Saturday, August 22, 2015

The X-Files - S2:E25 "Anasazi"

[ S2:E24 "Our Town" <<< Season 2 >>> S3:E1 "The Blessing Way" ]

Spoiler Warning: As with last season's finale, this review will contain major spoilers.

Along with the Duane Barry/Ascension/One Breath plot arc, which we encountered earlier in this season, this episode kicks off another of the all-time most memorable plot arcs in the entire series for me (although its conclusion is reserved for the start of the next season). The episode opens with an earthquake near a Navajo reservation (which offers a cozier atmosphere than the Native American community in the first season's Shapes), during which what appears to be the grave site of an extraterrestrial being is unearthed from beneath the red sands of New Mexico (and if this is still Vancouver, I'll eat my hat). Then, in the opening credits sequence, the usual phrase, The Truth Is Out There, is very mysteriously rendered in Navajo ("Éí 'Aaníígóó 'Áhoot'é"), which could look like gibberish (or possibly even alien script) to the untrained eye.

Meanwhile, The Thinker - who was briefly mentioned in One Breath - has managed to hack into the Defense Department's classified files, including the hallowed "MJ Documents" (presumably referring to Majestic 12, a top secret government committee on extraterrestrial affairs), essentially the smoking gun that proves the government's involvement in a conspiracy to cover-up extraterrestrial contact. But not just the U.S. government - for the first time we get solid evidence that the conspiracy extends to an international conglomeration of political agents. And The Thinker wants Mulder to bring it all out into the light. But whereas in the past, Mulder's informants have only fed him what they wanted him to know, this time the conspirators must go on the defensive. The stakes have never been higher!

In a classic case of give-and-take, the documents are encrypted in Navajo - a military tactic used in WWII - which means that Mulder and Scully can only make sense of bits and pieces of them. Still, in the conspirators' rush to minimize their damages, we discover a shocking revelation - that the Smoking Man and Mulder's father have history together, and that the latter is involved in the conspiracy. (We also get the most plausible reason yet why the Smoking Man hasn't just killed Mulder - it's to honor his friendship with Mulder's father). In a touching scene, it seems that Mulder's father is finally ready to open up to his son and come clean, but that's cut short by the shocking return of Alex Krycek, in an infuriating attempt to frame Mulder for the murder of his own father!

Ever since dropping out of existence in Ascension, Krycek has been AWOL, and the audience could be forgiven for thinking they'd never see him again. After all, he only showed up in...what, three episodes? Thus, his return is unexpected, and the conditions of his reappearance go a long way in cementing his reputation as the weaselly sort of villain it's so much fun to hate. He makes a great counterpoint to the almost respectable villainy of the Smoking Man. It's hinted at that they're no longer working in collusion, but whether Krycek is an agent of chaos, pursuing his own vendetta, or answering to an as-yet-unidentified authority (perhaps a higher one than the Smoking Man holds, in a bid to sidestep the latter's growing sentimentality), is still a mystery.

Emotions are running high, and it's clear that Mulder is in an excitable state when he resorts to punching Skinner. It's a bad time for Mulder to be caught up in all of this, since he's running a high fever. You know he's losing it when he starts to suspect even Scully of double-crossing him. It gets so bad that Scully actually has to shoot him, although for a fully justified reason. But just when you're starting to think that Mulder's actions are too wild - as if written to drive the quickly unraveling plot - we're given a brilliantly satisfying explanation for his aberrant behavior: he's deliberately being drugged by his enemies to compromise his handling of the situation!

Things get so bad, that Mulder and Scully have to go into hiding while things cool off, and to buy some time to translate the stolen documents. By sheer coincidence, the Navajo translator they have enlisted the help of - Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman's Albert Hosteen - leads Mulder to the recently uncovered alien grave site, which is linked to legends of the mysteriously vanished Anasazi tribe. (I like that they tie alien abductions into the history of Native America, suggesting that this is not just a new phenomenon). But what one might presume to be a buried spacecraft turns out to be a rather terrestrial boxcar. Albeit one filled with heaps of the decayed remains of what, to all intents and purposes, appear to be alien lifeforms!

