10×06: My Struggle II

“You think it’s power what you’re doing, but it’s not… it’s sickness”
— Fox Mulder

Unable to reach Mulder, Scully has to deal with a frightening escalation of medical cases that may be linked to the biological threat of extraterrestrial DNA.

My Struggle II

20th Century Fox

Max: I wonder — if The X-Files revival might not have gone as well as it has ratings-wise — where the hell that would leave us if this episode was the last we’d see of Mulder and Scully for the foreseeable future. Certainly, we as viewers are left with a doozy of a cliffhanger that portends that the race against time might be all for naught. At the very least, “My Struggle II” improves significantly upon the season premiere, but not without scores of unanswered questions and narrative revelations that still do not quite feel in step with the classic conspiracy mode we all know and love.

Scully is approached by both Skinner and Agent Einstein when Mulder seemingly disappears, called to alarm by a new Tad O’Malley report that the alien threat in the form of mass illness and casualties is upon us. In the midst of all of this, droves of afflicted people begin to arrive at Our Lady of Sorrows hospital, leaving Scully and Einstein racing against the clock to locate and isolate alien DNA in Scully, in order to create a vaccine. Continue reading

Before and After X: The Mythology of The X-Files

“We didn’t invent it. Charles Dickens invented it, in a sense, and I’m sure there are examples before him. It worked for us, but it was a happy accident. It was something that was instinctual, but not necessarily a conscious decision. When we saw that the stories about Mulder and Scully were best told through the mythology — that they were more personal — it gave the show an emotional grounding, that I think the mythology of a show does. So it’s simply a good way of telling the most personal kind of stories.”
— Chris Carter, on the mythology

The Mythology

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Most people when asked about The X-Files think of three things: Mulder and Scully, freaky monsters, and aliens. Over the course of nine seasons and two feature films, agents of the X-Files division have come face to face with some pretty creepy adversaries, from liver-eating contortionists to sentient machines and the essence of evil. But what captured the attention of those who would consider themselves X-Philes was the developing story of a race of extraterrestrials bent on retaking the planet, and the people who endeavored to keep this a secret (The Syndicate) and those who wanted to bring their misdeeds into the light (Fox Mulder, chiefly). The result was a sprawling, highly complex, somewhat messy but mostly compelling narrative that served as the backbone of the series and informed the wonderful character work which made things memorable for audiences worldwide. The X-Files — writ large — became then a template that influenced countless television series in its wake, an object lesson for writers rooms and the next generation of showrunners.

It wasn’t always going to be like this though. In fact, Chris Carter scarcely had the idea in his head of a long running story when conceiving of The X-Files and later during the initial stages of its production. Alien abduction was the topic of the very first episode, but it was only one of a panoply of ideas that Carter and the writers had. Continue reading

8×13: Per Manum

“No, I’m just trying to do my job, only it gets hard to do if the person you’re working with is keeping secrets and telling lies.” — John Doggett

When a distraught husband comes to Scully and Doggett telling stories of aliens and pregnancies, it opens up a whole can of worms for our heroes.

Per Manum

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: Secrets and lies. No, I’m not taking about that show on ABC, but rather the very currency that the conspiratorial forces of the mythology traffic in. “Per Manum” is the moment that the season takes a hard turn, plunging the audience back into the shadow world of dueling forces and hidden motives that will dominate every remaining episode of the season. It does a really good job in doing so as well, showing that the writers still have what it takes to pull off the cloak and dagger routine of The X-Files‘ heyday. And at this point in the series, it trusts that the viewers are so well-acquainted with the ins-and-outs that training wheels are not even taken into consideration.

Duffy Haskell is a man on a mission, shouting to the heavens about his multiple-abductee wife who gave birth to an alien fetus and died in the care of her doctors. This not his first time in the X-Files office, having approached Mulder about his wife prior to Scully’s assignment to the unit. His story sets off all sorts of alarm bells in both Scully and Doggett —for differing reasons — which causes our heroes to begin their own investigations into Haskell’s story. Continue reading

5×14: The Red and the Black

“Hear this, Agent Mulder. Listen very carefully, because what I’m telling you is deadly serious. There is a war waging, and unless you pull your head out of the sand, you and I and about five billion other people are gonna go the way of the dinosaur. I’m talking planned invasion — the colonization of this planet by an extraterrestrial race.”
— Alex Krycek

With Cassandra Spender missing, Scully resorts to hypnosis to figure out what’s been going on both with Cassandra and her own abduction. Meanwhile, the black oil remains perilous.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: And so we continue the tale of alien abductions and possible colonization. This is that borderline convoluted point in the mythology I referred to while discussing “Patient X,” but this episode is also largely fairly compelling and at least manages to show a lot of promise (which unfortunately dwindles as the series goes along). And unlike other two-parters where the second part seems to flounder, “The Red and the Black” does manage to hold its own.

When we last left the show, Scully was amongst a group of abductees — but when Mulder arrives at the scene, there are a number of burned corpses, and Scully is thankfully pretty okay. Meanwhile, Cassandra Spender, the older woman who claims to have been a multiple abductee, is missing. Her FBI agent son, Jeffrey Spender, is pretty pissed off.

Through hypnosis (in a scene that is both beautiful and mildly pornographic out of context), Scully remembers seeing the faceless rebels burning other abductees and then a colonist spacecraft killing the rebels and taking Cassandra. (This now reminds me of a more dramatic and consequential version of the multiple aliens in “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.”) Continue reading

1×04: Conduit

“This is the essence of science, you ask an impertinent question and you’re on your way to a pertinent answer.” – Fox Mulder

Strange things are happening to one family in Iowa, and our heroes take it upon themselves to investigate. What they stumble upon are sordid small-town sins, overzealous federal agents, and a boy who has seen way too much Poltergeist.

Conduit

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Max: This episode serves as another tale of alien abduction or close encounters, our third in only four episodes of the show. At this point in the production of The X-Files, Chris Carter and the team didn’t have an over-arching game plan for the mythology of the series, or even a general sense that they were going to have one. It is in this way that the episodes involving alien encounters in the first season serve as mere puzzle pieces to a larger whole that only began to snap into place once Scully got abducted early in the second season.
Continue reading