Friday, September 4, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E15 "Piper Maru"

[ S3:E14 "Grotesque" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E16 "Apocrypha" ]

Spoiler Warning: This episode kicks off another mythology two-parter, and, as such, this review will contain spoilers.

I find myself drawing parallels between this and the mythology two-parter we were treated to late in the last season. Colony/End Game felt kind of like a "b" mythology arc, not dealing directly with the threads of its superior season 2 cousins - Duane Barry/Ascension/One Breath, and Anasazi which continued into the beginning of the third season. Like that two-parter, this one is not as memorable as its own season's mythology highlights up to this point - The Blessing Way/Paper Clip, and Nisei/731. But, also like Colony/End Game, it introduces a pivotal element of the show's continuing mythology. Last season, it was the shape-shifting Alien Bounty Hunter. Here, it's the infamous Black Oil.

A French salvage ship goes diving in the same spot the Japanese scientists were investigating in Nisei. According to a friend of Scully's father who was on the original salvage mission many years ago, what they find is a plane that was escorting an atomic bomb during World War II, but never reached its target. The crew return with severe radiation burns, except the diver, who presumably came into contact with the Black Oil. What we can infer about the Black Oil so far is that it can transfer from person to person - like an organism, rather than spreading like a disease - that it suppresses the personality of its host (like a purpose-driven, emotionless pod - but not without access to the host's knowledge), that it has the power to release radiation flares as a deadly weapon, and that it may be able to keep a person alive for an indefinite period of time (as evidenced by the fighter pilot still alive after fifty years on the bottom of the sea). What its goal is, and where it originated from, still remains unclear.

Meanwhile, Mulder begins to wonder who's been selling the government's secrets, and he tracks a shady trader to Hong Kong, where he encounters - wait for it - Krycek! I applaud the creators for putting Nicholas Lea's name at the end of this episode, instead of the beginning (along with the rest of the special guest stars). I'm sure I didn't even think twice about the actors' names when I first watched this show, but I'm more seasoned now, and so seeing the name of an actor who plays a recurring character kind of spoils the surprise. With most characters, it's no big deal - it's just like, "oh, that guy's gonna be in this episode - cool!" But Krycek is such a sly dog, and much of the fun is never knowing when he'll turn up next, so I definitely appreciate this approach. I actually didn't remember the events of these episodes so well, so I was legitimately surprised!

Anyway, as I've alluded to, this episode isn't as good as the other mythology episodes we've gotten this season, but it's still pretty thrilling. Skinner gets a significant development, albeit a frightening one. After insisting on keeping the case on Scully's sister's murderer open, he is first warned (in a creepy scene with what can be described as gangsters in business suits with government credentials), and then actually shot for not shutting up and following orders! Shows what he's made of, though, that he's willing to put his job and his life on the line to do the right thing. Meanwhile, Mulder manages to get Krycek at gunpoint, and demands he cough up the digital tape (you know, the one with the MJ documents on it), except the latter gets infected by the Black Oil at the last minute! It may not be as gripping as Mulder hopping the train in Nisei, but I still want to know what happens next!

To be continued...

Memorable quotes:

Scully: You know, it's strange. Men can blow up buildings, and they can be nowhere near the crime scene, but we can piece together the evidence and convict them beyond a doubt. Our labs here can recreate out of the most microscopic detail the motivation and circumstance to almost any murder, right down to a killer's attitude towards his mother, and that he was a bed-wetter. But in the case of a woman - my sister - who was gunned down in cold blood, in a well-lit apartment building by a shooter who left the weapon at the crime scene, we can't even put together enough to keep anybody interested.
Skinner: I don't think this has anything to do with interest.
Scully: If I may say so, sir, it has everything to do with interest. Just not yours, and not mine.

Mulder: What?
Scully: I'm just constantly amazed by you. You're working down here in the basement, sifting through files and transmissions that any other agent would just throw away in the garbage.
Mulder: Well, that's why I'm in the basement, Scully.
Scully: You're in the basement because they're afraid of you - of your relentlessness. And because they know they could drop you in the middle of the desert and tell you the truth is out there and you'd ask 'em for a shovel.

Commander Johansen: We bury our dead alive, don't we?
Scully: Don't know if I understand...
Commander Johansen: We hear them everyday. They talk to us. They haunt us. They beg us for meaning. Conscience is just the voices of the dead, trying to save us from our own damnation.

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