The X-Files: Talitha Cumi

Case: A mysterious man heals a shooter and his victims and then disappears.

Destination: Many places including Quonochontaug, Rhode Island

Cancer Man (CM): “The question is irrelevant and the outcome inevitable. The date is set.”

The finale of season three moves the shows mythology into high gear. There are no questions anymore about the possibility of an alien invasion. Now the questions are how, when, who is involved and how can we, if it's even possible, stop it? Chris Carter wrote this episode, with the help of David Duchovny and it shows in the centrality of the story to the X-Files universe and the brilliance of the dialogue particularly in dealing with the big questions about "man"(it seems it still takes a while to include women in this discourse).

The title, Talitha Cumi is Aramaic for "arise maiden," and refers to the healing powers of Jeremiah Smith. The introduction of Jeremiah Smith provides us with insight into the aliens who are planning to invade Earth. They are so powerful that even the lowliest drone would appear to be a God to us. For starters they can heal and shift their appearance. The most unsettling revelation is that the shifty conspiracy of powerful men we have been getting glimpses of, are human collaborators orchestrating this invasion from the inside. Fortunately, not all of the aliens agree with the project to colonize us. The other ray of hope is the knowledge that they can be killed, although it isn't easy. They must be stabbed in a particular spot in the back of the neck. Carter cleverly balances the terror of an invasion by a god-like race with small cracks of hope. He wants the human race to be underdogs but not without hope.

This show is certainly about the paranormal, alien invasion and conspiracies. The ideas presented by the show were what excited me. But on the re-watch it is clear that what The X-files really focuses on is human character and the human condition. This is illustrated in two somewhat contradictory ways in this episode, the very intellectual conversations between CM and Jeremiah Smith and the very emotional Mulder dealing with his mother's illness. Cancer Man is an interesting character. He is obviously part of the collaboration and he appears ultimately selfish but he was once a charming young man, charming enough to seduce Teena Mulder (Mulder's mother). Although it is evident from his conversations with Jeremiah Smith that he is cynical about humanity, he still cares enough to come and check on Teena. As Smith says, it is our love that makes humanity special and CM has loved Teena and possibly still does. CM is not so cynical that he can watch Smith morph into Bill Mulder and Deep Throat without guilt. Perhaps he has not totally lost his humanity.

Mulder is a very different story. He is heartbroken by his mother's stroke and seems adrift. He wants CM not for what he can reveal but to avenge his mother. He is hunting for Smith but appears to be more concerned about healing his mother than hearing the truth he has been seeking for years. Mulder is love and passion while CM makes sarcastic remarks with a gun in his face. Yet I think both have been forged by the same forces.

Scully was not as central in this episode but she, as she often does, was a rock for Mulder. It is interesting, given the conversation between CM and Smith, that Scully embodies both faith and science. She has seen many miracles but her go to place is still the evidence. While she can now handle the existence of miracle healers, aliens and other unexplained events, Scully is still the one that Mulder checks with to see if he's gone over the edge. And she is always happy to balance his optimism and curiosity with a patience for scientific explanation. I can't wait for the next episode. I want to see what happens next but I am more interested in how the characters will develop and change.

Other Thoughts

I'm not sure why everyone is so excited about the weapon that kills the aliens. It looks like a fancy ice pick. Would it really be that hard to make a whole bunch?

It was interesting seeing Deep Throat again. Mr. X. is not half the man he was. I think he is only helping Mulder because he is terrified of what is to come.

I wondered why all the Jeremiah Smiths worked at Social Security but then CM called him a cataloger. Great way to figure out who you're going to invade.

What a lovely summer place. It made me sad to imagine the fun that was probably had there before everything went so wrong.

It's obvious that CM didn't care about the weapon so what were he and Teena fighting about? What did he want her to remember?

I found the use of music particularly effective in this episode, especially when Mulder was searching through the Mulder summer house.

Much of the intellectual/philosophical content of this episode was inspired by Dostoyevsky's novel "The Brothers Karamazov".


Cancer man: “Who are you to give them hope?”
Smith: “What do you give them?”
Cancer man: “We give them happiness and they give us authority.”
Smith: “The authority to take away their freedom under the guise of democracy.”
CM: “Men can never be free because they are weak, corrupt, worthless and restless.”

Smith: “You think the miracles I perform are the extent of my power?”
CM: “You think you’re God, you’re a drone, a cataloger, chattel.”

CM: “Most of them have ceased to believe in God.”
Smith: “Why?”
CM: “Because God presents them with no miracles to earn their faith.”
Smith: “You think that when man ceases to believe in miracles, he rejects God?”
CM: “Of course.”

Mr. X: “You’re a dead man, Agent Mulder. One way or the other.”
I really wanted Mulder to respond - "What else is new?"


Heather said...

I loved reading your review. I enthusiastically agree that upon closer inspection, this show is about the human condition. So well-said.

I love this finale. The mythology took on such a cool feel with Jeremiah Smith(s). Just XF perfection with its blend of creepy complex.
I also always loved the way Mulder's love and protection of his mom was portrayed and with the events in this episode, they were shining in all their glory.

ChrisB said...

What a great review, Doc! The season finale certainly ramped up the mythology to an entirely new level and I loved it.

Agree with you completely about the characters driving this show. It's wonderful to be able to root for such flawed, yet heroic, human beings.

NomadUK said...

Just because nobody's mentioned it, I'll point out that Jeremiah Smith is played by none other than Roy Thinnes, who played David Vincent, the protagonist of the '60s series The Invaders, who witnesses the landing of a flying saucer and becomes aware of the pending alien invasion — but nobody will believe him (sound familiar?).

The aliens could be identified by the fact that they couldn't bend their pinky fingers, and, when killed, they burned up and disintegrated.