Generally, the concluding episode in a mythology arc answers a few questions, but this episode posed more questions than it answered. Granted, I like having questions, but after years of zeroing in on the mythology, I feel that I've taken 10 paces backwards. Hopefully things will become clearer as the season progresses.
Confusion aside, here's what (I think) happens:
It all begins with a lovely shot of Mulder sitting on a beach, watching a little boy take his first steps with his parents. Alas, this scene comes to an untimely end when we hear the venomous voice of Teena Mulder. The shot cuts to Mulder's hospital room, where Mommy Dearest has decided to visit her ailing son. Seeing her boy in a state of paranormal coma is too much for this vixen, so she turns on her heel and scuttles into the hallway. At the same time, Mulder's internal voice kicks in and we hear him screaming: "MOMMMMM! I hear you! MOMMMM! Come back damn you!"* Since this is Mulder's inner voice that's screaming, Ma Mulder walks off unknowingly.
As Mulder screams in his overworked brain, the lights dim and the camera pans right. Cigarette-Smoking Man is standing in a corner, composing sonnets in his head. He walks to Mulder's bedside, looking at the atrophic agent with a sneaky stare. What ensues is a battle of internal monologues. CSM knows Mulder can hear his thoughts, so he thinks literary things like: "How does anything I do surprise you now? Aren't you expecting me to sprout vampire fangs?"
It's all very dramatic and Shakespearean.
But the drama takes a turn for the weird when CSM produces a syringe filled with an unknown drug (liquefied Ginko Biloba?) and juts it into Mulder's temple. Mulder gasps as the drug pulses through his brain. His inner voice fades away as the snuggly blanket of consciousness settles over his crumpled form. Mind reading time is over, so CSM uses his real voice to offer Mulder a deal: Come with him and leave his X-files life behind. He's giving Mulder a second chance at a "normal" life; all the guilt and anger he's collected over the years can be placed aside, but he has to make the choice now. Mulder has a hard time with this concept, especially since he believes he's dying. Apparently he was misinformed about his impending demise, for CSM claims that the only thing that's dying is Mulder's former life as an X-file junkie. "Arise," the smoky bandit says. "Arise! You've gotta rise UPAH! You've gotta feeeeel the power of the Lorrrdah!"*
Mulder feels the power and sits up for the first time in weeks. "Take my hand, Fox," the Black-lunged SOB whispers. "I am your father."
And just like that screams erupt across the nation as people wonder why we're diving back into this storyline. Didn't we already conclude that CSM isn't Mulder's daddy? Carter and Co. should replace "The Truth is Out There" with "Who's Your Daddy."
Patriarchal ranting aside, the scene shifts to the X-files office where Scully is conked out on the desk, her arm resting on a Powerbook. On the computer, image files are open that show the funky symbols Scully discovered on the exterior of the beach spaceship (first seen in "Biogenesis" and lost in "The Sixth Extinction"). A figure steps beside the sleeping Scully and a deep voice tells her that sleep is a luxury they don't have time for. The terse warning comes from Michael Kritschgau, who's in desperate need of a shave. He's there to tell Scully to use her access to Mulder wisely (as seen in "The Sixth Extinction," Scully's medical credentials have granted her exclusive access to see Mulder). Kritschgau lambastes Scully with facts. He tells her that two years ago (in the "Tunguska"/"Terma" story arc) Mulder was infected with the black oil. When he was exposed to the alien relic in "Biogenesis" the black oil was activated and now Mulder is the thing he's pursued for all these years; living proof of alien life. Scully's eyes narrow and she tells Kritschgau "I don't give a rat's hiney about aliens -- my partner's brain is three seconds from popping and I want to save him."* Kritschgau's benevolent side kicks in and he tells Scully that if she destroys the alien virus, he'll destroy her. They lock eyes as Kritschgau takes two steps back. His swagger clearly says "Oh yeah, I'm bad." Scully is not impressed.
