Monday, August 24, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E1 "The Blessing Way"

[ S2:E25 "Anasazi" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E2 "Paper Clip" ]

Spoiler Warning: This episode picks right up from the cliffhanger at the end of last season's finale, as well as being an important mythology episode. As such, this review will contain massive spoilers.

The last episode was thrilling, but this one puts you on the edge of your seat. It goes to show how much of an impression these episodes made on me when I first watched this series, that while listening to Albert Hosteen's opening monologue, the words just rolled off my tongue, as if I still remembered them. Picking up where Anasazi left off, Mulder has seemingly - and miraculously - vanished without a trace, pissing off the Smoking Man, who begins pulling out all the stops to find him (and, of course, the documents in his possession). Scully is no less concerned about Mulder's disappearance, but has other things to worry about when the FBI rewards her with a leave of absence, on threat of losing her job permanently.

At a low point in her life, Scully visits her mother to wallow in sorrow. Frohike (of The Lone Gunmen) pays a visit, but the evidence he brings her (an obituary describing The Thinker's execution) doesn't exonerate Mulder for the murder of his own father like she'd hoped. She does, however, make a startling discovery when she enters the FBI building as a civilian, and is forced to go through the metal detector - there is an implant in the back of her neck! She gets it removed, and it appears to be a computer chip. Following this discovery, Scully's sister (whom we will, sadly, see for the last time in these episodes), convinces her to try hypnotic regression therapy.

Elsewhere, though presumed dead, Mulder is found by the men on the Navajo reservation buried just underground, with death perilously close. They begin the "Blessing Way Chant", a spiritual ritual to save Mulder's life. Here, Mulder gets his own metaphysical, near death experience, complete with a visitation by his recently deceased father, much like Scully did in One Breath. Touchingly, Deep Throat also puts in an appearance, in what is an excellent excuse to feature him - it's nice to see him again. Mulder's father alludes to further truths that Mulder will find if he returns to life, in a great example of foreshadowing, suggesting that Chris Carter (who penned this episode) really did have a plan, and (probably) wasn't simply making things up as he went along.

We also get to witness a creepy hallucination - or memory? - of what appears to be the not-quite-human beings from the boxcar, presumably when they were first put in there and killed, gas chamber-style. Additionally, we get our first exciting look at the Syndicate of shady businessmen that the Smoking Man works with, expanding the conspiracy yet some more here in the third season. One of its prominent members, who we'll come to know as the Well-Manicured Man (John Neville), confronts Scully to warn her that she's been targeted for execution, in a chilling and highly memorable scene. The paranoia after this is palpable, and the collateral damage tragic (Krycek, you rat bastard!). Can Skinner still be trusted?

In these episodes, the pressure coming down through the ranks is so strong, that Skinner has to tread very carefully not to get wrapped up in the same troubles that Mulder and Scully love to court. I was surprised that his transition from foe to friend was so fast in the beginning of the second season, but now I recall that his loyalties are at times put into question. I do believe he's squarely on Mulder and Scully's side; however, he does have different priorities, and so sometimes his choices are predicated more upon the importance of job security and saving his agents' lives, than risking those lives to find the truth, and uncover a conspiracy guarded by very powerful authority figures.

This roller coaster of an episode ends on yet another exciting cliffhanger, making it the series' first official three-parter (although the story thread in Duane Barry/Ascension was concluded in One Breath, the latter two episodes were separated by an independent episode, and not connected via an unbroken string of "to be continued" endings, as these three episodes are). The excitement will be concluded in the next episode!

To be continued...

Memorable quotes:

Albert Hosteen: There is an ancient Indian saying, that something lives only as long as the last person who remembers it. My people have come to trust memory over history. Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable. While history serves only those who seek to control it, those who would douse the flame of memory in order to put out the dangerous fire of truth - beware these men, for they are dangerous themselves, and unwise. Their false history is written in the blood of those who might remember, and of those who seek the truth.

Smoking Man: Gentlemen, we have control. The files have been recovered, and the men involved in their theft have been removed without incident. There is a small matter of concern with the FBI, but we'll handle that internally, as usual. The media attention will amount to nothing more than a few, uh...scattered obituaries.

Frohike: He was a good friend. A redwood among mere sprouts. I guess this means he's passing you the torch.
Scully: Ah, I'm afraid not. I'm soon to be out of a job.
Frohike: Those sons of bitches. They're rigging the game.
Scully: And like rats, they just scatter back into the woodpile.

Deep Throat: I was first struck by the absence of time, having depended on it so completely as a measure of my self and my life. Moving backwards into the perpetual night, it consumes purpose, and deed, all passion, will. I come to you, old friend, with the dull clarity of the dead, not to beckon you, but to feel the fire and intensity that still lived in you. And the heavy weight of your burdens which I had once borne - there is truth here, old friend, if that's all you seek. But there's no justice or judgment, without which truth is a vast, dead, hollow. Go back, do not look into the abyss and let the abyss look into you. Awaken the sleep of reason and fight the monsters within and without.

Mr. Mulder: Hello, son. I did not dare hope to see you so soon. Nor ever again hope to broker fate with a life to which I gave life. The lies I told you were a pox and poison to my soul, and now you are here because of them. Lies I thought might bury forever a truth I could not live with. I stand here, ashamed of the choices I made so long ago, when you were just a boy. You are the memory, Fox. It lives in you. If you were to die now, the truth will die, and only the lies survive us.
Mulder: My sister, is she here?
Mr. Mulder: No. The thing that would destroy me - the truth I felt you must never learn - is the truth you will find, if you are to go forward.

(A chilling prophecy - all the more so if you suspect, or know, with the benefit of hindsight, to what he is referring).

Melissa: What are you so afraid of, Dana? You afraid you might actually learn something about yourself? God, I mean, you are so shut off to the possibility there could be any other explanation, except for your rigid, scientific view of the world. It's like you've lost all touch with your own intuition.

Well-Manicured Man: They'll kill you one of two ways. They'll send someone, possibly two men, to kill you in your home, or in the garage, with an unregistered weapon, which will be left at the scene. Using false documents supplied by associates of mine, they'll be out of the country in less than two hours.
Scully: You said there were two ways?
Well-Manicured Man: Yes. He, or she, will be someone close to you, someone you trust. They'll arrange a meeting, or come to your house unexpectedly. You have someplace else you might stay?

Scully: You're not protecting me, you're protecting yourself.
Well-Manicured Man: Why should that surprise you? Motives are rarely unselfish.

Scully: What kind of business are you in?
Well-Manicured Man: We predict the future. The best way to predict the to invent it.

(Already, the seeds for the first movie, "Fight The Future" - which won't come until after the fifth season - are being planted).

Scully (to Skinner, at gunpoint): You've got the rest of your life to give me answers.

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