“But I’ve seen aliens. I’ve witnessed these things.” – Fox Mulder
“You’ve seen what they wanted you to see. The line between science and science fiction doesn’t exist any more. This is about control, of the very elements of life. DNA – yours, mine, everyone’s.” – Michael Kritschgau
Our heroes take different paths to uncover the truth after the shocking revelations of last season put their work in a new perspective.
Max: After the paradigm shift we witnessed in “Gethsemane,” it would not be out of character to have Mulder actually eat a bullet when told his work has all been a lie. Now, we know at this point that we wouldn’t have a show without one half of the FBI’s dynamic duo, so it is a relief when we learn that it is the body of DoD employee Scott Ostelhoff that Scully identifies as Mulder’s after Mulder discovers that Ostelhoff has been spying on him in an adjacent apartment. What unfurls then in this episode is our agents working to uncover the men responsible for perpetuating the lies that have turned the X-Files into an exercise in futility by documenting evidence to their crimes.
Mulder heads off to the DoD facility where Ostelhoff worked, and while there Kritschgau, the man who pulled the curtain aside during last season’s finale, intercepts him to reveal further information about the government’s long con on the American public regarding the existence of extraterrestrial life.
Scully, on the other hand, spends the bulk of the episode with the climatologist at American University analyzing the cores taken from the surrounding ice where the alien corpse was discovered by the Smithsonian group. Acting on a hunch, she performs tests on the chimerical cells and finds that viral material found in them match those that have metastasized in her body as a result of the cancer. It is this hard evidence that she plans on revealing to the panel assembled by Section Chief Blevins, as well as her fears that someone within the Bureau’s hierarchy has been instrumental in turning the past four years into a farce.
The title of the opening two episodes of this season is “Redux,” and it is wholly appropriate given that the episode is a hard reset on the series’ central conceit. There are moments sprinkled throughout the episode that call back to the “Pilot,” including scenes in Blevins’ office as well as Mulder discovering the underground Pentagon archive that the CSM stashed away evidence in the opening and closing episodes of season one. Mulder and Scully, given what Kritschgau has told them about the true nature of the events that dominated their lives, have to re-contextualize their work to assimilate this new information. If “Gethsemane” showed Mulder’s reaction to the revelations of Michael Kritschgau, then this episode is all Scully. In typical fashion, her response is to double down, to do the work she was assigned to do, beholden to no one but herself and the truth.
This dedication comes at the cost of some potentially devastating discoveries, especially when she connects Ostelhoff’s phone activities to an executive level telephone exchange within the Bureau of which Walter Skinner is a user of. The true source of Skinner’s loyalties is a recurring source of tension, despite all the efforts of the Assistant Director to help and protect his charges. This information puts the doubts Mulder had in “Zero Sum” into context, and Skinner’s descent into the shadows for a cure to Scully’s cancer does him no favors unfortunately. It is particularly hurtful to Scully, given the rapport she has developed with her superior over the past few years. She is all ready to name him in the convened panel when her nose begins to bleed and she faints, the cancer ramping up into overdrive.
This is a new era on The X-Files. Apparent in the shift to a widescreen format (another sign of the show’s cinematic ambitions), the stakes are now gravely tangible. Scully is terminal, and Mulder’s quest in the bowels of the military-industrial complex has seemingly resulted in nothing much but deionized water (at least according to the Lone Gunmen’s spectrum analysis).
Radhika: So here we are, back after a cliffhanger that implied Mulder was dead, though I imagine it must have felt rather anticlimactic for most people, knowing a movie was on the verge of hitting theaters shortly after the season ended. The X-Files was a big deal by now — everyone knew about it. (Though I somehow didn’t realize a movie was coming back then, but managed to get sucked into Philedom just a few episodes into this season.) As Max pointed out, the look and feel of the show are a lot more sophisticated — the makeup and wardrobe better than ever. And watching this season again in 2014, the atmosphere no longer feels as dated as the first three seasons — and part of season four — do.
So even though the cliffhanger was probably somewhat ruined by news of the impending movie, and even though it doesn’t feel particularly suspenseful to us now, it’s kind of neat to watch how Mulder and Scully are the ones to pull the wool over others’ eyes for once. They’ve become a team in the greatest sense, and even Scully has become a bit of a rebel now, perhaps partially influenced by the likelihood that she won’t survive her disease.
All that said, there isn’t a whole lot happening in “Redux” which is inundated by monologues. But that final scene of Scully collapsing, along with Mulder’s race to find a cure for her are still key moments of the series, and manage to make the episode at least a somewhat important bridge to part two. (Actually, now that I think about it, it’s honestly Scully I feel worried about the most watching these episodes. We’ve known she’s sick/dying for a while — it’s not entirely believable that both agents would be in danger of death in this trilogy, which is another reason why the Mulder cliffhanger feels less significant as a whole.)
But aside from the Mulder/Scully drama, there is another portion of the episode I really enjoyed watching, especially now that all the conspiracy theories about Mulder’s parentage turned out to be pretty solid. And that’s when the Cigarette Smoking Man says, “I created Mulder,” before being told Mulder was confirmed dead. It’s such a loaded statement — a sly acknowledgment, perhaps, of being Mulder’s father, while also emphasizing what a role he’s played in shaping Mulder’s character and quest. The Smoking Man doesn’t underestimate Mulder — he even says as much — and there’s a sense of foreboding that the battle between the two is only going to ramp up further as time goes on. But that’s for another episode…
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
The tagline for this episode refers to the conversation between Scully and Skinner about her lying to the police about the identity of the body found in Mulder’s apartment (that is actually Scott Ostelhoff). Believing Skinner to be the mole inside of the Bureau, she lashes out at her superior. The battle over what the truth is, who to believe, and who to trust is one of the primary thematic currents not only of this three-parter, but of season five as a whole. By following the lies, this currency of conspiracy, it is the hope that Mulder and Scully shall find the truths that have eluded them.