Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The X-Files - S3:E24 "Talitha Cumi"

[ S3:E23 "Wetwired" <<< Season 3 >>> S4:E1 "Herrenvolk" ]

Spoiler Warning: The following review of this season 3 finale/mythology episode will contain major spoilers.

Talitha Cumi is a pivotal episode, that takes the major themes of last season's Colony/End Game - the clones, and the shape-shifting Alien Bounty Hunter - and switches it over to the 'a' track of the show's mythology. Yet, given that this is a season finale, it wasn't nearly as memorable for me as other mythology arcs in its vicinity. Certainly, it pales in comparison to season 2's finale, Anasazi, the coming season 4 finale, and even season 1's finale, The Erlenmeyer Flask - before the mythology had really taken off. Nevertheless, this episode contains some critical revelations that will drive the entire series' mythology for years to come. That having been said, if one were to pinpoint the place at which the show's mythology begins to show cracks, this would be my earliest candidate (certainly not the excellent merchandise trilogy), as it's the first mythology episode that leaves me more concerned about the untied story threads (I had to watch it twice to get all the bits and pieces) than thrilled by the journey it had taken me on.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. If you remember what I said about the last episode, this episode opens very much like a monster-of-the-week episode (not that other mythology episodes have never taken that tack before), when what appears to be a miracle healer defuses a potential mass murder situation in a fast food restaurant. But rather than going all freak-of-the-week like in Miracle Man, the episode quickly takes a turn for the conspiratorial, when the Smoking Man visits Mulder's mother at the family's abandoned summer home. He makes some creepily casual insinuations about his involvement with the family in their younger days, and then gets in an argument with Mrs. Mulder when she won't give him what he's looking for. It ends with Mrs. Mulder in the hospital with a stroke.

To piece together the mythology elements in this episode, I think it's clear that the Smoking Man was looking for the ice pick weapon that Mulder later tracks down. The miracle healer is actually one of another set of clones like we saw in Colony - and the shape-shifting Alien Bounty Hunter is back to take them out. This time, however, we get some (but not enough) insight into the Smoking Man's connection with the clones. The miracle healer is something of a rebel, who's turned his back on a mysterious "project" that the Smoking Man insinuates - and Mulder concludes - involves colonization (presumably of the planet). By going public with his special powers (which now also apparently include shape-shifting, like the Alien Bounty Hunter - I wonder, do all of these clones have the same powers, or is this one special?), he's putting the project at risk, and so now the Smoking Man wants him dead, too - except he can't kill him without one of those apparently rare and hard-to-find ice pick weapons.

Among the most damning revelations in this episode (along with the Smoking Man's history with Mulder's mother), is the fact that the Smoking Man is dying of lung cancer (although that's not too surprising), and, as uttered more than once in this episode, "the date is set" for this colonization project, although the details of just exactly what it is (or when that date is) still remain shrouded in mystery. Other mysteries include: what exactly these clones are, who made them, and for what exact purpose. If they're alien-human hybrids, and the Smoking Man (or his men) created them for some reason, that would seem to contradict what we learned in Nisei/731, when the Japanese scientists perfected the hybridization process. Had these clones been produced only since then? Then what about the others from last season? Why are they so perfect, and powerful, and human-looking, when even the Japanese' subject was sickly and looked alien? And what is the real reason the Alien Bounty Hunter is after them? Are the Syndicate perhaps in breach of some alien agreement or agenda? I guess I'll have to wait for the next episode, or others following it, to get these answers (one can hope).

Making up for his absence in last season's finale, X appears in this episode - and lives to tell the tale. That's two seasons now X has survived to Deep Throat's one. Mulder and X finally duke it out over the location of the ice pick weapon, in a fight that's been brewing for the better part of those two seasons. The episode finally ends on a tense cliffhanger - with the rebel clone in Mulder's company, but in hot pursuit by the Alien Bounty Hunter - although, frankly, it's the sort of cliffhanger that ought to be resolved in a week's time, rather than letting the audience stew on it for a whole season. I know that Mulder can't be left presumed dead, or the X-Files project shut down, every year, but a good season finale should provide some sense of closure even as it hooks you into wanting to tune in to find out what happens in the next season. This is more of a "what will happen next? Tune in next week to find out!" cliffhanger, like we had at the end of Colony, or Nisei, or Piper Maru. Ah well, it's not like I have to wait anyway.

