Monday, August 31, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E9 "Nisei"

[ S3:E8 "Oubliette" <<< Season 3 >>> S3:E10 "731" ]

Spoiler Warning: This review contains significant spoilers from this two-part mythology episode. (I don't know, there's something about these mythology episodes that compels me to cover every scene from start to finish, instead of just glossing over the highlights. It's probably because they were so memorable, and left such an impression on me, that I want to record every beat for posterity. Also, it helps in putting the pieces of the mythology together).

This is another one of my all-time favorite sets of mythology episodes (apparently, the mythology was really strong in the second and third seasons). It's not as far-reaching as the merchandise trilogy, but it's thrilling, and it does provide a follow-up to some of the unanswered questions from those episodes. Mark Snow's excellent and atmospheric music sets the mood - as usual, but this is one of the episodes where it made the most lasting impression on me.

Funnily enough, it starts with Mulder examining a video very similar to the Fox network's Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction (a similarity that Scully herself makes note of, in one of the more excusable instances of product placement in television history). The idea that this video could actually be genuine, and that it could, as in Mulder's case, lead one to intercept a top government secret is a sci-fi geek's wet dream.

In the teaser, we are introduced to a train car in which a group of Japanese scientists are operating on some...thing...that apparently has green blood. All of it is being recorded on a surveillance feed, which a MUFON member is tapping into by satellite (which is how Mulder gets his hands on it), but, like Alien Abduction: Incident in Lake County, what's interesting about this tape is how things don't go according to plan - like, when some kind of black ops SWAT team rushes in just before the feed ends. When Mulder and Scully track down the man who intercepted the footage, they find his house raided - apparently they arrived only moments too late to witness his execution.

All stereotypes aside, I love that the Japanese guy Mulder chases through the neighborhood knows karate, and uses it to kick Mulder's gun out of his hand. I also love the writers' knowing wink when Mulder pulls out a second gun strapped to his ankle and says, "I get tired of losing my gun." (See, here's an example of self-referential humor used in a mythology episode that's completely straight-faced, but no less effective than the lampooning that goes on in Darin Morgan's episodes). While the suspect gets off on diplomatic immunity (but is unable to evade an unnamed assassin, played by a perfectly cast Stephen McHattie, with his grim voice, and unforgettable face), Mulder swipes just enough evidence from him to keep the case open.

This is where the agents split up. Scully investigates a MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) member named Betsy Hagopian, who may also have been targeted for execution. In a chilling scene, she basically walks in on an abductee therapy group, only to have them claim that they already know her - from her abduction experience. This is one of the creepiest things about alien abductions, apart from the abduction itself - the idea that you have this terrifying experience hiding in the back of your mind, and that you must sooner or later come to terms with it.

Scully is aware that she was taken, but as yet, she doesn't know the full extent of what was done to her, or what the consequences will be. The implications don't look good, however, as Betsy Hagopian is dying of an incurable form of cancer, that the abductee group is convinced is the inevitable result of her abductions. On the other hand, Scully finds evidence that the men responsible may be all too human - the implant she took out of the back of her neck in The Blessing Way appears to be a computer chip, and she recognizes one of the Japanese scientists on Mulder's tape as one of the men who experimented on her during her abduction.

Meanwhile, when Skinner washes his hands of Mulder's meddling in international affairs, he turns first to The Lone Gunmen, and then to his Senator friend - whom we haven't seen since the second season premiere, Little Green Men - to find out what the Japanese scientists are up to. Satellite photos indicate that they were tracking a ship transporting a UFO recovered from the sea floor (more on that in a later episode). But when the officer at the naval yard gives Mulder the runaround, he goes into full-on spy mode. He eventually tracks down another train car onto which a similar group of Japanese scientists are escorting what appears to be a living E.B.E.! X shows up at the eleventh hour to warn Scully not to let Mulder get on the train, but he makes the leap anyway, in a thrilling cliffhanger that will be resolved in the next episode.

To be continued...

Memorable quotes:

Scully: What are you watching?
Mulder: Something that just came in the mail.
Scully: That's not your usual brand of entertainment. What is it?
Mulder: According to the magazine ad I answered, it's an alien autopsy. Guaranteed authentic.
Scully: You spent money for this?

Scully: Either they can't locate an interpreter, or the interpreter they located didn't interpret the instructions and got lost somewhere, I don't know which.

Scully: Well, what do you wanna do now, drop it?
Mulder: No, I've paid my $29.95, Scully. I think I'm entitled to a few more answers, don't you think?

Penny: Oh my God, she's one.
Scully: One what?
Lottie: One of us.

Skinner: Whatever you stepped in on this case is being tracked into my office, and I don't like the smell of it.

Senator Richard Matheson: A good chess player knows which pieces to sacrifice - and when.

Mulder: Why do you refuse to believe?
Scully: Believing's the easy part, Mulder. I just need more than you - I need proof.
Mulder: You think that believing is easy...

(I feel like he's not so much asking her, here, but reflecting sadly on her statement in light of his lifelong struggle to believe. Excellent reading of the line, David).

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