions:

I wonder why Mulder attacks Skinner in order to give him the note. Perhaps he didn’t want the doctors, and therefore Diana, to know what he was thinking?

Why is Scully’s tent clean from the outside even though it’s a white tent and bugs are sticking to the inside of the material?

Kritschgau is no longer in the military so where did he find or how did he afford this equipment to test Mulder with? And how did they sneak it into the hospital?

When she threatens him with a machete, Dr. Barnes says to Scully, “Word is you’re under suspicion already!” Suspicion of what?? Killing Dr. Merkallen? He was dead before she came on the case. Killing Dr. Sandoz? She was back in D.C. by then. Is this just a haphazard attempt on Dr. Barnes’ part to deflect suspicion off of himself?

Why would Scully go all the way to the F.B.I. to find out if Mulder’s still at the hospital? You’re a doctor. Call the hospital.

Gibson Praise, well over a year ago, described what it feels like to read minds as hearing lots of different radio stations on at the same time in your head, which seems to be exactly what Mulder’s experiencing. I wonder then, why didn’t Gibson experience side effects? Was his body already used to it because he was born that way? Had his ability been triggered by something alien as well? CSM did brain surgery on Gibson back in the day much in the same way that he’s about to do it on Mulder. What would make this surgery a more successful attempt at hybridization? Is it because Mulder was previously infected with the black oil?

Best Quotes:

Scully: He’s not dying.
Skinner: I’m afraid it’s true.
Scully: He’s not dying. He is more alive than he has ever been. He’s more alive than his body can withstand and what’s causing it may be extraterrestrial in origin.
Skinner: I know. But there’s nothing to be done about it.
Scully: [Turns to leave]
Skinner: They’re going to deny you access.
Scully: Maybe as his partner… but not as his doctor.

Talitha Cumi 3×24: My justice is not for you to mete out.


Miming makes a comeback.

Let’s get the episode’s only major issue out of the way first. We already knew that Bill Mulder had a close association with CSM in the past. The inference in “Paper Clip” (3×2) is that Teena Mulder wasn’t completely oblivious to her husband’s work. But now we learn that she and CSM has an association of their own… And so the seed is planted. Did CSM and Teena Mulder have an affair? He sure insinuates it. Is Mulder really a Mulder? And what about Samantha?

For those on their first watch through the series, don’t hold your breath waiting for answers. They’re still a few seasons into the future.

But back to the episode at hand.

For once, what’s driving Mulder isn’t his search for the truth, it’s his desire to save his mother. He wants to find Jeremiah Smith because he hopes that he’ll be able to lay hands on his mother and heal her. Even when Jeremiah Smith offers to show him things that would uncover the greater conspiracy, Mulder resists with impatience because that’s not what he’s concerned about at the moment.

Mulder gets flack in the fan community sometimes for his single-mindedness and the disturbing lack of concern for those around him that can follow from it. But the truth is, Mulder does care, almost to the point of recklessness, for a few people in his life. He’s done similar things before. Back in “Paper Clip”, he had a disk in his possession (or rather Skinner had it for him) that would have given him all the answers about alien life and the conspiracy at large that he was looking for. But he gave that up so that Scully could go to her dying sister’s bedside. Then in “One Breath” (2×8) he forgoes the chance to confront the men who abducted Scully and potentially beat some answers out of them as to the nature of the conspiracy, but again he doesn’t and instead goes to comfort an unconscious Scully. The man’s all heart, really.

Probably Mulder gets a more three-dimensional treatment in this one because this is another one where David Duchovny’s name is in the story credits. You can also sense his influence in the episode’s religious themes. In the same way that he’ll later weave The Last Temptation of Christ  into the story of “The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati” (7×4), here the famous parable of The Grand Inquisitor from The Brothers Karamazov is taken, in some places word for word, and fashioned onto the head of the mythology. I couldn’t appreciate that before since I had never read The Brothers Karamazov (which I highly recommend, by the by) but even though I can recognize its recreation in those prison scenes between Jeremiah Smith and CSM, I’m still not sure I find it compelling.

Probably some background information is in order for those who are unfamiliar with Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. In this chapter of the book, two of the brothers are having a conversation about faith and God. One is an agnostic and the other a true believer. The agnostic brother tells a tale that takes place during the Inquisition, where Jesus comes back to earth and performs miracles, including a repeat of the “Talitha Cumi” miracle from Mark 5:41-42 (Talitha Cumi means “Maiden, arise.” in Aramaic). Oddly enough, while the masses are thrilled to see Jesus, some of the leaders of the Church aren’t so happy. You see, they’ve decided that salvation and truth isn’t real freedom at all. Instead, man is happiest when he’s controlled and the Grand Inquisitor is happy to control them, giving them true freedom from care.

The arrogance of the Grand Inquisitor is that he thinks he has “corrected” Jesus’ work. The arrogance of CSM is that he too, a mere man, believes he has the right or the ability to control mankind. I like the parallels made here but I’m not completely sold. CSM could very well be a modern Grand Inquisitor but Jeremiah Smith is no Jesus, he’s a clone created by CSM and his cronies. It would be more compelling, I think, if Jeremiah Smith were an alien himself whose plans for colonization CSM was not only subverting but commandeering. But I’m just being nitpicky now.