Thankfully the phone rings and Kritschgau scurries out of the office. The voice on the other end of the line is Skinner and he's got some bad news for Scully -- Mulder has disappeared from the hospital.
Now this is a neat trick, isn't it? A man who's been catatonic for the last two weeks has slipped out of a public hospital and NO ONE noticed. Scully also finds this to be an act of Copperfieldian proportions, but when she arrives at the hospital Skinner tells her that Mulder's disappearance hasn't been orchestrated by magic, but rather through the evil desires of Teena Mulder. Ma Mulder signed her ailing baby out of the hospital, and now no one knows where he is. Scully asks Skinner to help find her partner, but Skinner says he needs to distance himself from the investigation. Scully pushes, but the big AD doesn't relent and Scully is left in the hospital room with a Very Confused Look etched across her flawless visage.
Now here's where things get weird. We see that Mulder is sitting in the passenger seat of a sedan that's being driven by Cigarette-Smoking Man. Night has fallen and raindrops streak wet lines over the car's windows. CSM is in an unusually talkative mood this wet evening. He tells Mulder that while he was unconscious, CSM's team of conspiratorial doctors "worked" on Mulder and somehow alleviated his brain disorder (this begs the question, Does CSM have his own HMO?). Smoke billowing from his wrinkled mouth, CSM tells Mulder that he's trapped. If the Syndicate doesn't off the agent, the FBI will, and if the FBI doesn't zap him to the hereafter, Mulder's blind heroism will eventually kill him. But CSM has an alternative -- Mulder can leave his identity and his former life behind and start anew. As you might expect, Mulder has a problem with this and he wants to contact Scully to tell her his brain hasn't popped. CSM contends that any contact with Scully will put her in danger. With that, he pulls two Morleys from the pack and offers one to Mulder. Mulder gives him a disgusted glance and the scene fades to black.
As Mulder ponders a nicotine fix, Scully returns to her well-furnished apartment. While digging around the fridge for some yogurt and bee pollen, she hears someone shuffling in her living room. Darting into the room, gun drawn, Scully sees a tall man standing in the darkness. The man takes a step forward and we see the wise face of Albert Hosteen. How, in the name of the Anasazi, did Albert Hosteen make his way to D.C. and break into Scully's apartment? When we last saw Big Al he was losing his battle with cancer, but now he's in Scully's Ikea apartment, telling her that she must find Mulder less the world be attacked by aliens and everyone die. He's not quite that overt, but you get the idea.
The next morning, CSM pulls up to a big white house with a green yard, flowers, oak trees, a nice path down the middle and all the utopian goodness you can fathom. CSM introduces Mulder to his new home. With introductions complete, CSM exits the sedan and walks down the sunny side of the street. Mulder stares at the house and wonders what kind of cable system they've got in this neighborhood.
His curiosity piqued, Mulder walks into the house and shuffles from room to room in his dirty hospital gown. Moving to the kitchen, he opens the fridge where he finds package upon package of sunflower seeds. CSM might be a ripe bastard when it comes to conspiratorial matters, but only Martha Stewart equals his abilities as a homemaker. While Mulder stares at the seeds, the voice of an old friend startles him. Spinning around, Mulder sees Deep Throat leaning against the kitchen counter -- very much alive. Shocked, Mulder rushes to his formerly-dead friend and hugs his saggy face. Deep Throat explains that his "death" was faked six years ago so he could remove himself from the rigors of government service. Now he spends his days mowing the lawn and playing tennis. He shows Mulder a picture of his wife and two daughters (two young daughters, which suggests Mr. Throat is an avid user of Viagra) and invites Mulder to meet them while having dinner at the Throat residence.
