Saturday, October 10, 2015

The X-Files - S5:E2 "Redux II"

[ S5:E1 "Redux" <<< Season 5 >>> S5:E3 "Unusual Suspects" ]

Spoiler Warning: If the title wasn't enough of an indication, this is another mythology episode, continuing from where the last episode left off - so expect huge spoilers. Mark my words, blood will be spilled by episode's end!

This is the first (only?) time in the series two episodes have shared a name. I can't confirm this, but I wonder if Redux and Redux II were originally intended to be one episode. You know that when one episode ends up spilling into two, there's gonna be a lot of ground to cover. This is only the second official (third unofficial, if you count One Breath as part of Duane Barry/Ascension, which I like to do) three-parter in the series, further warranting comparisons to the merchandise trilogy. I think I've heard fans refer to this one as "the Redux trilogy", but I think I'd rather call it "the hoax trilogy". This is a dramatic episode, although while it finally resolves the story thread started in last season's finale, Gethsemane, it's the sort of episode that requires time to digest - maybe even a second (or third) watch. Like, you know, to try and figure out who's working with who and for whom, and to what end...

It's sweet that Mulder makes his grand entrance from the realm of the [not-so-]dead - not sneaking around, but making a scene at the hospital, looking for Scully after she collapses. With Scully in a hospital bed, on the brink of death, and Mulder throwing a fit - it definitely recalls One Breath. It's a heartbreaking intro. Skinner comes to Mulder and reveals that he's been withholding forensic evidence on the assassin Mulder shot - see, I knew Skinner was still on their side. Kritschgau is still around (I'm honestly surprised he survived these episodes, although it's too bad we don't ever see him again - at least that I remember), but his son is dead. He also reveals that he's been "remunerated" in part by what he describes as a Congressional lobbying firm (and is later described as a biotechnology corporation) called Roush, whom we'll find out was also paying off the mole in the FBI.

On the Scully front, her brother Bill demonstrates even further what an asshole he is, coming off even worse than the Smoking Man, who remarkably appears to want to help Mulder for once. He explains that the vial of de-ionized water also contained a microchip (which is what I suspected, recalling from my uncertain memory). Mulder deduces that Scully's cancer appeared only after she had her implant removed, and that by re-installing the microchip, she may yet live. Without immediate results, though, Scully unfortunately gets so desperate as to finally turn to religion, after all. Sad face. Meanwhile, the Smoking Man relates to the raspy-voiced Elder (I'm just gonna call him Elder now that I see that that's the name he's listed under in the show's official credits) - he's so grimly theatrical, I love it - that he wants to recruit Mulder to their side. Are things getting weird yet? But the Elder doesn't seem amused, and sends a sniper to keep a close watch on the Smoking Man.

And then things get even weirder. The Smoking Man arranges a meeting between Mulder and Samantha - and it feels just as unreal as that sentence sounds. Worse yet, Samantha refers to the Smoking Man as her father. At one point, you're thinking, it's as if Samantha is worth more as a shining beacon in the dark - a vague symbol keeping Mulder on his path - than as a real, live person, with a life of her own, and no mystery surrounding her whereabouts. At another point, it's like an explicit representation of some spiritual encounter - where Mulder is literally asking Samantha where he can find her, and she's literally telling him to let her go. In the end, I think it all just feels so...wrong, because it is wrong. It has to be a lie. It wouldn't be the first time Mulder's been presented with a fake Samantha. I think it's a ruse the Smoking Man set up to try to win over Mulder's trust, towards his own selfish ends. It only shows what a heartless man he truly is, that he thinks Mulder would gain any kind of peace at all from this fleeting encounter.

But it gets even weirder still. The Smoking Man offers Mulder a job on his team, if he'll quit the FBI. He even dangles the promise of learning the truth about the "project" and the conspiracy in front of him. Of course, Mulder refuses. But an important takeaway from this conversation is the Smoking Man's suggestion that Kritschgau was a liar. It's no surprise that this hoax business wouldn't hold up indefinitely - that's just not the show we're watching (although it's been mighty fun going along for the ride). But I'm a little disappointed that there's not a better resolution for this plot thread (unless the writers are holding out on that for a later episode). There's no explanation as to all the evidence we've seen in these episodes to support the hoax theory - not even something as simple as somebody saying, "oh yeah, we set this all up just to trick you".