At the same time, Scully's assisted translation of the documents hints not at extraterrestrial matters, but rather human tests performed during World War II on subjects referred to impersonally as "merchandise". As frightening as the discovery that the U.S. government may have been involved in Nazi-like human experimentation is, it's not quite the Earth-shattering revelation we were all expecting. You definitely get the feeling that Mulder and Scully haven't deciphered the part of the documents that contains whatever it is the Smoking Man and his associates are afraid they'll learn. Although there is a mention of Scully's abduction in the most recent files, indicating that it was indeed orchestrated by the conspirators after all - although towards what ultimate end still remains unclear.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger, marking the first of the series' season finales to do so. Mulder's precise whereabouts are unknown, and his fate is in question. The subtle loyalties in this episode must have been lost on me the first time I watched it, as I was under the impression that the Smoking Man had intentionally tried to kill Mulder by burning the boxcar. This time around, however, it's clear to me that this is not the case - that he was unaware of Mulder's location, and was only trying to destroy the evidence. But what that evidence reveals - and whether or not those bodies are really alien - remains to be seen. This has been a thrilling episode (just look at how many of these paragraphs have ended in exclamation points!), with many revelations (and just as many non-revelations), but the fun is not over yet; it will continue in the next season.

To be continued...

Memorable quotes:

Albert Hosteen: The earth has a secret it needs to tell.

Smoking Man: Gentlemen, that was the phone call I never wanted to get.

The Thinker: If I'm correct, I got the original Defense Department's UFO intelligence files. Everything from...1940s and up.
Mulder: Everything?
The Thinker: Everything - Roswell, MJ-12, and beyond.

Mulder: You know they've always denied that these files even existed. What do you want from me?
The Thinker: I want the truth. And I want you to promise that those rat bastards answer to the people.

Mulder: Are you familiar with the Ten Commandments, Scully?
Scully; You want me to recite them?
Mulder: Just number four, the one about obeying the Sabbath - the part where God made Heaven and Earth, but didn't bother to tell anybody about his side projects.

Mulder: Is this another jerk-off assignment where I end up doing the government's dirty work?

Smoking Man: Who could have predicted the future, Bill? That the computers you and I only dreamed of would someday be home appliances capable of the most technical espionage.

Smoking Man: Regret is an inevitable consequence of life.

Mulder: I must be running a fever. Maybe it's the threat of being burned at the stake.

Mr. Mulder: You're a smart boy, Fox. Smarter than I ever was.
Mulder: About what?
Mr. Mulder: Your politics are yours. You've never thrown in. The minute you do that, their doctrines become yours, and you can be held responsible.
Mulder: You're talking about your work in the State Department?
Mr. Mulder: You're going to learn of things, Fox. You're going to hear the words, and they'll come to make sense to you.
Mulder: What words?
Mr. Mulder: The merchandise...

Mulder: You've been making reports on me since the beginning, Scully, taking your little notes!

Mulder: I'm gonna kill you anyway, Krycek, so you might as well tell me the truth.

Mulder: You shot me.
Scully: Yes, I did.

Albert Hosteen: You're lucky she's a good shot.
Mulder: Or a bad one.

Albert Hosteen: In the desert, things find a way to survive. Secrets are like this, too. They push their way up through the sands of deception, so men can know them.

Albert Hosteen: There was a tribe of Indians who lived here more than 600 years ago. Their name was Anasazi. It means "the ancient aliens". No evidence of their fate exists. Historians say they disappeared without a trace. They say that because they will not sacrifice themselves to the truth.
Mulder: And what is the truth?
Albert Hosteen: Nothing disappears without a trace.
Mulder: You think they were abducted?
Albert Hosteen: By visitors who come here still.

Smoking Man
: You're a hard man to reach.
Mulder: Not hard enough, apparently.

Mulder: Listen to me, you black-lunged son of a bitch - I'm gonna expose you, and your project. Your time is over!

Mulder: These aren't human, Scully. From the look of it, I'd say they were alien.
Scully: Are you sure?
Mulder: I'm pretty damn sure.

Smoking Man: Where's Mulder? ...He's here.
Military Officer: No, sir. If he was, he's vanished without a trace.
Smoking Man: Nothing vanishes without a trace. Burn it!