Destination: Sacramento, CA, D.C., Greenwich, CT
The X-Files ventures towards closure on the Samantha Mulder mystery in the first half of a mythology duo, 'Sein und Zeit'. Anchored by a story told in the vein of JonBenet Ramsey, this episode profiles perfectly blended images and concepts to evoke proper amounts of psychological dissonance.
I've always had a fondness for this pair of episodes. They are strong, gutsy and what turned out to be just the right move for the series, at this point in its run. Carter, preparing for the seventh season to be the last, wanted to bring a conclusion to the particulars surrounding the abduction of Samantha. But something happened here that was unusual for the show, the writers ended the 'search' for her mid-season and they did it in a way that took a huge leap of faith, for them, and for the audience. But, you know, after analyzing it over time, what the writers did to 'answer' this question was truly courageous and evolutionary.
Somewhere along the way (I'd like to think 'Paper Hearts' had something to do with it-- gracias a dios, Vince Gilligan), Carter and company realized that it was more satisfying and heartfelt to have Mulder come to terms with an answer -- whatever answer that may be -- that this was the answer, in and of itself. Like I said, gutsy. And it worked. In a world of causes and effects, human beings have the luxury(curse) of making connections between two things any way that they so desire. The Samantha story has been Mulder's, from the beginning, to reconcile, and now he finally can.
As is true for this season, Mulder and Scully's love for one another provides specific pinpoints of light. Scully's protection of Mulder's feelings results in her trademark hardass demeanor we've come to know. She is on edge most of the episode until Mulder's breakdown in his apartment. When she tell him his mom has died, she removes any trace of emotion from her own voice, to allow him the grace of his own experience. Her insistence that an autopsy is not a good idea, then the only idea, is also heartbreaking and wonderful to watch. Of course the climax of Mulder accepting his mom's suicide (she was diagnosed with a particularly grueling disease that she didn't want to die from), in his apartment with Scully, remains one of my favorite moments between these two, of all time. I think the best thing about Mulder and Scully is the consistency with which they protect the other's sanctity of their own mind and heart. Their support for one another is so specific -- it always always comes from a place of respect.
All in all, it's a very beautifully drawn story where Mulder, without any other living member of his family around, must let go, find meaning in the life he has and move forward -- that's the essential nature of the story The X-Files is telling and what a good one it is.
* I didn't focus on the details of the plot because while they are commendable, there is a greater good here at work. Having said that, I thought the parents of Amber Lynn LaPierre were wonderful, the Santa Claus Village was horrifying, the scenes with Kathy Lee Tencate -- convicted murderer of her son -- were very chilling and effective. And as an aside, I hope there's a world where Ryan Murphy has the wherewithal to tell the JonBenet story on a season of American Crime Story because it would be a fascinating look into our psyches.
* Did I say anything about aliens, Scully?
* The directing is wonderful. Kudos, Michael Watkins. The last few shots, of the burial mounds with rays of sunlight coming from each one, are so inspired I have tears in my eyes just typing this.
* Intensify our search -- where? The Twilight Zone?
* Whomever decided that Skinner, Mulder and Scully should follow a lead and capture a suspect in the fourth act together deserves a round of applause.
* She just wanted to take away your pain. (Kill me now.)
Quotes: The Harsh Realm Edition
Bud LaPierre: (watching Harsh Realm) "This is great."
Bud LaPierre: "...I was watching TV in here."
Mulder: "What were you watching?"
Bud LaPierre: "I never heard of it before. It was good."
Final Analysis: I love these two episodes and find it remarkable that there's any juice left in this aspect of the mythology. As the first part of two, this one stands strongly on its own with a tightly-told story full of tension.