The X-Files: Never Again

Case: A man appears to be driven to murder by his newly acquired tattoo.

Destination: Philadelphia

Scully: “Why don’t I have a desk?”

This episode is all about Dana Scully as she tries to cope with the understanding that she is very ill and may possibly die. In facing her possible death Scully starts to question her immersion in the X-Files which in many ways is Mulder's world rather than her own. She begins to see Mulder as a controlling figure, someone who doesn't value her as an equal, with skills and talents of her own.

To be fair, I think that Mulder does see Scully as an equal but the X-Files, at least up to this point, are his obsession and in terms of obsession Scully is just along for the ride. Unfortunately, because of his obsession he is having difficulty seeing how deeply troubled his partner is and he fails to ask her what is wrong. Perhaps if he had, she could have told him and received the support of a friend rather than what seemed like an assignment handed down by a superior. Instead, Scully's response is about her father and her problem with submitting her life to men who are authoritative figures like him. She submits until she hits a stage of rebellion - at 13 smoking her mother's cigarettes, now refusing to connect with Mulder while she explores her attraction to a dangerous man. But as my mother always told me, when you do things that you know will intentionally upset another person, you are not actually rebelling, instead you show that you are still profoundly connected to them.

There are many parts of this episode that are wonderful. The lighting and music create a dark and threatening mood reflecting the turmoil that Scully is experiencing. Her calm exterior makes her rash decisions seem even more alarming. There is a lot of beauty in this episode. Scully herself is stunning. For example, early in the episode Scully is wearing a jacket that exactly matches her hair, illuminating her face. Then there are small touches, such as the decaying, red rose petal that symbolizes Scully's feelings about her own body. Even the tattoos that Ed and Scully get are well done and the scene where Scully gets her tattoo has masterful undertones of the erotic. On the other hand, even in the darkest X-Files episode there seems to be some humour. Of course, Mulder would go on a spiritual journey to find himself at Graceland. His impression of 'the king' was funny but also a poignant counterpoint to an annoyed Scully on the other end of the phone.

While I enjoyed this episode, there are some things that troubled me. Why, in going off the rails, did Scully have to end up with a violent murderer? The underlying message seems to be that this smart, beautiful, capable woman really wants to be dominated, even roughed up a bit. I wish I could say that this was a sign of the times but these ideas persist today although I think we have a few more women leads who would have just kicked Ed's ass or ignored him altogether. I also didn't agree with the intimation that Mulder was just like Scully's father. Mulder may be clueless, obsessed and takes Scully for granted, but dominating doesn't seem to fit. I do agree that their partnership may need a shake up but that will require Scully fully committing to the X-Files herself.

Other Thoughts

Jodie Foster did an excellent job as the voice of "Betty" the tattoo.

Scully knew the entire episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle. That was amusing.

Fox hasn’t taken a day off for four years. When was Scully's last vacation?

The burn mark is gone in the final picture of 'Betty'. Continuity problem or an indication that she is much more than a tattoo?

Mulder seems to miss Scully much more than she misses him. He calls to share Graceland with her but then messes up by arguing with her about the case he left her. It could easily seem to Scully that he is checking up on her but he really just wants to connect.


Mulder: “Eenie Meenie Chili Beanie, the spirits are about to speak?”

Mulder: “This work is my life.”
Scully: “And it’s become mine.”
Mulder: “And you don’t want it to be?”
Scully: “This isn’t about you.”

Tattoo Artist: “Everyone gets tattoo they deserve.”

Scully: “I did as told, as always.”

Scully: “What makes this place a good place to go when you’re feeling down?”
Ed: “It’s kind of - everyone here looks like their problems are worse than mine. It makes me feel good about myself.”
Scully: “Yeah, but you can’t tell what’s going on in somebody’s head just by looking at them. They’re probably thinking that we’re the ones that are screwed up.”

Mulder: “All this because I didn’t get you a desk?”
Scully: “Not everything is about you Mulder. This is my life.”
Mulder: “Yes but it’s my ....”


Heather said...

What a great review. I love what you said about Mulder and Scully and them not knowing at this point exactly what their connection is about. And I agree that the conceit that Scully faces a near-violent end when she was just pursuing an attraction is troubling. Luckily The Fall has evolved that somewhat for her/women. :)

I always thought it was interesting that Ed Jerse's apt looked a bit like Mulder's!

ChrisB said...

Twice in this episode, Scully tells Mulder that it isn't about him. That line has always struck me as being so much about what the show was until this point. It has been about Mulder; Scully has been along for the ride. Originally, it was because she was told to. Now, I think it's because she cares about Mulder and, in spite of herself, has seen some odd things.

But, this going along for the ride has now hurt her, made her sick. Of course she is going to question her choices, including her choice to share her professional life with a man so obsessed he misses what's right in front of him.

I think on one level that Mulder knows something is terribly wrong. He just doesn't know what and he doesn't know how to respond. The hurt in his eyes during their final conversation just kills me. Everything is changing; he doesn't know what or why and he is scared.

Juliette said...

I'm researching some X-Files stuff at the moment and according to Wikipedia, this ep and Leonard Betts were swapped around so that Leonard Betts would air after the Superbowl. I find that fascinating because the only way Scully's characterization in this ep makes sense to me is that she's lashing out against this job that's taken over her life and that may now (if the cancer is abduction-related, as she must suspect) may take her life, or at least occupy her last days and years. It's very effective read that way - it would be weird if she just suddenly decided she was fed up for no reason (realistic perhaps, but weird in a TV narrative)

drnanamom said...

What a happy accident but I bet as soon as they switched them they went - of course it should be this way!