Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E2 "Paper Clip"

[ S3:E1 "The Blessing Way" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E3 "D.P.O. ]

Spoiler Warning: This episode concludes what I've always lovingly referred to as "the merchandise trilogy". There will be major spoilers in this review.

This episode opens with a symbol of hope - the birth of a sacred white buffalo. Yet, despite being tasked with wrapping up the story threads from the last two episodes, there is still much excitement to be had before it's all over. Of these three episodes, I think the first one was the most memorable - the acquiring of the classified documents, and the alien things in the boxcar. But the following two episodes have been so thrilling, and so filled with exciting, memorable scenes - the drama doesn't let up at all from start to finish. I was actually starting to lose my breath by the end of this episode, from gasping at all the unbelievable events and revelations - it's just one remarkable scene after another.

After the opening credits, we return to the tense standoff between Scully and Skinner that ended the last episode, which is defused only by the unexpected return of Mulder. The good news is that Skinner appears to still be on the side of justice - Mulder and Scully could really use an ally. While Skinner struggles to finagle a deal with the reluctant Smoking Man, Mulder digs into his father's past, to try to learn about his connection to the conspiracy - and, with the help of The Lone Gunmen, to identify some of the other conspirators from an old photograph found among his father's things. Deep Throat is in the picture, and so is an ex-Nazi who was given asylum by the U.S. government in return for his scientific knowledge.

Meanwhile, Scully learns that her sister was shot in her place. You really have to feel sorry for Mrs. Scully - having to deal with the loss of her husband, and then the near loss of her daughter, and now the loss of her other daughter. If nothing else, the events of these episodes have proven that these conspirators are not just playing games, and are willing to kill to keep their secrets. As a result of the mistaken assassination, though, the Syndicate begins to catch wind of the Smoking Man's lies, when he assured them previously that he had the situation under control. Now to save face, he'll have to put the hammer down and wrap things up post haste. It's a little bit cathartic to see the Smoking Man so desperate for once.

As an aside, you know, I was willing to take the Smoking Man's word in Anasazi that Krycek was acting independently in the murder of Mulder's father, but I guess I was giving him too much credit. Krycek's involvement in the Scully shooting in The Blessing Way would seem to suggest that he is indeed still an agent of the Smoking Man, and his procuring of the DAT tape in this episode makes it official. However, probably as a result of the Scully debacle, the Smoking Man double-crosses him - but he survives the assassination attempt and makes off with the tape. This, after all, is where he finally goes rogue! It's kind of satisfying to see an independent agent mark the Smoking Man as an enemy, but this is Krycek we're talking about, so it's not like there are going to be any "enemy of my enemy is my friend" alliances with Mulder anytime soon...

Following up on their lead, Mulder and Scully head to an abandoned mine in rural West Virginia. Inside they find tunnels upon tunnels of file cabinets filled with medical records and tissue samples. Scully's file is in there, and so is Mulder's sister's, except that it was originally supposed to be his. Before they can figure out what it's all for, the facility is visited by a gigantic UFO - Mulder hasn't been this close to one since the military UFO in the episode Deep Throat (and this time his mind doesn't get wiped!) - and we see a group of diminutive beings that look (in the dark) similar to the bodies from the boxcar - except alive. Following hot on their heels is a hit squad that cuts the agents' investigation short.

They do get some answers in a followup meeting with the Well-Manicured Man, but Scully is afraid he is just telling Mulder what he wants to hear. He leads Mulder into believing that the Nazi scientist was trying to make alien/human hybrids, and storing medical information (with tissue samples possibly collected during abductions) on thousands of citizens toward that end. He also feeds Mulder lines about his father threatening to expose the project when he learned what it was for. But the most chilling revelation is one that is even more personal, and is exactly the thing Mulder's father was alluding to in his posthumous visitation in the last episode. After interrogating his mother, Mulder confirms that his father had made a choice, whether it was to be Fox or his sister that was abducted all those years ago...

Heavy stuff. And still so expertly rationed out - to make it feel like we're getting tons of information, yet much of it lies in doubt. Especially when the answers are coming from people who patently can't be trusted. But at the same time, we do get a small but important piece of information, and after each mythology episode, if we add it up with everything else we've learned, we get one step closer to the truth - which is out there, just like Samantha. In the mean time, Skinner presents Mulder and Scully with a hard decision - whether or not to hand over the DAT tape for their safety (and job security). It's telling that we've hardly learned anything more from the documents themselves since Anasazi.

Do they blow the conspiracy wide open at the risk of their lives? Or concede this battle so that they can continue to wage the war? Since this is just the beginning of the third season, and not the end of the series, you can guess what their decision will be. Still, amidst all the tragedy, it's a more hopeful conclusion than we've seen from mythology episodes of late, which have often ended with Mulder or Scully missing or lying on a hospital bed. It's a strong start to the third season (and a more confident one than we had last season, with Mulder and Scully separated, and the X-Files project on hold). Thus concludes one of the greatest moments in the entire series - this is The X-Files at its peak. The show will return to its monster-of-the-week format in the next episode.

Memorable quotes:

Mulder: I was a dead man. Now I'm back.

Skinner: What is on this tape?
Mulder: Defense Department files that weren't supposed to exist. The truth about our government's involvement in a global conspiracy of silence about the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Byers: Are you familiar with a post-World War II project known as Operation Paper Clip?
Mulder: Our deal with the devil. The U.S. government provided safe haven for certain Nazi war criminals in exchange for their scientific knowledge.

Smoking Man: There was a mistake. It will be rectified.
Well-Manicured Man: By whom? By whom will this be rectified? Your ridiculously ineffectual assassins?
Smoking Man: These men are professionals.
Well-Manicured Man: This is not a profession for men who make mistakes. My God, you presume to make us believe you can simply fix it with enough bullets?

Victor Klemper: There are some things you don't have to know.
Mulder: No - I need to know! I need to know the truth!

Smoking Man: You wanna work a deal? Is that what this is? Let me tell you something - I don't work deals!

Mulder: Lots of files.
Scully: Lots and lots of files.

Skinner: This place isn't even on the map. How'd you get here?
Mulder: You'd be surprised what's not on the map in this country, and what the government will do to keep it that way.

Albert Hosteen: My father taught me when I was a boy that this is how life is: that for something to live, another thing must often be sacrificed.

Mulder: Why are you telling me this?
Well-Manicured Man: It's what you want to know. Isn't it?
Mulder: Is there more?
Well-Manicured Man: More than you'll ever know.

Krycek (to Smoking Man): If I so much as feel your presence, I'm gonna make you a very, very famous man. You understand?

Smoking Man: You can't play poker if you're not holding any cards, Mr. Skinner. Ever wondered what it'd be like to...die in a plane crash? Of botulism? Even a heart attack's not uncommon for a man your age. Think I'm bluffing?

Smoking Man: What is this?
Skinner; This is where you pucker up and kiss my ass.

Mulder: I believe that what we're looking for...is in the X-Files. I'm more certain than ever that the truth is in there.
Scully: I've heard the truth, Mulder. Now what I want are the answers.

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