“Listen to me you black-lunged son of a bitch. I’m going to expose you and your project. Your time is over.” — Fox Mulder
In the first installment of a three-part arc, our agents come across some classified government files and try to decipher them, while Mulder’s behavior grows increasingly erratic. Their story soon begins to intertwine with a mysterious discovery on a New Mexico reservation.
Radhika: I could not stop myself from marveling over how fantastic this episode while rewatching it, and I’ve probably watched it quite a few times over the past 15 years. A seminal part of The X-Files’ mythology, “Anasazi” has a bit of everything: Conspiracies, danger, the possibility of aliens, The Lone Gunmen, Krycek, Cigarette Smoking Man, and of course, murder. It truly is the kitchen sink episode, and yet, despite the danger of such episodes becoming tedious and muddled, it really shines as one of the mythology’s strongest installments.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with the necessary summary. There are two major threads that eventually intertwine by the episode’s conclusion. The main storyline: Mulder comes into possession of a digital tape containing secret files from the Defense Department, courtesy of a computer hacker known as “The Thinker.” While looking into the files, an uncharacteristically irritable Mulder assumes the files are gibberish, until Scully steps in and points out that she believes the code has its roots in the Navajo language. Meanwhile, Skinner tries to call Mulder in to talk about the tape, only to be physically attacked by the latter (putting our favorite spooky agent on thin ice within the FBI).
Meanwhile: Mulder’s dad, Bill, receives a visit from the Cigarette Smoking Man, which leads to Mulder getting called away to meet his father. But just as it looks like Bill Mulder’s ready to reveal everything about his part in the world of conspiracies, he’s shot dead in his bathroom (and the viewer sees that the deed was committed by none other than Alex Krycek). Mulder flees, and when he eventually returns home, he discovers Krycek. Putting two and two together, Mulder prepares to kill Krycek, but is shot by Scully who doesn’t want him to go through with it.
This is where the story merges with another plotline that is actually introduced to us via the teaser, which features the discovery of an alien-like corpse near a Navajo reservation. When Mulder wakes up, Scully informs him that his apartment building’s water supply was being drugged — an explanation for much of Mulder’s strange, aggressive behavior. She also introduces him to Albert Hosteen, a Navajo elder (seen in the teaser) who has been translating the files on the encrypted digital tape, which apparently mentions Scully and her abductor, Duane Barry.
In the final scenes of the episode, Hosteen introduces Mulder to his grandson, who takes the agent to a boxcar full of corpses resembling the one seen in the teaser. Each creature’s remains show signs of smallpox vaccine scars. Meanwhile, the Cigarette Smoking Man — tracking Mulder via a phone call — arrives at the scene and when he can’t seem to find Mulder, orders that the boxcar be torched.
That was a rather verbose recap, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you. “Anasazi” is a nonstop ride, slowly unpacking the mysteries at the heart of The X-Files, while also moving at a breakneck speed. All the warnings from the likes of Skinner and X have culminated in this episode, a far more intense season finale than the previous season’s “The Erlenmeyer Flask.” This is the episode where it’s confirmed that Bill Mulder was deeply involved in the very conspiracies his son is trying to pick apart, and that people really are out to stop Mulder’s crusades for the truth. And in addition to bringing back characters like the CSM, Krycek, Skinner and The Lone Gunmen, we are introduced to a new great character, Albert Hosteen, who will prove to be quite interesting as the series goes on.
The episode contains a few classic moments that remain popular with Philes, including the scene where Scully shoots Mulder. Even though I’m actually a huge Mulder fan (perhaps moreso when I was younger), I found myself cracking up at that scene, which while very tense and well done, seems to be a reaction most longtime fans have. It just feels like a slightly overdue, if extreme, response to some of Mulder’s stubborn tendencies, even though his crazed behavior in this episode is really the result of being drugged.
I can say so much more about the episode, but that will probably leave poor Max with very little to say, so I’m going to hand it over to him here.
