The X-Files: Two Fathers

Case: Cassandra Spender reappears after a year to allow Chris Carter to convince us that the mythology makes sense.

Destination: In and around Washington, DC.

Five years of questions; two nights of answers.

The Fox ad campaign for its February, 1999 sweeps episodes tells us all we need to know. This is it! After five and a half seasons, not to mention a movie, we are finally going to get some resolution to the show’s mythology.

That was the plan, anyway. Unfortunately, the mythology had gone so far off the rails by this time that it was almost impossible to bring it back on track. Even worse, one gets the impression that TPTB knew that the show would continue on for a while, so were unwilling to simply put the conspiracy to bed and move on to something else.

This is the fundamental problem with the episode. There is no forward movement, no tying up of all the loose ends that are now too numerous to count. We have the Syndicate, the black oil, the bees, the aliens, the hybrids, the green gunk, the clones, the shapeshifters. Rather than address all of these in turn, Carter basically threw it all out. To make a very long story short, the aliens are coming; they are creating human/alien hybrids to work as slaves; another alien race is trying to stop them.

Rather than have this pivotal episode revolve around his two leads, Carter uses the Spender family and their relationship with Mulder. Clearly, CSM wants a son like Mulder. As big of a pain in the neck as he is, CSM can’t help but respect his drive and his focus. Jeffrey simply can’t live up to that ideal, and the look on his face when his father tells him that he pales to his rival is tough to watch.

As if having his father prefer Mulder isn’t enough, so does Spender’s mother. Cassandra is cool at best when Jeffrey comes to see her at the train yard; she’s so excited to see Mulder, she nearly “pees the floor.” She tells Scully that she will only talk to someone whom she trusts; someone who just might believe her. She knows that her son is not that man.

Jeffrey is so caught up in trying to live up to his parents’ ideals, he very nearly kills a man. He can’t (a mark in his favor), but having Krycek there to do the deed leads to the best scene in the episode. Jeffrey’s whole world view has been rocked, and here comes this other young man (who is obviously closer to Jeffrey’s father than he is) to tell him some hard truths. Kryceck’s dry delivery of all these horrible facts is chilling.

Although the senior Spenders may prefer Mulder and Jeffrey clearly has some fraternal rivalry going on, Mulder’s family is Scully. Period. He is not going to get involved, even though it is an X-File and even though it may provide answers. He is so jaded by the whole experience he can’t believe that there isn’t an ulterior motive. That is until Scully tells him that it may provide answers for her. Then, there is no stopping him.

In many ways, this narrative structure works. Carter takes some very large and very frightening concepts, and has them directly affect people we know. In this way, we are all able to relate to the story in a more empathetic way. It’s real.

Like any good first part, this episode ends with two pretty big shocks. The first is the return of Diana who is working with CSM. Although it’s not completely shocking that Mulder’s ex will end up working against him, the reveal of the person to whom CSM is talking is very well done. Secondly, the episode goes out on a close-up of a gun in Mulder’s hand as he points it to a relatively innocent person. Wow.

Other Thoughts

-- This episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Makeup.

-- This episode and the next garnered the highest Nielsen ratings the show ever got. In many ways, we can see these two episodes as truly the beginning of the end of this story.

-- Mulder’s conversation with Scully on the basketball court is just painful to watch. Who really thought that was a good idea, even sixteen years ago?

-- In an episode about family, it is clear that Skinner has become a father figure to both Mulder and Scully. They trust him with everything, and he risks a lot to help them.


CSM: “This is the end. I never thought I’d hear myself say those words after so many years.”

CSM: “Treachery is the inevitable result of all affairs. Every man believes he has his own good reason.”

Final Analysis: As this is the first of two parts, I will withhold judgment on whether Carter succeeded in clearing up the confusion until next week.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.


Mallena said...

Even as a big X-Files fan, the mythology episodes do nothing for me, especially how by the end of the series, the mythology becomes a big sloppy mess. Hate Fowler, feel sorry for poor Jeffrey, love Cassandra, but skip the rest of ep. Good review, though......Thanks.

Heather said...

A very apt review! These might be the worst mythology eps so far. Just so boring -- the worst kind of offense! I do love Skinner's dad role being solidified.