Written by Chris Carter
Directed by Kim Manners
In which Mulder comes out of hiding in an effort to find a cure for Scully’s cancer, which Cancer Man uses to tempt him with the chance to have everything he wants, for the ultimate price...
Status Report - Memorable Quotes - Final Analysis
For many, “Redux II” is a nearly perfect episode for the series, taking everything that makes “X-Files” a modern classic and pulling it into one top-notch hour. The fact that it caps off one of the best efforts by Chris Carter is equally impressive; neither the series nor Carter would ever manage to regain the level of storytelling integrity that the “Gethsemane” trilogy represents. More than that, the subsequent episodes and needless additions to the mythology would take something away from the strength of the episode’s convictions.
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 the reviews for “Momento Mori”, “Gethsemane”, and “Redux”.
Carter was always careful to keep Mulder and Scully’s relationship from stepping across a very fine line, and this episode gets about as close to that line as one can get without tumbling over it. Carter preferred to depict the agents as clinging to one another in the midst of a never-ending storm, like soldiers who become beloved brothers and sisters on the battlefield. That psychological bond was an important part of their lives, and a large part of why they were the center of each other’s universes.
The opening scene is meant to show just how important Scully is to Mulder; he comes out of his hiding for the express purpose of determining Scully’s fate. Indeed, Mulder’s entire focus since “Gethsemane” has been finding a cure for Scully, the one person he can still count on in his life. So why would it be such a shock for him to discover that she’s dying? He understood the urgency, and he’s known (to some degree) how bad the situation was. It feels like a quick way to remind new viewers about the stakes, because ultimately, a cure is the carrot that Cancer Man holds out in front of Mulder.
From the point of view of the conspiracy, Mulder is back to being a threat. He managed to slip completely under their radar, and if he’s done it once, then he can do it again. Mulder’s never had that level of independence before, and thus using Ostelhoff as a means of taking Mulder off the board is something Blevins is assigned to do. Blevins is thrust into the limelight at this late hour as a means of demonstrating that Skinner’s allegiance to the conspiracy is not as total as the agents had been let to believe.
If there is one weak element to this trilogy, it’s the sudden realization by Mulder that there’s a mole in the FBI, and that the mole must have been helping the conspiracy control them all along. Mulder and Scully get rather worked up over something that should be rather obvious, since they noted all of this in the first season. Before Skinner was on the scene, Blevins was denying Mulder certain assignments and ensuring others. Scully should have remembered Cancer Man from her meeting with Blevins in the first episode. The only question was whether or not Skinner knew about Blevins and had been ordered to keep quiet.
There’s also the small matter of the constant references to human cloning, which doesn’t quite connect to the rest of the trilogy, but does connect thematically to the questions surrounding Scully’s purpose for the conspiracy, the experiments conducted as per “Momento Mori”, and the emergence of Samantha and Emily. This serves to remind the long-term audience that the same actress played a clone of Samantha in “Colony” and “Endgame”, which is actually important. But this context is contradicted later in the episode, where the cloning topic is treated as far more important.
Cancer Man’s personal endgame finally comes into full conflict with the Syndicate once the Elders discover that he has aided Mulder. Since the Syndicate is not at all pleased with the idea of Mulder gaining some sense of power and freedom, the thought of one of their own (and a less prominent member at that) helping Mulder along does not sit well. Cancer Man’s gambit is openly exposed when he makes an effort to convince the First Elder to let him recruit Mulder, but it’s rather clear that his option is not amenable to the Syndicate.
Cancer Man is not a fool, and Mulder’s not the only one he’s trying to control. Ever since “Anasazi”, his indirect control over the Syndicate has fallen apart. The Well-Manicured Man has gained more stature and command of the Syndicate as a result. He makes the effort to use the situation to pull Mulder in line, but also, he wants to have the chance to parade Mulder around in front of the Syndicate as a peace offering. It’s clear that First Elder doesn’t buy it, and thus Cancer Man knows that his next step is to pull Mulder into his plan to control events from hiding.
The scene between Mulder and Scully in the hospital is rather revealing. For all that Bill Scully accuses Mulder of bringing his work to Scully at the worst possible time, Mulder is not the one that presses the point. Mulder is actually reluctant to discuss the whole matter of the FBI mole, but Scully sees it very differently. She knows that his actions have exposed him, and that he needs a way out. She offers herself as a sacrificial lamb, all but giving up and laying down her life so that Mulder might fight on. Even now, at the end, Scully can’t dare disappoint him.
