3×02: Paper Clip

“What is on this tape?” — Walter Skinner
“Defense Department files that weren’t supposed to exist. The truth about our government’s involvement in a global conspiracy of silence about the existence of extraterrestrial life.” — Fox Mulder

In the conclusion of a three-part storyline, our heroes dig further for the “truth,” and discover that a Nazi scientist who worked on Operation Paperclip may have been behind the creation of a race of alien-human hybrids.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: Previously, on The X-Files, Scully and Skinner find themselves pointing their guns at each other in Mulder’s apartment, their paranoia partially heightened by a noise outside.

Well, turns out that the noise is caused by none other than a certain Fox Mulder, who has returned with a penchant for dramatic reunions after a narrow escape from death. With all the players back in place, it’s time for this storyline to wrap up.

By this point in the game, it’s clear that Walter Skinner really is on the side of his agents. After a bit of shouting here and there, we learn that Skinner has the digital tape introduced to us in “Anasazi”, and plans on holding onto it as leverage against the conspiracies Mulder and Scully are trying so hard to uncover. It’s almost pleasant to see that it isn’t just Mulder and Scully against the world.

But things aren’t completely smooth, either. Scully learns that her sister has been hospitalized after being shot (the bullet was originally intended for Scully). Due to the precarious situation the agents find themselves in, she can’t even take the time to go see how her sister — who was there in the wake of Scully’s abduction — is doing.

Meanwhile, the agents come across an old photograph featuring the Cigarette Smoking Man, Bill Mulder, and a few other familiar shadowy characters, as well as Victor Klemper, a Nazi scientist who was brought to the U.S. under Operation Paperclip. A visit to Klemper ultimately results in Mulder and Scully arriving at an abandoned mining facility, where they find a seemingly endless amount of filing cabinets — “Lots and lots of files” — containing smallpox records and more. Interestingly, this is where Mulder finds a file for his sister and discovers that it was originally meant for him. The flashlights are out in full force, and the discovery is a stunning one, but it doesn’t end there…

In one of the show’s most cinematic moments to date, Mulder actually catches a glimpse of a rather large UFO flying overhead, while Scully sees some hazy, grey bodies run past her (Aliens? Alien-human hybrids?) And while we don’t have all the answers just yet, one thing is clear: Something strange is certainly afoot. And Mulder’s definitely not crazy.

Interestingly, it winds up being one of the members of the conspiracy — the Well Manicured Man — who winds up revealing a piece of the puzzle to the agents. When they go back to find Klemper, the WMM is there. He tells them he knew Mulder’s father and also helped gather the data Klemper used for his work on alien-human hybrids. He also reveals that Samantha Mulder was abducted to maintain Bill Mulder’s silence. WMM is also the guy who warns Scully that someone may be out to get her in the previous episode, and while it isn’t clear whether he can be fully trusted (probably not), it is clear that he’s among the Syndicate members who may be splintering away from the likes of the Cigarette Smoking Man.

By the end of the episode, Samantha’s abduction becomes only one of many terrible outcomes brought about by conspiracies and cover-ups. Thanks to the efforts of Walter Skinner, Mulder and Scully are back in action by the time the episode concludes — but it comes just in time for Melissa Scully’s death. Often the stoic, Scully remains strong, but despite her cool, scientific — and still skeptical when called for — demeanor, she has evolved into someone who is ready for a fight. As Mulder tells her about how he’s even more sure of “the truth” lying in the X-Files, Scully responds with what could be argued is an even greater level of determination than Mulder’s: “I’ve heard the truth… Now what I want are the answers.”

It’s a sentiment that winds up speaking for everyone, including us viewers.

Max: I mentioned in yesterday’s post how last season set up the framework for the mythology, so here in this episode we begin to fill in all the details in earnest. We learn from the WMM inside the recently deceased Klemper’s greenhouse a lot of information about Klemper’s and Bill Mulder’s roles in the collection of all those files our heroes unearthed in the mountainside. It’s quite a lot to unpack: smallpox vaccination samples, DNA, hybrids, Nazis, abductions and abductees, and looming extraterrestrial UFOs. If the devil is truly in the details, then Mulder and Scully have only begun to descend into the hell of conspiracies and cover-ups.

Still, it is enormously fun to see that the CSM is not the Master of the Universe that he thinks he is. We’ve seen him the past two seasons as an looming, ominous, omnipotent threat to the work of the X-Files, so it is quite a turn of events when we see his words and assurances be questioned by other members of the Syndicate. This will be a common thread running throughout the show, how the CSM’s ego and cavalier attitude towards those he sees in inferior positions would prove to be his undoing. This culminates this episode in a wonderful scene where Skinner reveals his trump card of Albert Hosteen to the incredulous CSM as insurance so that his agents could be reinstated and get back to their work. “Pucker up and kiss my ass” indeed!

This deal was the result of a roadside diner conversation between Mulder, Scully, and Skinner over the best course to proceed. Skinner suggests handing over the MJ12 digital tape (before he was accosted and the tape stolen by Krycek and his associate at the hospital) in exchange for the charges to be dropped so that his agents could return to the FBI. The crusading Mulder, naturally, won’t have any part of this, as he demands that the public be informed what has been carried out in their names. Scully however, always the pragmatist, correctly surmises that the information on that tape would be useless to them or anybody else unless the accusations could be corroborated, and to do so would require the access and investigative functions afforded to them as agents of the FBI. Mulder acquiesces, but not in time enough for Scully to see her sister before her passing.

In other events, Krycek narrowly avoids his own demise when, after his partner leaves him to go into a convenience store, he notices something off and runs out of his car before a bomb explodes inside, a ploy designed to destroy the tape and the man involved in the shooting of Melissa Scully. Betrayed and out of pocket, Krycek calls up the CSM and threatens retribution if he even gets a whiff that someone is following or tracking him. It will be interesting going forward to see what kind of role Krycek would play in the proceedings, given that he is now a wild card with no allegiance to anybody but himself.

As Radhika mentioned above, the final scene between Mulder and Scully sets the tone for how things will proceed. Mulder has always been a crusader for uncovering the truth and bringing things to light, but now Scully has proven herself just as equal a partner in this quest. Both have now suffered unimaginable consequences for this, from the death of family members to abductions, their investment now cannot be questioned. They need answers, and it’s the hope that these answers will bring some measure of justice.

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7 thoughts on “3×02: Paper Clip

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