Sunday, November 8, 2015

The X-Files - S6:E11 "Two Fathers"

[ S6:E10 "Tithonus" <<< Season 6 >>> S6:E12 "One Son" ]

Spoiler Warning: Back to another classic mythology two-parter, so expect spoilers!

(Although it's sad to call anything dealing with the Spender family "classic"). After four years of stalling, the fifth season's Patient X/The Red and the Black began to tie the various threads of the mythology together, in anticipation of the movie, Fight The Future, which revealed more about the Syndicate's plans than the entire series to date. Now, if this episode is any indication, the series ain't pussy-footin' around no more. I know we're not quite at the end yet, but I'm starting to wonder about all this "the mythology falls apart" talk, because it seems to me that the mythology's actually finally coming together. Not only do we return to the issue of the faceless rebels, but in this episode we also finally get to learn the Cigarette Smoking Man's "real" name. Of course, Scully says it's just one of hundreds of aliases, but it's the closest thing to an identity the Smoking Man will ever be pegged with. Especially because it comes with a built-in family.

So much for the Smoking Man's plea to Mulder in One Breath that he's got no wife, and no kids. You know, I was a little concerned that humanizing the Smoking Man would destroy his credibility (and charisma) as a villain. There's been some concern about that going back to season 4's Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man (which, quite contrary to Morgan & Wong's desire to give him back some of his teeth, contributed as much to viewers' ability to empathize with him - and no, I don't think having him kill Frohike like the writers originally intended would have been a better turn of events, even so), and to Talitha Cumi/Herrenvolk before it. And I was concerned that these two episodes, that deal with his paternal relationship to Agent Spender, would suffer from all this late-game familial drama, but I was wrong - this episode is pretty good, and the Smoking Man can still intimidate (if not quite like he did prior to the merchandise trilogy).

So, in this episode, Cassandra Spender returns from her "abduction" (we see her on a train like the ones in Nisei/731 that Scully identified from her abduction - also, Roush is involved), and she's got answers. The doctors who were working on her were killed by some more of those faceless alien rebels with the cool torch wands. She was kept alive because she's the project's first "successful" human-alien hybrid (complete with green blood and miraculous powers of healing!), and the rebels want her existence known in order to expose the conspirators' plans. Things get a little murky here, though.

First, that Cassandra is the first "successful" hybrid begs the question of what the "success" discussed in 731 was, or the "success" Deep Throat mentioned in The Erlenmeyer Flask. Were these all just different stages of success (and if so, are we to believe that this stage is the final one?). And what about the clones we've seen? If they're not successes, then I'd like to know how they're flawed. Unless it's that they had to be created in a lab (some of those details were hinted at in Memento Mori, and perhaps also in Emily), versus Cassandra being hybridized from a full human base.

Moreover, I'm still a little confused about the role of the hybrids. In one breath, the Smoking Man explains that they are part of the colonists' plan - to create a slave race (although he may be lying, given who he's talking to). But then Mulder restates what we learned in the movie - that the hybrids are designed to survive the "viral apocalypse". Yet, is this not part of the aliens' plan? Was I mistaken in thinking so? If they are truly an altogether unsanctioned experiment, then that would explain the Alien Bounty Hunter's actions in Colony/End Game (but not in Talitha Cumi/Herrenvolk).

I thought things were starting to make sense, but now I'm getting confused. Are the conspirators working to save mankind, or destroy it? When other characters talk about fucking up their plans, are they referring to their official plans, or their secret plans - which are at cross-purposes from one another? What are the individual conspirators' loyalties? I'm intrigued by the idea that as horrible as the things the men of the conspiracy have done, they've done it all for justifiable reasons - reasons that would be insane by normal standards of logic, but justified by the existence of an even more powerful, even more sinister alien race.

In any case, the Smoking Man is faced with having to kill the mother of his own son, but will his newfound sentimentality do him in? He suspects the rebels have infiltrated the Syndicate (proving that they can still shape-shift - although judging from their face masks, it might be a more involved process than we've seen before), and he enlists Spender to kill the impostor (complete with retractable ice pick!). I don't know if he's being blinded by his ill-placed fatherly affections, but he must be a poor judge of character if he thinks Spender is going to be willing to resort to murder all of a sudden. Krycek ends up having to step in and finish the job, and all that Spender gets out of the experience is seeing the alien's blood chemistry with his own eyes (by the way, this lends evidence to the fact that decaying alien bodies are not toxic in the same way that being exposed to their blood while living is), which finally turns him against his lying bastard of a father.

