“Do you know…? Do you have any idea what you’ve been through?” — Dana Scully
“Only what I see in your face.” — Fox Mulder
With Mulder dead and buried, Scully has to learn to move on from this life-altering event… until some patented X-Files craziness upends her assumptions.
Max: Hospital rooms. God knows how many times we’ve ended up there at the end of an episode, with one or all of our heroes recuperating after encountering the latest freak of nature or mythological puzzle piece. In fact, a cute recent project makes light of this, so enmeshed is this tableaux in the DNA of our program. And so, with “Deadalive,” we come right back to where we have been many times before (the full circle motif just keeps on spinning), with Scully’s tearful reunion with her partner that she thought she’d never see again.
To get there though, we have to bear witness to Scully burying Mulder (with the usual mourners in attendance), and the three-month period that followed, with her at her lowest, grieving and resigned to a world without her closest friend, unable to share in the miracle that is her pregnancy. For a mythology episode, and particularly for one as landmark as this one is, the plot is relatively straightforward. What we get here is essentially a mirror image of “One Breath” — but without the cheesy allegorical device that framed that earlier outing. After the discovery of Billy Miles’ body at sea, barely clinging to life, and his eventual shocking recovery, Skinner conspires to exhume Mulder’s body to see if the same can be said for his former charge. Scully spends the entire episode clinging onto the same hope that sustained her last episode, while her two colleagues are tempted into easy answers.
Skinner is approached in the hallways of the Bureau by our favorite turncoat, Alex Krycek, who attempts to leverage his control over the nanobots in Skinner’s system to get him to terminate Scully’s pregnancy by any means, in return for a version of the Syndicate’s vaccine that will cure Mulder. Doggett, meanwhile, is offered his own deal with the devil as Kersh tempts him with getting back into the Bureau’s inner circle, a move Doggett correctly deduces would mean the closure of the X-Files once Scully goes on maternity leave. The rest of the episode then gets a lot of tension out of three individuals doing everything in their power to save Mulder. Skinner continues to deal with Krycek, Doggett looks to his cop skills while questioning the cult leader Absalom, and Scully searches through the science and medicine she knows through her expertise in order to bring Mulder back to the world of the living. When Skinner attempts to take Mulder off of life-support, this accidentally gives Scully the clue she was looking for, which brings us to that fateful hospital room scene.
Let’s face it, we all knew that the road back from where we left off last episode to a living and conscious Mulder would be a long and trying one, but one thing that bugs me a bit about the episode is how it forces our characters to regress in order to string out the tension and the conflict. Doggett has come so far in the fourteen prior episodes that to see him argue with Scully about the true nature of Mulder’s condition is disheartening. What is perhaps even more so is the way the writer’s undo seasons worth of character growth with Skinner. While I can understand that the impulse was strong, particularly to be able to tie in Scully’s pregnancy with Mulder’s abduction in the guise of Krycek’s agenda, it is perhaps at too much of a cost.
That cost is reflected in the emotional rollercoaster that Scully is put through in this episode. We’ve talked about a lot how Scully is used and viewed throughout The X-Files, but there are parts where I think the writers are being needlessly cruel to the character.
Radhika: It really is hard watching Scully go through the wringer so many times. Yes, Mulder’s been through some terrible things too (and we’re about to watch him have a bit of a tough time coming back), but there always seems to be an extra focus on Scully’s pain — from her abduction to her illness to her losing Mulder. We’ve mentioned before that she’s the emotional core of season eight, but man, I really do wish we could make Scully’s life a little easier sometimes.
There is a bit of character regression here as Max said, but the one thing I appreciate about Doggett in this episode is how he quickly recognizes Kersh’s attempts to shut down the X-Files once and for all. He wants to remain something of a staunch skeptic (though he is at least more open-minded than the Scully of previous seasons), but he also knows that it wouldn’t be right to shut down the X-Files, even if higher-ups at the FBI would find it convenient. By the end of the episode, Kersh makes it clear that Doggett will be stuck in that basement office for a while and won’t get to see his career grow in the same way he once thought it would. And it’s not like Doggett wasn’t aware of the risk — even Scully warns him to get out while he can. The fact that Doggett willingly puts his career on the line for the X-Files shows that he is inherently a decent person at heart — someone who doesn’t want the unsolved mysteries of the world getting buried and hidden away. It’s really rather endearing to see him stand up for truth, justice and the American way.
There are some logic gaps in this episode: I’m glad to see Mulder come back to life, but I would assume he would have been embalmed before getting buried. Does that complicate the resurrection part? I’m not sure (plus, my people choose cremation, so I really do have a very basic understanding of all this). The virus is more dangerous while Mulder’s on life support, but he might have a standing chance when he’s not on it? Ok, sure. I’ll take that pseudoscience, but it’s exactly the sort of thing one probably shouldn’t think very hard about while watching The X-Files. Ultimately it’s the emotional stuff that makes this episode good, and that moment when Mulder wakes up, pretending not to know Scully really clinches it for me. That little extra bit of humor that had gone missing ever since season seven ended has returned, but it has a touch of poignancy as well, which is all the more rewarding for the viewer. Now it’s just time to see how Mulder manages to integrate himself into a world he’s been absent from for quite some time.