“It’ll never be over. They’ll always know what he was. They’ll never accept what he is.”
— Jeffrey Spender
Scully makes the most difficult choice of her life as a shadowy individual forces her hand.
Max: What an incredibly dour, depressing, and tragic episode this is. Granted, mythology episodes aren’t the feel-good hits of the X-Files world, but there is no relief and no exit from the simple fact that Scully has to give up William — the miracle baby she thought she could never have — in order to ensure his safety from those who wish to exploit him as a pawn towards alien colonization.
Really this is the story of two characters devastated by the effects that the government conspiracy around extraterrestrials had on their lives — our beloved Dana Scully and the weasel-made-good Jeffrey Spender. When a badly burned and scarred Spender sneaks into the X-Files office and assaults Doggett in an attempt to flee, Scully is called in. Spender — using an alias — claims that Mulder sent him to retrieve some X-Files regarding the infiltration of super soldiers into the government. I spoil the big reveal of the episode — Spender’s identity — precisely because of the way it is used to leverage the audience’s suspicions and emotions. Basically confirming Mulder’s true parentage, the fact that Spender’s DNA is a close match to Mulder’s is used to dramatic yet manipulative effect.
Laying out what happened to him since the CSM — his father — left him for dead in the sixth season, Spender speaks of tests performed to try to turn him into a super soldier like Billy Miles, Knowle Rohrer, and the Shadow Man. It is not an easy story to digest, and the painful flashbacks only serve to underscore just how broken he is. First he was used by his manipulative father as a pawn to block the efforts of Fox Mulder, and later as a guinea pig for the colonists that his father foolishly collaborated with. Things come to a head when Spender injects William with a measure of the magnetite compound that turned out to be the Shadow Man’s kryptonite in “Trust No 1.” This incident forces Spender to reveal his true identity, and his warnings to Scully that William will never be safe has her make the ultimate sacrifice. She gives William up and he is adopted by a couple in rural Wyoming, far away from the sinister machinations of the colonists.
The choking claustrophobia of “William” is one of the big contributing factors to just how sad this episode is. We’ve discussed many times about how Scully has been put through the ringer, and here again she is not allowed to have even a shred of happiness. And for all of the “my baby, my baby” complaints we’ve leveled against the writing of her character this season, at least in this episode it is earned and developed well. I would even say that this is the best episode for Scully since season eight, since we’ve basically brushed her aside this season for her successors in the basement office. Speaking of Doggett and Reyes, they don’t have much to do here except stand guard and protect Scully and William as well as demand answers from Spender in interrogation rooms. Doggett at least gets a nice moment in the office, as we see him become as comfortable there as Mulder was.
Radhika: These final episodes of the show feel so cruel in a way — from the events of “Jump the Shark” to the occurrences in this episode, there appear to be no happy endings for these characters we’ve watched for nearly a decade’s worth of television. And I suppose that is to be expected, considering this is a world of conspiracies and abductions and mysterious illnesses that our main characters have never been able to extricate themselves from. Bad things were certainly going to continue happening. And yet, I still find it hard to watch and hard to accept, because I want these characters to prevail and to be happy somehow. The events of “William” prove otherwise.
The plot point of an alien baby felt both natural and cliché on The X-Files: William was a child that Scully desperately wanted and deserved, but he never fully fit on the show and not simply because babies don’t belong on television shows (they can when written into a show correctly, but it’s just that it rarely happens well). His presence on the show changed the Scully character significantly — somewhat true to life, as becoming a parent is a transformative event — but not in good ways. The character became a shell in the final season and a half, driven by misery and regret, losing much of the strength we all admired over the years.
But that said, I don’t believe that Scully — even the sad Scully we’ve seen this season — would give up her child so easily, especially considering all the obstacles and dangers they encountered before Jeffrey Spender appeared. William is “cured” of his alien afflictions (in a rather lazy fashion, mind you) and suddenly the word of Jeffrey Spender is king — his suggestion that William will be in continued danger is enough for Scully to say that now is the time to give up her son. While I felt for her as she stated that she had the ability to change her son’s future, to make sure he didn’t grow up afraid, I still felt dissatisfied watching her give her son up. The payoff for Scully and the viewers ended up being absolutely nothing after all those episodes about the miracle pregnancy and miracle child. At this stage, the show’s mythology continues to sputter somewhat weakly to a close, which is a shame after so much promise in the early-to-middle years of the show.