“Four years ago, while working on an assignment outside the FBI mainstream, I was paired with Special Agent Dana Scully, who I believed was sent to spy on me. To debunk my investigations into the paranormal. That Agent Scully did not follow these orders is a testament to her integrity as an investigator, a scientist and a human being. She has paid dearly for this integrity.” — Fox Mulder
Scully is hospitalized as she battles her deadly illness, while Mulder continues his quest to find a cure and is offered an unlikely alliance with a certain smoky figure.
Radhika: Though in retrospect, it can be argued that the “Gethsemane” trilogy was the start of a messy X-Files mythology — and perhaps didn’t really need to be a trilogy to begin with — “Redux II” puts us in the right place to start season five. Scully’s cancer goes into remission, some key figures are eliminated and Mulder’s grappling with a loss of faith that adds a new tension to the series.
After Scully collapses in “Redux,” Mulder gives up his ruse and comes out of hiding (as Skinner says, “You’re looking pretty good for a dead man”). Naturally, the Cigarette Smoking Man gets involved; telling Mulder the vial of deionized water he found actually does contain the cure for Scully’s disease — a chip that needs to be inserted in her neck. As Scully decides to give it a shot, the CSM’s manipulation of Mulder continues — he arranges a meeting for Mulder with “Samantha” (clearly a cloned version) who says she’s only ever known the old smoke machine as her father. And then comes the kicker: the CSM will give Mulder the “truth,” if he’ll quit the FBI and work for him.
Long story short, Mulder’s answer winds up being thanks, but no thanks.
Mulder ends up having to talk to an FBI panel, where he eventually names Section Chief Blevins as a traitor to the FBI. By the episode’s end, the CSM has been shot by a sniper’s rifle, Blevins has been killed (with the act being made to look like a suicide), and Mulder informs Skinner that Scully’s cancer has gone into remission.
In some ways, “Redux II” almost feels like a reboot of the series. Blevins, the figure we met in the Pilot, informing Scully of her new role as Mulder’s partner, is dead. The CSM is possibly dead, though conveniently, no body was found. Mulder’s belief in extraterrestrials is weakened, and Scully has finally received her second chance at life after the domino effect her abduction in season two has had on her health. We’re in a new era of the series, where much of its core has been shaken.
While there is a lot of plot in this episode, I find its saving grace really lies in the emotional side of things, and much of that can be attributed to Duchovny’s performance. He plays Mulder with such an aching desperation here, we can almost feel his devastation ourselves. (Yes, we have all joked a little bit about how Mulder eats the sheets while crying by Scully’s bedside, but let’s all admit that it honestly hurts to see one of our heroes so broken up while the other lies there, dying.)
Mulder really has a tendency to be a bit of an oblivious dingbat at times, but his heart is truly in the right place. That’s why so many of us hate Bill Scully Jr. after all these years — yeah, he’s supposed to be the unhappy big brother, saddened to see his sister dying presumably as a result of all the work she’s done with Mulder. But while he has a few valid points during his confrontation scene with Mulder, his “You’re one sorry son of a bitch” accusation and a previous request to let Scully “die with dignity” are tremendously cruel. There is no doubt that Mulder would do anything to take away Scully’s suffering, after all. And in those final moments of the episode, where we see him crying over a picture of himself with his sister after telling Skinner the good news about Scully, we also know his own emotional suffering is nowhere near an end.
Max: With every (apparent) end comes a new beginning, and like Radhika just mentioned, it would be foolhardy to believe that Mulder (or Scully for that matter) is done going through the emotional wringer. The challenge then from the show is to demonstrate how our heroes move on with the information and experiences of the recent past into the unknowable future. Indeed, with the CSM apparently dead, the demise of our chief antagonist opens up new possibilities as to what lies ahead. Still, the group that he reported to is very much a going concern, as are the ghosts of the past.
One such ghost, Samantha Mulder, makes an appearance in this episode. Elaborating on what is written above, the scene in the diner between Mulder and his supposed sister is one of the more gut-wrenching scenes in recent X-Files memory. We as viewers don’t know exactly who this version of Samantha is: a cloned hybrid like in the “Colony” two-parter, a new strain of some cruel genetic experiment, or is she the real McCoy? By now, the hints of what truly happened on that night in 1973 will build up to become ways for the writers to string us along for a bit more time, but in the instance of this episode I don’t mind. Clearly, whoever this iteration of Samantha is, she has gone through some intense traumas, enough as to believe the cold-hearted smoking man in the car outside has had her best interests at heart. When Mulder suggests that they go and see their mother, Samantha becomes apoplectic with emotion. Megan Leitch and David Duchovny have such an easy familial chemistry that it scenes like this provide a glimpse into the Mulder family that could-have-been.
Going back to that momentous two-parter in the second season, we left our agents in “End Game” with Mulder expressing to Scully that he “found something I thought I’d lost. Faith to keep looking” after awakening from a near-death experience in the arctic tundra. Here, it is Scully’s turn in the hospital bed, reflecting on her lapsed faith in a tear-soaked conversation with her mother. Radhika illuminated emotions as this episode’s strength, and I agree with that assessment. Duchovny and Anderson brought their A-games, and with her mortality staring her right in the face, Scully’s renewed acceptance of faith is an indicator of all that she could have done in life if this cancer was to be the end of her. But it is this reinvestment that makes her strong enough to fight the wolf at the door, to argue for the personal life she neglected (like wanting to become a mother), as well as the work she still has open in the professional sphere in bringing the individuals who brought her to this moment to justice.
I think it is the commingling of these two areas that gives the climactic montage of the episode its power. Mulder gives his testimony to the Bureau panel while Scully prays with Father McCue, as well as footage of the sniper sent by the First Elder to eliminate the Cigarette Smoking Man. All of it culminates in Mulder’s naming of Section Chief Blevins as the man responsible within the FBI, a damning definitive statement that permits everyone (on and off screen) to begin the act of catharsis.
While the story of Mulder and Scully is not over, at least we are given a chance to breathe, before some kind of ancient grudge breaks to new mutiny….