To be continued...

Memorable quotes:

Smoking Man: Everything changes but the sea.

Smoking Man: He was a good water-skier, your husband. Not as good as I was, but then...that could be said about so many things. Couldn't it? (Insinuating glare).
Mrs. Mulder: I've repressed it all.

Smoking Man: Who are you to give them hope?
Jeremiah Smith: What do you give them?
Smoking Man: We give them happiness, and they give us authority.
Jeremiah Smith: The authority to take away their freedom under the guise of democracy.
Smoking Man: Men can never be free, because they're weak, corrupt, worthless, and restless. The people believe in authority; they've grown tired of waiting for miracle and mystery. Science is their religion. No greater explanation exists for them. They must never believe any differently if the project is to go forward.
Jeremiah Smith: At what cost to them?
Smoking Man: The question's irrelevant, and the outcome inevitable. The date is set.

(Although this isn't unprecedented on this show - see Bill Mulder's monologue to his son in The Blessing Way - the fact that this conversation says so much, and yet says it so cryptically that you can sit there and listen to it and not realize just how much has been revealed to you - the devil's in the details, isn't it? - is demonstrable of how this episode kind of flies under the radar).

Mulder: I want the Smoking Man smoked out. I want him exposed to be the murdering son of a bitch that he is.

Skinner: These men don't have names!

Jeremiah Smith: You put me in a cage, within a cage. Why are you so afraid of me?
Smoking Man: I'm not.
Jeremiah Smith: Yes, you are. You live in fear. That's your whole life.
Smoking Man: You don't know anything about me.
Jeremiah Smith: I know everything about you.

Smoking Man: Anyone who can appease a man's conscious can take his freedom away from him.

Smoking Man: I'm not one of you!
Jeremiah Smith: No. All you want is to be a part of it - is to be one of the commandants, when the process begins. But you are wrong.
Smoking Man: Oh, am I?
Jeremiah Smith: Yes. You are dying of lung cancer.

Mulder: You gonna smoke that? Or do you wanna smoke on this? (Pulls out a gun).
Smoking Man: Are you giving me a choice?

Smoking Man: I've known your mother since before you were born, Fox.
Mulder; I don't care!
Smoking Man: I'd gone to see her recently.
Mulder: Yeah, and I know what you were looking for.
Smoking Man: I wasn't looking for anything. It's what she was looking for, actually. She contacted me.
Mulder: You liar!
Smoking Man: I had information, possibly - on the whereabouts of your sister.

(Ooh, sly dog, playing chess to stay alive when there's a gun pointed at your face. It's amazing how convincingly the Smoking Man lies. I want to believe him so badly - just like I did in Anasazi, but I know that Mulder's right - he's a liar. Nothing he says - particularly to Mulder - can be trusted. Although like any good liar (and the devil himself), he mixes lies with the truth to make the lies go down more smoothly).

Mulder: It's a weapon, isn't it? Used to pierce the back of the neck. It's the only way we can kill them.
X: A simple gunshot won't do.
Mulder: Why do you want it?
X: They will kill you for it, Agent Mulder. That's a fact. They'll stop at nothing for it - nothing. Even if they have to martyr you and risk turning your work into a crusade.
Mulder: Let me get clear on something here. What we're talking about is colonization. The date is set, isn't it?
X: Give me the weapon, Agent Mulder.
Mulder: No.

Mulder: You shoot me, then you'll never find it.
X: I oughta shoot you anyway. After everything I've given you.

X: You're a dead man, Agent Mulder. One way, or the other.

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