Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The X-Files - S8:E2 "Without"

[ S8:E1 "Within" <<< Season 8 >>> S8:E3 "Patience" ]

Spoiler Warning: This mythology episode continues from last week. Expect spoilers.

For a mythology episode, this one is pretty straightforward for once. It opens on last episode's cliffhanger, with Doggett confronting "Mulder", who does indeed turn out to be the shape-shifting Alien Bounty Hunter. He releases Gibson Praise (who runs off and goes into hiding), and then escapes by stepping off the edge of a cliff, then simply getting up and walking away. Scully briefs Doggett (and Skinner) on the ABH's abilities, but Doggett is understandably skeptical. The rest of the episode is basically spent trying to track down Gibson Praise before the ABH gets to him (and the location is about as desert-y as we've seen this show since Dreamland). Scully knows she can use him to find the UFO where Mulder is probably being kept (we see him in a couple more scenes being subjected to torturous experiments). But this is one mythology episode that's not going to end by returning things to the status quo.

Unless you consider Agent Doggett being assigned to the X-Files in Mulder's place some kind of twisted version of the status quo. There's a decent scene in this episode that helps to gradually push Doggett more towards the sympathetic protagonist position, in which Skinner puts the pieces together for him that he's being played by Kersh, who's set Doggett up for failure, probably to safeguard his own position in the bureau by eliminating competition from any potentially ambitious rising star agents. Kersh expects Doggett to fail in finding Mulder, and what Skinner realizes is that the only way for him to succeed is for him to start buying all the alien mumbo-jumbo, which will ruin his reputation even more thoroughly. To his credit, it would seem that he considers the task of finding Mulder a professional challenge, and one that he intends to surmount.

Although, his skepticism in the face of unexplained phenomena is on the level of Scully's. There's a nice standoff at the end where Doggett's doubt is tested against Scully's outlandish claims as to the ABH's otherworldly abilities, although it concludes somewhat ambiguously. There's also another scene where Scully and Skinner pull their guns on each other. It's not quite as tense as the scene that concluded The Blessing Way, but you never can be too sure when the ABH is involved. It's almost funny (or sad), though, how quick Scully is to distrust Skinner. He's the go-to scapegoat, no matter how many times his loyalty has been proven - even now, when he's becoming more of a center-stage player.

In the episode's conclusion, Scully shoots the ABH in the back of the neck, in what is - I think (considering Mulder's disappointing aim with the retractable ice pick in Herrenvolk) - the first time we see the ABH killed (and by a gunshot, no less). He dies just like the green-blooded hybrids, dissolving into a puddle of green goo. Gibson Praise is taken into protective custody, and we're set up for a string of freak-of-the-week episodes with Doggett in Mulder's place. But I wonder what'll happen next in the mythology. Will the aliens hang around and search for Gibson Praise some more (or find some other reason to hang around), giving Scully and the others more chances to rescue Mulder before he sails to the stars? That seems the obvious choice - although, knowing this show, they'll probably leave the thread dangling and introduce something else entirely to focus on instead...

Memorable quotes:

Doggett: You know, Agent Scully, you're starting to remind me a lot of Agent Mulder yourself.

(It's looking like this "Scully-is-the-new-Mulder" thing is going to stick. But we'll have to wait and see how she acts in the freak-of-the-week episodes first).

Skinner: You're being made a pawn in a rigged game.
Doggett: Alright, you painted me a picture, now put it in a frame.

Scully: For someone who claims he's not following me, you sure have a knack.
Doggett: Hey, you're where the action is.
Scully: What does that tell ya? That I'm crazy, or that I'm right?
Doggett: Wandering around in the desert in the dead of night - you call it.

Kersh: This reads like a piece of pot-boiled science-fiction.
Doggett: You mean it reads like an X-File.

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