Maybe that's the argument between the Smoking Man and the Elder - the rest of the Syndicate want Mulder to cease and desist, even if that means breaking his spirit (although the Elder has admitted that they want him alive). But the Smoking Man has been taking an increasingly personal interest in Mulder (whether there is any truth to these rumors of family ties that keep being hinted at or not), which may be viewed as the possible threat of him being told too much. But I can't be sure - the web of lies is even more difficult than usual to parse out in this episode. Barring that explanation, though, at the very least I would have accepted, "yeah, we create hoaxes to divert people's attention from the real extraterrestrial matters we're dealing with."

Barreling forward towards the episode's conclusion, Mulder is finally called in to testify at the FBI committee, now facing a possible charge of murder. Scully wants him to lay the blame on her, to give her death some meaning, but Mulder admirably refuses to tarnish her sterling reputation. Section Chief Blevins, meanwhile, calls him into his office to offer him a deal - if he'll finger Skinner as the FBI mole, this little problem of a murder charge will go away. Mulder makes the right decision, and fingers the obvious culprit (even if he said it was a lucky guess) - Blevins himself. Who else, right? I mean, he was the one responsible for assigning Scully to debunk Mulder's work, originally. Still, it's a terribly dramatic scene.

In the aftermath, Blevins is assassinated, but so, too, is the Smoking Man (while pawing that photo of Fox and Samantha as kids), the latter by the Elder's sniper. Of course, no body is recovered (I don't think anyone will be too surprised if/when he turns up again later), but it is, nevertheless, a shocking turn of events. Meanwhile, Scully's cancer finally goes into remission. Yay! I'm pretty sure it was the implant that did the trick - although, unsurprisingly, the episode leaves the door wide open for speculation that it may have been a miracle fostered by Scully's death bed re-dedication to her faith. (Yeah, it was the implant). In spite of the questions left unanswered (in typical fashion), and the convoluted web of loyalties and betrayals involved, this episode serves as an exciting end to a very exciting chapter in the X-Files mythology. And yet, I still can't wait to find out what happens next!

Memorable quotes:

Skinner: You're moving pretty good for a dead man.
Mulder: I'm only half dead.

Elder: We're too vulnerable. Our man in the FBI's exposed. What Mulder may have seen could expose our plans.
Smoking Man: What Mulder's seen only serves us, serves to ensure our plans. Mulder's in trouble. He needs help. We can give it to him.
Elder: In exchange for?
Smoking Man: His new loyalty - to us. As I've said all along, Mulder's much more valuable to us alive.

Smoking Man: I'm here tonight as a friend, Agent Mulder.

Mulder: Please don't go.
Samantha: I can't stay here right now.
Mulder: Alright, just tell me how I can find you.
Samantha: I need some time.
Mulder: Just...just tell me where to find you.
Samantha: Please don't, Fox!
Mulder: We will do this on your time, just...
Samantha: And please, please let me go.

(Nope, no subtext there. None at all. Nuh-uh).

Scully: Have you ever witnessed a miracle, Dr. Zuckerman?
Dr. Zuckerman: I don't know that I have. But I have seen people make recoveries - come back from so far gone I can't explain it.
Scully: Isn't that a miracle?
Dr. Zuckerman: Maybe they are miracles. But I don't dare call them that.

Smoking Man: You've seen but scant pieces of the whole.
Mulder: What more can you show me?
Smoking Man: This man you spoke to - Michael Kritschgau; he's deceived you with beautiful lies. He's told you that everything you've ever believed about the existence of extraterrestrial life is untrue.
Mulder: And what are you saying?
Smoking Man: As I said, I'm offering you a chance to know the truth.

Mulder: To live the lie you have to believe it - like these men who deceive us, who gave you this disease. We all have our faith, and mine is in the truth.
Scully: Then why did you come here if you'd already made up your mind?
Mulder: Because I knew you'd talk me out of it if I was making a mistake.

Mulder: Four years ago, while working on an assignment outside the FBI mainstream, I was paired with Special Agent Dana Scully, who I believe was sent to spy on me, to debunk my investigations into the paranormal. That Agent Scully did not follow these orders is a testament to her integrity as an investigator, a scientist, and a human being.

Mulder: I had evidence of a conspiracy - a conspiracy against the American people.
Senior Agent: We've already heard testimony to these allegations, Agent Mulder.
Mulder: And a conspiracy intended to destroy the lives of those who would reveal its true purpose: to conduct experiments on unwitting victims to further a secret agenda for someone within the government operating at levels without restraint or responsibility, without morals or conscience. Men who...pretend to honor as they deceive, the price of this betrayal the lives and reputations of those deceived.

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