“Look, Scully, I need to make sense of what happened to me. So that I can stop it. Because if I can’t stop it, it could happen to anyone. It could happen to you. And who’s to stay it’s going to stop there?” — Fox Mulder
“Mulder, if you go down, the X-Files will go down too. I mean, theoretically, they could put you in prison for what you’re doing here.” — Dana Scully
“Yeah, well, compared to where I just was, prison would be a Princess cruise.” — Fox Mulder
Mulder is drawn back into X-Files land when a man claiming to have information about an alien invasion is shot on the White House lawn.
Radhika: Mulder’s back! And with that, we get to see some delightfully familiar scenes of Mulder and Scully (and The Lone Gunmen) teamed up again. And even though all isn’t quite well with Mulder, with his return comes a touch of humor to the show again — something I love seeing amid all the darkness, doom and gloom of season eight. That said, it’s not like this episode is a light and fluffy outing. We’ve come back to the world of conspiracies and alien invasions and then some.
The teaser: A man infiltrates the White House lawn and in the ensuing struggle with the Secret Service, he winds up shot. As he bleeds out, he hands over a CD he wants the president to receive. Written on the CD are the words: “Fight the Future.” Enter The X-Files theme.
Meanwhile, as Mulder is settling back into everyday life and battling some hostility from Kersh who has no intention of reinstating him back on the X-Files, some additional drama unfolds. Ex-cult leader Absalom, now in prison, receives a copy of a newspaper article about the man on the lawn — shortly after that, Absalom escapes and ends up at Doggett’s home, where he insists on looking at the agent’s neck to make sure he is still himself. He then tells Doggett the man on the White House lawn was killed because he knew things about an alien invasion. Absalom uses Doggett as a hostage to try sneaking into the census bureau’s database (in search of that ever-elusive truth), but it ends with Absalom getting shot.
Mulder does not take this well, accusing Doggett of covering up — what else? — the truth. Doggett’s buddy Knowle Rohrer reemerges, telling Doggett the password to the bureau is “Fight the Future.” The information gets passed long, leading Mulder to try breaking into the census bureau. Turns out, it’s a trap — and Mulder and Doggett get out just in the nick of time.
The episode draws to a close on a somewhat unsettling note with the viewer getting to see a closeup of Knowle Rohrer’s neck, which seems to have some bizarre protrusions on it. Looks like he isn’t quite what he seems…
It’s kind of fun to dive back into mysteries and conspiracies after the emotional saga of Mulder’s drawn-out return. That said, while the episode briefly touches on Mulder’s angst — flashbacks of the experiments done on him, along with his open hostility toward Kersh, Doggett and others — it seems to pull away from the repercussions of what he’s gone through rather quickly. While I don’t need an entire 45 minutes devoted to the “Tragic Suffering of Fox Mulder,” it does feel rather odd not to delve into the aftermath a bit more. Meanwhile, Scully’s pregnancy is finally starting to seem a little more visible and is getting some public acknowledgment (with the Lone Gunmen referring to it as a “blessed event.”) And of course, some obvious questions are being asked now that Mulder’s back in the picture, but even this topic seems to be brushed upon rather lightly.
[Sidenote: In rewatching these episodes in close succession, I really feel like Scully’s pregnancy just disappears for a while and then suddenly becomes more of a real thing as the season draws to a close.]
Meanwhile, we’re getting a bit of a rebirth of the mythology here — the paranoia and worry about aliens or something of that nature walking among us is palpable in this episode and the neck protrusions are a new thing to worry about aside from the usual toxic green blood. And of course, the use of “Fight the Future” is a nice callback to The X-Files of yore. Things are sort of falling back into place?
Max: Things are indeed falling back into place, or rather, being rearranged as old puzzle pieces settle back down along with some new ones fresh off the jigsaw. We had a feeling back in “Per Manum” that Rohrer wasn’t what he seemed when he participated in the forced birth of that woman Scully was helping in that episode, and the protrusions on his neck only confirm his treachery and true allegiances.
Informants in The X-Files always work at some measure of cross-purposes with our heroes that they inform, but with the insinuation the writers make that Rohrer is one of the alien facsimiles, Doggett’s informant is cut from a different cloth as Marita Covarrubias, X, and Deep Throat. Speaking of Deep Throat, I enjoyed how the scenes between Doggett and Rohrer played as mirror images to many a season one episode when Mulder was contacted by the man who jump-started his work.
Going further, “Three Words” plays out as an update of the perennial classic of that season, “E.B.E.,” with the census data on abductees/genetic matches taking the place of the purported alien corpse that was making a cross-country journey on eighteen-wheelers. The paranoia is so thick you can cut it with a knife, with so many agendas and philosophies playing off each other.
Kersh snickered last episode how it is going to get crowded down in the basement office, and that is an apt metaphor for the mechanics of this episode. He would like nothing more than to mothball that office for good, Doggett and Skinner are trying to run interference, and Scully is doing her best to protect Mulder from his superiors — and his own stubborn crusade for the truth — all the while she knows in the back of her mind the impending birth of her child will rewrite the status quo yet again.
I agree with my partner that the repercussions of Mulder’s return do seem to be brushed under the rug a bit, but then again the same could be said for when Scully came back from her own abduction, when things were basically addressed in “Firewalker” by a few lines of concern from Mulder before Scully expressed her desire to dig into the case at hand. And for all the emotional theatrics and the ringer that Scully has been put through the past few episodes, it is a bit of relief to not have to play those notes again for long, replaced by some very welcome levity courtesy of The Lone Gunmen.
If anything, I wish Mulder would’ve cut Doggett some slack. He only had to hear his name before Mulder began attacking Doggett’s character. I guess you can chalk that up to recent experiences amplifying the self-righteous asshole aspect of his personality, but not even Scully’s assurances can dissuade him from roughing Doggett up in Skinner’s office. Take a chill pill. Please.
At any rate, “Three Words” is an exciting continuation of the new course the mythology has been setting for us the entire season, and with the thrill of not knowing where these new pieces will take us and our heroes, warm echoes of the good old days.