Destination: Great Sacandaga Lake, New York; Washington D.C.
And... we’re back.
Since many two-parters are feature films split between two episodes, the action of ‘Max’ does that cool thing where, without further ado, the cliffhanger is resolved. I mean, if by resolved, we mean there are a dozen new questions. Well, such is the mythology going forward.
And yes, while everything we already know is true will in fact, be true again, and while Mulder will be annoyingly right while people in more official positions hover over him disapprovingly, something different will happen. Scully will not only not push back with that ever-important piece of her character, her integrity, she will agree with Mulder and work tirelessly to push forward their agenda! She will even come to her own conclusion about the plane crash conspiracy, without any prompting from Mulder at all. I mean she’s not willfully participating in a campaign of misinformation yet, but at this rate, she’ll get there, too.
This marks a huge change in our heroine. When an attempt is made on Sergeant Frisch’s life, Scully doesn’t blink before telling Skinner there’s a conspiracy afoot. This also bears mentioning, the premise of these episodes is as weighty and out there as they come on this show. Max stole a crucial piece of alien technology, suggesting we not only know aliens exist but we are actively studying things that belong to them. Additionally, and this is the crème de la crème, the aliens want their stuff back. Scully cosigns all of this by the end of ‘Max’. And, again, what’s remarkable is how, on a molecular level, she has shifted from a (sometimes) illogical need to argue that which defies scientific explanation to regularly making connections based on intuition, wisdom and experiential knowledge.
I can’t really think of a better homage to a character as indelible in this universe as Max, either. On one hand, his life is unexceptional. His sister turned out to be a fellow resident whose stay at a mental health facility intersected with his own. And his legacy will forever be a stack of videotapes housed by an Airstream trailer. But that’s not what’s important in The X-Files world. His personal story was powerful enough to affect the human beings around him (including one fairly stubborn scientist) to whom he attached. So the human component, yet again, shimmers through as this series’ worldview making both 'Tempus Fugit' and 'Max' an offering to the audience of quite high caliber.
* I really loved how Sharon and Max were close like siblings, to one another.
* RIP, Agent Pendrell. We hardly knew ye. And in this case, that’s a sad thing.
* Scully’s closing musings about the keychain Mulder gave her for her birthday, a remembrance of Apollo 11, encapsulates a sensibility I live for on this show. She so earnestly describes her own thoughts about why she thinks Mulder gave it to her and in the end he shrugs it off saying he liked the way it looked.
* The tone of these episodes is something so rarely achieved in any television that's come before or after. There are just heaps of heart that touch our fragility in deep and loving ways in addition to action, suspense, intrigue and humor.
Scully: “I, uh... actually, I was thinking about the -- this gift that you gave me for my birthday. You never got to tell me why you gave it to me or what it means. But I think I know. I think that you appreciate that there are extraordinary men and women and extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals. That what can be imagined can be achieved, that you must dare to dream, but that there's no substitute for perseverance and hard work and teamwork, because no one gets there alone. And while we commemorate the greatness of these events and the individuals who achieved them, we cannot forget the sacrifice of those who make these achievements and leaps possible.”
Mulder: “I just thought it was a pretty cool keychain.”
Final Analysis: One of the best two-parters during this time period of the series. So much tenderness mixed with the best kinds of paranoia and uneasiness the show was capable of.