Written by Chris Carter
Directed by R. W. Goodwin
In which Mulder uses his apparent death to mask his infiltration of the conspiracy in the hopes of finding a cure for Scully’s cancer, while Scully tracks down the truth about her illness...
Status Report - Memorable Quotes - Final Analysis
With the beginning of the fifth season, Chris Carter and 1013 had it easy. The season was to be shortened from 22+ episodes to 20 episodes, since the extra time would be needed for final work on the feature film, which would essentially serve as the true season finale (and the capstone to the mythology arc since “Paper Clip”). If there was ever a chance to establish clear character arcs and keep the mythology within clearly defined bounds, this was the season. As it would turn out, the popularity of the series and the desire by the network to keep it going beyond the fifth season would prove to be the series’ downfall; it would force the writers to move beyond the reasonable and complicate the mythology even more.
However, at the time that “Redux” was written, the mythology was still more or less locked down, having been worked out early in the fourth season for the feature film. Carter knew where the story was going, and wanted to have Mulder and Scully in the most psychologically compromised position possible. Indeed, at the end of “Gethsemane”, things were looking rather grim. Mulder was having something of an epiphany about the scope of the conspiracy and his part as its dupe, while Scully’s health was degrading on an hourly basis.
The point, from Carter’s point of view, was to place Mulder in a position to doubt the existence of aliens, only to get final confirmation of Purity and its role in the conspiracy in “Fight the Future”. Similarly, Scully would be at a point where the cost would be so high by the time they were reassigned that moving on would be an option. The rapport between Mulder and Scully would be caught up in the dynamic as well; the film, as the end of their arc, would be the culmination of their slow build towards expressing their growing feelings for one another.
As with most of the mythology episodes, previous interpretations regarding the goals and policies of the conspiracy and Cancer Man pertain directly to the interpretation of the current episode. Therefore, the speculation and interpretation outlined in previous reviews are assumed to be familiar to the reader. In particular, the summary of the mythology given in the review for “Herronvolk” is critical to the analysis of this episode, as well as the conjecture in “Momento Mori” and “Gethsemane”.
In keeping with the title, this episode is all about giving context to the end of the fourth season finale’s last moments. The result is an episode that technically doesn’t go anywhere new, but delves far more deeply into the implications of “Gethsemane” on Mulder, Scully, and the mythology. “Gethsemane”, it seems, was the surface of a much deeper ocean; “Redux” covers what lies under the surface. While that allows Carter to demonstrate how well the mythology has been layered, in that every answer simply uncovers a new tangle of question and deceits, it’s also a bit dry to hear a series of voiceovers while plot elements are tossed out at a blistering rate.
For those looking for character development, it’s mostly deferred to the second half of the premiere. This is all about the mythology. While Mulder finds more and more reason to question his own assumptions, Scully begins to find evidence that supports extreme possibilities. It’s a nice reversal, and it helps to give the investigation scope and meaning. The audience is given a more logical reason for accepting the end of “Gethsemane”, even if some major concerns are waved away.
The very first scene is meant to sell the idea that Mulder was convinced that Kritschgau’s evidence was compelling enough to reverse his long-standing beliefs. The fact that the evidence came after Mulder endured months of life-altering revelations questioning nearly every assumption in his life doesn’t come into direct play. It certainly appears as though Mulder is contemplating suicide, but events conspire against it. This is a character nuance that’s still hard to swallow; Mulder is nothing if not dedicated to uncovering whatever truth seems to be waiting for discovery.
A timely conversation with Kritschgau, however, points Mulder in the direction of the man monitoring him from the apartment above and reveals the true source of his suicidal thoughts. The man, Ostelhoff, has been keeping an eye on him for at least two months, possible longer. Using such obvious methods smack of the Syndicate; the Elders never seem to do anything with subtlety, and they couldn’t have been more obvious in their methods if they tried. This scene does, however, confirm on some level that Kritschgau is working for Cancer Man. Cancer Man would have a vested interest in trying to give Mulder a way out, a direction to divert his energies. Ostelhoff is a perfect example, because it gives away a part of the conspiracy that doesn’t jeopardize his overall plan.
