“Revolutions start, things that change the world forever, and even kings can miss them if they’re not paying attention.” — Alvin Kersh
Investigations collide on a military vessel docked in Baltimore as Scully grasps for answers that may go all the way back to the shadows in the Bureau that Doggett and Reyes are trying to bring to light.
Max: T.S. Eliot wrote now familiar words about the world ending in bangs and whimpers, and so the “Nothing Important Happened Today” two-parter ends with both simultaneously. Season openers have typically been some of the more memorable outings of their respective seasons, but with a lot of things surrounding season nine, things end with too much of a whimper, even with the bang of the top secret military vessel exploding to smithereens with perhaps evidence of baby William’s origins going up in flames along with it.
Somewhat streamlining the events of the previous episode, Doggett is confronted by Shannon McMahon who lays out to him the super soldier program of which she and Knowle Rohrer are prototypes of, as well as breadcrumbs about the Chloramine program the EPA employee she drove off the bridge was looking into. On the docks of Baltimore (bereft of Sobotkas for all you fans of The Wire), a navy captain is concerned about recent orders that have come through about secret biological experiments taking place in the bowels of the ship. And when his second-in-command is replaced by Rohrer himself, things get even more precarious.
The rest of the episode is classic X-Files misdirection, paranoia, FBI bureaucratic politics, and running at cross-purposes around a truth many want to keep hidden but some want to bring to light. The captain, it turns out, was an informant to that EPA official about the goings-on on his boat, and based on evidence that Reyes digs up from AD Follmer, apparently the target of a whistleblower investigation that McMahon was a part of during her time in the Justice Department. Meanwhile, Doggett is getting heat — and a suspension — from both Follmer and Kersh regarding his supposed gross insubordination and reckless investigatory tactics ripped straight from the Fox Mulder playbook.
Things converge on the docked craft, with Scully and Reyes coming tantalizingly close to possible evidence regarding William’s origins, until Doggett ushers them off the boat when he discovers a bomb planted and ready to blow. And, the result, you may ask? Scully is nowhere close to getting the answers she needed, and Doggett is forced to end his investigation into Kersh when he is unable to come up with anything damning.
Doggett has been a man on a mission in these episodes, something Follmer uses to upbraid him with a backhanded comparison to the methods of his predecessor Fox Mulder. It is actually somewhat refreshing, given that until the back-half of this episode Scully has has very little agency as a character, secluding herself in her apartment with William, in a way grieving her decision (that we find out from Kersh’s discussion with Doggett) to convince Mulder that by staying in D.C. he threatens not only his own life but the lives of those around him. It is understandable, but the episode suffers for it, particularly since her passion and indignation frequently rivaled that of her now former partner. Reyes meanwhile has a nice scene with the Lone Gunmen, as they let themselves into the building and the X-Files office to let her know about calls the EPA official is still receiving even after his death.
And that talk Doggett has with Kersh begins to shade in the Deputy Director, who has up until this point been a pretty one-dimensional adversary for those who aren’t in the rank-and-file or play the game of Bureau politics. Given what we will later find out about the shape of the new conspiracy, it is about time that something like this happens. But in a case of too-little-perhaps-too-late, the momentum and possibilities of the internal investigation paired with the new reality of Scully’s life have fizzled into brick walls and delaying tactics — things that could be tolerated in the past but now seem like a confession from the writers that they don’t know how to move the story forward.
Radhika: Part two gives us explosions and super soldiers and conspiracies and all the usual ingredients of an X-Files season opener, but I still found myself wondering why I felt so bored watching it all. Scully’s been demoted to screaming about “my baby, my baby,” aside from that one chuckle-inducing moment where she insists on “[getting] to the science.” And despite whatever best efforts the writers were trying to put into helping the show evolve, everything just feels very tired and forced to me.
Lucy Lawless is still a somewhat bright spot in the episode and I enjoyed The Lone Gunmen as well, but I’m torn on all else. Is it kind of neat to see Doggett take the path of a certain Fox Mulder only a season after he was first introduced? Yes. Does it also feel like a retread at times? Absolutely. The show runners seemed to enjoy maintaining certain parallels beyond just the skeptic versus believer dynamic, and there are elements of the Doggett character that just feel too similar to what we have seen in the past, even though he manages to have a completely different personality altogether.
And though I like Doggett and find myself tolerating Reyes a little more than I did in the past, we’re mostly stuck with characters that are either more morose than usual (Skinner included) and otherwise, also stuck with characters that are mostly hateful (cough, Kersh and Follmer). So I find myself in that awkward position of not rooting for anyone in particular during these early episodes of season nine.
I had a good amount to say about the previous installment, but frankly, I don’t have a ton more to say about this one. Maybe I’m just missing something while viewing events that will change the world forever, as Kersh says, but I ultimately stick with what I said in our last review: Just as the episode titles suggest, it feels like nothing important happened after all.
YES, IT’S THAT GUY
Ryan Cutrona – The actor playing the navy captain knows his way around a television studio, most notably playing Betty’s father in Mad Men and the director of the CIA in The West Wing. He has also been in 24, Bones, Boston Legal, and Millennium.
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
After sitting out for the entirety of season eight, the time honored tradition of a tagline change comes back, this time reiterating the title of this two-parter. Allegedly what King George III of England wrote in his diary the day the American colonies declared their independence, Kersh relays this anecdote to Doggett as a way to get his subordinate to understand the gravity of the situation they find themselves in, as well as a coded message of how things could proceed going forward.