Later that night, Mulder is asleep in his comfy bed, dreaming of the same little boy on the beach. The boy is building something in the sand, but a wave breaks over his creation and sucks it back into the sea. Mulder comforts the distraught kiddy and tells him to build it again. The dream ends as Mulder hears someone approaching his bedroom. Diana Fowley appears in the doorway wearing an irregular garment from Victoria's Secret. Mulder stands as Fowley approaches. Her black widow figure moves toward the agent and she mumbles something about "simple pleasures." Blah, blah, blah. In the end, she and Mulder get jiggy and thankfully, the scene fades to black before the audience becomes ill.
While Mulder has relations with the wicked witch, Scully is camped in the X-files office, looking at a bank of small TV screens. The screens show different camera angles from hospital surveillance tapes. Another agent is sitting beside Scully, narrating the sequence of events: "Alright, here I am in front of the Eiffel Tower. CLICK. And here I am at Mount Rushmore. CLICK. And here's a lovely picture of me sunbathing in the South of France. CLICK."* Realizing Scully has no desire to see him sunbathing, the agent turns back to the surveillance tapes. In a stroke of really bad luck, someone has blacked out all of the cameras using spray paint. But! Someone was sloppy with their paint job and didn't cover the entire lens of one camera. Amazingly, the small view area of this camera picks up Teena Mulder sitting by a window, talking to someone. That someone is obscured by the black paint, but the telltale puffs of smoke emanating from the unseen character are a dead giveaway for Scully. Ma Mulder has been cavorting with the enemy!
Scully spends the next few hours in the X-files office, calling Mrs. Mulder and leaving nasty messages on her answering machine. "I know what you did last night Teena!"* she whispers. As Scully's doing this, an FBI employee hands her inter-office package. Inside the package is a book titled "Native American Beliefs & Practices." Lining the top of the book's cover are eerily familiar symbols -- symbols that strike a chord with Scully. Flipping through the book, Scully lands on a chapter with the heading "The Anasazi: An Entire Native American Indian Culture Vanishes Without a Trace." This alone is pretty interesting, but the subhead REALLY gets to the heart of the matter. It reads: "History as myth and the end of the world symbolism. Apocalypse and The Sixth Extinction." Scully looks at the inter-office envelope to see who sent her this wondrous book, but the envelope is blank.
Seconds later, Skinner's phone rings and Scully asks her boss if he sent her this book. Skinner is jumpy and says he doesn't know anything about it. As he speaks, a figure moves across the screen and it's evident that Skinner is not alone. Despite Skinner's denial, Scully presses on, saying Mulder was taken because Indian mythology foretells of a mass extinction. Mulder's alien illness is a gift that can protect humanity against the plague (or the colonization). While this is all very interesting, Skinner doesn't have time to discuss the matter so he hangs up and glances nervously at his unseen guest.
Scully doesn't appreciate being hung up on, so she rushes into Skinner's office and storms toward his door. Skinner's secretary tries to block her path, but a painful grunt comes from the office and Scully bursts in. Skinner is doubled over in pain. A man with scraggly long hair dashes out a nearby door and runs into the hallway. Scully pursues, but the man darts down the corridor, inserting a computer device into his pocket as he rushes away. As he rounds a corner, he uses a gloved hand to pull a fire alarm. FBI agents swarm toward the exits and Scully's path is blocked as the man disappears from view. Unfortunately, she doesn't see the man's face, if she had she would have known that Alex Krycek is the evildoer.
Back in Mulder's domestic dream, it's the next morning. Mulder goes out to get the newspaper (apparently a subscription was pre-ordered) and Fowley emerges from the front door seconds later. Clutching a cup of coffee, she tells Mulder that he's been acting like a child. For years his responsibilities have been to himself, but Fowley believes he'll only know true responsibility when he becomes a father. WHOA there Diana! Being a daddy is all well and good, but if you're the ONLY person who can save the planet from alien colonization I'd say you've got a pretty good understanding of responsibility. Mulder tries to defend himself, but Fowley doesn't listen. Instead, she suggests that she and Mulder take a trip down the block to CSM's house.