For all that the end of “Redux” was a silly attempt to generate more drama in this episode, it does give Cancer Man a way to make Mulder aware of his efforts to aid Scully, however self-serving those efforts might be. It provides the foundation for Cancer Man’s later attempt at conversion. Whatever the case, this solution is an interesting way for Cancer Man to gain more control over Mulder through control and monitoring of Scully. After all, the control chip serves both functions, and often in a manner that the subject cannot recognize by its very nature.
Kritschgau continues to be a very difficult character to pin down, but that fits within the massive twists and turns within the various layers of conspiracy at play. Kritschgau seems to be helping Mulder by mentioning Roush and reflecting some of the investigation towards one of the more important front corporations of the conspiracy. Certainly this would fit Cancer Man’s game, if he suddenly sees the Syndicate as a threat to his own endgame. But with Blevins involved, it’s hard to believe that Cancer Man would be unaware of the conspiracy’s ability to see this move for what it is. At the same time, Kritschgau’s previous activities don’t work as well without the connection to Cancer Man.
However, it should be remembered that Kritschgau has told Mulder the truth, even if the Syndicate believes that truth to be the lie. Cancer Man gains from this by breaking down Mulder’s illusions and thus making it easier to recruit him into his own efforts to save humanity (from his point of view). With the Syndicate no longer a true ally, there’s no reason for Cancer Man to protect the conspiracy. Exposing elements of it to Skinner, through Kritschgau, is a way to get Mulder and his allies on the warpath, eliminating Blevins, and thus gaining more autonomy in the long run. It’s a calculated move, with Cancer Man assuming that the conspiracy will be weakened enough for him to manipulate events from a distance.
If Bill Scully’s objections earlier in the episode weren’t valid, they are certainly more so once Mulder arrives with the control chip in hand. Scully’s right: Bill doesn’t have enough information on the subject to realize that it’s a perfectly valid possibility for a cure. After all, if the control chip was meant to regulate the branched DNA used to modify Scully for the cloning/reproductive experiments, then insertion of a new chip (specifically designed for Scully) ought to at least stop additional damage. But how could Bill know that, and how could Scully even begin to explain it?
But it’s important to recognize that Bill is not being unreasonable. Mulder is the one responsible for Melissa’s death, in the end, and Scully was chosen by the conspiracy because of her association with Mulder. Would she have been abducted anyway? Quite possibly, but the timing was specifically geared towards controlling Mulder and sending him a message. Cancer Man had no intention of letting Scully die, but Melissa was fair game. Bill’s rage at Mulder is perfectly justified.
Having already handed Mulder what he was looking for, Cancer Man sought to seal the deal. From Cancer Man’s point of view, Mulder is in an even more attractive position than Skinner was at the end of “Momento Mori”. Cancer Man is aware of the fact that Mulder now has two major desires that need to be fulfilled, and therefore two ways to bind Mulder to his service. The first was saving Scully’s life, and in turn, having Scully under his potential control.
The second is obviously Samantha. Even when the episode was first aired, there was plenty of reason to believe that this Samantha was another clone. If Mulder had been less vulnerable, less resonant with his deep wellspring of loss, he might have come to the same suspicions. But under such circumstances, Mulder has every reason to believe that Cancer Man really did keep Samantha hidden away. And in a way, the audience is given reason to consider the possibility as well.
“Samantha” effective tells Mulder she doesn’t remember much from the night of the abduction, only that she was raised by a foster family until she was brought to Cancer Man, informed that he was her father. She also claims that Cancer Man only recently told her about Mulder and his search for his long-lost sister, thus suggesting that the two siblings were told nearly identical stories in an effort to keep them apart (and thus protect them).
Considering that Samantha is a clone, this is entirely consistent with “Closure”. Consider that this Samantha doesn’t want to see her mother; this is because Teena would obviously know the truth. Teena might have been willing to live in self-delusion in “Colony” and “Endgame”, but the lack of any reference to those events in later episodes is a sign that Teena wasn’t shocked when Samantha disappeared again.
But the point of the exercise (beyond hitting the audience in the gut and defying assumptions) is rather clear. Cancer Man wants to control Mulder, so he lets Mulder see “Samantha” and then has the clone beg off, wanting time to consider whether to see him again. This effectively places Cancer Man in the position of being a broker for Mulder’s benefit. In other words, if Mulder wants Scully to remain free of outside influence and to see Samantha, his only choice lies with Cancer Man.
