“I’m sorry, but we’re looking for Barbara Beaumont.” – Dana Scully
“You really don’t recognize me? I’m Barbara. I’m Barbara Beaumont.” — Barbara Beaumont
“We’re looking for an 85-year-old woman.” — Dana Scully
“Yes, well, I look good for my age, don’t I?” — Barbara Beaumont
Mulder and Scully investigate a case centered around organ harvesting and wind up stumbling across a strange cult.
Radhika: Well, this was an odd episode, while also being the type of episode that made me regret the burrito I bit into right as I watched a surgeon lick some pancreas. Did that sentence sound bizarre? Good. Because I wound up watching this episode with a detached sense of bemusement for the most part, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but does indicate the generally disorienting nature of it all.
Mulder and Scully get embroiled in a case seemingly about organ harvesting, but there’s a little more to it than meets the eye, including a cult centered around a former child actress who should be 85 years old (but looks a lot younger) and a doctor, who have seemingly been chomping on organs and also surgically attaching themselves to people to absorb their youth. It’s a bizarre monster of the week involving something of a vampiric youth-obsessed theme, as well as themes of revenge, and it’s also kind of grotesque. It’s probably not the strongest or most logical story in the show’s history, but it also manages to feel like it fits the show despite simultaneously seeming a little wacky (even for a series about the paranormal). So I’m not particularly mad that this is the second-to-last episode of the season (series?), though I’m still a little befuddled by it.
The performances as a whole are fun to watch though, and there are some good Mulder and Scully moments despite the fact that they seem to have a diminished presence. There’s a bit of banter (and even fixation) involving Mulder’s new “progressive” lenses — don’t call them bifocals — and even though the two characters act as if we’ve never seen Mulder in glasses before, though we have seen him rocking reading glasses since the Pilot, it’s another fun way to acknowledge the aging process. (Even funnier, though somewhat predictable in a way, Mulder finally notices Scully’s haircut from a few episodes ago).
And then there’s the ending, which seems to feel like Mulder and Scully are teaming up for something epic — there’s some meaningful dialogue about their relationship, as well as Mulder’s acknowledgment of the likelihood that everything Scully’s lost over the years, from her dog to her sister to a better career in the FBI, can probably be attributed to her staying by Mulder’s side. But Scully essentially says she has no regrets, before leaning over to whisper something we can’t hear in Mulder’s ear and saying she’s ready to take a leap forward — together. “I’ve always wondered how this was going to end,” Mulder responds, and even though I should know better, I can’t help but be a little excited to see what next week’s finale has to bring.
Max: Yeah, this was a weird little number, wasn’t it? Not that I am complaining necessarily. The X-Files has done these kind of Smörgåsbord episodes before, and I think for one that acts as both a breather and a prelude to the season (series?) finale it works pretty well. A couple of years ago we had the under-appreciated film The Neon Demon tackle the legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who allegedly murdered scores of people in order to drink their blood to be young and beautiful forever. Here, the take mixes the very gruesome (the pancreas bit) to the very campy (Barbara singing and basking in the glow of former television glories). Indeed, former glories have been a bit easier to come by in this season as opposed to the last.
I do wish we had gotten more of the katana-wielding sister though. As the series has progressed, novel terrain invariably gets harder to come by, and a religious vigilante would’ve been a lot of fun to explore if that angle did not have to battle with the Mulder and Scully relationship material as well as the machination of the cult. That idea was interesting in and of itself as well, particularly the disturbing way that they feed on their disciples by surgically bonding and feeding on them. Anyone else get flashbacks from last year’s Get Out? I did. If this was a feature length film, I could see more of an exploration of the ways that both Barbara’s group and the Catholic church are cults with their own arcane rituals and explorations of faith — something telegraphed when Mulder spoke of the three woods used in Christ’s crucifix as well as some clever edits in the episode. At the very least, I was glad that my fears of this being a retread of the plot of I Want to Believe were calmed relatively quickly, because it sure did look that way in the cold open.
Going into the finale, Mulder snd Scully seem to be now a united front in finding their son and preparing to stop whatever plans the CSM and/or Erika Price have up their sleeves. The episode ended on a really beautiful scene, and I love the way the candles and stained glass framed our heroes as they performed their own little emotional communion.
Over 25 years, their struggle has become ours, and despite it all, I think us Philes cannot help but be invested in the outcome. See you next week folks!
YES, IT’S THOSE GUYS
Jere Burns– Seen here as Dr. Luvenis, Burns has a vast filmography including roles on Justified, Angie Tribeca, Burn Notice, Bates Motel, Breaking Bad and Max Headroom.
Fiona Vroom – Playing the youth-obsessed Barbara Beaumont in this episode (and also appearing as young Cassandra in this season’s premiere), Vroom has a number of credits to her name including the recent Netflix series Altered Carbon. She’s also appeared on shows like Hell on Wheels and Bates Motel.
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
Well, this week’s tagline is barely a mystery, as it is changed to “I want to be beautiful.” Considering this episode involves some misspent choices to hold onto one’s youth, there really isn’t anything left to dissect, is there?