I suppose that it was going to happen sooner or later. Having taken the first steps towards depicting a romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully in the final scene of last season, it was inevitable that 1013 was going to have to take that ball and run with it. Granted, many fans felt that William was more than enough of a run for a loss, but apparently there was still some yardage left in that ill-advised plot thread.
Let me first say that I have been on the fence over the years, but more often than not, I’ve been a noromo. Not that I’ve had a problem with the concept of Mulder and Scully loving each other, in terms of friendship or otherwise. I simply didn’t want to see that become the driving force of the show. Last season balanced the obviousness of Scully’s relationship with Mulder by introducing a character with a harder edge. Noromos didn’t universally embrace Doggett, but this one did. I found his character to be a nice reflection on Mulder, while remaining his own unique personality.
Mulder’s recent departure, spawned by David Duchovny’s wise move away from a role that he no longer had passion for, was another good move. Letting Scully leave at the same time would have been even better, if only to allow Doggett and Reyes take the center stage, free to succeed or fail on their own. But even with Scully still there, it would have been more than possible to take the mythology related to Mulder, Scully, and now William, and mesh it with the very dark and elusive evil that seems to follow Doggett around wherever he goes.
This offering, however, would seem to be taking a very different direction. Or perhaps I should say, an all-too-familiar direction.
Leading up to this episode, there was actually a huge movement to begin a letter-writing campaign to protest the fact that Mulder’s possible return was being touted in the promos. That annoyed me to no end. Consider just how many of those people were the same ones who complained endlessly at how little mention there was of Mulder during the first half of last season. So now that Mulder’s absence is being dealt with, front and center, it’s a bad thing? Talk about sour grapes.
Another group of very loud extremists were “shippers” who had always wanted Mulder and Scully’s romantic inclinations to dominate every episode, at the expense of the mythology and the actual concept of the X-Files in general. The final scene of last season appeared to be a concession to those fans. However, when those fans (as well as Mulderites, the David fans with little interest in any other possible lead men) abandoned the series in droves, sending the ratings into the basement for the first time since the first season...well, 1013 can hardly be blamed for trying to bring them make to the table.
The problem, as I see it, is how they made this attempt.
I’ve come to accept the idea that Mulder and Scully ended up in a sexual relationship, even if I would have preferred not to see it happen. There were ways to portray Scully’s longing for a real family, without making her out to be wreckless in the process. While making certain convenient alterations to a character during a mythology episode is hardly a new practice, this was a bit extreme. If the critics were correct to take 1013 to task for Scully’s lack of focus in the search for Mulder post-“Requiem”, then this seems to prove the point. Just as she was acting out of character then, here she is equally difficult to understand and reconcile.
Much as in the season premiere, Doggett is portrayed as almost inexperienced and impulsive. In the premiere, it seemed as though his better judgment was at odds with his need for personal vengeance. That explained his abortive investigation into DD Kersh. But here he seems to be willing to take chances a little too freely, willing to accept the super-soldier experiments a little too readily.
This is all in service to the plot, of course, and that’s part of the problem. The plot is utterly predictable, with the exception of the final moments of the confrontation between Scully and the Shadow Man. Basically, Scully has been in contact with Mulder since sometime after his departure. Given that she is under constant surveillance, the super-soldier program decides that it is time to use her own weaknesses against her. Playing on her empathy and loneliness, the super-soldiers stage a con in order to convince Scully to have Mulder return. It very nearly works, and in the ensuing chase through an iron quarry, a fatal weakness of the super-soldiers is exposed.
The problem here is that no matter how you cut it, there is no reason for any of the agents to fall for this con. Scully ought to know better from her years with Mulder, even if there are any number of other situations where she displays the same lack of common sense. This is really no different than her wavering belief over the years, except that her apparent manic need to protect her son in the season premiere totally evaporates here. It makes no sense, except that she has to do it in order to justify her request for Mulder to return, leading to the final confrontation.
Nor does her sudden lack of trust in Doggett make much sense. Again, in the season premiere, it made a certain sense to have her fear the consequences of Doggett’s investigation. But after that was over, she returned to her more supportive attitude, even when he was less than accepting himself. Now she trusts total strangers more than she trusts Doggett, and one has to wonder why...other than the fact that it serves the needs of the script.
Like so many mythology episodes, as soon as it passes, the characters will return to their usual behavior towards one another. All of this will pass until it needs to come up again. And even then, as has been the case for nine years now, the characters will change personalities in service of the needs of that episode. Getting upset by it is a bit pointless, since the overall mythology is changed for the needs of a single episode just as often. But after eight years, and the chance for a new beginning, why repeat the sins of the past? And why do it while putting forth an episode that is sure to polarize X-Philes more than ever?
Before anyone gets the impression that I hated this episode, I will say that there were some good, or at least potentially interesting, points to this episode. The revelation that the super-soldiers have a weakness related to their unique organometallic biochemistry is more convincing than the poorly executed scene in the quarry might suggest. The idea that Mulder was aware of that weakness makes it even more interesting. How did Mulder find out about this weakness, and what is the nature of that weakness? Odds are it’s magnetic in some way, which is a smart evolution of the metallic vertebrae concept.
I also liked the idea that the super-soldiers were keeping a damn good eye on Scully. The events of 9/11 resulted in some serious evolution of the legality of secret surveillance by own government, and this plays on the fears that such power invokes. It makes sense for them to keep watch on her, and therefore William, since he is supposedly a by-product of their program to spawn super-soldiers at conception. But it also helps them track down Mulder, the “one that got away”. In the end, no matter what they say, I anticipate that they want both of them on the vivisection table.
