“Word of advice, me to you: Let it be. You know, there’s some wounds that are just too painful ever to be reopened.” — Agent Schoniger
“Well, this particular wound has never healed. And Mulder deserves closure, just like anyone.” — Dana Scully
In the conclusion of this two-parter, Scully helps Mulder follow clues to Samantha’s ultimate fate.
Max: We spoke a lot about the feelings that churned up in the wake of losing loved ones, both from death and disappearance in our writeup of last episode, particularly the unimaginable grief that can threaten to consume every waking hour. I was preparing myself for the worst coming into “Closure,” given its eventual complete surrender to the new agey construct of walk-ins. Maybe I have softened as I’ve gotten older, but it wasn’t an abomination of storytelling. But to keep myself honest, it is still an incredibly hokey concept, the execution of which here does it absolutely no favors whatsoever. The fact that the episode lives and dies on the effectiveness of the walk-in construct thus dooms it to an eternity of eye-rolling.
Picking up with the Amber Lynn LaPierre case, Mulder and Scully encounter at the police station a man by the name of Harold Piller, who offers his services as a police psychic (he even has a business card!) to assist on the case. Taking Harold to the graves of the exhumed children, Mulder asks him to sense what happened to Amber Lynn, but Harold states that her spirit was never there. What he does pick up though is Mulder’s energies, and through that divines that Mulder lost a sister. This turn takes the two of them to April Air Force Base, where Mulder discovers a segment of concrete sidewalk with the handprints of two children, Samantha (Mulder) and Jeffrey (Spender).
Meanwhile, Scully consults with a seasoned FBI agent about Mulder’s original hypnotherapy session with Dr. Werber, and the agent concludes that while it begins genuine, the session soon devolves into typical abduction tropes. This coupled with Scully discovering the sordid background of Harold Piller (he’s a suspect in the disappearance/murder of his own son) and hints from the Cigarette Smoking Man that Samantha is dead causes her to grow quite concerned for her partner. If Mulder was so set on going down this road, then she was going to be there to ground him. Going back to the base, they discover Samantha’s diary hidden in an abandoned house, describing horrible tests performed on her circa 1979. They then connect this to a 14 year old Jane Doe who showed up at a local hospital only to disappear from her locked room. Scully then spoke to the nurse who admitted Samantha, while Mulder was lead to discover three spirits: Harold’s son, Amber Lynn, and his teenaged sister.
Can we talk about this for a moment? I mean, Samantha’s disappearance in 1973 is the inciting incident for The X-Files. Without it, Mulder may have not gone to work for the Bureau (or at the very least discovered the X-Files), and so Scully would not have been assigned to him in order to debunk his work, and there goes the whole ballgame. In a way, the mythology of the series is built around this event, even when it isn’t. Her abduction begat Scully’s abduction which begat tests and hybrids and bees and black oil and spaceships buried along the African coast. To quote Joe Biden: “This is a big fucking deal.” It still doesn’t sit right with me after all these years that this is what happened to Samantha Mulder. That after all these episodes with Samantha clones, Samantha drones, and the Alien Bounty Hunter’s assurance that she is alive, it comes down to spirits and starlight.
I think there is a good story buried here, even one that can still have the freaky paranormal, but this feels like they punted the ball. It would have a more powerful impact if lets say Samantha died in the hospital as a result of all the tests. I’m really trying not to be sadistic to these characters who have gone through so much, but if Samantha’s road ends here, it makes a better story to have it that way (and it reinforces the CSM’s malevolence). At the very least, it gives Mulder the opportunity to finally begin the process of closure, since he could properly grieve her passing. The legend of Samantha has built up so much in the seven years that has elapsed since the pilot that we as viewers are just as concerned as Scully is for Mulder as he grasps for meaning and understanding. Walk-ins, a concept maybe worth exploring if tackled in a better written episode, come off here as the ultimate cop-out. Mulder does deserve closure, just not this.
Radhika: I recall the reaction to “Closure” being quite a mixed bag, largely in the “wtf?” camp, when the episode first aired. I actually didn’t love or hate the episode back then and watching it now, I just found myself drawn to its emotional elements. I don’t think it’s a particularly spectacular episode (I found myself a bit bored in parts, plus the connection to the Amber Lynn LaPierre case becomes thinner). But I also don’t have a problem with how it ends the Samantha arc. Mulder’s very sad, but very real, “I guess I just want it to be over,” is a sentiment I can understand — as much as Samantha’s loss has spurred so many of his life choices and beliefs, there comes a point where it just doesn’t matter if her story was ordinary, extraterrestrial or something else. Mulder just wants to put the topic to rest (and to know if his sister was ultimately at peace), and I don’t mind that this is what he — one of our beloved main characters — ultimately gets.
I think the concept of “walk-ins,” while new agey, is akin to the idea of heaven, but in a way that is more digestible for Mulder than the thought of heaven itself. It’s still a paranormal phenomenon, and I’m not particularly offended by the idea that this is what happened to Samantha Mulder. I have no doubts that she was abducted or that she was subjected to years of tests. The alien and government conspiracies remain at the core of the poor girl’s story; the only difference is that these episodes don’t necessarily focus on a moment-by-moment breakdown of what those six years entailed.
The diary Mulder finds is enough to give us a sense of the emotional and physical traumas Samantha was subjected to: “I think I had a brother with brown hair, who used to tease me. I hope someday he reads this and knows I wish I could see his face for real” and additional lines like “No more. No more tests. No more questions. I’m getting out of here and not turning back…. Running for my life, for the rest of my life” are enough for me to be fine with Samantha being taken by starlight. She had gone through far too much to come out of that unscathed. And considering how many times we were falsely told that Samantha was alive or got to see that she was alive, only to find out that she was a clone, I don’t think I would have been very satisfied or trusted the show much if Mulder found her alive and well after all these years.
I think the writing and execution of the episode probably did have a lot to do with why viewers were frustrated when “Closure” aired. And it did not help that it took seven years to resolve the Samantha storyline. Everyone expected a big bang due to being strung along for so long. However, the show had toyed with the idea of a “lesser” bang before, with “Paper Hearts” (an arguably stronger episode from a writing standpoint), so anything was technically possible as far as Samantha’s story was concerned.
But even though this episode doesn’t match the caliber of earlier seasons, moments like the one I quoted above involving Samantha’s diary, and yes, even the ending with the glowing children and Moby’s “My Weakness” playing, make this episode one of the more memorable ones of season seven. That look of relief and joy as Mulder hugs his 14-year-old ghost sister is striking, as is his declaration of being “free,” especially when you juxtapose it against Harold Piller’s refusal to accept that his son is gone. And incidentally, with Mulder more at peace, we’re starting to see even more of a setup (intentional or not) for his character’s impending smaller role on The X-Files. But more on that some other time…
YES, IT’S THAT GUY
Anthony Heald – The actor portraying Harold Piller is best known for his role in the classic film The Silence of the Lambs as well as playing a judge on the television shows The Practice and Boston Legal. He also is in a few John Grisham adaptations including The Client and The Pelican Brief.
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
“Believe To Understand.” So much of these past two episodes (the entire show really) can be summed up in these three words. Mulder’s belief that his sister was abducted by aliens drove him to understand the circumstances surrounding her disappearance. Now, firm in the knowledge of what happened to Samantha, his beliefs did indeed lead him to understanding, which allowed him to get closure, and peace.