I have said it before, and I will say it again: I am a mythology junkie. I search each and every episode for some hint or whisper of the larger whole, and I have this bizarre conceit that I actually know what is going on. And so when I heard about this episode, I was certain that I would love it. Black oil, aliens, how could it miss?:

And yet, it felt like something was seriously missing.

The mythology elements were there. This episode actually tells us much more than one might realize. I said after “DeadAlive” that I was certain that the point of the abductions beginning in “Requiem” had been to create a group of slaves to replace the remains of the Syndicate. Only at that point, there was no sense of what the new slaves were supposed to accomplish.

We know that the virus has “mutated” again, to use 1013 terms, but let’s not forget that this idea of mutation is more intelligently driven than what we would usually expect when we hear that word. Just as our military trains various soldiers to exhibit very different skills and specialties, the virus has the ability to endow its hosts with whatever abilities it might need, depending on the service that they are meant to perform.

The new slaves (the “neck” people, most likely) are meant to infiltrate the government/society to the purpose of taking over the operations and functions aiding colonization, as well as to monitor and control any investigations into their activities. The abductions serve the purpose of testing the new method of gestation while also eliminating any living remnants of the earlier Syndicate tests.

The bulk of the black oil that had been left under the Earth’s surface, millions of years ago, is still the primary means of mass infection. However, instead of using the wacky bee/corn delivery system developed by the Syndicate, the current alien slaves are using a far more logical system: the worldwide oil distribution system. This is meant to spread the virus to the bulk of the world’s population in a short period of time. Once infected, the humans would either be fully controlled by the black oil, or used to gestate new aliens (either the new slave types or the earlier “grey/lizard” type).

There might be some confusion regarding the “radiation” version of the black oil infection, but consider that the oil workers had never been replaced. Therefore, the virus would not want to “kill” them, only possess them. So it took the form previously seen which serves exactly that purpose: the form last seen in “Piper Maru”/”Apocrypha”. Basically, it involves the total possession of the human host, centered on the pineal gland, with the ability to project radiation as a weapon.

So, the possessed workers were preparing to tap into the black oil under the Gulf of Mexico (my wife notes how this roughly covers the same area as the asteroid crater that killed the dinosaurs), and were contacting the colonist forces in the process to coordinate the distribution. Presumably, the slaves seen earlier would be notified and used to ensure proper delivery worldwide with minimal interference.

It all fits together, with only the matter of Scully’s child from “Per Manum” truly left unexplained. In fact, everything makes so much sense that one wonders why the Syndicate was used at all…which is part of what leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The other side to this episode, the character aspect, was not nearly so clear or consistent. The massive hostility between Mulder and Doggett made very little sense, especially when one considers that Mulder was attempting to help Doggett uncover evidence of the impending alien invasion. Mulder seemed to have learned in “Empedocles” that Doggett will accept a paranormal explanation if he is given the opportunity to come to those conclusions based on his own observations. But instead, Mulder feels the bizarre need to push Doggett’s buttons every step of the way and act like a smug jerk the entire time. This was needless conflict, when they could have easily written Mulder as a more serene, guiding figure at this stage of the game.

So now we are supposed to believe that Mulder was intentionally pushing everyone and making all of those outrageous decisions in order to ensure that Doggett will be ready to search for the right kind of truth when he takes over. I suppose we are also supposed to believe that it is some massive plot twist that Mulder has been discharged from the FBI and will never work on the X-Files again.

OK, sure, but let me point out that Mulder has been taken off the X-Files more times than I am willing to count, and has gotten in much more trouble than this. It’s just a little too convenient for this one incident to cause his final dismissal. Especially when one attempts to figure out what a dead man was doing working in the FBI in the first place.

I like the idea of Doggett being the man in charge of the X-Files, now forced to find a way to make the department work while keeping to his own standard of conduct and staying under Kersh’s radar. Both Scully and Skinner, while relatively intact, have been compromised by Mulder’s little game, and so Doggett is really the only one with the latitude to continue.

It could work, definitely, but I think that there had to be a cleaner, better way to pass the torch.

Some other thoughts:

- As much as Mulder was acting like a jerk most of this episode, there was a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing him glory in his manipulations

- If Kersh really had it out for Mulder, why didn’t he bring up the little fact that, oh, I don’t know...he had been *dead* for three months????

- Speaking of timing, exactly when is Scully going on maternity leave?

- I thought the idea of the tribal immunity to the black oil was very interesting, especially as it ties into the ongoing theme of Native prophesy predicting the coming of the alien invasion.

- Was anyone else looking for a scene where Doggett took Mulder, stuffed him in a oil drum, and tossed him screaming into the middle of the Gulf of Mexico? No? Just me? Hmmm...

- If there is one thing that must annoy Kersh, it has to be that not one person ever seems to listen to him when he orders them to stop. Maybe he should try ordering them to continue with the investigation next time!

- It’s amazing how long it takes for an oil rig to explode when you have an entire crew working to destroy it.

- Oh, and that was a pretty lame leap into the water. Doggett should have tossed Mulder headlong into the water and landed on him as a flotation device. Oh, dear, did I dip into that well again? Hmm...

- If Mulder really wanted to get Doggett to understand the depth of the problem, he might have done better to file a false report and leave it on the man’s desk. Worked last time...

- Don’t you think Doggett might not want to annoy Kersh more by not answering the phone?

Overall, this episode had a great deal of potential, but it was bogged down by inconsistent characterization and the need to make it look as though Mulder was the big tough guy we all know he is not.

I give it a 7/10.

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