“Look… I saw what I saw. I have to make a statement in there. I’m not going to tell them it didn’t happen.” — Walter Skinner
“Well, you heard Kersh. They don’t want the truth. You give them the truth, and they’ll hang you with it.” — Dana Scully
“They can hang me with a lie, too.” — Walter Skinner
The hunt for Mulder is on, but Scully has to contend with Special Agent John Doggett, the man heading up a task force to locate her partner…
Max: And here we are. Did you our faithful readers survive the jump? You did? Splendid. Welcome to our coverage of season eight of the television program that brought us all together. I joked around with Radhika that the next two months or so of coverage will be my thesis on why this season is underrated and deserves to be talked about in the company of the Vancouver heyday. It does gladden my heart that as the years have gone by, this season has undergone a bit of a critical reevaluation amongst fellow Philes, so this will be more of a celebration rather than an evangelizing mission.
We pick up nearly right where we left off last season, now with the understanding that Scully is dealing with the massive fallout from both her partner’s abduction as well as the shocking news of her pregnancy. Unfortunately, she barely has time to process either event when newly installed Deputy Director Kersh (he’s baaaaack…) — who hasn’t even had the time to pack up his old office — organizes a task force to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mulder’s disappearance, and orders her and Skinner to report to Special Agent John Doggett to get their statements.
Doggett’s task force is a tight ship, no detours into dubious extraterrestrial territory, which earns the ire of Scully when Doggett uses a ruse to try to earn her confidence and extract information. His theory, backed up by medical records that Scully was never privy to, is that Mulder was dying as a result of the brain condition he suffered in “Biogenesis,” and that current furtive activities (including theft from the task force office using Mulder’s keycard) are Mulder’s way of bolstering his beliefs in the paranormal before his eventual demise. Meanwhile, Skinner seems to have picked up the mantle of his former charge, linking up with The Lone Gunmen to track satellite data and correlate that with UFO sightings in order to track where the craft that abducted Mulder may be off to next. What they bring to Scully is that chatter appears to indicate activity in the southwest, specifically Arizona. Scully and Skinner’s leads collide with Doggett’s task force as both parties come to look for our old prodigy Gibson Praise, who has been hiding out at a school for the deaf. They are too late though, as someone kidnaps Gibson. Luckily, Doggett catches up to that person… Agent Mulder???
There is an awful lot that is going on in this episode, which has to do the work of maybe two such outings, given that it has follow through with the revelations of last season’s finale as well as set up the new status quo in the form of Agent John Doggett and an elevated Kersh. I have to say, for someone who is coming onto The X-Files as late as he is (as well as being the ostensible replacement for the irreplaceable Mulder), Robert Patrick does a hell of a good job integrating himself into the fabric of a show that has been on the air for seven seasons. His task is unenviable, but he sets up Doggett as someone whose working methods contrast quite differently from Scully. Two skeptics a show like The X-Files does not make, so the writers needed to go to new places.
It is a little disconcerting though how, in the need to provide clear-cut enemies within the bureau, the writers brought back Kersh only to seemingly regress his character. After the conclusion of “One Son,” in his need to understand what happened regarding the downfall of the Syndicate, he put a measure in trust of what Mulder had to say about the matter, even though Mulder was telling people like Kersh for years but they wouldn’t listen. Here, he is a punching bag for the audience, given that without a similar conspiratorial group, we have few tangible adversaries. I may be too hard on him and the task force, being that we are essentially starting the mythology over from scratch.
This is a very dark episode of a very dark season, and while there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, I like to think that the faith to keep looking that Scully once gave Mulder all those years ago is what powers her search for her partner and closest friend.
Radhika: These are dark times indeed — this season opener brings us a Scully who is forceful and angry, while simultaneously heartbroken and vulnerable, all for perfectly understandable reasons. She’s pregnant — a miracle, considering the effects of her own abduction — and she can’t even enjoy it, due to her partner (in more ways than one) going missing. And on top of that, the FBI is busy painting Mulder in every terrible light imaginable, with Doggett trying to insinuate that Scully and Skinner don’t know Mulder particularly well.
It turns out, Doggett is partially right — it looks an awful lot like Mulder was expecting his own demise, which he never told Scully, when we see the family gravestone with his name on it. And so, even though Scully isn’t going to give up on Mulder, there is an added bit of tension to the whole plot when we realize there’s more to Mulder’s abduction than meets the eye.
There’s also plenty of antagonism in the air — with Scully directing it at Doggett (not shocking) and vice versa. Even though Scully’s frustrations and mistrust of Doggett certainly mirror much of what the audience initially felt with this new guy in the picture, Doggett doesn’t seem particularly ready to empathize with Scully right away either. He goads her, mentioning rumors about Mulder not trusting Scully, from the get-go and doesn’t seem particularly worried about being on her good side. Even though Mulder and Scully also had a bit of an odd start, with Scully sent to debunk Mulder’s work, the impending partnership between Doggett and Scully has much rockier beginnings to overcome.
On the bright side, Scully does at least have a solid ally in Skinner, who seems ready to yell from the rooftops about the abduction he witnessed. It’s Scully who actually stops him from saying too much though, telling him he’d be no use to Mulder if the FBI discredits him. While both characters have to err on the side of caution, Scully’s still in a slightly better position than the one Mulder was in back when she was abducted — during a time when Skinner was still a bit of an ambiguous character. Mulder was a lone wolf in those days, whereas Scully — no matter how alone she feels in the grand scheme of things — has someone to help her out here. Everything old is new again in this season opener and while things are bleak, it does seem that some level of passion has been reinserted into The X-Files for this portion of season eight.
ENTER ROBERT PATRICK
With the dawn of season eight, we here at Apt. 42 would like to give a warm welcome to new cast member Robert Patrick. Back then (and now too, to be honest), most people knew him as the menacing T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Patrick has cut himself quite the impressive resume before and since. He stood out in a supporting role in Die Hard 2, as well as Last Action Hero, The Faculty, Gangster Squad, Safe House, and The Men Who Stare at Goats. Currently, he is a regular cast member on CBS’ Scorpion, and guested on The Sopranos, True Blood, Burn Notice, and Lost. With genre credentials like this, he’s a nice fit on The X-Files.
ADDENDUM TO THE ART OF A CREDIT SEQUENCE
For the first time in seven years, the credit sequence which has become an iconic component of the program has undergone a change. Mark Snow’s classic theme is still intact, but the visuals have undergone a bit of an overhaul. The most notable change is that the FBI badges that are shown with each cast member’s credits are updated with new identification photos, and Robert Patrick is notably added to the lineup (Duchonvy’s credit will only appear this season in episodes he is in).
The other notable changes are toward the end, when the eye imagery is altered to include visuals of Mulder plummeting into the abyss of the pupil. Moreover, the eye is now clearly Gillian Anderson’s, reflecting Scully’s increased prominence with her partner’s abduction. We are also treated to scenes of a human fetus, calling back to Scully’s miraculous pregnancy.