I’ve questioned before the Syndicate’s motivations in creating and maintaining the conspiracy. Evil as they are, might they not have started out with good intentions? Out of the desire to preserve the human race? Not if we’re to believe CSM. They don’t want truth to get out because they want control and they’ve deluded themselves into thinking that they want it for the good of mankind. Then again, you can never really believe CSM.

Mulder’s quest for alien life has always been pseudo-religious but here that idea fleshed out a little further. Mulder is indeed on the side of the angels. The truth may be more difficult, but there’s a freedom that you can only have in realizing the truth and bearing your cross that’s unavailable to the willfully or unknowingly ignorant.

Verdict:

I want to love this episode for its depth but instead I just like it. It’s certainly a good show, but once again very little that we’ve already learned about the mythology is made clearer. Instead new questions are raised.

One thing especially isn’t clear: Who is Jeremiah Smith? From what I’ve watched/read and been able to deduce, he’s another clone like the ones we saw in “Colony” (2×16), but an upgraded version. He has the ability to shapeshift and heal others. In an plot thread that’s explored more in Season 4, these clones are used as workers in specific areas, mindless drones merely serving to advance colonization. Whatever they are, apparently they’re not the kind of alien-human hybrid that the Syndicate is ultimately trying to create. Between the Black Oil, the Bounty Hunter, Clones and Drones maybe Chris Carter should given us an episode that was purely a primer on alien and sub-alien species.

Beyond all that, we get some great performances here from all involved. Scully doesn’t have much to do but she’s sympathetic toward Mulder in his situation without being cloying. The walls are closing in on X and he’s taking increasingly risky moves, like brawling with Mulder in a public parking lot (a scene that’s been a long time coming). And CSM shows actual concern over a real live human being, namely Teena Mulder who in turn has more knowledge about the conspiracy than we ever realized.

All in all, a good show.

A-

Nagging Questions:

CSM lets Jeremiah Smith out so that he can heal him of lung cancer, at least that’s what it looks like we’re supposed to infer. But why would he do that when he could have had the Bounty Hunter heal him? Oh, wait. I’m not supposed to know about that till next episode. Nevermind.

What did CSM really want from Teena Mulder? Surely it wasn’t just that weapon. He could have turned that place upside down looking for it rather than consult her. It’s not like she would have reported him since she never went near the place.

Nagging Comments:

I doubt Jeremiah Smith would’ve had an audience in that fast food joint. Once the shooting started, people would’ve run for the hills, not waited around to watch him heal everyone.

The religious symbolism continues – The name “Jeremiah” is also that of a famous Biblical prophet and the traditional author of both the Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations. His primary message was that the children of Israel had to turn from their sins or face judgment, that they needed to stop listening to false prophets who were purposefully giving them false hope, a message for which he was famously attacked and persecuted. He’s known as the “weeping prophet.”

How about that Mark Snow, eh? The soundtrack that’s playing when Mulder discovers the weapon is fabulous.

My understanding is that at this point, a movie was already in the works, which forced Chris Carter to plan the mythology a few years into the future. You can tell that there’s still light at the end of these story arc, or at least, you can still believe there will be.

The date for colonization is set! I’d type out what it is but, you know, spoilers and all that.

Best Quotes:

Teena Mulder: I have nothing to say to you.
Smoking Man: Really? We used to have so much to say to each other. So many good times at the Mulder summer place… your kids young and energetic. I remember water-skiing down there with Bill. He was a good water-skier, your husband. Not as good as I was but then… that could be said about so many things, couldn’t it?
Teena Mulder: I’ve repressed it all.

——————–

Scully: Where are you going?
Mulder: If I told you, you’d never let me go.

——————–

Smoking Man: Who are you to give them hope?
Jeremiah Smith: What do you give them?
Smoking Man: We give them happiness and they give us authority.
Jeremiah Smith: The authority to take away their freedom under guise of democracy.
Smoking Man: Men can never be free, because they’re weak, corrupt, worthless and restless. The people believe in authority. They’ve grown tired of waiting for miracle and mystery. Science is their religion. No greater explanation exists for them. They must never believe any differently if the project is to go forward.
Jeremiah Smith: At what cost to them?
Smoking Man: The question is irrelevant, and the outcome inevitable. The date is set.

——————–

Smoking Man: You think you’re god. You’re a drone, a catalogue, chattel.
Jeremiah Smith: What you’re afraid of is… they’ll believe I am God.
Smoking Man: Well that doesn’t matter. Most of them have ceased to believe in God.
Jeremiah Smith: Why?
Smoking Man: Because God presents them with no miracles to earn their faith.
Jeremiah Smith: You think when man ceases to believe in miracles he rejects God?
Smoking Man: Of course.
Jeremiah Smith: You rule over them in God’s name.
Smoking Man: They don’t believe in Him, but they still fear Him.