This culminates in the temptation scene: Cancer Man comes to offer Mulder all the answers to all the questions, if only he joins the cause. Cancer Man is perfectly honest with Mulder: Kritschgau is only telling part of the story, and the entire truth about the conspiracy and what lies beyond it is far more complex than Mulder can even begin to conceive. Mulder, of course, refuses, understanding that it’s a deal with the devil. At the same moment, Cancer Man’s desperation is revealed. He knows his time is short, and that he will be unable to approach Mulder so directly for some time; this is at the heart of Cancer Man’s every action in this episode.
(As an aside…this review was written shortly after “Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” was released. Doesn’t this episode, in its own way, provide a far more powerful temptation than the scenario envisioned by George Lucas?)
Meanwhile, with the end of her journey so close she can see it coming, Scully is left to find meaning and a source of hope. Her thoughts naturally turn to faith and the question of belief. This is something near and dear to the character, and thus at the center of her complexity: she claims belief in the religious and spiritual, and yet she’s terrified at the prospect of what that might also make possible. Denying Mulder’s “extreme possibilities” has become a barrier between her and her faith, and that has left her without a clear source of hope.
It makes perfect sense that the control chip would take some time to reverse the damage; once the spread of the cancer was stabilized, the nanotech of the control chip would still need to eliminate the cancer itself and then fix the degraded biology. The process would probably leave Scully feeling even worse than she had been. This contributes to the psychological reasons for turning back to her faith. Of course, this is in clear parallel to Mulder’s own loss of belief, thus tying together the concepts introduced in “Gethsemane”.
First Elder seems to think that Skinner’s presence at the Congressional hearings on human cloning are indicative of an effort to gather information, but how he comes to this conclusion is unknown. Are there Roush representatives at the hearings, or people connected to Roush? It’s not very clear, but the scene is used as little more than a reminder that the Syndicate has decided that someone is expendable and someone else must be handled. It’s a minor misstep that is easily dismissed.
As the episode builds to its inevitable climax, emotions run deep and the performances truly exceed expectation. The scene with Mulder in Scully’s room, his grief plainly evident, is one of the most iconic moments of the series. It’s far more subtle than the scene between Mulder and Blevins, where Blevins all but exposes himself as the mole. Eliminating Skinner would benefit the conspiracy, of course, since First Elder wants him contained and Cancer Man killed, but it’s almost too much.
On the other hand, it leads to the conversation between Mulder and Scully, which really places Scully’s role in Mulder’s life in perfect context. The fourth season revealed much about Mulder’s role in Scully’s life, but Scully’s role has always been less obvious. But this episode makes it very simple: Scully is the one person that Mulder can count on to tell him the truth, and more importantly, force him to be honest with himself. If Mulder is Scully’s authority figure, the guide in her life and redefinition of personal belief, then Scully is the moral compass that Mulder needs to keep himself from going astray.
The hearing itself is a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. The strengths are in Mulder’s passionate words and the images behind them: Mulder finds his strength in the prayers of Scully. But it quickly turns into an exercise in false drama, as Mulder keeps telling everyone that he’s going to name the mole within the FBI in the most awkward lines of dialogue possible. This leads to a montage of Blevins and Cancer Man both being eliminated, all at the behest of the Syndicate. The suggestion, of course, is that both die, but taken from the long view, it’s clear that this was the moment that Cancer Man was trying to beat; this is why he was so frantic to recruit Mulder.
Of course, how did Cancer man survive? As the rest of the series would aptly demonstrate, Cancer Man survives far worse for much longer. The answer would seem to be fairly obvious in retrospect. If Cancer Man was healed by Jeremiah Smith in “Talitha Cumi”, then it was by a process that must have transferred some of the biological nanotech from Smith to Cancer Man. How long the healing process of Smith and other like him might last is not clear, but it’s certainly enough to allow Cancer Man to linger for years with a major genetic brain defect following “Amor Fati”. Why wouldn’t that enhanced healing ability also allow him to survive the blood loss from an assassin’s bullet?
Scully’s recovery is left open to interpretation: was it the control chip, Scully’s prayers, or the experimental medical treatment? Was it all three? The realities of the mythology make the control chip and its methodical process of repairing the damage the most likely source of Scully’s miracle. That doesn’t take anything away from the powerful restoration of her faith, which would of course be tested in due course. But Scully’s recovery, the one thing Mulder wanted most of all, comes at a price.
