Friday, October 9, 2015

The X-Files - S5:E1 "Redux"

[ S4:E24 "Gethsemane" <<< Season 5 >>> S5:E2 "Redux II" ]

Spoiler Warning: This season premiere continues right from where the last season finale left off, and is a huge mythology episode. So, expect lots and lots (and lots) of spoilers.

And, we're plowing right on ahead. If there's an advantage to this pace, it's that I don't have to wait all summer to find out the resolution to last season's cliffhanger. I don't even have to wait a week! Exasperatingly, we don't catch up to the FBI committee that opened the last episode until the end of this episode. There's a lot going on that we haven't covered yet, though, and we do get to go behind the scenes and find out what Mulder and Scully are up to, with the former faking his death (like you had any doubt), and the latter lying to the committee about it. Apart from the appearance of Section Chief Blevins, and Scully's family dinner party, the last episode had a pretty tight cast. This episode, expanding on the ramifications of what was learned in the last episode, draws in Skinner, the Smoking Man, and even the Lone Gunmen.

The episode opens on that scene of Mulder crying in his apartment, after learning about the hoax; and it looks as if he truly is on the verge of actually committing suicide. But then he gets a call from Kritschgau, warning him that he's being monitored, and he goes into self-defense mode. He finds a DoD agent surveilling him from the apartment upstairs, and it is none other than the man with the fancy shotgun who was on clean up duty in the last episode. Mulder kills him, and determines from the phone records he was trying to destroy that he had been in regular contact with someone in the FBI. (Somehow that revelation isn't as surprising as I think it's supposed to be). So he concocts a plan to rat out the traitor by faking his own death (using the assasssin's body), and asking Scully to lie to the FBI so he can buy some time to infiltrate the DoD with the assassin's credentials.

Lucky for Mulder, the assassin had "Level 4" clearance, as Kritschgau explains when he finds Mulder wandering the DoD research facility - which is more than Kritschgau himself has. That means Mulder has access to everything - even, perhaps, the cure for Scully's cancer, assuming the DoD has it. No pressure! But first, Kritschgau gives Mulder a long, thoroughly satisfying diatribe (lol, I bet they circled the research facility three times before heading to where they were going, just to give Kritschgau enough time to finish his explanation) on the intricate historical details of the hoax - what was merely hinted at in Gethsemane. Following that is an exciting government facility infiltration like we've seen in E.B.E., and The Erlenmeyer Flask, but even better! Mulder finds rows of alien bodies - apparent fakes (probably prepared for scattering throughout fake UFO crashes) - and a room with pregnant women being tested on very much like Scully was during her abduction. He also finds an underground tunnel connecting to the Pentagon, leading to the Smoking Man's evidence room from the first season!

Three whole years and not a glimpse, not even a mention, of this place, which we saw only briefly in two short but highly provocative scenes in the series' pilot episode, and again in the first season finale. Honestly, I thought the writers had forgotten about it, or at least dropped that idea by the wayside. But here it is. Fantastic! Judging from Kritschgau's explanation, it contains DNA samples from pretty much everybody in the country. Mulder does a little cross-referencing and procures a mysterious vial assigned to Scully (could it be the cure to her cancer?), and hightails it out of there. (Minor nitpick: I don't know in what universe swiping a top level DoD access pass that doesn't work the first time, three more times, will suddenly make it work. That's like typing in the wrong password on somebody's computer four times, and instead of getting locked out, the system is like, "oh, fuck it, this guy is annoying, I'll just let him through." Although, to be fair, I think we're supposed to understand that it was actually the Smoking Man who let him through. I'd speculate why he would do such a thing, but I suspect there's a good answer coming up).

Speaking of which, the Smoking Man almost got emotional when he paid a secret visit to Mulder's apartment after his alleged suicide. I think he caught on to the ruse, though. He admits as much when he pays a visit to the Elder, to try to find out who had put Mulder under surveillance (I'm honestly surprised it wasn't the Smoking Man). The Elder denies having any knowledge of it (not that that means anything), although he does seem to be convinced of Mulder's death. It's always fun to see members of the Syndicate. These episodes aren't quite on the level of the merchandise trilogy, but I'll be damned if they're not the next best thing. On the subject of the FBI rat, I think this episode is trying to suggest that it may be Skinner (Scully seems to think so). Suspicion of Skinner worked in The Blessing Way, but at this point, I just don't believe it. I mean, I know he made that deal with the devil - but that doesn't make him evil; and besides, if he were the one responsible, then the Smoking Man would know about it.

While all of this is going on, Scully performs some tests on the only remaining evidence (the alien corpus having been snatched in the last episode) - the ice core samples. She finds a life form growing in them (an unclassified chimera), which she confirms shares DNA with a sample from her own blood, into which her cancer has recently metastasized. She believes her cancer was caused by exposure to this life form during her abduction. This proof also definitively ties the men behind the hoax (since the samples came from the fake alien corpus) to her abduction! But on the verge of presenting this evidence to the FBI committee, she collapses following another nose bleed. It looks like time is running out for Scully! Does Mulder have the cure? Unfortunately, the Lone Gunmen analyze it and determine that the vial he procured from the Pentagon contains nothing but de-ionized water. Drats! I have a feeling that's not going to be the end of the story, but we'll have to wait until next episode to find out!

To be continued...

