Destination: D.C., Clifton, AZ.
Season Eight opens more strongly than expected, though it’s ever more mythically-challenged. Oh, and there’s a new agent on the scene, John Doggett (Robert Patrick).
Before I get into the specifics of the episode, the introduction of Agent Doggett into this series works for me. It always has. Though Patrick took on the role with pretty much the whole fandom against him, he brought a different energy to the series, altogether, one that was valid and practical. (Sorry, that was the most boring compliment I have ever typed.) But Doggett’s earnest, stoic ex-Marine vibe took some time to get used to, for us and for Agent Scully. (By the way, my computer keeps autocorrecting to Dogged, so yes, writers, we get it!) And I’m sure by the writers’ design, he’s introduced to Scully (and us since she’s continuing to be our surrogate) under much skepticism, with very little transparency. But more on that in a bit.
When we join this new season, Scully is indeed pregnant. She’s also lonely and despairing. Her walk through the FBI hallway is a great visual of how she’s experiencing her life at the moment. She lacks a connection to the bureau, her job, the X-Files. A bright light does soon shine, though, in the eyes of Agent Skinner, who steps forward as her (and Mulder’s) loyal friend, as well as, the only other inside-the-agency person Scully can trust. In an amazing plot-twist, Skinner is so committed to honoring Mulder’s legacy that he’s willing to go on the record about the UFO story explaining Mulder’s disappearance. (I cheer every time he stands so fully in himself in the coming two seasons.) A quick digression in the name of Gillian Anderson -- is there another actress who could stand in the mirror and stare at her reflection, throw water on someone and draw her gun on her landlord, all with quite as much finesse?
Enter Agent Doggett, under what appear to be uncertain circumstances (for which he has chosen as a tactic) and Scully throws a cup of water in his face. That’s not a euphemism or a casual role play of a scene from a 1940s film starring Lauren Bacall, but an actual action line in the script. He and Scully dance around some snappy repartee for most of the episode, but in the end, Scully gets a clearer picture of this man tasked with finding Mulder, and she's less threatened. (Us, too.) Though she and Skinner are apathetic to the bureau’s methods, because they know and accept much more context in respect to his disappearance. In other words, they’re not in the basement anymore, except they still totally are.
Some decent investigative skills lead Doggett’s task force to the same place Scully and Skinner divine where Mulder might be. (Theirs is through the help of the Lone Gunmen. Bless.) As it were, all roads lead to (the reappearance of) Gibson Praise, who’s been displaced, seemingly within an inch of his life, in Arizona where he (inexplicably) attends a school for deaf children. In the episode’s last moments, what looks like a non-reactionary, despondent Fox Mulder (but who we assume is the alien bounty hunter) is holding Gibson’s hand and ready to take them both off a cliff while Doggett has a gun trained on him... Yes, the first episode of this two-parter ends on a cliff.
* My assessment of the torture scenes of Mulder on the ship: total payback to Duchovny for hamstringing them to the degree that his new contract did.
* Love that Scully is dreaming about Mulder. I have to believe that was the Vince Gilligan effect in the writers room since he’s the governor of continuity.
* Doggett knew where the fish food was.
* In light of the world we are living in these days, I can't help but watch this show with different eyes re: the FBI.
Skinner: "Look... I saw what I saw. I have to make a statement in there. I'm not going to tell them it didn't happen."
Scully: "Well, you heard Kersh. They don't want the truth. You give them the truth, and they'll hang you with it."
Skinner: "They can hang me with a lie, too. I'm not going to sell Mulder out."
Scully: "You might have just introduced yourself."
Doggett: "Well, I was getting around to it."
Final Analysis: Watchable because Robert Patrick is an interesting addition, Mitch Pileggi shines and Gillian Anderson is among the most exquisite actresses of our time, and her angst with Mulder gone, going forward, is the lifeblood of Agent Scully.