Ultimately, this episode attempts to address Scully’s state of mind in the months after Mulder’s departure, while using that to move the mythology forward. Unfortunately, it does very little of either, other than to take what could have been straightforward and making it very awkward.
Some other thoughts:
- No matter what one might think of the content, the teaser was beautifully done. It set the mood instantly, setting up tension, then maintaining it with the continuing shots from the perspective of the surveillance.
- As stupid as using a public internet café might seem, remember that Mulder was seldom much better, and he was paranoid as hell. Scully’s weakness is usually her inability to completely grasp the extent to which her enemies will go, like the untold number of times she is surprised to find the office or her home bugged!
- That said, Chris Carter had to have been the one to write those messages, because only he can write “dialogue” that astoundingly awkward and out-of-character...
- Not only does Scully leave William alone in the café, but when she sees the couple arguing in the street that night, she leaves him alone in the car!
- If the woman was utterly distraught, I could almost understand Scully’s gesture, but considering how calm the woman was, it’s just plain nuts.
- Also, why didn’t Scully think to move William’s bassinet (which he is waaaay too big for at this point) into her room, if the strange woman was sleeping on the couch?
- Whoever wrote Doggett’s exposition on the super-soldiers is an idiot. Why would Doggett need to remind Scully about why Mulder went into hiding?
- It makes sense for Scully to lie to Doggett and Reyes about being able to contact Mulder, since they came to her, apparently pushing the investigation into the super-soldiers again. It goes back to her reasons for avoiding them in the season premiere.
- Also, it makes a certain amount of sense that if the super-soldiers can be identified, they can be hunted down, eliminating the threat to Mulder.
- Some might question Doggett’s reasons for buying all of this, but remember how willing he was to believe everything Knowle told him.
- Besides, how bored must they be at this point? Two real cases since William was born!
- It’s also about time that Doggett called Scully out for not trusting him! She’s always keeping things from him, after all...
- How many times did Monica have to mention risking Mulder’s return during the stakeout? Considering that Doggett was just giving Scully grief over the same damn thing, enough already! We get it!
- When the transmitter for our baby monitor gets turned off, one way or another, the speaker goes absolutely crazy...a hell of a lot louder than a freakin’ vibrating cell phone!
- Oh, and every parent I know gets to recognize the ambient sounds of their child on the monitor, and they all wake up if there’s any change. Trust me, I used to do that all the time, when we had the monitor in our bedroom.
- Just how young is William supposed to be, anyway? That kid looks ready to tottle!
- My bet is that the couple was supposed to take William, and then the Shadow Man was supposed to get Scully to contact Mulder, under the guise of having information to help find their son. The whole “special kid” deal was likely just a “Plan B”.
- Doggett and Reyes seem awfully unaffected by the fact that William is “different”.
- The elaborate directions that Scully is made to follow to her meeting with the Shadow Man is obviously meant to convince her that he is taking heavy precautions to keep his identity secret from potential “prying eyes”. The switching of the cars, the changing of the clothes, the checking of the watch...all meant to simulate steps taken to eliminate any bugs that might be on her person.
- Why didn’t she recognize the Shadow Man from Dallas?
- As cruel as it was, the Shadow Man taunted Scully with all of that personal information, as well as the hint that he knew where William supposedly came from, to make it plain that he was in control, and had the necessary means to get the information he promised. Of course, the Menacing Bad Guy look didn’t help too much, but what can you do?
- As soon as the Shadow Man let out that, “I’m the future” line, it was well past obvious that he was a super-soldier. How Scully managed to stay so damned blind that long is beyond me.
- Even if Mulder is using remote access to a public E-mail account, Doggett is right on target to wonder why the super-soldiers need Scully to draw Mulder out. They ought to be able to find him. Unless the same people who helped him find their weakness are also helping him stay out of the reach of the super-soldiers...
- “I want to see him so bad.” Ugh!
- Who wants to bet that Doggett was supposed to be hurt when Scully said that? Score one for Robert Patrick for continuing to underplay any attraction that Doggett feels for Scully.
- OK, who thought that Monica was going to wind up accidentally pushing Scully and herself onto the tracks, based on the camera angles?
- Interesting how the DNA/iron complex that Doggett refers to sounds somewhat similar to the “extras” found in the alien DNA waaay back in the early seasons.
- At this point, why would Mulder run from Doggett and Reyes?
- That’s it, Scully, don’t jump back in your car to get away...run into a corner!
- The Shadow Man looks damned surprised by his reaction to the iron compounds in the quarry, doesn’t he?
- Oh, and it’s interesting how the properties of the iron compounds seemed to draw out the metallic components in the Shadow Man’s structure.
- As odd as it is to see Mulder using “Dana”, let’s not forget that it was often how Mulder would address her, in the early seasons, to signify a more tender side of his affections for her. That was lost, after a while, but it does harken back to that, in an admittedly weak fashion.
Overall, this is not nearly as bad an episode as many people are making it out to be, but it’s not exactly a sterling piece of work, either. It feels like they were shooting for a “Momento Mori”, and wound up with a “Zero Sum”. This episode is interesting in the information it provides, and not much else. But in my opinion, it’s better than “Lord of the Flies”.
I give it a 6/10.
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