While all this is going on, Mulder and Scully are put on administrative leave for snooping around, after learning much from Cassandra, including the name of Spender's father - the Smoking Man. They also learn about the aliens' plans to take over the universe, and that Samantha - who was abducted the same night as Cassandra's first time (Nov. 27, 1973, for all you trivia nuts) - is with them. Apart from the brief info we got in the movie (which I am led to believe was only in the extended edition - which is the one I watched), we haven't heard much about Samantha since Mulder's dubious meeting (which Cassandra verifies was a ruse) in Redux II. It all builds up to one of the more thrilling cliffhangers we've seen on this show in years, in which Diana Fowley is revealed to be working for the Smoking Man (although I can't say I'm that surprised), and Cassandra is just on the verge of convincing Mulder (of all people) to be the one to shoot her dead!

To be continued...

Memorable quotes:

Smoking Man: This is the end. I never thought I'd hear myself say those words, after all these years. You put your life into something - build it, protect it. The end is as unimaginable as your own death, or the death of your children. I could never have scripted the events that led us to this. None of us could. All the brilliant men. The secret that we kept so well. It happened simply, like this: we had a perfect conspiracy, with an alien race - aliens who were coming to reclaim this planet and to destroy all human life. Our job was to secretly prepare the way for their invasion, to create for them a slave race of human-alien hybrids.

(You know we're getting somewhere when the Smoking Man gets to have a monologue. The secrets are being laid out on the table now, boy).

Mulder: You looking for work, Agent Spender? 'Cause if you are, I got a whole pile in that middle drawer that I'd love to shove down someone's throat.

Spender: I just want the truth.
Mulder: The truth is out there, Agent Spender. Maybe you should find it for yourself.

Dr. Openshaw: A man should never live long enough to see his children - or his work - destroyed.

Cassandra: I told you that the aliens were here to do good, and that I was being used as an oracle to spread the word. Only now I know what the aliens are here for, and it isn't good.
Mulder: What are they here for?
Cassandra: To wipe us off the planet. They're taking over the universe. They're infecting all other lifeforms with a black substance called "purity". It's their life force - it's what they're made of.

(So much for that optimism she had before. Also, finally some more concrete context for the phrase "purity control"!)

Mulder: Smokey's got a name.

Spender: Keeping Fox Mulder down is not a job, it's your dirty work!
Smoking Man (with derision): You pale to Fox Mulder.

Smoking Man: The truth was out there, fatally exposed.

Krycek: You've never seen one before, have you? It's shocking at first. The acceptance of the idea, it''s something you thought only children and fools believed in. It undermines your beliefs. In yourself. In the world. But then you come to understand.
Spender: Understand what?
Krycek: Well, the responsibility that this knowledge demands by the men who have it. The great sacrifice, by great men - like your father.

(After everything that's happened, I hate to think that Krycek considers the Smoking Man "a great man". Though he's a villain, and he's worked under the Smoking Man before, Krycek has always looked out for himself first and foremost, and one of his most redeeming traits was his betrayal of the Smoking Man after the merchandise trilogy. In hindsight, I think this whole exchange was set up to turn Spender against his father. It's interesting to see Krycek and Spender interact, since I compared them before. But they're from two different eras of the show. To be honest, I didn't realize Krycek stuck around until this late in the series. As a rival to Mulder, Spender pales in comparison to him. And I know that Mulder and Krycek will never be friends, but I can't help thinking how awesome it would be if they joined forces to stand against the aliens in the final chapter. I suppose I'll have to resort to reading fanfic for that alliance. Maybe I just really wanna see someone tear the Smoking Man apart, and Krycek is in the best position for a true betrayal. The Smoking Man apparently has a lot of emotional investment in both Mulder and Agent Spender, but how great would it be to see him felled by the slimiest creature in this series? Wait, scratch that. In light of this episode's cliffhanger, Agent Fowley is the slimiest creature in this series - the aliens from the movie included).

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