Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The X-Files - S5:E13 "Patient X"

[ S5:E12 "Bad Blood" <<< Season 5 >>> S5:E14 "The Red and the Black" ]

Spoiler Warning: This is the first part of a mythology two-parter - so expect spoilers.

With the mythology just starting to show cracks, and the freak-of-the-week episodes exhibiting a high gloss, last season marked the first point in the series when I anticipated the freak-of-the-week episodes as much as the mythology episodes. The hoax trilogy was fantastic, however - although exhausting to review. And this season's previous two-parter was a bit underwhelming. You'd think at this point I'd be a little burned out on mythology episodes, but where Christmas Carol/Emily seemed to have one foot set in the future of this show's mythology, Patient X appears to have one foot set in the past, and resurrects several threads that have been left by the wayside for quite some time. In truth, I was getting a little burned out on the show's 'b' line mythology back with Tunguska/Terma, but to see it return here (and even in a slightly more 'a' capacity) has me quite excited.

Also, after Christmas Carol/Emily, which I hardly remembered from my first watch at all, it's nice to know that, even this far in the series, there are still exciting moments for me to relive that I remember (if sometimes vaguely) from my first watch (although that ought to persist at least until I get past the first movie - which isn't far away now). This set of mythology episodes is also particularly notable because it finally crosses two significant threads that have thus far been kept apart - the Alien Bounty Hunter, and the Black Oil. In the opener, we see a group of people gathered for a UFO sighting being burned alive by none other than the Alien Bounty Hunter - but now he has his eyes, nose, and mouth stitched up, which is really pretty creepy. After seeing the ABH a couple of times with a normal face, I was beginning to wonder if my remembering him this way had been mistaken, but I can now say with confidence that when I had my sleep paralysis experience, which I recently revisited, this is the sort of face I had envisioned my intruder to have.

You might think that in the fifth season of a show about alien abductions (granted, not every episode has something to do with alien abductions), there wouldn't be any new ground left to tread. But this episode introduces a new aspect of the alien abduction experience - serial abductees who are not afraid of their experiences, but rather envision them in a positive light, and believe the aliens' agenda is one that is beneficial to mankind. This is embodied by the titular Patient X, a woman named Cassandra (Veronica Cartwright), who feels that she will soon be called to an important rendezvous with the aliens. And she is not alone. Across the globe, abductees are being called together in groups - but something is going wrong. Instead of being abducted, these people are being burned alive by the Alien Bounty Hunter. Cassandra claims that there is strife between the warring alien nations (and this would go a long way in explaining a lot of the conflicting information we've received over the last five years' worth of mythology).

One such encounter in Kazakhstan alerts Krycek to the phenomenon - and also Marita Covarrubias (last seen in Zero Sum), whom he meets face-to-face. Krycek spirits away the only living witness to the night-time inferno, and, after extracting information from him, pumps him full of "the black cancer" and then sews his eyes, nose, and mouth shut (like the Alien Bounty Hunter in the opener) so it can't get out. Meanwhile, a similar encounter at none other than Skyland Mountain (where Scully was abducted in Ascension) has the Syndicate wringing their hands, feeling that they're being left out of the loop on an important advancement in the timetable of their project (according to the Well-Manicured Man, group abductions aren't supposed to occur until "the final phases before it begins"). References to "the colonists intervening" (are they referring to the aliens?) has one thinking that something really exciting is on the verge of happening, indeed.

Marita (who now reports directly to the Syndicate, in person - indicating just how deep she's mired in the conspiracy), thinks it's an act of war, and serves as the go-between with Krycek, who is willing to trade the witness (and his information) for whatever the Syndicate has in the way of a vaccine for the Black Oil. In a shocking rendezvous, Marita and Krycek passionately make out. This is the Marita Covarrubias I remember - not the successor to X, not Mulder's informant, and not even a spy for the Syndicate, but a dirty rogue in league with Krycek. Of course, she may be double-crossing him in the end, as she makes off with the witness, whom she offers up to Mulder, while leaving Krycek to be confronted by the Well-Manicured Man with a gun, who wants the witness for himself. The witness, however, manages to scratch open the stitches in his eyes, and the Black Oil comes out - possibly infecting Marita Covarrubias!

