It's no secret that I have been walking a very thin line during the past month or so. Prior to the beginning of the year, I was posting just about every piece of information that I could confirm about Mulder's return and the direction of the series from that point. But ever since the real meat of the future plots started to surface, I shut down all of my natural curiosity and forced myself to simply take things as they come. I want this to be as unspoiled as possible. It's not easy, granted. But it makes this a hell of a lot more fun.
This episode should have aired the week after "Via Negativa", rather than "Surekill". Or it should have aired sometime earlier than now, just to give us a sense that there is an ongoing story here. Because this episode not only picks up on the hints dropped in "Within", but also on the character growth that we witnessed in "Via Negativa". Perhaps this is because Frank Spotnitz, who has truly shocked me this year after seasons of mucking with the mythology, wrote this episode.
I have no doubt that the Mulder fans out there were truly annoyed by the scarce flashes of him that we received last night. I'm not nearly so disappointed. This episode was about prepping us for Mulder's eventual return, while also leading Doggett further down the road towards some level of understanding about the world Mulder left behind.
Let's cover Mulder first. Right after "Requiem", I questioned the idea that Mulder was taken against his will, thinking that he went willingly into his abduction. After "Within", I thought that this was more or less confirmed by the fact that Mulder probably saw the aliens as his last hope for a cure to his illness. Unlike many, I was willing to entertain the notion that Mulder had not been completely cured back in "Amor Fati".
"The Gift" effectively tells us that Mulder was dying of that brain tumor. There is no question about it now. More to the point, we also now know that Mulder was not cured before "Requiem". And as I mentioned months ago, this adds a completely different level to DD's performance in that episode. All his talk with Scully about the personal costs, and her needing to find a way out before it's too late...that was a man whose time was running out, and he wanted the woman he loves to suffer no more.
I would also point out that DD played Mulder as being incredibly weary during that episode. Watch it again, and you might see what I mean. While I know that there was no plan for Mulder to be ill by that point...they had no idea if DD was going to return when they wrote it...there is still a feeling that CC and FS took advantage of DD's lack of enthusiasm during season 7 in order to support the idea that Mulder was terminally ill.
For some, it won't work. It will seem very wrong and completely unnecessary. And maybe it is. But for now, it feels right. It explains why Mulder was willing to be abducted. He knew that the aliens could heal him, and it was his last chance.
Let's move on to Doggett. I said after "Via Negativa" that I thought Doggett's skepticism was sorely tested by his experiences with Tippit. I think that shows during this episode. Doggett follows the path of evidence to the truth, and instead of finding reasons to deny it, he simply lets the case unfold as it must. He's not Mulder, who would have come up with any number of theories within minutes of driving into town. He's not Scully, who would likely have pointed out the absurdity of the idea that some creature could eat a sick human being and then reconstitute that human being into a living, healthy person again. Instead, Doggett relied on his investigation.
This was not the way that Doggett operated in the early part of the season, or even during "Badlaa". Perhaps it has something to do with Scully not being there to deliver the theory. He had to do it himself, which meant that when the bizarre nature of the case came forward, he was the one drawing those conclusions. And it's hard to be skeptical of your own theories.
This episode also gave us a strong look into Doggett's character. We have been told that Doggett is a straight player, a good agent, but that's not the same as being shown that he is making the right choices. This episode did that job well. We saw Doggett struggle between duty to the Bureau and duty to the larger picture. In the end, he saw that reporting Mulder's final days before his abduction would destroy Mulder and Scully for the sole purpose of his own career. He made the tough choice, but the right one.
The only real problem that I have with this episode, aside from the difficulty of believing in the methodology of the gift itself, was the complete and utter lack of Scully in the episode. Given that DD is not even fully contracted this season, and GA is, it was bizarre to see more of Mulder this time around.
I get the feeling that there was a cut scene somewhere, based on the trailer leading into this episode. Something that might have explained Scully's absence. We might all conclude that she was having yet another hospital stay, but there was no mention of it to support that assumption. So that sticks out as a very obvious problem.
Some other thoughts:
- Just where is Doggett's desk, anyway? I can't seem to figure out, based on the camera angles, where it's supposed to be. Never mind that Doggett seemed to be working in a completely different office area at the beginning of the episode.
- Skinner came right out and let us know where Doggett really stands in terms of the Bureau. Doggett is still considered a top player in the game, but the longer he's working with Scully and searching for Mulder, the more he stands to lose. That's just about what I expected, but I have to wonder...wouldn't he be better served by actually actively looking for Mulder?
- The writers are effectively telling us that in order to find Mulder, Doggett has to begin understanding him. "Via Negativa" was the beginning of that process. This is the next step. I may be wrong, but I think that he'll arrive at the critical point in...oh...three more weeks?
- Speaking of Skinner, I loved the idea that he called on the Lone Gunmen for help. That more than anything shows us just how far Skinner has come. Obviously, he must have called them in during "Via Negativa" as well, even though it was not explicitly stated.
- I would mention something for "Scully's X-Ploitation List", but apparently she was off on holiday or doing her Invisible Woman impression.
- I hope all you Doggett fans, especially you ladies out there, appreciated this episode. There were some truly great moments during this episode, where even I had to admit that the man was looking very impressive. I especially liked the close-up of his eyes late in the episode...a great shot.
Overall, I liked this episode, but I thought that it could have given us just a little more to work with. This was a mythology episode, certainly, but in a way that also made it a very effective MOTW. Not as good as the premiere, but superior to most of the MOTWs this year.
I give it an 8/10.
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