3×01: The Blessing Way

“There is an ancient Indian saying that something lives only as long as the last person who remembers it. My people have come to trust memory over history. Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable while history serves only those who seek to control it, those who douse the flame of memory in order to put out the dangerous fire of truth. Beware these men for they are dangerous themselves and unwise. Their false history is written in the blood of those who might remember and of those who seek the truth.” – Albert Hosteen

With Mulder presumed dead, it is up to Scully to continue to investigate what she’s learned from the stolen Majestic-12 files, the ramifications of which continue to spiral out…

The Blessing Way

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: To quote the Joker from The Dark Knight, “And here we go…” While last season built the latticework of the mythology, it is this season where we truly get into the details and circumstances surrounding the government’s involvement and coverup regarding extraterrestrials. Perhaps most importantly, “The Blessing Way” introduces us to The Syndicate, an upper-crust cabal of which our Cigarette Smoking Man is a member. While these men could be confused for an Ivy League alumni association, their agenda is of the far more sinister variety.

Under orders from the CSM, a unit of the military descends on the Navajo reservation and uses physical and mental intimidation on Albert Hosteen and his friends to learn the location of Mulder and the tape of the purloined files. Later, they accost Scully on the highway and confiscate the translation of the MJ12 documents Albert made. Questioned by the same unit, she admits that only Mulder knows the location of the digital tape, and with Mulder gone she is at a complete loss. To pour salt on the wound, upon her return to Washington she is suspended by OPR without pay pending a disciplinary review for the actions she and Mulder have taken as of late.

A ray of hope comes when buzzards lead Hosteen to the body of Fox Mulder. On the verge of death, Hosteen and his fellow Navajo perform the Blessing Way ritual in a sweat lodge to bring Mulder back to the realm of the living. While in limbo, in sequences reminiscent of those in “One Breath,” Mulder is met by the spirits of Deep Throat and his father. Commenting on wisdom acquired after death, both men insist that Mulder recover and rededicate his crusade for the truths he’s been searching for. After several days, he comes to, and Hosteen helps him recover his physical strength after this harrowing ordeal.

Meanwhile, when an extremely inebriated Frohike arrives at Scully’s door with a newspaper article about the death of the hacker who stole the MJ12 files, she sees this as an opportunity to clear Mulder’s name. Appealing (in fact pleading) her case to Skinner, she is sadly rebuffed. However, her encounters with a metal detector during her visit to FBI headquarters reveals a startling occurrence. Somehow, a kind of metal implant with a sort of electronic circuitry was embedded in the back of her neck. Confused and shaken, she commiserates with her sister Melissa about this discovery. Naturally, the two sisters butt heads over the origin and nature of the implant, with Scully closing herself off to possibilities that she cannot prove or refuse to accept. Later though, in desperation, she consults with a hypnotherapist and undergoes a botched session, refusing again on similar grounds. For me, I find these moments with Scully to be extremely telling and powerful. After all, she is going through the kinds of traumatic after-effects expressed by victims of rape and abuse, and the tendency to deny and repress these events are strong motivators in a lot of cases. But by closing herself off not only as an investigator but as a person, she is doing more harm than good.

What the episode does exceedingly well is showing how our heroes cope with being cut off not only from each other, but to the very tools and resources that (coupled with their unique skills) prove them to be a formidable threat to the men that make up the shadowy Syndicate we as an audience had no idea even existed until now. Even so, the need to tie up loose ends only complicates the situation, and proves to be fatal.

Radhika: If you thought season two was tense, season three’s opening definitely gives it a run for its money. The stakes seem to be higher with each season opener, since The X-Files first debuted — and as Max pointed out, the consequences of many characters’ actions often have a less-than-desirable result.

As isolated as Mulder and Scully tend to be, this is the episode that really introduces the devastating impact their search for the truth has on their loved ones. Granted, we already saw Scully’s family suffer once after her abduction in season two. But this time, we see that even innocent bystanders will get hurt — in this case, it’s Melissa Scully.

The sweet, new-agey Melissa — a character who already seems a bit out of place in X-Files land — is mistakenly shot by an assassin (accompanied by none other than Alex Krycek) when she enters Scully’s apartment. The bullet was naturally meant for our heroine, who is warned about a likely attempt on her life by Syndicate member, the Well-Manicured Man, while attending Bill Mulder’s funeral. But the danger following Scully ends up impacting her family in a different way than one would have expected.

With most of the characters assuming Mulder is dead (with Scully keeping the hope alive), we don’t necessarily spend a ton of time with him in this episode outside of the Blessing Way ceremony. So it’s an opportunity to get a little more character development, between our introduction to the Syndicate and the chance to reacquaint ourselves with poor Melissa, The Lone Gunmen and of course, Skinner.

Here, we start to get an additional peek into what role Skinner plays in everything. Despite his grumpy demeanor, we’ve already received hints in season two that he’s a bit of a “reluctant” (for the lack of a better term) good guy, someone who actually is on Mulder and Scully’s side, while he plays the system. But that doesn’t mean he’s as clear-cut a character as that just yet, at least not to our heroes. The episode ends with quite a tension-filled cliffhanger, with Scully running into Skinner at Mulder’s apartment — with no Fox Mulder in sight — and believing that he is the traitor who is out to get her. The episode ends with the two of them holding their guns at each other, while someone appears to be outside the apartment.

And with that, the rollercoaster ride has just begun.

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