While all this is going on, Mulder is attending a panel (not unlike the one he was watching on TV in Gethsemane before he "shot himself"), convened to discuss the implications of Patient X's belief in the aliens' positive agenda. But to the surprise of all, Mulder, coming off of the revelations of the hoax trilogy, serves the unpopular role of the disbeliever. No one is more surprised than his hypnotic regression therapist, Dr. Heitz Werber (with whom he worked on uncovering memories of his sister's abduction, which we heard a little bit of in Conduit), who is also Cassandra (a.k.a. Patient X)'s doctor. Scully initially seems to be pleased with Mulder's newfound skepticism, but due to her personal connection to the abduction experience, this is another one of those rare instances where she turns out to be the believer to Mulder's skeptic. At the same time, a Special Agent Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens) turns up at the FBI, politely asking Scully and Mulder not to indulge Cassandra (his mother!)'s embarrassing theories on alien abduction.

For a long time now, we've had aliens allegedly running around (just out of sight), over an undercurrent of doubt, which has crystallized in the recent hoax trilogy. Now that the doubt has become manifest, in this episode we have an undercurrent of what would appear to be undeniable alien activity (and, indeed, if ever there was a counter-argument to Kritschgau's wild claims of fabrication, it would be what Mulder - and we, the audience - have seen of the shape-shifting Alien Bounty Hunter and the Black Oil). Now, it feels as though the series is on the verge of dropping the doubt angle, and finally moving forward with the whole alien plot thing - but the tipping point which will presumably turn Mulder back into a believer has yet to come.

The episode's cliffhanger leaves many threads hanging - Krycek's encounter with the Well-Manicured Man, Marita Covarrubias' disappearance and the fate of the Black Oil - but above all, Scully is drawn, along with Cassandra (who is being accompanied by one of the Syndicate's men, presumably to get a first hand look at what's going on at these meetings), to another one of the abductee rendezvous. There, she gets her own close encounter with a UFO - like Mulder had in Paper Clip (and in Deep Throat, except that that was a military craft, and the memory was erased anyway). But instead of a group abduction, the group is beset, as before, this time by two of the bounty hunters with their faces stitched up, carrying some kind of torch wands (adding to their arsenal of neato sci-fi weapons, which includes the retractable ice pick). Surely, Scully will survive, but how? We'll find out next time!

To be continued...

Memorable quotes:

Mulder: Before the exploration of space - of the moon, and the planets - man held that the heavens were the home and province of powerful gods, who controlled not just the vast firmament, but the earthly fate of man himself; and that the pantheon of powerful warring deities was the cause and reason for the human condition - for the past and the future, and for which great monuments would be created - on earth, as in heaven. But in time, man replaced these gods with new gods, and new religions, that provided no more certain or greater answers than those worshipped by his Greek, or Roman, or Egyptian ancestors. And while we've chosen now our monolithic and benevolent gods, and found our certainties in science, believers all, we wait for a sign - a revelation - our eyes turned skyward, ready to accept the truly incredible, to find our destiny written in the stars. But how do we best look to see? With new eyes, or old?

Krycek: Your authority isn't recognized here. Only your lies.

Dr. Alepin: Are you discounting any belief in the existence of extraterrestrials?
Mulder: No, I just question mindless belief.

Mulder: What I've seen, I've seen because I wanted to believe. If you look too hard, you can go mad, but if you continue to look, you become liberated, and you come awake, as if from a dream, realizing that the lies are there simply to protect what they're advertising - a government which knows that its greatest strength is not in defense but in attack.

Mulder: It's strongly held by believers in UFO phenomena that there is military complicity, or involvement, in abductions, but what if there is no complicity? What if there is simply just the military, seeking to develop an arsenal of weapons against which there is no defense - biological warfare - which justifies, in their eyes, making an ass out of the nation with stories of little green men? A conspiracy, wrapped in a plot, inside a government agenda.

Mulder: The conspiracy is not to hide the existence of extraterrestrials, it's to make people believe in it so completely that they question nothing.

Cassandra: Now is a time of war and stress among the alien nations. The different races, they're in upheaval.

Agent Spender: I'd like to build a reputation here - not be given one.
Scully: I think I understand.

Mulder: Do I look like I'm having fun, Scully?
Scully: You look constipated, actually.
Mulder: Well, that would make sense - I've had my head up my rear end for the last five years.

Mulder: One more anal-probing, gyro-pyro, levitating eco-plasm, alien antimatter story and I'm gonna take out my gun and shoot somebody.
Scully: Well, I guess I'm done here. You seem to have invalidated your own work. Have a nice life.

Mulder: You know, you try to reveal what's hidden, you try to incite people with the facts, but they'd rather believe some insane nonsense, refusing to believe what our government is capable of.
Scully: You've come a long way, Mulder.
Mulder: Yeah, and still nobody believes me.

Well-Manicured Man: Someone's going to great lengths to sabotage our work.

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