by Jess Lynde
Destination: Beaufort Sea, Arctic Circle and Washington, DC area
Confrontations with the Bounty Hunter reveal some devastating truths, leading Mulder to the ends of the Earth in desperate pursuit of answers, and leaving Scully and Skinner to pull out all the stops to find him before his search costs him his life.
Wow. This episode was rough. And by that, I mean our heroes really took a lot of abuse in this one. Scully got tossed around like a ragdoll by the Bounty Hunter. Skinner and Mr. X had a massive slugfest in an elevator. Mulder got beaten, exposed to toxic blood, nearly crushed by a submerging submarine, and was then almost killed by an alien retrovirus. Whew! But for all that physical suffering, the absolute worst Mulder had to endure this hour was the emotional wringer.
It turns out that “Samantha” was indeed a big fat liar; she wasn’t really Mulder’s sister, but rather a hybrid clone pretending to be his sister. She and her doppelgangers needed protection from the Bounty Hunter, so they played the best card they could to emotionally manipulate Mulder into rallying to their cause. Unfortunately, before Mulder discovers this crushing truth, he’s forced to suffer, once again, through what he thinks is the loss of his sister. Even worse, he has to tell his father that she’s gone. My god, what a brutal moment that was. “Samantha’s gone, Dad. I lost her.” Duchovny really brought the pain in that scene, channeling Mulder’s younger self. “I’m sorry, Dad. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” So, so devastating. To have to stand there under that icy, accusing glare and once again be forced to shoulder all the responsibility for her disappearance ... oof. “You realize what losing her again is going to do to your mother? Do you?”
There are times when Mulder comes across as very unsympathetic in his pursuit of The Truth. He can seem irrational, selfish, and bull-headed. He often pushes for answers “to the point of insanity,” as Scully put it in ‘Colony.’ But after an episode like this, it’s hard not to understand why he’d be that way, and to sympathize with his relentless drive. His sister was taken when he was a child, and instead of being able to recover in a loving, supportive environment, his father clearly put all the blame on his young shoulders. Samantha’s abduction and the aftermath were deeply scarring, leaving him questioning his sanity and wrestling with a boatload of guilt. And things have hardly improved since. As an adult, his attempts to find answers that might bring him peace have instead left him persecuted and ostracized. He’s spent years screaming at the top of his lungs, and the only people who can hear either want to silence him or use him for their own ends.
As noted, I wasn’t buying what “Samantha” was selling, but that didn’t make Mulder’s discovery of the truth any less upsetting to watch. It’s bad enough that the aliens took his sister from him, but now they are using that event to hurt him all over again. First by pretending to be his sister, then by dangling the possibility that they can help him find her. “We know where your sister is. Ask yourself, Agent Mulder, how else would we know so much about her?” Damn. That’s some dirty pool. After a lifetime of that kind of emotional abuse, is it any wonder he’d pursue his answers “at the expense of everything, to the point of insanity,” to the point of death? “Is the answer to your question worth dying for?” Yes. Yes, it is.
Overall, this two-parter was an interesting exercise in reaffirming both Mulder’s and Scully’s philosophies and motivations, with statements of their renewed dedication to their beliefs bookending the episodes. I’m not sure the audience necessarily needed this affirmation for Mulder, as his “fragile faith” in The Truth and his determination to keep looking seemed to be mostly restored in the season’s earlier episodes; but, these episodes certainly shed more light on the various influences driving his relentless pursuit of answers. However, I think we did need this affirmation for Scully. After all she has been through, and all she has seen, it seems somewhat ludicrous that she remains such a steadfast skeptic of the paranormal (she just watched a woman melt into a big pile of green goo!). In that light, her explanation of why she continues to put her faith in science was very welcome, and a lovely complement to Mulder’s own beliefs. They balance each other so nicely.