While that is a tenuous speculation and interpretation at best, Mulder’s suicidal thoughts are directly tied to Scully’s fate. Despite the fact that it’s been staring him in the face for years, only now (at his psychologically worst mental state) does he realize that Scully might be dying to send a message to him. Mulder is always a bit self-absorbed, but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that people around him are dying and suffering because it helps rein him in.
The conspiracy’s methods alert Mulder to the fact that someone in the FBI, in tandem with the military, has been working with the conspiracy since the beginning. It’s not entirely clear why this is a shock to Mulder or Scully, since as early as the first episode, they were aware of interference from within the FBI. Mulder comes up with a simple scheme: allow everyone to believe he’s dead so he can operate freely to gather evidence against the conspiracy’s FBI operative.
To accomplish this, Scully must convincingly lie about Mulder’s death. This is not an easy concept to accept, because Scully is not the best liar, especially when it comes to genuine reactions to a false reality. The fact that Skinner sees right through her deception is a testimony to that; it’s as if Carter is asking the audience to accept the possibility that Scully can lie to the FBI review board because of her anger over the thought of a traitor. But if Skinner is the obvious choice, wouldn’t that give her more resolve to lie to him? It’s all a bit convenient, a way to get around the trouble caused by the cliffhanger.
Blevins is the conspiracy’s FBI operative, and as such, he has a vested interest in knowing who it was that gave Mulder information. After all, the conspiracy needed to contain the information about the corpse because it was all too real, and thus outside of the conspiracy’s understanding of the “alien” threat. Kritschgau was sent to ensure that the evidence confirming the veracity of the corpse was destroyed, and to make sure that Mulder saw only enough to suggest truths easily debunked. Kritschgau actually went a little further, because that would work to Cancer Man’s advantage. Kritschgau is therefore a threat to the conspiracy, because the conspiracy wants Mulder to believe, thus fulfilling his role as a disinformation source.
When Mulder runs into Kritschgau in the DOD Advanced Research facility, he immediately tells Mulder what it gives him access to and what he could potentially find: a cure for Scully. This wouldn’t help the conspiracy at all (Scully is perceived as a threat at this point), but it helps Cancer Man tremendously. After all, Cancer Man promised a cure; how much better is it if he gets to counter the desires of the Syndicate by letting Mulder do it for him? Cancer Man wants Scully alive with the control chip in her neck, and since that is the key to her recovery, pointing Mulder in that direction would be the best move.
Of course, the very next scene implies that Cancer Man is unaware of Mulder’s survival. That’s entirely possible. His grief appears genuine, as it would be for someone who had pinned all his hopes and dreams on a son that might now be dead. Having already sacrificed Samantha and lost her, under circumstances of abduction extremely similar to what Mulder recalls, Cancer Man now faces the possibility that all his plans and schemes have backfired. Kritschgau, on the other hand, is still operating under previous orders, thus pointing Mulder to Scully’s cure as intended.
The evidence leads Scully to Skinner, which is entirely logical after the events of “Zero Sum”, since the writers had established that Skinner was capable of deception when it suited his purpose. In this case, it’s fairly obvious that Skinner is not the conspiracy stooge (at least, not to the degree necessary to fool and manipulate Mulder all this time). But like “Zero Sum”, this is more about Scully discovering (though she should already know) that every the most likely ally could be the enemy in disguise.
Like “Gethsemane”, Kritschgau lays out the depth and breadth of the conspiracy’s true purpose. In essence, Kritschgau is telling Mulder information that is equal part truth and equal part lies; it’s entirely possible that it is reality as Cancer Man has explained it to Kritschgau. After all, Cancer Man knows that Purity is not “alien”, and so Kritschgau is telling the truth in that regard. Kritschgau is just unaware that the evidence is not fabricated.
Thus Kritschgau takes established military and DOD history and places it in the context of experimentation designed to create the perfect soldier, hidden behind a cover story about aliens and flying saucers. Indeed, the entire Project is all about creating super-soldiers (convenient how the fans who hated the later seasons forget how often this concept entered the early mythology), so Kritschgau is not wrong.