CSM answers his front door wearing a white shirt, tie and an unusually bright smile. Throw a sweater on him and he'd be Mr. Rogers. As Fowley, CSM and Mulder exchange neighborly pleasantries on the doorstep, three children and a grown woman play on the street. CSM points toward the woman and Mulder spins around to see his sister (or what looks like his sister). According to CSM, Samantha has been living in this neighborhood all her life. Mulder's long-lost sibling sees her brother and rushes to hug him. Family reunions are wonderful, but let's pause a moment to think this through. Mulder has seen this same "woman" before, and each time it's later revealed that she's an alien clone. If he were smart, he'd get something pointy and stab "Samantha" with it to test her human-ness. If she bleeds blood, he knows it's the real Samantha, but if her life juice is green and oozing, he'll know he's got another clone on his hands. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
With Mulder's daydream spiraling toward insanity, Scully continues her search. She busts into Michael Kritschgau's apartment, demanding to know whom he's told about Mulder's illness. She believes that he leaked the information, which somehow led to Skinner being attacked. Kritschgau denies the allegation, but as he's defending himself, Scully glances at the laptop on his desk and sees that Kritschgau has stolen the files she gathered from the alien spacecraft. Rushing to the laptop, she deletes the files and demands to know how Kritschgau got them. Kritschgau hacked Scully's computer and forwarded the files to the National Institutes of Health. This distresses Scully to no end because these aren't the types of files that ordinary people should get their hands on. Ignoring his egregious error, Kritschgau makes a connection between Skinner's attack and Scully's files. He believes someone is trying to discover the truth, and they're probably looking for Mulder as well. But who could it be? Alex Krycek perhaps?
If Krycek wants to find Mulder he'll have to bust into the Department of Defense, because that's where Mulder is being held. The domestic scenes we saw in the first half of the episode were figments of Mulder's imagination -- dreams that he's playing out in his head as he lies strapped to a table in a sterile DOD hospital room. It appears that CSM smuggled Mulder out of his original hospital room and brought him to the DOD for unknown, but quantifiably evil, reasons. Now, CSM and Fowley stand over the incapacitated agent, looking at him in his Christ-like pose. Yup, you read that correctly -- Christ-like. Mulder's arms are pinned outward and his feet are strapped together. In an act of pure subtlety, he also has a metal "crown" around his head.
Stupid Tangent: Typically, I avoid transcribing dialogue, but the words used in the bedside exchange between CSM and Fowley will be analyzed in countless discussions. As a service to you, the wonderful and good-looking reader, I'm providing the exact dialogue:
CSM [looking down at Mulder]: A father has high hopes for his son, but he never dreams his boy is going to change the world. I'm so proud of this man -- the depth of his capacity for suffering.
Fowley: Like father, like son.
This is a short exchange, but it will ignite thousands of debates. Infer what you will from this dialogue. Personally, I'm not convinced that CSM is Mulder's Dad.
Moving on. Fowley returns to FBI headquarters where she's met by Scully in a hallway. Scully's claws are out as she bitingly asks Fowley for a cigarette. Not much insinuation there. Instead of feigning ignorance, Fowley suggests they clear the air, so with that, the agents move to a private room where they have it out. Scully demands to know where Mulder is, but Fowley deflects the question, telling Scully to assign blame elsewhere. Oh Diana, you'll never learn. Scully's face tightens and she tells Fowley to think of Mulder when she first met him, to remember that if the situation were different, Mulder would "bust his ass" to save her. Fowley counters with some comment about "always thinking." With that, Fowley walks off and Scully's blood reaches a rolling boil.
At the same time, CSM is in Mulder's DOD hospital room. A doctor is taking blood from CSM's arm and the two are talking about Mulder's condition and how it fits into their plans. CSM says that Mulder is now immune to the coming alien colonization -- he is a successful alien-human hybrid (technically, Cassandra Spender was the "first" alien-human hybrid, but her whereabouts are unknown). CSM believes that Mulder's current condition is justification for keeping him alive all these years. The doctor scoffs a bit, saying that Mulder's alien abilities never could have been predicted. Nevertheless, CSM sees Mulder as a savior and a hero, and if he doesn't survive an upcoming "procedure" he'll become a martyr as well.
