“You gave them your children! You gave them your wife! You sent them away like they were things.” — Fox Mulder
“We sent them away, Agent Mulder, because it was the right thing to do.”
— Cigarette Smoking Man
“You sent them away to be tested on.” — Fox Mulder
“We sent them so they would come back to us.” — Cigarette Smoking Man
It’s the end of the Syndicate, the unraveling of a conspiracy and the formation of a new ally in Agent Spender in a pivotal moment in the series’ mythology.
Radhika: After half a season of meandering for our displaced FBI agents, “One Son” resets the series’ mythology and allows Mulder and Scully an opening for being reassigned to the X-Files. And with the Syndicate eradicated, it’s also time for some potential fresh material to be introduced to the overall myth arc.
This episode has a lot of plot just like its first part, “Two Fathers,” so there’s no point going into the nitty gritty details. The important tidbits, however: Scully works to reveal that Diana Fowley, who has been collecting data on alien abductees, cannot be trusted. And Spender of all people has joined Mulder’s crusade, running into Marita Covarrubias (who has suffered through being experimented on) and Krycek along the way.
The Syndicate is all about saving itself, as usual — the roots of the conspiracy Mulder has been trying to unravel lie in a deal struck ages ago, where the Syndicate aligned with alien colonists in order to be spared when colonization actually took place. Family members (i.e: Samantha Mulder) were handed over to gain access to alien DNA, which was used for the Syndicate’s own attempts at figuring out an alien-human hybrid. By this episode, realizing everything’s going to hell — the Syndicate gathers with family members, ready to turn alien-human hybrid Cassandra Spender over to the colonists, when the faceless rebels who want to prevent colonization appear, and burn everyone to death. The bright side of all this is that colonization has been prevented… for now.
One of the most interesting parts of the episode is seeing how Jeffrey Spender moves on from being a petulant stick in the mud to someone who aligns with Mulder and Scully. After figuring out the truth of his mother’s situation and running into poor experimented-on Marita Covarrubias along the way, he’s a changed man. He tells Assistant Director Kersh that Mulder and Scully should be reassigned to the X-Files and that he plans on packing up his things in what is perhaps his noblest moment on the entire program. Of course, he ends up getting shot by his own father — the same man who previously couldn’t bring himself to kill the mother of his son. Spender is a pleasant surprise to Mulder, Scully and us, the audience, but he is a complete disappointment to the Cigarette Smoking Man.
This episode ultimately serves as an opportunity to provide the audience with answers — something The X-Files didn’t always do particularly well. However, a few questions certainly remain: We still don’t know Samantha Mulder’s fate, though the CSM naturally alludes that our hero will see her again. And with a title like “One Son” and previous implications regarding Mulder’s paternity, we still need some confirmation regarding his connection to the Cigarette Smoking Man. But we do know with some chapters closed and others wide open, we’ll finally get to see Mulder (and now Scully) realigned with his original quest.
Max: I could launch into a very nerdy spiel about how these past two episodes don’t quite fit as neatly into the overall story that has been told thus far (god knows there have been whole websites devoted to trawling the mythology with a fine-toothed comb), but instead I concur with Radhika’s assessment about The X-Files and the answers it provides.
The writers knew that each year they had only a handful of episodes to explore the mythology of the show (mostly during the November and February sweeps), so they had to pack in a lot of information and ideas into every script. This overload is apparent in our reviews whenever episodes like this come around, where we’ve endeavored to piece everything together and determine how well the cast and crew handled the challenges in a grueling 20+ episode season of network television.
The fact that this two-parter works as well as it does is a testament to the skill of everyone involved, particularly as this season clearly evidences the growing pains of a series that recently shifted production venues and is getting up there in age. Radhika spoke of this season as the comedy season, and looking forward to episodes we have coming up, it is almost like night and day.
The first half this season was predominantly a lighter affair due to our agents not handling X-Files, which meant some creative gymnastics were needed to connect them to cases audiences were accustomed to. Now that Mulder and Scully are apparently back in the confines of the basement office, we will see them tackling cases that bear the signature eeriness of the best MOTW outings.
For me, the most interesting part of the episode is the complete inversion of the character types of Mulder and Scully, particularly when it comes to the background of Diana Fowley and the question of where her true allegiances lie. It is kind of a disservice to Mulder’s character that he seems to be so blinded by Fowley, but maybe that is what you get when you are dealing with a possible ex-wife (if that wedding ring back in “Travelers” is any indication) and former partner who helped you discover the X-Files. Still, it was great to see Scully and the Lone Gunmen on the same page as she laid out the evidence against the “Fowl One,” which included trips to European MUFON chapters and that corn field in Tunisia we saw in Fight the Future.
The Syndicate is now a pile of burned corpses, photographed as evidence of the perils of sleeping with the enemy for decades and carrying out misguided policies under the guise of forestalling your own doom. It takes guts to completely detonate the underlying storytelling engine of your show that has worked well for years, but then again, Chris Carter believed that the show was heading for an end in the year 2000 (probably with season seven being the final one). The fate of Mulder’s sister is still undetermined — the original mystery that powered his determination. And the CSM is still out there, taking inventory of his losses while trying to puzzle the next play to save his own skin.
The future that we’ve been told we have to fight for is now here, so let us see how this all shakes out.