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The X-Files: William

Case: A mysterious, very scarred man breaks into the FBI to steal some X-Files.

Destination: Washington, D. C.

"Sweet dreams, baby boy."

So, I suspect this episode was kind of inevitable. The show had done quite well at depicting Scully as a working mother, actually showing her baby, showing her getting hold of a babysitter when necessary and so on. If the series had continued, however, it would have become difficult to keep that up, especially considering how often our heroes have to drop everything in the middle of the night, or get abducted for days on end.

Since the series must have been cancelled by the time this episode was made, they could have scrapped the idea of getting rid of William, as the practical issues would no longer be a concern. But perhaps the cancellation is the very reason for the episode. Keeping William and his mysterious abilities around would be a loose, flapping thread, apparently never to be resolved (no one knew the series would come back 14 years later!). The only options would be to have a flash forward in the finale, which would massively complicate the already very complicated alien storyline and seriously restrict the possibilities for future movies like 2008's I Want To Believe, or to find a somewhat satisfactory way to wrap up William's storyline before the series finale.

And so Scully gives William up to keep him safe, and has him adopted by a completely innocent and unknowing couple. Considering William is some kind of part-alien miracle baby who used to have superpowers and we have only the word of a seriously damaged man to say that this won't happen again, wanted by a sinister, shadowy conspiracy who might torture and experiment on him, I'm not entirely sure this was the best plan. If one of the huge, government-funded conspiracy manages to track William down, or the magic-alien-superpower-cure wears off, this is going to be trouble.

As for the main plot mechanics, the story is OK. It's not great. All the teasing around Mulder's presence or absence is kind of annoying especially since David Duchovny is actually behind the camera directing the episode, but for the most part, doesn't step in front of it! Some elements of the identity-masked-by-horrible-scars parts of the story are a little improbable (though to be fair, they make a lot more sense on The X-Files than they would when a similar storyline appeared years later on Downton Abbey (yes, really)). But mysterious shadowy figures of uncertain identity and people playing with what anyone does or doesn't think they know at any given point in time are classic X-Files staples, and it offers an intriguing enough mystery for a while with the DNA payoff quite neat given that it doesn't actually require any trickery on Spender's part – he really does share DNA with Mulder.

One thing I do like about the whole identity-crisis of the episode is that Scully is able to tell that this is not really Mulder, regardless of how many DNA tests Doggett throws at her. In earlier seasons, The X-Files used to use the classic sci-fi trope of someone not realising the person they're interacting with isn't really their best friend/colleague/lover no matter how out of character the person behaves (in 'Small Potatoes', for example). By season 6, however, Scully had wised up to these situations and could spot a false Mulder when he threw himself at her (in 'Dreamland'). It's good to see that, while she doesn't remember that specific incident (it's a whole timey-wimey thing), she hasn't lost her touch there.

All in all, this is probably one of the more satisfying X-Files mythology episodes. It has a strong central point – driving Scully to the conviction that she has to give William up. We're no longer surprised by apparently dead people turning up again on this show, and Gillian Anderson acts her heart out in both the scenes in which she wonders whether the mysterious man is Mulder, and in her decision to give up her baby to keep him safe. The episode provides some decent closure for William's story, at least for the time being. At the end of the episode, he seems to point towards the mobile above his crib and it doesn't move – suggesting that he really has lost whatever powers he had. For now...

Other Thoughts

 - Opening with the adoptive parents and showing them as a religious couple is quite nice, considering how important her religion has been to Scully over the years – at least they share that much with William's mother (if not his father!).

 - On the other hand, while it has certainly been true that Scully has been raising William alone since Mulder is on the run, hearing her described as a 'single mother' breaks my shippy heart a little.

 - We get to hear Scully sing 'Joy to the World' (or, as I still think of it since 'Joy to the World' is a Christmas carol, 'Jeremiah was a bullfrog') again!

 - David Duchovny directed the episode and shares a story credit with Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter, which is sort of weirdly sweet on a meta-level, as Mulder helped decide what would happen to his son, baby William.


Scully: I do have a choice about the life my son will have.

Final analysis: Decent, reasonably satisfying and a solid performance from Anderson. Three out of four perfectly normal baby mobiles.

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

1 comment:

  1. Love the photo you chose, probably because I love William's hat. :)

    Only three reviews to go!


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