"The Blessing Way"
Written by Chris Carter
Directed by R. W. Goodwin
In which Scully attempts to bring those responsible for Mulder’s fate to justice, while Mulder undergoes a spiritual ritual and gains a new understanding of his quest...
Status Report - Memorable Quotes - Final Analysis
The middle installment of any trilogy is a difficult challenge to tackle, since it must address the issues raised in the first installment while leaving the real resolutions for the last. Considering the strength of the second season finale “Anasazi”, the third season premiere was already facing the daunting task of providing an equally powerful follow-up. Depriving the episode of any reasonable chance of resolution was like asking the writers to perform a miracle.
Perhaps aware of the massive expectations for the episode, Carter takes the story into a completely unexpected direction. Rather than focusing solely on the more overt aspects of the mythology established in “Anasazi”, Carter delves into the rich spiritual lore that was suggested in “One Breath”. That move confounded many fans when the episode first aired, but in the years since, “The Blessing Way” has been granted the respect it deserves.
Matters of spirit within the universe of “X-Files” were never Carter’s strong point, especially since he was more than happy to break with continuity whenever a “high concept” came to mind. Thankfully, that inability to maintain a level of consistency hadn’t set in by the third season, and the focus was more on expanding elements already hinted or established. In this case, Carter melds a desire to honor Native practices more closely with the elements of the hero’s journey.
Central to this episode is the concept of “living memory”. As Albert so concisely puts it, memory is something that is immutable. Memory persists within the physical, within a space that is accessible under the right conditions. In short, Albert reveals in the very first moments of the episode what the entire series is ultimately about: the struggle of true memory over the lies of false history.
This is important to the conspiracy as a whole, because that is where layer upon layer of falsified history have been twisted into dark purpose. Cancer Man stands at the center of all lies, as the one person remaining within the conspiracy with the knowledge of what is really happening. He knows what the Project has always been about, and he was instrumental in developing the framework of deception that has been driving the conspiracy since its inception.
The Teaser can be interpreted as Cancer Man panicking over the loss of the DAT tape, but that’s clearly not what is really happening. Note that the focus is on Mulder’s whereabouts first and the files second. This is because Cancer Man, as noted in the discussion on “Anasazi”, is well aware that Mulder is fated to survive into the future, since Cancer Man knows about the “prophecy” surrounding Mulder and his place in future events.
Retrieving the MJ files is also a continuation of Cancer Man’s gambit to expose Mulder’s support system. By the end of “Anasazi”, Cancer Man had every reason to think that Mulder’s support system had been exposed and effectively dealt with. But with Mulder’s disappearance, it was suddenly very clear that Mulder had additional resources that Cancer Man knew nothing about. The renewed search for the DAT tape and associated files was the logical next step towards identifying those unknown resources.
This is why Scully’s position is threatened immediately after it’s determined that she doesn’t have the DAT tape. Cancer Man hopes to place Scully in a position where she would either expose her own guilt or the unknown agency aiding Scully in hiding the information. For the same reasons, Cancer Man lies to the other Elders of the conspiracy. Not only does Cancer Man want to know how much his allies are aware of his activities, but also whether someone in the conspiracy is Mulder’s unknown resource.
That secret resource, of course, is the power behind Scully’s restoration in “One Breath” and the guiding force behind Albert’s actions in “Anasazi”. This is the same spiritual element that lies behind Samantha’s abduction, as shown in “Closure”. Inherent to that spiritual consciousness is the persistence of memory within that consciousness; what Mulder perceives as spirits of the dead is the totality of those individuals within the whole. Albert is aware that Mulder needs the guidance of that larger universal consciousness, and for that reason, he is ready to perform the task for which he has been called.
Like the classical hero’s journey, Mulder steps into the “lands of the dead” to be reborn in purpose. Through the connection between all things, Mulder taps into the persistent memory-self of Deep Throat and then his father, and they place him back onto his path. Clearly the universal consciousness (of which Deep Throat and Bill Mulder are now a part of) understands that Mulder must resume his path to fulfill his part in future events.
Some find it odd that Bill Mulder would refer to Mulder as his own flesh and blood, and then say that Samantha was not among the dead. This appears to be a contradiction, but that’s not the case. It should be remembered that Bill Mulder is serving a larger purpose, and that purpose is to set Mulder back on his destined path. Mulder needs to believe that Bill is his father, giving sage advice from the grave, and that there is hope of finding Samantha in the physical world. As usual, even those with the best of intentions deceive when it is necessary.
Scully’s own journey begins to flesh out this distinction between manufactured history and living memory. The sudden (and somewhat suspect) discovery of the implant in her neck is like a physical manifestation of that principle: sooner or later, the truth makes itself known. Why the implant should suddenly be detected is not clear, since one would think that it might have been noticed during her time in the hospital following her abduction, but this takes Scully in a direction that she has been avoiding.
