Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The X-Files - S8:E1 "Within"

[ S7:E22 "Requiem" <<< Season 8 >>> S8:E2 "Without" ]

Spoiler Warning: This is a mythology episode. Expect spoilers.

It begins. To my knowledge, this is the first time the title credits have been modified since the second episode of the series (the first episode they appeared in), Deep Throat. In seven years, no one - not William B. Davis, not even Mitch Pileggi (who features prominently in this episode, taking up much of the slack in Mulder's absence) - has usurped David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (oh, and um, Chris Carter)'s rule over the title credits. But now, Robert Patrick's name has been added, just like that, along with new badge pictures, and a few other new screens. (David Duchovny's name is still in there, by the way).

And in spite of the lack of a "to be continued" at the end of last season's finale (probably on account of the decision for whether there was even going to be an eighth season or not being made at the last minute), this episode picks up right where the last one left off, complete with a "previously on" segment. Scully tries to return to work - which is understandably hard, given that the rock she's leaned on for the past seven years is no longer there. She throws a fit at the people tearing through Mulder's office, even though they're on a task force created to hunt Mulder down. It's been put together by Kersh (now deputy director at the FBI), in a good opportunity to bring his character back into the fold, after not having been seen whatsoever after his role was finished in One Son, when Mulder and Scully got re-assigned to their precious X-Files.

Enter Special Agent John Doggett, the man in charge of the manhunt. Kersh is really only trying to cover the bureau's embarrassment, and could care less if Mulder turns up, so long as stories about alien abductions don't make it out to the press. Doggett comes off as a straight man - a no nonsense marine with experience in the police force, and a sturdy grasp of character (a useful skill in his line of work). He's in the position of an antagonist, but he seems genuinely interested in finding Mulder and getting to the truth about what happened to him, even if he's understandably skeptical about the whole alien business. He also seems too smart to let himself be Kersh's dupe, like Spender was. To be honest, I enjoyed the mind games in this episode between Scully, who's afraid to tell the truth because she doesn't want to lose her job, and Doggett, who can't be trusted, yet seems to have his heart in the right place.

As far as Mulder's whereabouts are concerned, the most we get to see are a few creepy scenes of him being tested on with alien equipment. In scenes like these, you really get the feeling that the aliens are not simply ignorant of human emotion, but are in fact enthusiastic sadists. Their medical equipment seems designed not for efficiency or minimal invasiveness, but maximum psychological torture (not to mention the physical pain). It's like, "anesthesia? That would defeat the whole point!" Anyway, there have been plenty of times on this show when Mulder has been missing and presumed dead, but you always knew he'd turn up somehow. But this time - the circumstances being what they are - it feels different. It's like there's a hole in the proceedings, caused by Mulder's conspicuous absence.

And, you know, Doggett goes on about how Scully and Skinner might not know Mulder as well as they think they do - and you don't want to believe him, because, like, who does this guy think he is, right? But then he turns out to be right! Apparently, Mulder knew he was dying, due to complications from brain surgery (presumably the same thing the Smoking Man suffered from, as a result of the events of Amor Fati, and the preceding episodes), and so maybe - maybe - with nothing left to lose, he gambled it all on a trip with Mr. Spaceman. Yet it all smells very strongly of retcon.

Regardless, Skinner contacts the Lone Gunmen directly, and works out a plan to track down the ship that Mulder's on, which he believes is still in the planetary vicinity, picking up more abductees from all over. It's a bit of a long shot - that, after being abducted, instead of traveling to god knows what corner of the galaxy - nay, the universe - Mulder would still be floating around the southwestern U.S. (conveniently where production happens to be located :p). And, like, how are you gonna get Mulder off the ship even if you do find it? On the other hand, I like the idea that the aliens are on cleanup duty, to keep their own existence a secret from the Earthlings (which is to say, they don't need a human government to cover up their existence; the conspiracy's goal was always just to cover their own asses, and hide their complicity with the alien agenda).

It all comes to a head when both parties (Scully-Skinner and Doggett's task force) determine that Gibson Praise (remember him? From The End?) is the key to finding Mulder. And here I thought for sure he'd been taken by the aliens when the one from the power plant in The Beginning eventually got his ride! I suppose he could have been abducted and then returned, but then, given how important he is to them now (seeing as how his mind-reading power could be used to spoil the aliens' secrets), I have a hard time believing they would have let him go if they'd have gotten a hold of him before. But if not, then wouldn't the Syndicate have known his whereabouts, and then how come they didn't do anything to him like they wanted to before? More inconsistencies...

Anyway, the boy is intercepted before anyone else can get to him, and when Doggett catches up to the kidnapper...(cue dramatic music)...it's Mulder! Or at least it looks like him. My money's on it being the Alien Bounty Hunter, because otherwise that would be too easy. But we'll have to wait till next week to find out. My first experience with a Robert Patrick episode (at least this time around, although I don't remember watching a lot of them before) is that this isn't the same show anymore. It's not the X-Files I fell in love with (although that was true starting from the sixth season as well). But, that having been said, this is a pretty solid start to a brand new season.

To be continued...

Memorable quotes:

Scully: They don't want the truth. You give them the truth and they'll hang you with it.
Skinner: They can hang me with a lie, too.

Scully: Nice to meet you, Agent Doggett.

(I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to Agent Doggett. He seems a solid enough character. Not trying overly hard to be a friend, but a man who has some integrity. And yet, still, for the sake of the fans, Scully's interaction with him ends with her throwing water in his face. And yet he still takes it in stride, as if he knows and accepts that to replace Mulder, he's going to have to win fans over. He'll never be Mulder's equal, but maybe I'll be able to get to like him for the character he is).

Scully: I will go on record to say this: that I have seen things that I cannot explain. I have observed phenomena that I cannot deny. And that, as a scientist, and a serious person, it is a badge of honor not to dismiss these things because someone thinks they're BS.

(I guess, with Mulder gone, Scully's going to become the believer now?)

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