We got more elaboration on the mythology bits hinted at in ‘Colony’ (assuming we can trust any information provided by our Unreliable-Narrator-in-Chief, “Samantha”): The abortion doctors were the clone progeny of two original visitors. The aliens have been attempting to establish a colony on Earth since the late 1940s, and plan to inherit the planet once we humans destroy ourselves. They’ve been combining alien and human DNA to try to create more diversity in their appearances. (I knew that whole “working at abortion clinics” thing was creepy.) But these experiments are unsanctioned and are considered a dilution of the species, so Alien Homeland Security sent the Bounty Hunter to put a stop to the colonization efforts.
Sadly, we didn’t get any more elaboration on Agent Chapel’s connection to all this. Or on what happened to him. I guess we can assume he met the same fate as Agent Weiss and Lieutenant Terry Wilmer. (Colin Cunningham! He briefly channeled Falling Skies John Pope with his turn from scared crewman to Big Bad Bounty Hunter, but he’ll always be Stargate SG-1’s Major Davis to me.)
Loved the fake Mulder mouthing “What’s going on?” just as phone Mulder says the same thing.
I really loved the throwdown between Skinner and Mr. X. Mostly because it was awesome to see Skinner going to the mat for Mulder and Scully. “Unofficial channels.” He knows they are good agents, trying to fight the good fight despite the nefarious forces working against them. It was great to see that he’s not willing to leave them twisting in the wind, and will continue to help in the limited ways that he can.
I admired Mulder’s unwillingness to put Scully in the line of fire for his personal quest, but him “drawing the line” for her came off as a bit presumptuous and disrespectful. What happened to “we all draw our own lines”? He should have at least let it be her choice. An informed one. Scully and Skinner are grownups who can make their own decisions about what’s worth risking their lives and careers for. The important thing is to be clear about the reasons and the stakes.
Mulder: “That’s a good story. But I’ve heard a lot of good stories lately.”
‘Samantha’: “I’m your sister, Fox, you have to trust me.”
Scully: “Are you sure that it’s your sister?”
Mulder: “Why would you even question me on that?”
Scully: “Because back at the motel, Mulder, it was you, but --- but it wasn’t you.”
Mulder: “Well it was her.”
Mr. X: “You wanted to see me?”
Mulder: “How was the opera?”
Mr. X: “Wonderful. I’ve never slept better.”
Mr. X: “You’ll only win the war if you pick the right battles, Agent Mulder. This is a battle you can’t win.”
Scully: “Agent Mulder saved my life!”
Skinner: “If he wanted or expected you to do the same, he would have told you where he was going.”
Skinner: “How hard do you want to make this?”
Mr. X: “No harder than it has to be.”
Mulder: “Where is she?!”
Bounty Hunter: “Is the answer to your question worth dying for? Is that what you want?”
Mulder: “Where is she? [Pleading] Just tell me where she is.”
Bounty Hunter: “She’s alive. Can you die now?”
Scully [voice over]: “Several aspects of this case remain unexplained, suggesting the possibility of paranormal phenomena. But I am convinced that to accept such conclusions is to abandon all hope of understanding the scientific events behind them. Many of the things I have seen have challenged my faith and my belief in an ordered universe, but this uncertainty has only strengthened my need to know. To understand. To apply reason to those things which seem to defy it. It was science that isolated the retrovirus Agent Mulder was exposed to. And science that allowed us to understand its behavior. And, ultimately, it was science that saved Agent Mulder’s life.”
Scully: “Thanks for ditching me.”
Mulder: “I’m sorry. I couldn’t let you risk your life on this.”
Scully: “Did you find what you were looking for?”
Mulder: “No. No. But I found something I’d thought I’d lost. Faith to keep looking.”
Final Analysis: A solid conclusion, which essentially resets the status quo regarding Mulder’s sister and reaffirms our heroes’ philosophies and loyalties. But at least we get to keep the wacky new mythology bits: the alien colonization program, shape-shifting bounty hunters, and a deadly alien retrovirus!
Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.