Now I know I said things got weird before, but this is the point where we venture into "Twin Peaks" territory. The next few scenes show images from Mulder's dreams contrasted against real events occurring in the DOD hospital room.
To begin, Mulder's dream state places him in an abridged version of his life. First, we see Mulder in a tuxedo and Fowley in a wedding gown, then Mulder turns and we see that Fowley is pregnant. The next second, two little boys run out of a closet and it's assumed these are Mulder and Fowley's children. Mulder turns around again and looks at himself in the mirror where he finds a middle-aged man with gray hair. Glancing over his shoulder, he sees a beautiful sight - Fowley lying dead in a casket.
Back in the hospital room, CSM disrobes (not a beautiful sight) as a team of doctors prepares for an operation. Fowley has misgivings about Mulder's impending procedure, but CSM tells her not to think of the man, but of the sacrifice he's making for the world. CSM believes Mulder's task is almost complete. This does little to assuage Fowley, but her complete worthlessness as a character prevents empathy from being felt.
In Dream World, Mulder is now very, very old. He's sitting in a room with CSM (who hasn't aged a bit) and CSM is telling him that he knows about the boy Mulder sees in his dreams. Old Mulder says that he's seen the boy thousands of times, but he's never seen what the boy is trying to show him. CSM, in a wise, philosophical moment, tells Mulder to close his eyes. The boy is ready to explain.
Old Mulder closes his eyes and the familiar beach scene flashes forward. The little boy is standing atop an enormous sand spaceship. Mulder (the younger Mulder) walks toward the boy, but as he approaches, the kid kicks at his creation, ripping sand away from the structure. Mulder asks him why he's destroying his spaceship and the boy answers: "It's your spaceship. You're destroying it. You were supposed to help me."
Oh yes, it's all very clear now. Thanks.
Things are slightly clearer in the hospital room. CSM is laid on the operating table in a way that places his head inches from Mulder's. Fowley, dressed in sterile hospital garb, makes one last attempt to change CSM's mind, but the smoky bandit is hell-bent on sucking Mulder's alien immunity from the agent's head and placing it into his own.
Just before the procedure begins, Mulder opens his eyes and makes contact with Fowley. The doctors say that he can't feel anything and they try to shut his eyes, but he keeps poppin' them open. Looking deep into his eyes, Fowley is hit by the right hook of guilt and turns away from the table. A switch has been flipped in Fowley's conscience, and she rushes out the door.
Just as things are beginning to make sense, the scene flips back to Mulder's dream. Mulder is now very, very, very old and lying on his deathbed. CSM (still looking just as he does now) is sitting beside him. Mulder asks about Samantha, Deep Throat, Fowley and Scully and CSM says all are dead. Upon hearing Scully's name, Old Mulder's bottom lip juts out and tears well in his eyes. CSM tries to convince Mulder to let go -- to sink into death. Mulder cryptically says that he and CSM are "the last." CSM moves toward a nearby window, pulls the shade and looks out upon a fiery Armageddon. "There's nothing to be done," he says as fires rage in the distance and alien ships blow already-smoldering buildings to bits. Has Mulder confused his dream world with "Independence Day" or is this our first glimpse of alien colonization?
The scene slides back into reality and moves to Scully's apartment where the haggard agent returns and is once again spooked by Albert Hosteen. Hosteen's habit of appearing in her living room is really starting to piss her off, but she quells her anger because there are more important things at hand - namely, finding Mulder. Hosteen tells her that time is running out. Scully dejectedly says she hasn't been able to find any trace of her partner. "Have you tried looking for him here?" Hosteen says, pointing toward her suit. "In my pocket?" Scully asks. "Mulder is in my pocket? Geez Al, what kind of mushrooms have you been chewin' on?"* The ever-wise Hosteen kneels and begins to pray. Scully's extensive studying of the "Native American Beliefs & Practices" book has taught her that when a wise Navajo man begins to pray in your living room, you'd best join him.
