The X-Files: Providence

Case: Following on from the previous episode, the team search for Scully's son.

Destination: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

"You call it protection. I call it a systematic effort inside the FBI to eliminate us."

Considering this is a season nine mythology episode (gaaah!), I enjoyed this more than I expected to. If you strip away all the surrounding myth-arc business, it benefits from a relatively simple basic plot – Scully's son has been kidnapped, and our guys have to find him. By the end of the episode, they have succeeded. On that level, the episode is pretty successful. I'm not sure I was ever convinced William was in mortal danger, but it's easy to imagine a storyline in which he was taken away, so there's some basic tension relating to characters we care about, followed by relief, and on that level, it works.

Doggett's coma is a bit less compelling, partly because it's mostly relegated to the background and partly because The X-Files has done this before, and better (in 'One Breath,' in particular). Still, it's also a simple plotline putting a character we care about in peril. The vague religious references and pseudo-religious babble throughout much of the episode veer towards the worst habits of X-Files myth-arc episodes, but Doggett's experience, hearing a voice telling him to get up and help Scully, is more interesting and more powerful, since it echoes 'sensed presence' real life experiences reported by, among others, mountain climbers, Arctic explorers and a 9/11 survivor.

I also rather enjoyed Scully's descent into (justified) paranoia over the course of the episode. After years of skepticism, Scully has gone all out the other way – even Reyes is starting to question some of the things Scully believes, and where she used to doubt the paranormal and conspiracy theories, now she doubts almost everything and everyone else. Her closeness with the Lone Gunmen and her continued trust in them after others think they've failed further emphasises how much she has not just taken on Mulder's role, but become even more anxious and untrusting, as the stakes are higher than her own personal safety – she has to look out for her son.

The episode was directed by Chris Carter and contains some really nice sequences. I especially enjoyed the fairly brutal opening sequence set in Iraq, and the pull down to reveal the spaceship as the cult leader sets out his beliefs. The climactic destruction and little William lying in the middle of the ashes was nicely shot as well. All in all, this may be a mess of conspiracy nonsense that I lost the ability to follow properly years ago, but as an individual hour of the show, it's pretty effective.

Bits and pieces

 - Mulder is unquestioningly assumed (by Scully) to be William's father throughout this episode. Where he gets his alien DNA from remains a mystery (though to be fair, it could be from her).

 - One of the fun things about these late episodes is spotting the guest stars. Lucy Lawless unfortunately wasn't able to return but hey, Cary Elwes! Jim from Neighbours! (I'd totally forgotten about his foray into American genre TV).

Quotes

Josepho (to Scully): You struggle to believe.

Final analysis: Messy but there's some decent stuff here. Two and a half out of four paranoid conspiracy theories.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

Would it be obnoxious of me if I posted a countdown? Nine episodes to go, and The X-Files is done! (At least until season eleven, whenever it arrives.)