Max: “Anasazi” is really where the mythology went from being big, to being huge. The roll-call of world leaders in the beginning of this episode deploring the hacking and careless security of the Majestic-12 documents just shows the gravity of the events about to unfold that will ensnare Mulder and Scully.
In perhaps a small tease of what is to come, there was a brief mention in “Our Town” about the religious practices of the ancient Anasazi tribe. Here, we begin the grapple with their legacy through their descendants, including the venerable Albert Hosteen. The hidden history of World War II is somewhat a motif in The X-Files (especially in the three episode arc that begins with this episode), so it is a fitting inclusion of the real life story of how the United States used Native Americans who spoke Navajo to encode secret communications to the Allied forces. It’s also apt to include them because historically, Native Americans have been a marginalized group politically and socially (at least until the rise of reservation-operated casinos made them an economic power), and that in their alliance with our agents, they will assist in bringing long dormant truths to light.
One of the things I quite appreciate about the mythology, at least during these seasons, is the way we come at the big picture from many different angles, some not even intersecting with what we know from prior episodes. Going back to my puzzle pieces metaphor from last season, with “Anasazi” and the episodes that will immediately follow, the edges of the puzzle will become defined, and revelations to come will drop onto the proverbial table, challenging us to orient those new pieces and put them together. In talking with Radhika about the episode prior to each of us watching it, she commented on how we are still at the point where the mythology makes sense, where viewers still had faith (there’s that word again!) in Chris Carter and company that everything would eventually congeal into a coherent whole. Looking back, it’s interesting to think of The X-Files as a kind of litmus test for all the mythology-heavy shows to come (Lost and Battlestar Galactica primarily come to mind).
Having previously been mentioned by The Lone Gunmen in “One Breath,” it’s nice to see in the flesh the anarcho-hacker nicknamed “The Thinker” (real name Kenneth Soona). It is his unprecedented hack of the Department of Defense that netted the Navajo-encrypted MJ12 documents. It is his hope, that by transferring the documents into Mulder’s custody, that the truth will be brought to light. Today, the parallels to the story of Edward Snowden are pretty compelling, and as a proto-Snowden, the character of Soona is a precient invention by Carter and Duchovny. When the CSM intones how computers that he and Bill Mulder “only dreamed of would someday be home appliances capable of the most technical espionage,” I bet he would become absolutely apoplectic if he was confronted with the advances since then.
If this season has been a chronicle of the ordeals of Dana Scully and the cost of her throwing her lot with Fox Mulder, then “Anasazi” is where the chickens begin to come home to roost for “Spooky” Mulder. The taking of Bill Mulder’s life, at the hands of Alex “Ratboy” Krycek no less, is an incredible blow, no matter how strained the father/son relationship has been over the years. The timing couldn’t have been worse, because Bill (white as a ghost, already seemingly marked for death) was ready to unburden himself with the things he has had to do for decades, in an attempt in reconciliation and peace. We will soon discover these deeds posthumously, through third parties and (later on in the series) flashbacks to earlier days. If the disappearance of Samantha ignited his quest to learn the truth, then the murder of his father (and the need to know what he would have confessed) will only renew and redouble his efforts.
And where do Mulder’s efforts take him? To a recently surfaced boxcar in the deserts of New Mexico, where after he was tracked by the CSM and his mercenaries, seemingly bombed and left for dead. Now, we all know that this is not the mortal end for Mulder, but nevertheless it is a tension-filled denouement to an incredibly captivating and staggeringly accomplished season.
The summer months of 1995 must have been excruciating for X-Philes, itching to know how Mulder would survive the boxcar, and what all the revelations of “Anasazi” would mean to the future of the program. Luckily for our readers, Radhika and I will be back with “The Blessing Way” and the kickoff to the third season a few days into 2014. Stick around!
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
”ÉÍ ‘AANÍÍGÓÓ’ÁHOOT’É” is an appropriate tagline for this episode. Quite simply, it is “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE” translated into Navajo, the language that is a key component to the revelations to the mythology that Albert Hosteen and company would provide through their translation of the MJ12 documents.