The X-Files: The Red and the Black

Case: Scully is found, alive but without any memory of what happened, at Ruskin Dam where the most recent group of abductees have died by immolation.

Destination: Canada, Washington D.C., West Virginia

Resist or Serve. The tagline at the end of the credits rarely changes but in a world where there are alien colonists and alien rebels, it really might be necessary.

Like its mytharc partner, 'Patient X', 'The Red and the Black' has huge, pretty and expensive set pieces. Chris Carter told Fox they simply needed a higher budget for this two-parter since it was a set-up for the soon-to-be-released movie Fight the Future. Nothing more comprehensive for P&M than the show itself, after all! But the movie looming in the future had a negative side-effect: This portion of the season (all the way through to episode 5x20 'The End') was short-staffed in myriad ways. Much of the production team was prepping for reshoots and this left the series with less people to do the same amount of work. So, with that in mind, this two-parter has issues that may be attributed to this circumstance. However, there manage to be some interesting developments nonetheless.

Even though the mythology was losing coherence quickly at this point in the series, it is pretty interesting to posit that the contract between a shadowy government faction and alien colonists to create an alien/human hybrid has the potential to be challenged by a rebel contingent. I mean, Mr. Mulder, they've been here for a long long time. It stands to reason that plans may change. Also, there's an alleged vaccine to combat an infection by the black oil used here successfully on Marita. In my humble opinion, the conspiracy, from here, grew in fits and starts that sometimes worked (the hypnosis scene with Scully and Dr. Werber, Krycek showing up at Mulder's apartment, the reveal that Spender is the product of Cassandra and CSM) and sometimes didn't. (Why take Cassandra? How does Scully fit in since she removed the chip? Jeffrey Spender's role increasingly felt like it was written as they went along. The Syndicate isn't that interesting.)

But let's go back to that hypnosis scene which is a super shiny awesome highlight of this episode. First of all, it's gorgeously directed from start to finish. Secondly, Gillian Anderson manages to convey, seamlessly, the fear, surprise, horror, awe and wonder to that night, all to haunting emotional perfection. And in the climax of her distress, this happens. (Aw.)

Dear Diary, today my heart leapt when Agent Scully grabbed my hand during her crazy hypnosis experience.

The moment Mulder realizes Krycek is in his apartment is also a stroke of brilliance. (Things are looking up.) Krycek, and whether he's serving his own agenda or not it's not clear, genuinely warns Mulder about what is actually happening these days, which for reasons we already know, (i.e. he's kind of a bad ass and is gifted at insinuating himself into the shadowiest of shadows among them) he is being truthful and perhaps even 'friendly' about. And then for no reason but to set the slashfic world on fire, this happens.

Does this even need a caption?

In the end, Spender (and Skinner) are aware that Jeffrey has a friend whose power extends to the FBI. The war among the planets is raging and Scully is back on the side of Mulder's new side -- the one where he's not so sure about the existence of aliens -- all to perhaps set them up to more convincingly Fight the Future.

Other Thoughts

-- The Red and the Black by Stendhal is the Bildungsroman about a young man who must transcend his poor childhood to rise in society. He becomes a pawn in the agendas of ruthless politicians who he sees as a way up the ladder.

-- The letter CSM typed to Jeffrey:

Dear Son,
I hope this letter finds you well. I get reports of you from time to time. I know these letters come as a surprise. You must wonder about me. I remind myself of a Navajo story. Twin war gods come to their father, seeking magic and weapons to eliminate the monsters of the world. My hope is the same for you, and that we might reconcile the differences between us.
Your Loving Father,

(no name printed)

-- Aw, shite, another visit to an undisclosed government compound that yields no answers. :(

-- I like how Mitch Pileggi's Skinner just goes with it -- ALL of it, wherever it goes. Bless.

Quotes

Scully: "...what time is it?
Mulder: "What time is it? It's time to thank your lucky stars."

Skinner: "Over the past five years I've doubted you, only to be persuaded by the power of your belief in extraterrestrial phenomena, and I'm doubting you now, not because of that belief, but because extraterrestrial phenomena is frankly the more plausible explanation."
Mulder: "Then I suggest you put that in your report."

Spender: "I heard about this office. Really is in the basement."

Krycek: "You must be losing it, Mulder. I could beat you with one hand."
Mulder: "Isn't that how you like to beat yourself? If those are my last words I can do better." (Classic.)

Scully: "Mulder? What are you doing sitting here in the dark?"
Mulder: "Thinking."
Scully: "Thinking about what?"
Mulder: "Oh, the usual. Destiny, fate, how to throw a curve ball. The inextricable relationships in our lives that are neither accidental nor somehow in our control, either." (I love this show.)

Mulder: "Are you aware there's been a leak and contamination in one of the labs and the personnel on site need immediate medical attention?" (I love when Mulder lies through his teeth in the face of young military personnel.)

Skinner: "You'll do fine. It seems you have a patron outside this office who thinks highly of you."
Spender: "Who's that?"
Skinner: "I don't know. Someone working with a high level of influence." (who smokes a lot.)

Final Analysis: Not without its merits and some of the revelations do bear out over time going forward.

5 comments:

Juliette said...

I have no idea whatsoever what's going on in these episodes, but great review Heather, and some of the dialogue is still golden!

Heather said...

Juliette,
I agree, the dialogue is still really tight! It's taken me considerable effort in the last couple of viewings to really figure out what's happening, btw. And even then... well, I'm still confused. :)

drnanamom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
drnanamom said...

Thanks for the review Heather and the great choices in quotes! I kind of like the confused feeling we as the audience has. It mirrors how the characters are feeling as they try to figure out what is going on and sometimes writers spoon feed audiences the plot and I always feel insulted. I always feel that we (the audience) and Mulder and Scully will eventually figure things out (even if the writers haven't yet).

ChrisB said...

Great review, Heather. You are much more in tune with what is actually happening than I. At this point, I am just along for the dialogue and the occasional scenes of brilliance. I agree that the hypnosis scene is beautiful from beginning to end.