“There’s only one thing I can do, Agent Mulder. As of right now, I’m reopening the X-Files. That’s what they fear the most.” – Walter Skinner
Mulder races to save Scully after she was abducted by Duane Barry, however this won’t be her last abduction experience…
Max: I spoke yesterday about how one of the big points of demarcation in the series is Scully’s abduction. An event so massive it informs everything that came before and after. In this way, Scully has a date with destiny in this episode, but despite this seeming forgone conclusion, Mulder’s admirable rescue effort at Skyland Mountain still is a thrilling sequence.
After receiving her cut-off message for help, Mulder rushes over to Scully’s place, but is too late. Police are swarming the scene, and for a moment, Mulder is helpless to do anything. Mrs. Scully barges in, demanding to know what happened and if Dana is safe, to which he has to break the bad news to her. Relaying a dream she recently had in which Dana was taken from her, she admonishes herself from not being there.
It comes then as a bit of irony that in trying to locate Scully and where Barry may have taken her, Mulder is forced to listen to tapes and wiretaps, the same kind of work he was given as retribution after the closure of the X-Files. His lucky break happens when dashcam footage of Barry shooting an officer at a traffic stop allows him to connect the dots to the peaks of Skyland, Virginia. Wanting to beat Barry to the summit, Mulder takes a perilous trip up a tramway, while he instructs Krycek to not let the tramway operator delay his trip, which is naturally what the duplicitous Krycek does anyway. Mulder is then too late, as he hears Barry’s shouts of jubilation that he has now apparently given over Scully instead of him to his alien tormentors.
What follows is a series of events that leads to an awesome rebuke by AD Skinner toward the forces (namely the Cigarette Smoking Man) that have been pulling the strings. Chastised by Mulder for not doing enough, Skinner steps up to the plate to do something within his purview, reopening the X-Files. This is what we have been waiting for, a moment of profound energy and purpose. In “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” Mulder commented to Scully that even with the closure of the unit, he can’t give up, not with the truth still being out there. Well, now she is out there too, embroiled in the machinations of people who it is Mulder’s work to expose. You can see the way Mulder’s guilt drives him in this episode. He’s stubborn, he hasn’t slept a wink, and his anger underscores how marginalized he’s become.
Mulder’s experience with the abduction of his sister Samantha gave us our first important emotional tie to the events of the show, and allowed us a viewers to connect with what is going on on screen, even when things turned down the paths of the spooky and paranormal. Much in the same way, and perhaps even moreso, Scully’s abduction now give us an additional crucial emotional and character tie. Her abduction, and the fallout from it, leads to so many different areas of the growing mythology that by having us experience it through her, it makes it that much more potent in our eyes. It is also a great storytelling device. We will now be just as in the dark as her and Mulder over what happened, and uncovering the layers of conspiracy with our heroes, we become emotionally invested in the proceedings. These stakes have never been higher, and the dividends will pay off huge in the seasons to come.
Radhika: After receiving numerous hints about how the conspiracies Mulder and Scully are trying to debunk could affect their lives, this episode gives us the answers. We figure out pretty quickly that Scully’s abduction is likely not just the coincidental result of an unfortunate run-in with a madman; it’s something that has very likely been orchestrated from the beginning.
Mulder, remarkably tense throughout the episode for understandable reasons, figures this out pretty quickly as well. And as he confronts X about Scully’s abduction, telling him his predecessor would have been more helpful, he starts to realize how deeply things begin to run. Eventually, he puts two and two together, and realizes that Krycek’s in on everything with the Cigarette Smoking Man. There really are very few people he can trust.
But there is Skinner, as Max mentioned, proving to be more of an ally than an antagonist as previous episodes have hinted. And we also have Maggie Scully, who we initially met in the first season’s emotionally charged “Beyond the Sea.” And here she is again, appearing in a rather emotional episode, showing a quiet strength and some genuine faith in Mulder: When Mulder tries returning Scully’s cross necklace to Mrs. Scully, she tells him to give it to Scully when he finds her. And thus, Mulder is on a new quest to prevent what happened to his sister from happening to Scully.
It’s amazing how the simple event of Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy led to the entire story arc given to us in “Duane Barry” and “Ascension.” The writers needed a way to keep Scully-centric episodes light for a bit, and they did it in the most spectacular way possible. In addition to revving up the show’s plot, the storyline really did wonders for the actors and the characters they portrayed as well, making it more than just a spooky sci-fi show.
YES, IT’S THAT GUY
Steve Railsback – Stupendously unhinged as Duane Barry, he got his first big brush with fame portraying Charles Manson in the 1976 television miniseries Helter Skelter. Having had roles in the films Disturbing Behavior, In The Line Of Fire, and Barb Wire, he has since appeared in guest roles on the shows Supernatural, The Mentalist, and Charmed.
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
“Deny everything,” as stated to Mulder by X, is the standard operating procedure of people like the Cigarette Smoking Man, and his various apparatchiks in the cogs of conspiracy. These implacable and immoveable forces have the upper hand for the time being, but with the reopening of the X-Files, and a Mulder with nothing to lose, they’ve awoken a sleeping tiger.