Monday, December 7, 2015

The X-Files - S7:E22 "Requiem"

[ S7:E21 "Je Souhaite" <<< Season 7 >>> S8:E1 "Within" ]

Spoiler Warning: Season finale. Mythology episode. Spoilers ahead.

I have to admit, I was expecting more of a self-contained conclusion to the series with this episode - while still leaving room for further stories to be told, like in the series finale to Angel. Instead, despite not ending the episode with "to be continued", what we get is a pretty smooth setup for what's to come in the next season. As such, I don't think it actually fares very well as a makeshift conclusion to the series. And when I described Ascension (interestingly, the episode in which Scully is abducted) as a game-changing episode back in season 2, I was excited, because there were all sorts of good things in store. This is no less a game-changing episode, but it doesn't necessarily change the game for the better, and so I feel trepidation at continuing forward from here on out. The writing is on the wall.

The episode returns to Oregon to revisit the events of the pilot episode. It's a welcome bit of nostalgia - it's nice seeing some of the same actors seven years later, although while the location is suitably woodsy, it's a lot sunnier than I remember it. But this time, the show has a mature mythology to work with. A UFO crash brings the Alien Bounty Hunter back into play, with his toxic, green blood. This is classic ABH - I love how ruthlessly he's willing to use his shape-shifting ability to take advantage of people's feelings in order to accomplish his objective. The UFO has a cloaking device, not unlike the alien pilot's device in season 1's Fallen Angel. It also affects people similarly to the anomaly in the cave in this season's Rush (minus the lingering side effects), which makes you wonder whether that was supposed to be the same phenomenon, or if this is just a case of the crew recycling a neat special effect.

Before getting involved in the case, Mulder and Scully are in the midst of an audit back at the bureau, as a result of their extravagant travel expenses, and questionable results (many of their cases being unsolved as they are). This isn't the first time the pair have been subjected to bureaucratic pressure (not by a long shot), but here in the seventh season finale - the would-be series finale - it carries considerable dramatic weight. Once they do get to Oregon (against better professional judgment - why should they change now?), there's a cheesy family moment where Mulder watches as Scully handles a baby. Later, Scully comes to Mulder's cabin, not feeling well, in a shameless bid to replay the scene from the pilot. It's a bit too much of a coincidence - I was hoping Scully was being coy, planning something of an "anniversary" moment, but no such luck. On the other hand, it demonstrates just how far we've come in this series; the pair crawl into bed to cuddle, while Mulder urges Scully to leave him and his quest behind, and move on with her life.

Meanwhile, Marita Covarrubias is back in fine form, having apparently made a full recovery from her bout with the Black Oil in Patient X/The Red and The Black, and then her further testing in Two Fathers/One Son. She's been sent by the Smoking Man (who is still dying from complications of his surgery in Amor Fati, making you wonder what all the commotion in En Ami about the ultimate panacea was for) to release Krycek from a Tunisian prison (how exactly did he wind up there?), in order to recover the UFO in Oregon, so he can rebuild "the project". One wonders why he would spend what is presumably his last days starting back up - from scratch! - a project that took decades to realize, and then ultimately failed. Maybe he's going senile. On the other hand - and I wouldn't put this past him - maybe he's lying, and has an ulterior motive, anticipating Krycek's betrayal, and knowing what Mulder's investigation of the UFO will lead to. The sneaky bastard.

To his credit, Krycek's not playing ball - he and Marita both confront Mulder in his office in the most exciting scene of the episode, where it seems as though my dream team of Krycek allying with Mulder to screw over the Smoking Man may actually be realized! Krycek ceremoniously dumps the Smoking Man down a flight of stairs (I still don't imagine this is the last we'll see of him, though), and Mulder returns to Oregon yet again to find the UFO. He's afraid that Scully is vulnerable, given the ABH's agenda in tracking down abductees, but it's interesting to note how the show has managed to flip the focus of the group abductions from the fifth season from Scully on to Mulder (thanks, presumably, to the tenuous plot thread woven by Mulder's exposure to the alien fragments in Biogenesis), so as to give David Duchovny the freedom to leave the show as a regular player.

My heart sank instantly when Mulder stepped into the light, and I realized that this was it - Mulder was going to be taken. Off the show. And then Scully reveals at the end that she's pregnant, which might normally have been a bittersweet moment representing the culmination of their relationship just as Mulder goes missing, except that Scully is supposed to be barren as a result of alien (or human - it's still up in the air) experimentation, so you know there's some kind of weird alien shit going on. And so it begins. Skinner, meanwhile, finally gets his close encounter with a UFO, turning him (presumably) from a sympathetic supporter of Mulder's quest into a dedicated believer. There are some exciting scenes in this episode (Krycek in Mulder's office!), and a touching coda to the events that set us all on this journey seven years ago, but the mythology just isn't as thrilling as it used to be. One thing is clear: the show has passed its prime.

At least the spaceship fx are getting better.

Memorable quotes:

Auditor: Gas, expenses, the motel rooms alone - by FBI standards, these numbers are out of control.
Mulder: We could start sharing rooms.

(As much as this is a painful reminder of the change in Mulder and Scully's relationship over the course of the series, it's pretty clever).

Auditor: In this case report here, it is concluded your sister is dead, as well as the men who took her. This is your handwriting here on the report, Agent Mulder?
Mulder: Yeah...
Auditor: So, what exactly is left to investigate?

(A good question. But though the men may have been taken to task, the aliens are still out there...)

Scully: We open doors with the X-Files, which lead to other doors.
Auditor: Doors leading to...a conspiracy of men who cooperated with alien beings to create human-alien hybrids, so we could all become slaves of an alien invasion.

(See, that's just the thing. It still hasn't been explained what role the hybrids serve in this invasion. Is the 'spontaneous repopulation' plot from the movie supposed to be ignored? But then there was still the bee infection system in play for the Black Oil. Why do the aliens need hybrids at all? And why was the ABH in Colony sent to destroy them? Answer these questions, Chris Carter! Inquiring minds want to know!)

Auditor: But you don't believe in aliens?
Scully: I've seen things...that I cannot deny.

(Finally owning up to it, Scully?)

Mulder: Déjà vu all over again.

Smoking Man: There's no God, Marita. What we call God is only alien. An intelligence much greater than us.

(But not necessarily benevolent. I like this plot point, but here it seems a little forced, just to connect with the discoveries in Biogenesis/The Sixth Extinction/Amor Fati. Since when does Marita care that much about God? Maybe I'm biased by a post-theistic mindset, where I don't think God deserves to be the ultimate question on everybody's mind anymore).

Mulder: Stick to a budget and they say you're makin' a contribution, but push the limits of your profession and they say you're outta control.

Mulder: I'm not gonna risk...losing you.
Scully: I won't let you go alone.

(That's sweet, except she does, and then she's the one that ends up losing Mulder...)

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