Kritschgau’s “germ warfare” is the excuse he was logically given to explain away the existence of Purity, a threat from the future instead of the depths of space. It also explained, for Kritschgau, the Gulf War Syndrome; in reality, that was the effect of Purity Control. Wars were initiated for the testing of weapons technology, and in the case of the early 1990s, the Persian Gulf Conflict helped perfect the nanotech-enhanced super-soldiers and the effects of the experimental vaccines on human populations.
The genetic experiments, meant to create an organic analogue to the nanotech super-soldiers, were easily tied to the reproductive experiments conducted on female abductees. Kritschgau could say these things with conviction because the lies provided to him were hidden within the truth. The genetic experiments were all about controlling and manipulating human DNA. And because it was the truth, Mulder had seen and heard plenty of evidence (going back to “Paper Clip”), making it possible for him to believe what Kritschgau was telling him.
The scene between the Syndicate Elder and Cancer Man place events in perspective. The conspiracy was watching Mulder to ensure that he could be controlled once Scully was out of the picture. Cancer Man, aware that Scully was necessary to his plans, had no intention of letting her die. The division between the Syndicate and Cancer Man now comes to full bloom. Cancer Man is to the point where he can no longer allow the conspiracy to control Mulder. He must find a way to move Mulder into his corner. Thus Kritschgau’s effort to show Mulder how the conspiracy has used him. Cancer Man wants to use the truth as a means of recruiting his favored son to the cause.
The implication of Dr. Vitagliano’s comments regarding the chimera cells from the Yukon ice cores would be that the cells were viable and could eventually grow into the “alien” corpse that was supposedly a fake. But that’s not necessarily the case. The chimera cells would be ideal for a form of life with an adaptive physiology, which would be the case for one of the shape-shifting biological super-soldiers. That would be consistent with the interpretation of the evidence in “Gethsemane”. As it stands, the writers toss that out without any real explanation, letting the suggestions add up to assumptions by the audience.
By the time Mulder is looking at a room filled with grey-skinned aliens, he is convinced that finding a cure for Scully means that everything Kritschgau told him is entirely true. It’s a certainty that Mulder has no logical reason to feel. If he believes that one set of lies was constructed to fool him into a false faith, why would he immediately replace that belief with firm conviction in another set of possible lies? Why not simply conclude that he can only have faith in his own conclusions and evidence?
The fact that Scully’s cancer, caused by branched DNA, is related to the virus contained within the extracted chimera cells is an important connection. The chimera cells are a part of the biological nanotech of the shifters themselves, the product of human genetic engineering. The reproductive experiments on abductees are meant to result in either clones (who are copies of clones of the original Rebel shifters) or naturally gestated biological super-soldiers (the precursors of the shifters). Scully’s discovery instantly establishes a link between these aspects of the mythology.
As expected, it doesn’t take long for someone to discover that the body in Mulder’s apartment is really Ostelhoff. The fact that it’s Skinner only adds to the tension, since Scully is convinced that Skinner is a tool of the conspiracy. Skinner has the chance to prove himself to Scully by helping her keep Mulder’s survival under wraps, but since he doesn’t offer his allegiance, Scully is left with only one option: providing the evidence that links the apparent product of a government hoax (the chimera cells) to her own cancer. At the very least, Scully would have struck at the heart of the conspiracy’s true design, even beyond what the Syndicate believes it to be.
With Mulder in the process of finding a cure for Scully’s cancer, his luck runs out. The conspiracy discovers his access. As Scully goes before the review board, ready to expose the conspiracy’s FBI operative, Cancer Man ensures that Mulder will escape. Cancer Man has made a conscious choice to act against the Syndicate to ensure that Mulder and Scully both survive, and thus he openly demonstrates that his goals are not aligned with the conspiracy.
Of course, the episode cannot end without taking the plot at least one step forward from where it was at the end of “Gethsemane”. Scully faints, unable to continue, thanks to the effects of her cancer, before she can accuse the conspiracy’s lackey. Mulder gets the vial with Scully’s cure to the Lone Gunmen, only to discover that the vial is apparently empty. While Scully’s timing is impeccable, it’s at least consistent with all the references to her failing health. It makes no sense for Mulder to miss the fact that there might be a solid object in the vial, except to make the situation look even more dire than it is.
