2×17: End Game

“Did you find what you were looking for?” — Dana Scully
“No. No. But I found something I thought I’d lost. Faith to keep looking.” — Fox Mulder

The plot thickens when Mulder discovers that his “sister,” who had reappeared in the previous episode, is one of several clones in an alien-human hybrid experiment. This causes Mulder to pursue a certain bounty hunter in his never-ending quest for the truth, while Scully races to save our hero from an ugly end.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: And so another stunning two-parter concludes, with the story of Samantha Mulder growing more complicated — in true X-Files fashion — than it was before. The pace is just as exciting as it was in the previous episode, “Colony,” and we find ourselves immersed even further in the intricacies of the show’s mythology.

The episode picks up after the cliffhanger from “Colony,” with Scully getting beat up and abducted (as usual) by the Alien Bounty Hunter, who had disguised himself as Mulder. It turns out the ABH wants the reemerged Samantha Mulder in exchange for Scully, so a meeting is set up. But naturally, very little goes smoothly — Scully escapes unscathed, but Samantha and ABH both wind up falling into a river during a struggle. After Samantha’s body is found much later, her body dissolves into green goo.

Meanwhile, Mulder winds up finding a clinic where he runs into a whole bunch of Samantha Mulders, aka, clones. They want his help and protection, but the Alien Bounty Hunter manages to strike again by eradicating the clinic. With a little help from informant X, Mulder heads out on a mission to find the Bounty Hunter’s craft, leaving Scully in a state of worry. A reluctant Skinner eventually forces a reluctant X to give up Mulder’s location and gets the information to Scully, who manages to find Mulder in the nick of time in a field hospital after he’s been exposed to the ABH’s blood, which is poisonous.

Say that ten times fast.

(By this point, Scully has figured out that the blood contains a retrovirus that dies in cold temperatures, and convinces doctors to do everything they normally wouldn’t do to save a patient’s life.) By the end of the episode, Mulder’s on his way to recovery, and the Bounty Hunter is nowhere to be found.

Another couple of key points to keep in mind: This is the episode where we learn how to kill the Bounty Hunter (you need to pierce the base of his neck), and we’re also told that the clones we’re being introduced to are alien-human hybrids, an idea brought up toward the end of season one. And of course, there’s a hint that Samantha is still alive, but it’ll take us a few years to determine the accuracy of that statement.

The episode certainly is action packed, as indicated by what feels like my never-ending recap above, but it also does a nice job unraveling our characters and their relationships further. The main one here: Mulder’s obviously terrible relationship with his father, as indicated by the vulnerable breakdown and apology when Mulder has to explain that he’s “lost ‘Samantha’” again. Granted, I can understand why a father would be pretty upset by a daughter’s abduction and re-disappearance, but it is also clear that he’s placed at least some blame on Mulder ever since he was a kid. No wonder the poor guy went off the rails and developed a reputation for being “spooky.” Daddy issues never end well.

Rewatching this episode has made me realize that Scully’s been abducted a few too many times in the span of one season alone. Granted, she handled it like a seasoned pro in this installment, but I’m a bit amazed at how often that’s been used as a plot point in the span of just a few episodes. It really is time Mulder got his butt kicked, so it feels weirdly fair that he wound up being the one on the verge of death this time. (This makes me sound like the complete opposite of the Mulder apologist I always was — is this a sign of maturing?)

Max: “End Game” contains perhaps one of my favorite scenes of the entire series, the close quarters tussle between Skinner and X. It is a wonderfully choreographed fight that echoes James Bond and Red Grant on the Orient Express in the film From Russia With Love. When Skinner sticks his neck out for his agents, it’s hard to remember that this is the same guy we were so skeptical towards in “Tooms.” Perhaps moreso toward Scully (a theme that kinda pops up along the way), Skinner is basically the classic older brother. He can mess with (or at least flex his authority with) Mulder and Scully, but God help him if someone else comes to the plate. We saw this begin with him kicking out the Cigarette Smoking Man from his office during the abduction arc, and it will continue further. In terms of X, Steven Williams gives another standout performance, and his quip to Mulder outside of the Kennedy Center is delicious dry comedy.

The mythology itself, like Radhika mentioned, gets more complex with this installment, laying down more groundwork for plot points and revelations to come. We will indeed see plenty of more incarnations of Samantha Mulder, where it becomes a sort of parlor game to see if the newest once to grace the screen is actually her. Chris Carter and company would tease the audience for many seasons, and while it did get tiring, here we are still in the early going, where the mystery is energizing instead of enervating.

Another big part of this two-parter is where the show begins to really open up cinematically. During the production of the first film, the cast and crew mentioned how they’ve been used to making hour long films every week by that point, and here is where those production values start to increase. This is especially evident during the final act in the Arctic when the crew constructed an entire full size submarine tower for Mulder’s confrontation with the ABH. You really feel like you aren’t watching a television program anymore. It’s sequences like this that I would’ve loved to see on the big screen, and what the crew were up against when they began filming Fight The Future.

Something else worth talking about is the ominous score by Mark Snow. Again the composer extraordinaire sculpts these terrific stings that get the heart racing and cast a palpable dread over the proceedings. The music of The X-Files is one of the most memorable (and important) aspects for which the series made its name on. Snow’s work helped the burgeoning world of electronic music gain a foothold in mainstream culture (something started with albums such as Primal Scream’s 1991 LP Screamadelica). The 1990s was the decade of the rave, and while Snow’s work is too subdued for that, it does provide an aesthetic bridge of sorts.

The last thing I wanted to mention is that “End Game” is a kind of mirror image to “One Breath” earlier in the season. In “One Breath,” Mulder’s faith in Scully (our skeptic) had a large part to do in her recovery. On the opposite side of the coin is “End Game,” with Scully’s commitment to science eventually saving Mulder’s (our believer) life from the retrovirus. In each instance, the person being saved was saved by the opposite of what they believed in. Now, I’m not sure if the writers had any intention of structuring things that way, but it works, and it’s a fascinating thing to think about in terms of these characters and their relationship to each other.

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6 thoughts on “2×17: End Game

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