The discovery of the implant, however, prompts her sister to direct Scully in the right direction. Scully’s fear of the truth plays into the hands of the conspiracy, because fear and paranoia is a tool of their craft. Melissa, on the other hand, knows quite well that the answers lie within. While Scully’s hypnotherapy session hardly provides new information about her abduction, beyond the fleeting hint of others comforting her during that time, it does renew her connections to the persistent living memory, where her experiences remain untouched. The only real question is one of access, just as Mulder needed to undergo the ordeal of near-death to access that same “space” and commune with the universal consciousness.
Albert and Mulder reinforce that concept, making it clear that all things are linked within the spiritual universal consciousness, the totality of living intelligence throughout time. Albert calls it “the origin place”, because all intelligence, human or otherwise, springs from that same source and returns to it when the physical body perishes. This is the foundation of the series: the power of the living universe to defeat and transcend the fleeting “power” of invented human history.
Cancer Man’s gambit proves fruitful when the Well-Manicured Man contacts Scully about Mulder’s fate. Of course, Well-Manicured Man is not entirely acting against the interests of the conspiracy, but his decision to warn Scully plays into Cancer Man’s hands. Seen in retrospect, this is the beginning of the slow tragedy of the Well-Manicured Man: he understands that the conspiracy is spiraling out of control, and he doesn’t realize that his decision to stem that decline makes him the perfect tool for the real power behind the Project.
In keeping with the exploration of memory, exposed or concealed, Mulder’s confrontation with his mother confirms what “Endgame” merely suggested. As revealed over the course of the series, Teena Mulder knew the truth about Bill’s past and how it resulted in Samantha’s fate. But like in “Endgame”, Teena is unable to live with that memory, so she builds a wall around it. Conscious or otherwise, Teena firmly denies that she knows anything about the conspiracy or Samantha, to the point of accepting Samantha’s return in “Endgame” and failing to help Mulder in this episode.
While the end of the episode plays on the apparent threat to Scully’s life, this is once again a brilliant ruse. Scully’s life is never in danger. Just as Cancer Man is aware of Mulder’s role in the future, he knows that Scully needs to survive. More than that, he knows that the Well-Manicured Man has warned Scully about the danger to her life, and has tapped her phone to determine where that threat will take her.
And so, the scenario unfolds: Cancer Man knows that Scully is still the most likely candidate to lead him to Mulder’s unidentified resources. By tapping Scully’s phone, Cancer Man knows that Scully will not be at home, but that her sister will be coming there. By monitoring Scully’s activities, Cancer Man is likely aware that Melissa pressed Scully into accessing memories of her abduction. The obvious conclusion is that Cancer Man specifically sent Krycek and Cardinal to kill Melissa, to increase the pressure on Scully.
The interesting aspect of this plan is how well it works. Without knowing it, Cancer Man exposes an unknown resource for Mulder: Walter Skinner. And as the episode ends, Carter does a fine job of making it seem as though that plan is about to result in their capture. But the irony is that Cancer Man has actually failed.
Cancer Man knows that the human race is destined to fall prey to the malevolent aspect of the universal consciousness, made manifest in the final form known as the “black oil virus”. But rather than turn to the opposing aspect in his search to fight that future, Cancer Man chooses the material and begins the very Project that results in the creation of the black oil. Having made that tragic choice, Cancer Man cannot see that Mulder’s true resource, the answer to all the questions, is spiritual.
And in that, this episode is the perfect counterpoint to “Anasazi”. The second season ended with the seeming victory of the material lies of the conspiracy over the spiritual quest for truth. “The Blessing Way” turns that victory into defeat, and in the process, describes the spiritual landscape upon which the series is set.
ALBERT: “Their false history is written in the blood of those who might remember and of those who seek the truth.”
SCULLY: “With all due respect, I think you overestimate your position in the chain of command.”
FROHIKE: “He was a good friend…a redwood among sprouts…”
DEEP THROAT: “There is truth here, old friend, if that’s all you seek, but there’s no justice or judgment, without which truth is a vast, dead hollow.”
SKINNER: “Miss Scully, I think you underestimate the duties and responsibilities of my position as Assistant Director.”
ALBERT: “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.”
MULDER: “During my fever, I left here and traveled to a place.”
ALBERT: “This place…you carry it with you. It is inside of you. It is the origin place.”
MULDER: “It wasn’t a dream?”
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…”
SCULLY: “What kind of business are you in?”
WELL-MANICURED MAN: “We predict the future…and the best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
Overall, this episode was the perfect counterpoint to “Anasazi”, and a strong beginning to the third season. The cast sold the difficult concepts well, even when Carter’s overwrought dialogue threatened to drag scenes down. Though not as quickly paced as “Anasazi”, the tone fit the subject matter.
Final Rating: 10/10
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