Ultimately, “Redux” is all about taking the hints about the mythology given in “Gethsemane” and fleshing them out, making Kritschgau’s claims and Mulder’s acceptance of them more reasonable. At the same time, Scully is supposed to be finding reason to believe in something beyond accepted science. Mulder’s conversion comes across as a bit too quick, a bit too complete, but there’s a lot of guilt over Scully’s condition driving his assumptions and conclusions.
Because it covers established ground, there’s less of the layering of plot and character development that gave “Gethsemane” such emotional punch. This is an exposition dump, and considering the amount of time spent on the various voiceovers, it’s not the most exciting episode in the world. This episode is meant, perhaps, to appeal to the intellectual concerns of the audience, answering in almost clinical fashion some of the questions from the previous episode. The heart of the story is left unaddressed until the next episode, when Mulder and Scully are finally reunited.
Hidden within the episode is an interesting piece of information, however. When Kritschgau tells Mulder that he might find what he wants the most, Mulder’s immediate answer is a cure for Scully’s cancer. One might have expected that he would say something about finding Samantha or the truth about her abduction. This apparent shift in priority is an important step in their relationship. Mulder has become aware of the fact that Scully has suffered greatly for his cause, far more than he has been concerned with it in the past.
At the same time, Mulder is now unsure of the possibility of finding Samantha at all, since much of his hope had hinged on the possibility of a paranormal explanation: alien abduction. If aliens aren’t real, in the absence of any other explanation, Mulder no longer has a source of hope. He must conclude that Samantha was abducted by the government for the tests they wanted to conduct. In the end, this is proven to be correct; however, there’s the rather important matter that an alien intelligence did “abduct” Samantha. The spiritual forces that have provided aid to Mulder and Scully in the past “removed” Samantha to preserve her for her role in the future.
Of course, Mulder doesn’t know any of that, and he’s had reason to doubt his ability to find Samantha in the past. As episodes like “Paper Hearts” demonstrate, Mulder already had questions about his recovered memories. By this episode, he has evidence to suggest that those memories were at least partially implanted. So now Samantha is no longer the central focus of his life; it’s now about saving Scully’s life and uncovering the conspiracy that destroyed his family.
Carter was probably aware that this episode, as the middle installment of a trilogy, couldn’t resolve enough to make the audience entirely pleased. A weak season premiere was in cards as a result; even with the titles making it clear that the next episode is a direct continuation of this episode, by airing it separately, it doesn’t flow as naturally as intended. So this episode, really meant to set up the plot elements of the second (third) part of the story, seems to be a long journey for such slight progression of the plot.
Since it deals mostly in exposition, this episode highlights one of the oddities of any Chris Carter effort: overly pretentious dialogue. More than ever, the endless voiceovers seem to indicate that Mulder and Scully think in such a convoluted manner that it’s no shock that they forget half of what they uncover. In this case, it’s not just the voiceovers that boggle the mind; some of the spoken dialogue is just as obtuse and unnatural.
“Gethsemane” was layered with an astonishing amount of symbolism and character development; “Redux II” would focus on a wealth of character and plot resolution. While “Redux” is certainly full of information, it doesn’t compare well to the other episodes of the trilogy. It also doesn’t help that the most straightforward explanation of the conspiracy of the entire series is focused, from Carter’s point of view, on a false version of the mythology.
MULDER: “Keep going, FBI woman!”
SCULLY: “That would mean that for four years, we’ve been nothing more than pawns in a game, that it was a lie from the beginning…”
MULDER: “Let the truth be known, though the heavens fall…”
MULDER: “But I’ve seen aliens…I’ve witnessed these things.”
KRITSCHGAU: “You’ve seen what they wanted you to see. The line between science and science fiction doesn’t exist anymore. This about control of the very elements of life: DNA…yours, mine, everyone’s.”
SCULLY: “If science serves me to these ends, it is not lost on me that the tool which I’ve come to depend on absolutely cannot save or protect me…but only bring into focus the darkness that lies ahead.”
Overall, this episode suffers from being the middle installment of a trilogy, lacking in any real sense of resolution. Carter provides a great deal of information, but exposition-heavy episodes are rarely exciting, and at times, the writing makes everyone sound pretentious. This is a good episode in terms of learning more about the scope of the conspiracy, but the real emotional progress is made in the next episode.
Final Rating: 7/10
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