Thursday, November 19, 2015

The X-Files - S7:E2 "Amor Fati"

[ S7:E1 "The Sixth Extinction" <<< Season 7 >>> S7:E3 "Hungry" ]

Spoiler Warning: This mythology episode picks up right from last week, so beware of spoilers.

As far as naming conventions go for the two-part premieres of season-spanning three-parters in this series, this episode splits the difference between the model used by the merchandise trilogy, and that used by the hoax trilogy, opting to repeat a title twice (as in Redux/Redux II) and give the second part a unique title (as in The Blessing Way/Paper Clip) - albeit in the form of a subtitle. I'd just as soon call this episode Amor Fati, and be done with it, because why not? (And The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati is rather unwieldy as far as episode titles go). In any case, the title - some obscure Latin phrase that ties into the events of the episode in a symbolic manner (like Terma's E Pur Si Muove) - is emblazoned in the title sequence in place of "The Truth Is Out There", the 13th time in the entire series (if my count is accurate) such a substitution has been made.

The episode begins with Mulder's mother visiting her son in the hospital, in a sequence that plays to the terror of being trapped in a body with your mind fully active, but being utterly unable to communicate. Immediately following is a chilling confrontation between Mulder and the Smoking Man - more stirring than his offer to Mulder in Redux II, and more satisfying than his revelations in One Son. (In the first of many irritating loose ends in this episode, it makes sense that Mulder can read the Smoking Man's mind, but how exactly can the Smoking Man read Mulder's mind)? The confrontation concludes with the Smoking Man pulling a total Darth Vader and telling Mulder, "I am your father". (I don't believe he really believes that for a second - it's gotta be just another ploy). And it only gets progressively weirder, when Ol' Smokey spirits Mulder away (allegedly saving his life by making him "disappear"), and enters him into a sort of witness protection program.

It's a little embarrassing to watch the Smoking Man try to remake Mulder in his image. If this was somebody else - anybody else - it would be endearing. But we the viewers and Mulder both know what kind of a despicable man the Smoking Man is, so you know it can't turn out well. Just look at what the Smoking Man did to the last man he tried to mold into his son, after inevitably being disappointed! Yet, Mulder's in a legitimately vulnerable position, so he almost has to go along with the Smoking Man, which is what makes it so uncomfortable. You kinda wish the Smoking Man would just drop the façade already and embrace reality. But he is a man of lies and deception, after all.

So it's not entirely convincing when he basically drops Mulder into instant suburban life, and apparently expects him to play house with Diana Fowley (and you don't need to light the bedroom in an ominous red glow to know that this is some kind of vision of hell). It's wonderfully surreal, though, when Mulder is visited by Deep Throat, who claims that his death was staged. The Smoking Man also dangles Mulder's sister in front of him again - presumably the same one that was in Redux II. Eventually you come to realize that it's all a dream, culminating in a fiery vision of the alien apocalypse (the best thing in this whole episode) - with talk of Mulder being the "savior", on account of his "switched-on" alien genes, it definitely has the feeling of being a sort of Last Temptation of Christ.

As the Smoking Man explains to Fowley (if you can count the cryptic way he likes to talk in riddles as "explaining"), Mulder is some kind of ready-made alien-human hybrid (and thus immune to the coming apocalypse - which still leaves the previous question of what creating hybrids has to do with the aliens' plan for colonization unanswered). The question of why Mulder is the only one who responded in the particular way he did to the UFO fragments in Biogenesis is addressed in a frustrating manner via a nearly throwaway line by Kritschgau (who, apparently, now also believes in aliens), as having something to do with (presumably) Mulder's being infected with the Black Oil (in Tunguska) - although it's not an entirely satisfying explanation. In any case, the Smoking Man apparently steals the alien powers out of Mulder, presumably implanting them in himself (because apparently you can do that).

If I'm saying "presumably" and "apparently" a lot, it's because a lot of things in this episode aren't crystal clear. I'm genuinely caught between wanting to complain about the way Chris Carter unsatisfyingly "answers" questions by throwing out vague and ambiguous information that's easily contradicted, and conceding both the fact that the show doesn't spoon feed its audience is refreshing, and that (for better or worse), the fact that the show entices its dedicated viewers to exert much effort into trying to fit the pieces together themselves, while often frustrating, is also one of the things that makes this series so unique and so much fun to really obsess over. If the answers were all lying on the surface in plain sight, there'd be little reason to dig any deeper. So, pros and cons, I guess.

In any case, the episode wraps up rather abruptly. After a confrontation with Scully, Fowley finally has a crisis of conscience, resulting in her murder (off screen - so don't celebrate just yet). Mulder, sans debilitating alien powers, is then rescued by Scully. Albert Hosteen (who visited Scully psychically in this episode, perhaps similarly to the vanishing man last week - but don't expect an explanation for that) is confirmed dead from cancer. Kritschgau is also killed (I think - it was dark, but I can't imagine who else it would have been) at Krycek's hands. Skinner may also be in jeopardy (the scene wasn't very conclusive), for his part in helping Scully find Mulder.

The episode ends with a scene that totally panders to the MSR (Mulder-Scully Romance). (Note to Chris Carter: whatever you may say about the inevitability of their romance, this show has become the schmaltzy soap opera you tried to avoid when you set out on this journey). Scully's also back to her "I don't know what to believe" mindset - so, status quo, I presume; ready to investigate another season's worth of X-Files. The series has changed a lot in the past seven years - the comparisons this three-parter draws to past three-parters just emphasizes those things that are different. I wouldn't rate this one on the level of either the merchandise or the hoax trilogies (and in particular, the conclusion to this three-parter was a bit unsatisfying - not as thrilling as either Redux II or Paper Clip), but for this late in the series, it's not bad. It has its moments.

Memorable quotes:

Smoking Man: All a mother wants is to shield her boy from pain and danger. Safe in the world, as he was once in the womb. But maybe we think a father demands more than mere survival. Maybe we're afraid a father demands worldly adulation, success, heroism.

Kritschgau: Getting in is easy. It's what you do once you're inside that's key.

Mulder: A man can't just disappear.
Smoking Man: Oh, we've made entire cultures disappear.

Smoking Man: Can I offer a cigarette?
Mulder: I don't smoke.
Smoking Man: Maybe now you do.

Smoking Man: Why leave something behind, until you know what it is you're leaving?

Deep Throat (to Mulder): I'm here to tell you that you're not the hub of the universe, the cause of life and death. We - you and I - are merely puppets in a master plan. No more, no less.

Smoking Man: Extraordinary men are always most tempted by the most ordinary things.

Fowley: Let's cut the crap, shall we?
Scully: Yes. Let's.

Albert Hosteen: There are more worlds than the one you can hold in your hand.

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