While Scully prays, Krychek is on a killing/arson spree. He visits Kritschgau in his apartment and fires a bullet into the man's bald head. With the Big K out of the way, Krycek nabs Kritschgau's laptop and sets his efficency apartment on fire. With a final glance, Krychek rushes off to continue his nefarious work.
As Kritschgau's apartment crackles, Scully wakes up on the floor of her apartment. Albert Hosteen is gone, but someone has slipped an envelope under her door. Inside the unmarked envelope is a Department of Defense key card. Scully doesn't need any explanation as to the importance of this little card.
Darting through DOD hallways and swiping her card with reckless abandon, Scully searches for Mulder. Suddenly the scene shifts to Mulder's dream state and we see Scully approach Old Mulder's bedside. But this isn't a friendly visit. "Traitor. Deserter. Coward," she says with anger in her voice. "Hey, I'm dying here!"* Mulder exclaims. Dying is not a good excuse in Scully's estimation. She tells her partner that he's not supposed to be here, he's not supposed to die like this. She demands that he get up and fight. Mulder whines about being tired, but this only strengthens Scully's will. "Get up Mulder!" she says through clenched teeth. Pulling away from his outstretched hand, Scully leaves.
And just like that we're back in the real world. Scully swipes her trusty card one more time and enters Mulder's hospital room. The doctors and staff are gone and Mulder is unconscious on the table. His head is bandaged and he's in bad shape, but Scully whispers for him to wake up. Her voice stirs him and we see flashes of the Old Mulder screaming as the unconscious Mulder begins to wake up. Scully continues, "You've got to get up Mulder." Old Mulder screams again. A tear drops from Scully's eye and lands on Mulder's skin. It must be a magic tear because Mulder's eyes open and he regains consciousness.
One week later, Mulder is back in fighting condition. Scully drops by his apartment and Mulder answers the door wearing a Yankees ballcap over his bandages (obviously his brain surgery has caused significant damage). He's getting ready for work, but Scully swipes the hat off his head and demands that he rest. Mulder tosses her demand aside, turning the conversation to a more serious matter: Albert Hosteen is dead. Mulder learned that Hosteen had been in a New Mexico hospital for the last two weeks, so it's highly unlikely he was in Scully's apartment. As you might expect, this throws Scully for a loop. But Scully also has bad news (for Mulder at least), Diana Fowley was found murdered that morning. Tearfully, Scully says Fowley was responsible for saving Mulder. Fowley gave Scully the Native American book and she also slipped the DOD key card under her door.
Mulder tears up, but Scully is in far worse condition. She doesn't know whom to trust and she doesn't know what's happening. Mulder hugs her and, in a poignant moment, tells her that in his dream, when he chose a different life and everything was upside down, she was his one constant. She seconds that emotion as tears stream from her eyes. Leaning in, she kisses Mulder on the forehead (yes shippers, it was on the FOREHEAD) then caresses his face before departing. Mulder closes his eyes and sees the little boy on the beach again, but this time he's helping the boy build his spaceship. The camera pans up (just as it did in "Biogenesis") and we see that the pair has constructed a sand version of the spaceship Scully found off the Ivory Coast.
And with that, it's over, but does anyone know what happened? Is Mulder still immune to the alien virus? Is CSM also immune? Is Fowley really dead? What is Krycek doing? What will happen to Skinner and his nanovirus? And dammit, where's Gibson?
In all honesty, I have no idea where things stand right now. These episodes were entertaining, but the future of the mythology is cloudier than a December day in New England. Let's hope things become clearer as the season progresses.
* Editor's Note: Quotes with one of these * contain fabricated elements. Don't take them too seriously.
Note: This review originally appeared at Ontap.com. It's reprinted here for archival purposes.