“A man can die out here, sir, just going for a walk.” — Bo Taylor
Mulder and Doggett get stuck on an oil rig where the crew has been infected by…. what else? The black oil.
Radhika: Black oil, black oil! Even though the mythology has generally gone off the rails by this point, or at least become something of a dull shadow of itself, it’s always fun to see the dreaded black oil return. The visuals of the oil traveling under people’s skin never stop being creepy and the idea of people being possessed by something is always well-suited to The X-Files. So the episode ultimately manages to contain some welcome callbacks even though it’s not entirely “classic”(largely due to the presence of Doggett and the different dynamics that are in play when he’s around).
Simon de la Cruz, a worker on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, is seen stabbing a crew member and trying to destroy radio equipment before he encounters another worker, Bo Taylor, whose body starts glowing. Cut to FBI headquarters, where Mulder is going on about de la Cruz’s body being covered in radiation burns. Doggett gets sent to investigate the situation, but finds Mulder already there. In the meantime, Scully is doing what she does best — an autopsy — and she finds the black oil in de la Cruz, except interestingly enough, the oil appears to be dead. She eventually concludes that de la Cruz is of Huecha Indian descent and may have a genetic immunity to the oil.
Over on the oil rig, de la Cruz’s buddy Diego Garza — also Huecha Indian — is missing. Doggett eventually ends up entangled with Garza, who actually resorts to cutting Doggett to make sure he’s not infected with the oil. Mulder and Doggett reconnect, manage to reach out to the outside world and then destroy the radio equipment to prevent the infected oil rig workers from establishing contact with (what else?) aliens. The two agents barely end up escaping the rig as it explodes, rescued by helicopters that were sent in to end the rig’s quarantine. The episode ends with Mulder passing on the X-Files torch to Doggett as his actions have officially gotten him kicked out of the FBI.
This final bit of the episode is an important one — officially marking the transition that would take Mulder out of X-Files land in season nine. But it also needed to be done in a way that made sense and frankly, considering Mulder’s been on the verge of getting kicked out of the FBI a few times over the years, this was a reasonable way to do it. The Mulder/Doggett dynamic remains largely antagonistic over the course of the episode and Mulder, partially fueled by that antagonism and whatever general angst and PTSD he’s been suffering since his return, has been going through a particularly reckless and asinine patch. It’s not shocking that he oversteps some boundaries (though just as Scully also hates to admit it, he’s the best person to investigate what’s happening out in the Gulf of Mexico) and finally gets dismissed.
However, what is nice is that Mulder manages to gather some begrudging amount of respect for Doggett along the way, and essentially gives him his blessing to carry on the fight: “You’re all the credibility this office has left,” he says, establishing that Doggett is officially in charge. When season eight first started, it was considered the start of a new era on The X-Files… but this episode indicates that there’s even more to come.
Max: Mulder commented on how Kersh could barely contain his joy when he got the pleasure of firing the agent that caused him a world of headaches, and while a lot of the things that Mulder has done since his return have gone way over the line of propriety, the road goes both ways I think. For instance, the scene in the autopsy suite where Kersh upbraids both Scully and Skinner, I can only think of asking what bug crawled up Kersh’s ass and died for him to be this hostile and — to be quite honest — just as much of a prick as Mulder can be.
He’s had it out for Mulder ever since our original dynamic duo were assigned to him in season six, and ascending to the position of Deputy Director has only caused him to double down on his belief that the Bureau would be better served if “Spooky” wasn’t on the payroll. Not that I’m saying he’s in bed with whatever remnants of a conspiracy are left, but rather his no-nonsense approach is a perfect foil (in multiple senses of that word) to the philosophies and actions of one Fox Mulder.
Although it is curious that this is the hill that Mulder — or his career, rather — died on. Over the course of The X-Files, particularly in mythology installments, he has had all sorts of run-ins with forces and individuals that could cause potential international incidents. I guess it really shows the power and influence of oil and big business to have the loss of oil rights be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Mulder’s termination from the Bureau is indeed very much a turning point for the show’s production, while it also continues to lay out pipes for the mythology’s new direction.
Doggett, in speaking with Garza, translated the latter’s cries into “they’re coming,” which is what the episode’s title means in Spanish. Structurally, the black oil’s final appearance in the series acts as a herald for the new alien forces to come, hints of which we’ve seen in the episodes since Mulder’s return. Absalom and the man who scaled the White House fence in “Three Words” mentioned that people were being selected to be replaced by alien facsimiles, so it appears that the Colonists are hesitant to work with human agents, after being burned by their alliance with The Syndicate. Moreover, I do really appreciate the continuity of having Native American groups be immune to the black oil, reaching back to the bits of folklore and show mythology surrounding the Navajo and Anasazi people, of which Albert Hosteen was a part of.
Overall, it is an effective episode in moving things along to the point where all the pieces will be in place for the remaining three episodes of this season. Doggett, a man who was seen at the start of this season as a threat will now be the guy running the X-Files once Scully begins her maternity leave. Scully, reunited with her friend, is on the verge of welcoming into the world a child she never thought she could have. And Mulder, a man who came back to see everything around him change has seen the completion of that with his firing from the organization that gave him the access and investigatory power to look into his past and unmask the forces that destroyed his family when his sister was abducted.
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Miguel Sandoval – Film and TV actor Miguel Sandoval appears here as Martin Ortega. His numerous credits include Do the Right Thing, Sid and Nancy, Repo Man and Jurassic Park, as well as Alias, Medium and The Closer.
M.C. Gainey – Appearing here as Bo Taylor, Gainey has had numerous TV roles on shows like Lost, Justified, Cheers and Burn Notice. He has also been in films including Terminator 3, Django Unchained, Con Air and Tangled.