Memorable quotes:

Mulder: I have held a torch in the darkness to glance upon a truth unknown - an act of faith begun with an ineloquent certainty that my journey promised the chance not just of understanding, but of recovery. That the disappearance of my sister 23 years ago would come to be explained, and that the pursuit of these greater truths about the existence of extraterrestrial life might even reunite us. A belief which I now know to be false, and unformed in the extreme; my folly revealed by facts which illuminate both my arrogance and self-deception. If only the tragedy had been mine alone, might it be more easy tonight to bring this journey to its end.

Scully: Mulder, how long has this been going on?
Mulder: Maybe since the beginning, since you joined me on the X-Files.
Scully: That would mean that for four years, we've been nothing more than pawns in a game. That it was a lie from the beginning. Mulder, these men, you give 'em your faith, and you're supposed to trust them with your life.

Mulder: I will not allow this treason to prosper, not if they've done this to you.
Scully: Mulder, we can't go to the bureau making these accusations.
Mulder: No, but as they lie to us, we can lie to them. A lie to find the truth.

Mulder: Let the truth be known, though the heavens fall. The web of lies entangling us can now be connected back to the very institution which brought us together - the facts supported by a Byzantine plot, executed by someone inside the FBI, who, if named, could be tied to the hoax meant to destroy me, and to the terminal disease inflicted on Scully. In four years I have shared my partner's passionate search for the truth, and if my part has been a deception, I have never seen her integrity waver, or her honor compromised. But now, I ask her to lie, to the people lying to us. A dangerous lie to find the truth, to find the men who would be revealed as its enemy, as our enemy, as the enemy within.

Kritschgau: There are truths which can kill a nation, Agent Mulder. The military needed something to deflect attention away from its arms strategy - global domination through the capability of total enemy annihilation.

Kritschgau: The business of America isn't business, Agent Mulder - it's war. Since Antietam, nothing has driven the economy faster. We needed a reason to keep spending money. When there wasn't a war to justify it, we called it war anyway. The Cold War was essentially a fifty year public relations battle - a pitched game of chicken against an enemy we not much more than called names.

Mulder: How does any of this have to do with flying saucers?
Kritschgau: The U.S. military saw a good thing in '47 when the Roswell story broke. The more we deny it, the more people believed it was true - aliens had landed. A made-to-order cover story for generals looking to develop the national war chest.

Kritschgau: I can't tell you how fortuitous the timing of it all was. You know when the first supersonic flight was, Agent Mulder? 1947. Soon, every experimental aircraft being flown was a UFO sighting.

Mulder: And all these reports of abductions, you're saying they've all been lies?
Kritschgau: Well, not lies, exactly. But citizens taken unsuspecting, and tested. A classified military project above top secret and still ongoing. You've heard the recent denials about Roswell, by the military and the CIA? And what's been the effect - even wilder and more widespread belief. The American appetite for bogus revelation, Agent Mulder.
Mulder: But I've seen aliens. I've witnessed these things.
Kritschgau: You've seen what they wanted you to see.

Kritschgau: The line between science and science fiction doesn't exist anymore.

(This is only the tip of the iceberg that is Kritschgau's amazing expository monologue in this episode. If it weren't so damn long, I'd have a much harder time resisting copying the whole thing down from start to finish. But I guess that's what watching the episode is for).

Smoking Man: I've always kept Mulder in check. I put this whole thing together; I created Mulder.
Elder: Agent Mulder is dead. Our FBI source confirmed it this morning. Mulder killed himself. Mulder was an asset. Without his partner, we may have underestimated his fragility.
Smoking Man: I've never underestimated Mulder. I still don't.

Skinner: As you compound the lies, you compound the consequences for them.
Scully: All lies lead to the truth, isn't that right?
Skinner: And what about your lie, Agent Scully? What does it lead to?
Scully: The truth. About the men behind what happened to me. About my abduction and the tests. About being exposed to something against my will. About being put on a table and having something implanted in me. And then having my memory stolen, only to have it return along with a disease that I was given.

(Technically, Skinner is right that Scully is digging herself in deep here, but at this stage she practically has nothing to lose, so why not risk everything, for the chance to stick it to the men that gave her cancer? On a related note, Gillian Anderson is fantastic in this episode. I mean, she's always great. She's a fantastic actress. But in a lot of episodes, her role amounts to looking stern and disparaging Mulder for his ridiculous theories. But when she has the opportunity to really get emotional, as in this episode - and going at least as far back as Beyond The Sea - it's such a joy to watch).

Scully: The cruelest ironies are those consecrated by the passage of time. Chanced, and occasioned, by shocking discovery. I had joined Agent Mulder on the X-Files because of my background in the medical sciences. My assignment was to question his work, to debunk his investigations, and reign him back into the FBI mainstream. Now, as fate would have it, I am calling on these very same skills to prove that he has been the target of a scheme, orchestrated by someone close to us in the FBI - someone we have trusted above all others - involved in a highly organized plot to keep a dangerous secret from the light of day.

(There's so much good writing in this episode. A big ol' middle finger to every card-carrying critic who has ever bad-mouthed what they refer to as "purple prose". Who gives a crap if that's not how people really speak? We watch fiction because it's better than reality. If you wanna hear people talk like people talk in real life, then go meet your friends for lunch at Burger King. Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy these episodes that treat language as an art form. So suck it).

Scully: It is not lost on me that the tool with which I've come to depend on absolutely cannot save or protect me, but only bring into focus the darkness that lies ahead.

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