“Scully, I was like you once. I didn’t know who to trust. Then I — I chose another path, another life, another fate, where I found my sister. The end of my world was unrecognizable and upside down. There was one thing that remained the same. You were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant. My touchstone.” — Fox Mulder
It’s a race against the clock when Scully has to find a comatose Mulder who has disappeared. Meanwhile, Mulder finds himself in an “alternate reality,” with some choices to make.
Radhika: And so we enter The Last Temptation of Christ phase of this three-part installment of The X-Files. While the symbolism is a tad overwrought and elements of the plot feel a little too repetitive for my taste, there are a few saving graces that make it more enjoyable to watch than its predecessor. Even though we have to endure this Mulder-as-Christ representation despite the Cigarette Smoking Man telling Mulder he isn’t Christ or Prince Hamlet or anyone like that, I commend this episode for having a little more clarity than the season opener did.
Mulder has been whisked away by the CSM who reveals that he’s his father. But based on how this episode is filmed, maybe this reveal isn’t all that genuine. Who knows? Who cares? I think this is the point where I decided to believe that the CSM is Mulder’s dad because the guy is way too obsessed with him otherwise.
Mulder is taken to a neighborhood where he runs into former informant Deep Throat, learns his sister is around, and eventually gets together with Diana Fowley. We watch scenes where Mulder’s life progresses from here before it’s eventually revealed that he’s dreaming, while being held in a government medical facility where the CSM is having some of Mulder’s cranial tissue implanted into himself. This is because the CSM wants to save himself when colonization comes and he now believes Mulder is an alien-human hybrid. Classic Old Smokey!
Back in Mulder’s dream, he becomes an old man (with horrific aging makeup that does nothing for Duchovny’s ability to emote). And then he’s dying and the CSM shows him that the world is burning around him. But Scully shows up in the dream and convinces Mulder to give up all this malarkey. Meanwhile in reality: Krycek kills Kritschgau and Scully receives a key card that leads her to Mulder after she prays with Albert Hosteen. Mulder is saved! Later, we find out that Diana Fowley (who was behind slipping Scully the key) has been murdered and that Albert Hosteen was in a coma before dying, so therefore Scully had been praying with a not-so-human entity.
It does all sound absurd, but at least it’s not as messy as the first part. My main complaint is that this is yet another “What if life had been normal?” episode, which continues a theme we saw plenty of times in season six, from “Dreamland” to “Three of a Kind.” So even though this episode is meant to turn the mythology on its head, it isn’t particularly fresh from a thematic standpoint at all. (However, I will say I was sufficiently impressed looking at the “apocalypse”/world-burning scene in Mulder’s dream sequence — it still holds up pretty well in 2014, all things considered). I also wish we’d actually seen something happen to Diana Fowley, a much hated character, instead of hearing about how she redeemed herself and got killed off camera. The viewers deserved that much.
The best part of the episode is probably toward the end, where Mulder and Scully are talking after everything has gone back to normal. This is where Mulder says what I’ve quoted at the top of this post, where he tells Scully that she remained his “touchstone” through everything, and she tells him that he plays the same role for her. That scene has everything from a touch of banter and silliness to some serious, confessional stuff — it’s a very classic example of why Mulder and Scully were such great characters to watch through the years, even during some of the show’s worst episodes. And I think it’s a scene that can touch the heart of shippers and non-shippers alike: There’s nothing overtly romantic about it, but it’s very intimate and very sweet and could warm anyone’s cold dead heart (I should hope).
Max: Watching the first two episodes of the seventh season in as close a succession as we have, the flaws in them become obviously apparent. Perhaps my apoplectic response in the previous post is more of a result of this than the letdown of what these pair of episodes do not accomplish. Radhika and I are in agreement that overall this arc of the mythology was a mess and too muddled for its own sake, but at least with “Amor Fati,” the road to some measure of redemption is clear.
The idea of Mulder selling out his professed crusade to live that life of “creature comforts” with Fowley and Samantha is an elaboration on and reiteration of a previous effort to lull away our intrepid agent from his life’s work. Old Smokey tried a similar tactic before, in “Redux II,” when he offered Mulder a chance to work for him as a man in black in exchange for the ever elusive truth and the opportunity to save Scully from her terminal cancer. Biblically (in keeping with the theme of the episode), the devil works less from outright evil but instead through seducing his prey by making it easier for them to compromise their ethics and morality. This psychological profile fits the CSM rather well, and is a marked contrast to when Scully appears in Mulder’s dreams imploring him to redouble his efforts and reinvest himself in the fight against the wolves at the door.
Besides this more obvious allegorical device, intentional or not, the scene where the CSM comes to abscond Mulder from the hospital is reminiscent of the climax of The Empire Strikes Back, all the way down to the reveal of the protagonist’s true paternity. You’d almost expect Mulder to scream out in the horror that Luke Skywalker demonstrated with Darth Vader. The CSM has offered Mulder access to power and the truth before, much like Vader enticed his son with the offer of completing his training in the Force and dethroning the Emperor to rule as a family.
The extended dream sequence gave Carter and Duchovny (who wrote the episode) the opportunity to bring back Deep Throat as a neighbor down the street in this neighborhood of what could have been. It was a real treat to have Jerry Hardin back on the show, even though his presence both illuminated how far we have come since his time on the show as well as a reminder of a more exciting age of The X-Files. The program is littered with ghosts: X, Bill Mulder, Melissa Scully, Duane Barry, and particularly Deep Throat himself. The path the show has taken us on hasn’t necessarily been the best one, but in hindsight it has been a really compelling one. This trilogy has a lot of weight on its shoulders, and while it buckled a bit under the pressure of redirecting the flow of the story, I can appreciate the risks it took. This season is light on mythology as a result, and we are left wondering what is next.
We still though have the lingering mystery of what happened to Samantha Mulder, whom Mulder bring up in that very touching exchange with Scully to end the episode. This will be addressed in a rather divisive two-parter further along this season, but for now I want to echo Radhika’s sentiments about where our heroes are now at this stage of the game. These are two massively indelible characters whose personalities are deeply embedded into the DNA of The X-Files. It has been a pleasure watching and rewatching them, no matter how rocky the road will get from here on out.
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
This go-around, the tag is “Amor Fati,” the subtitle of the episode. Latin for “love of fate,” it is the concept that one embraces everything in their life, the good and the bad in equal measure. This is quite apt for this point in the series, especially taking into account Mulder and Scully’s heart-to-heart, where they reaffirmed their connection despite everything that has happened to them.