Monday, August 31, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E10 "731"

[ S3:E9 "Nisei" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E11 "Revelations" ]

Spoiler Warning: This episode concludes the two-parter started in the last episode, and is chock full of significant revelations related to the overarching mythology of this show. As such, it will contain massive spoilers.

731 opens provocatively with the military mass execution of the inmates of what appears to be an extraterrestrial concentration camp, but is labeled as a Hansen's Disease Research Facility (Scully's later discovery of the death pits is heartbreaking - whether or not they were human). Its connection to the train Mulder hopped in the cliffhanger at the end of the last episode will gradually become clear, as this episode answers an awful lot of questions. Among other reasons, this episode is remarkable also because it is one of the few - and only the fourth so far, if I recall correctly, after The Erlenmeyer Flask, Ascension, and Anasazi - that replaces the phrase "The Truth Is Out There" in the opening credits. This time, it's switched out for "Apology Is Policy", which I've mentioned before.

While Mulder is racing against the last episode's assassin to get into the suspicious train car, Scully learns that the Japanese scientist we've been introduced to, under the alias Dr. Shiro Zama (Robert Ito), is one of the Axis power scientists (like Victor Klemper in Paper Clip) that received asylum after WWII to continue his human testing under the protection of the U.S. government. He utilized a leper colony - the Hansen's Disease Research Facility - as a cover to continue these tests. But where the others failed to successfully create a super soldier (or an alien-human hybrid, depending on who you talk to) Dr. Zama finally succeeded. He was trying to smuggle that discovery back to Japan, which is why the U.S. government is on cleanup duty.

But that's not all. Dr. Zama is also responsible - as suggested in the last episode - for conducting alleged "alien abductions" in train cars very much like the one in the Alien Autopsy video, as well as the one Mulder gets inadvertently locked inside with the assassin (whom he learns is an NSA Agent), and an unidentified test subject (last episode's living E.B.E. - ostensibly). Scully confirms this herself, when a member of the Smoking Man's Syndicate - the raspy-voiced man who seems to be known among fans as the Elder or Elder #1 or First Elder (it's hard keeping track of all these characters that are never named on the show, sometimes not even in the credits) - decides, in an exciting move, to open up to her. She also discovers that the implant that she removed from the back of her neck is some kind of "neural net", potentially capable of some serious espionage. But the chip is destroyed during testing.

This is a thrilling episode, featuring that breathless combination of revelatory answers and high-risk endeavors - the train car Mulder is locked inside is rigged with a bomb (gasp)! I said the same thing in the last episode, but I love how X swoops in at the eleventh hour to save Mulder's life, looking all "I don't get paid enough for this shit." You can tell he has a hard decision to make when he realizes he doesn't have time to save both Mulder and the test subject. I liked Deep Throat, but X is such a fun character. After parting ways with Mulder on less-than-amiable terms in Soft Light, and not showing up at all throughout the entire merchandise trilogy (although I could believe that those events were too sensitive for X to risk ignoring his self-preservation instinct in order to help Mulder [likely try to get himself - or X - killed]), you could be forgiven for starting to wonder at this point if he was done with Mulder. Yet, when push comes to shove, there he is - for better (Mulder), and worse (himself).

It remains inconclusive whether the test subjects in this episode - who look an awful lot like the bodies Mulder found in a train car in Anasazi - are truly alien-human hybrids, or just poor, innocent humans who had been subjected to terrible diseases and radiation poisoning, all in the name of mad science. Mulder still believes, but Scully has been fed a plausible alternative explanation by the Elder - that it is a smokescreen used to disguise an uglier, yet less sensational, truth. (Clearly, I underestimated just how early in the series this whole "believe the lie" business got started - you can read my discussion of it here). Meanwhile, the full consequences of Scully's abduction will be explored further in later episodes. And, I can say that - after the events of the merchandise trilogy which brought him to the forefront - the Smoking Man is back to his usual, shadowy, silent, self-righteous puffing again.

Memorable quotes:

X: There are my knowledge.
Scully: I don't have time for your convenient ignorance.

(You can almost sense X's trepidation when he pauses in the middle of that sentence - something that Deep Throat said once, shortly before he was killed, all because he chose to get involved in Mulder's quest).

Mulder: There's something on this train, but it's not a bomb.

Mulder: Put your hands in the air.
NSA Agent: This bomb could be wired to anything in the car. The smallest concussion could set it off. If you use that weapon, you take your chances.
Mulder: I'll take my chances.

Scully: What is this place?
Elder: This was one of the most frightening places on the Earth. A place where society sent its monsters to live in shame and isolation. Now, their disease is all but conquered. Science has eliminated thousands of years of misery.
Scully: I've seen your methods of "elimination".

Elder: The ruler of the world is no longer the country with the bravest soldiers, but the greatest scientists.

Scully: What I am saying, Mulder, is that there is no such thing as alien abduction. It is just a smokescreen, happily created by our government to cover up the biggest lie of all.

Scully: Two weeks ago, the president made a public apology for secret radiation tests that have been conducted on innocent citizens up until 1974. Only guess what?
Mulder: Those tests never ended.

NSA Agent: You're gonna die, you know that?
Mulder: What do you care? You were trying to kill me, anyway.

Mulder: Scully, let me tell you, you haven't seen America 'til you've seen it from a train.
Scully: Dammit, Mulder, what happened?!

Mulder: We'll have to wait and see.
Scully: We're not waiting for anything, Mulder. We gotta get you out of there as fast as we can.
Mulder: I'm fielding all offers and suggestions.

Mulder: We're both gonna die in here. The difference is I'm gonna die quickly. As an employee of the National Security Agency, you should know that a gunshot wound to the stomach is probably the most painful and the slowest way to die. But I'm not a very good shot. And when I miss, I tend to miss low.

NSA Agent: Ask yourself, my friend: what could be more valuable than Star Wars? More valuable than the atomic bomb? Or the most advanced biological weapons?
Mulder: A standing army immune to the effects of those weapons!

Mulder: And that thing in there, that's no innocent civilian. It's not a leper, either. It's an alien-human hybrid, isn't it?
NSA Agent: Then again, if that were true, you'd have expected someone would have been here by now to save it, wouldn't you?

(Oh, The X-Files. always immediately following every answer with a critical reason for doubt. And yet, much of these do end up being answers, despite their difficulty to swallow. It's like you wanna say, "yeah, you're probably right, that's too ridiculous to be true." But in The X-Files, more often than not, it is true).

Mulder: What are you watching?
Scully: Your alien autopsy video.
Mulder: You mean I might get my $29.95's worth, after all?

Mulder: They're gettin' away with it, Scully.
Scully: They've gotten away with it, Mulder. The bodies at the leper colony have all been removed.
Mulder: I know what I saw in that train car - it wasn't a leper, and it wasn't human.
Scully: And I know what I saw at the research facility. It was barely recognizable as human. Don't you see, Mulder, you're doing their work for them. You're chasing aliens that aren't there, helping them to create a story to cover the shameful truth. And what they can't cover they apologize for! Apology has become policy.
Mulder: I don't need an apology for the lies. I don't care about the fictions they create to cover their crimes. I want them held accountable for what did happen. I want an apology for the truth.

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