“Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it. And that’s a place to start. That’s where the hope is.” – Dana Scully
We left our heroes (and the enigmatic Jeremiah Smith) last season at a industrial site in Maryland, the Alien Bounty Hunter looming over them. What follows is a race against time, with lives in the balance…
Max: Welcome to our coverage of season four of The X-Files! The show has been at the height of its powers, and going from strength to strength. We pick up this episode where we left off last season, but first, we get a prelude of new developments in the cold open. An electrician in rural Alberta, Canada is doing maintenance work when a bee stings him. Suddenly, he is swarmed by five young blonde boys as he begins to convulse and falls to his death. This is yet another ominous demise the show does so well, and sets the stage for new wrinkles in the mythology.
Meanwhile, the Alien Bounty Hunter — who has pursued Mulder and Scully to an abandoned steel mill — chases them through the structure, intent on capturing Jeremiah Smith and condemning him to death for his recklessness in “Talitha Cumi.” It’s a particularly tense and atmospheric sequence, filled with shadows and clanging metal and portends of doom. Mulder even seems to gain the upper hand when he pierces the ABH in the back of his neck with the stiletto weapon, the trademark acidic green blood oozing forth. But by this point, Smith has boarded a boat in a desperate act of self-preservation, and Mulder has no choice but to join him. Meanwhile, Scully is left behind (as usual), and she has to contend with a not-actually-dead ABH, being choked by him as he demands to know where Mulder and Smith are going.
Where they are going is up in the air, as Jeremiah Smith gives Mulder a choice. He could go heal Mulder’s mother in the hospital, or he can take Mulder to see Samantha and learn the truth about the project, which Mulder deduces involves colonization. Risking everything, Mulder opts for the latter, as he and Smith journey to Alberta, Canada. Mulder and Smith eventually walk through hills and fields, passing the desiccating corpse of the electrician. They finally reach a farm, where Mulder sees one of those blonde boys from the cold open, with what appears to be his sister — who hasn’t aged a day since her abduction. Unfortunately for Mulder, she is mute and not communicative, and Smith tells him that she is a drone, a worker meant to tend to the crops, part of five pairs of blonde boy/Samantha pairings.
Suddenly, the Alien Bounty Hunter arrives on the scene, and Mulder and Smith flee, passing through a large beehive, with Mulder taking along one of the Samantha drones. To make a long story short, the ABH (stung and wounded) eventually catches up with the fugitive trio, and is assumed to successfully dispatch the errant Jeremiah Smith and recapture the Samantha drone.
Back at the hospital in Rhode Island, the CSM confers with the First Elder after the trap they laid for Mulder and Smith goes south. The Elder suggests they have a security leak, and initiates planting information about Mulder’s mother in order to determine the source of Mulder’s information, in this case the conflicted X. Later, the CSM brings the ABH to the hospital and has him heal Mrs. Mulder’s stroke, convincing the extraterrestrial assassin that her death would prove to be troublesome for the project and Mulder’s commitment to expose it.
Overall, this is a strong season opener, and while it isn’t as massive in scope as the one-two punch of last season’s openers, it does nicely set up a lot of plot points that will pay off down the line in episodes and seasons to come. I didn’t talk about Scully’s part of the episode, but let me comment that I really enjoyed how science-heavy her portion was, a truly grounding element that brings the paranormal down to earth.
Radhika: Watching Scully go uber-scientist in this episode certainly is a pleasure, largely because she is willing to search for the truth — just like Mulder is — but on her terms. And it ends up having some fascinating results. Scully, who decides to look into the work the Smiths were doing, finds out (thanks to a tip from X and … science!) that the government’s smallpox eradication program is interconnected with the idea of cataloging human beings. Delightfully devious, no? It turns out that Scully’s dedication to science is quite a boon here and really offers us a grounded view of the larger conspiracies at hand. And it’s information she’s willing to advertise to the higher-ups at the FBI, which shows us that Scully really has grown rather defiant and determined in her own way.
The episode isn’t as much of a one-two punch as the last season opener(s), as Max pointed out, but that doesn’t mean significant events don’t happen. As alluded to above, X winds up taking the bait, and ends up dead thanks to the Syndicate. But as grumpy an informant as X was compared to the almost kindly Deep Throat of season one, he does perform one last act: scrawling out the letters “SRSG” in his own blood. This leads Mulder to the Special Representative to the Secretary-General of the United Nations (obvious, right?) and we are introduced to a new informant figure: Marita Covarrubias, played by Laurie Holden long before she wound up fighting zombies on a certain AMC program. The dynamics will certainly change — or will they really? — with a lady providing nuggets of conspiracy-laden information, and it’s clear that we’ve entered a new era.
Poor X. All his disgruntled caution wasn’t enough to save him from the informant’s fate.
Overall, as I felt with “Talitha Cumi,” “Herrenvolk” still manages to feel a bit subdued despite these events, but I think it does a very good job of moving the plot along and allowing the mythology to move to a new level. And because I’m pretty sure the mythology really stopped making sense at some point, or at least just turned into a poor watered down version of itself, I’m happy to say that in retrospect, things seemed to hold together just fine by the start of season four. A pretty decent accomplishment!
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
Here, we have words uttered by the usually taciturn Alien Bounty Hunter as he tussles with Mulder in his struggle to capture Jeremiah Smith. Thematically, it ties into Mulder’s search for the truth and his difficulties in bringing them to light. However, based on Scully’s work and Marita Covarrubias’ rejoinder that “not everything dies,” gives hope to the tireless duo toiling in the basement investigating X-Files.
AGENT PENDRELL WATCH
We first met Agent Pendrell back in season three and it became pretty obvious pretty fast that the young agent harbored a bit of a crush on our intrepid heroine, Agent Scully. Alas, for Pendrell, it appears that Scully’s a bit oblivious to his affections, but she does throw him a bone in this episode by teaming up with him extensively for their little smallpox revelation.
Aside from marveling at Scully’s smarts and determination, and straightening his tie in his subconscious attempts to seem impressive around her, Pendrell does get to play a pivotal role in the season opener, which is quite a lovely thing to witness.