Mulder’s tears are not just a product of relief; they are also a product of loss. By doing the right thing, Mulder has lost the most expedient road to the truth, a path he was almost willing to take, even at the cost of his soul. And at this point, he must also believe that he has lost any hope of finding Samantha again, since Cancer Man is no longer there to intercede on his behalf. Mulder got what he wanted for Scully, but at the same time, he has lost much of his hope and belief.
And so the “Gethsemane” trilogy ends with a reversal of faith, but one much more absolute than the one suggested at the end of “Herrenvolk”. This is really the end of a long process; Mulder was finding it hard to keep up hope by the middle of the second season, when the conspiracy seemed insurmountable, and in the third season, he seemed on a much more even keel. But time and scattered glimpses of the truth have left him challenged, because the hope generated by his explorations into the paranormal can only sustain him so long. Slowly but surely, Scully became his coping mechanism, the one helping him go on, because her abduction and subsequent condition were worth resolving.
But what does Mulder have as a motivation now? It’s something that Mulder should have been struggling with far more openly in the fifth season. That didn’t happen nearly enough for later episodes, referring to his lack of belief, to ring entirely true. Meanwhile, Scully’s return to faith, rejected in her psychological desire to avoid acceptance of difficult truths, represents another major step in her slow and unsteady conversion.
The challenge for Carter and his writing staff was to take this moment of major transition and develop an arc that would end with the culmination of the mythology in the feature film. Much of the mythology in the fourth season was specifically designed to introduce elements of the mythology that would be critical to the film and its explanations. This trilogy is meant to bring the characters to an emotional connection that would find more expression in the film, as well as give Mulder someplace to go for a full season.
However, as would soon become apparent, the fifth season was also the point at which the network began pushing and demanding a sixth season, which would extend the series past its natural end point. This forced Carter to figure out how to extend the series in a natural way. Instead of letting the mythology come to fruition and a relative conclusion in the film, elements were added to the mythology in the fifth season that complicated matters to an absurd and unnecessary level.
But none of that really impacts this episode and its tight, well-considered conclusion to the concepts introduced in “Gethsemane”. While elements of the story revealed some of Carter’s less successful attempts at manufacturing drama, those elements were critical to the faux-Biblical aspects of the story. Much of what started in the “Anasazi” trilogy comes to culmination in this trilogy: the emphasis of the military experimentation aspects of the mythology, Cancer Man’s loss of power within the Syndicate, and Scully’s crisis of faith. Unlike later seasons, where the religious imagery would be used more obviously and less effectively, this is about as good as Carter’s writing gets.
Notably, this is also some of the finest work from the cast. Duchovny gives Mulder’s moral crisis an air of authenticity, which could have easily been overwhelmed by the metaphorical aspects of the story. Anderson doesn’t show up much, but her difficult internal issues of faith are given expression through an honest presentation. Mitch Pileggi remains in the near background (they really should have steadily increased his role over time), but he gives off the perfect impression of a man ensnared by his own choices.
This episode also marks the beginning of the season where “X-Files” went from cult show to a mainstream hit to outright phenomenon. Gone were the days of Mulder and Scully in cheap suits, looking like nothing more than the government employees they were. This was the season where style really began to creep into the series, and along with that came a greater desire to play to audience expectation. Instead of bringing in rising stars or unexpected cameos, the series would call on established novelists and actors with a certain credibility. “Redux II” is essentially an exercise in upgrading the basic series premise for the new reality of popularity, transitioning the series and its characters from outsiders to pop culture icons. For a series that constantly struggled to rise above its inherent flaws, this would prove both a blessing and a curse.
MULDER: “Please tell me you’re here with severe chest pains…”
BILL: “You’re the reason for it. And I’ve already lost one sister to this quest you’re on…now I’m losing another. Has it been worth it? To you…I mean, have you found what you’ve been looking for?”
BILL: “No. You know how that makes me feel?”
MULDER: “One sorry son of a bitch speaking…”
Overall, this episode is the perfect ending to the trilogy begun in “Gethsemane”. The emotions underlying the episode make up for the inherent weaknesses in the religious metaphor behind it all, and the culmination of several ongoing character threads within the mythology is gratifying. The cast really shines, clearly pleased to be working with material of real depth, and if some scenes aren’t perfectly written, the performances rise above.
Final Rating: 9/10
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