Alright, so most of us already know the results of this season four cliffhanger, but this show still has staying power after the surprise wears off. "Gethsemane" is a vital episode in the mythology of the series and yet another example of Gillian Anderson's remarkable talent.
The show opens with a grainy 1970s-era videotape of a scientific conference where prominent scientists are declaring that alien life may very well exist.
The television fades and when the light comes up we see Scully entering Mulder's apartment. A body, covered with a sheet, is sprawled in Mulder's living room and is suffering from a bad case of death. Scully views the body, her eyes puff, her chin wiggles and she makes a positive identification.
Later, Scully enters a dimly lit conference room where she delivers a report to all the FBI big-wigs. She launches into a speech, explaining her involvement in the X-files over the last four years, but this is so much more than a loving reminiscence. She's there to debunk Mulder's work and reveal that Mulder's search for the truth has given him nothing more than a belief in the biggest of lies. Suddenly those images of Scully jotting notes and rolling her eyes begin to make more sense -- is it possible she could betray her partner?
We're left wondering because the scene shifts back in time to a remote, icy location in the St. Elias Mountains in the Yukon Territory of Canada. A team of researchers, stationed at the top of a mountain, has found what appears to be a fully intact, very frozen alien corpse. Who would've thought aliens were big hikers?
While scientists ponder the outdoor habits of an alien species, the remaining members of the Scully family gather with friends for a dinner party. Scully's pissy older brother, Bill Jr., pretends to care about his sister, but the guest of honor is Father McCue. McCue has dropped in at the request of Scully's mom and he tries to save Dana's soul before the appetizers arrive.
Scully's soul may be in limbo, but the moment is saved by a phone call from Mulder. An anthropologist named Arlinksy has just contacted Mulder about the little alien up in the mountain and Mulder needs Scully to leave her perfect dinner party so she can help him interview the alien-finding scientist. She agrees and it's off to the Smithsonian we go.
When a scientist claims to have found an alien corpse it would typically carry weight, but Arlinsky has a messy history involving a fake UFO photograph. At first the agents are doubtful of Arlinksy's findings, but the ice core samples he's brought back from the alien winter wonderland appear to be legitimate. Arlinksy knows that going public with this information will give the conspirators a chance to bury the truth but Mulder might be able to smuggle the body to safety. Together, Arlinsky and Mulder will bring the extraterrestrial ice cube back for study, and this time Cancer Man won't be hiding the body in the basement of the Pentagon.
In a philosophical moment, Scully tells Mulder she won't travel to the Yukon territory with him because of two reasons: 1. She doesn't really give a rat's ass about proving that extraterrestrials exist and 2. That whole Cancer thing is still teeming through her system. Mulder, however, believes he's about to make the greatest discovery in human history and he's blinded by the possibilities. His one-track mind prevents him from noticing that Scully's cancer has take a turn for the worse.
Before Mulder and Arlinksy arrive at the alien site, the researchers
find a disturbing ice channel above the alien. The find suggests that someone may have elaborately poured some glorified Grow-An-Alien into an ice cast and fabricated the entire thing. But that seems too far-fetched for the researchers so they continue cutting ET from the glacier. What they should have done was run far from the mountain because later that night an assassin drops by and murders the scientists while they sleep in their tents.
Back in D.C. Scully calls on yet another scientific expert to help her out. An examination of the ice core samples shows that they're for real, but the presence of an unidentifiable cellular material piques the curiosity of Scully and her scientific buddy. They both get concerned scientist looks and decide it's time to break out the electron microscope.
Mulder and Arlinsky show up after the mayhem on the mountain, so instead of helpful scientists they've got dead scientists. But one researcher has survived with only a flesh wound (quite lucky considering he was hit by a shotgun blast -- a little too luck actually). The survivor buried the alien corpse for safe-keeping, so the assassin wasn't able to steal it away. For the first time in years it seems that Mulder has finally outdone the conspirators.
Later that night Scully returns to the lab to go over the electron microscope data, but the doctor has been replaced by a bald guy who bears and uncanny resemblance to Sam the Eagle from The Muppet Show. He's dressed in a dark suit, so he's obviously up to no good, but Scully lets him walk out the door with an ice sample. Her investigative intuition kicks in and she pursues the Man with the Agenda, and her diligence is met with a comfortable shove down a flight of stairs.
Scully checks herself into the hospital because it's not recommended that Cancer patients ignore a violent slide down the stairs. Bill Jr. stops by and hits Scully with a guilt trip, claiming she's got a responsibility to her family and not just Mulder. Bill asks some good questions, which Scully can't answer, but he's still a ripe bastard so it doesn't really matter.
At a nondescript warehouse in D.C. Mulder and Arlinksy arrive with their frozen ET and prepare the wee guy for examination. After a steam bath (for the alien) and a limited autopsy, they're both believers.
Scully, meanwhile, is hot on the trail of the man who pushed her down the stairwell. A trace of a fingerprint reveals the man to be Michael Kritschgau, a government employee attached to the research division of the Pentagon. She follows Kritschgau from work, chases him through a parking garage (using a gangsta grip on her pistol) and hauls his government ass in. Before she can arrest him, Kritschgau tells her that if he's charged, he'll be killed by the same people who gave Scully cancer. This, obviously, gets her attention.
Scully and Kritschgau do a little talking and Mulder gets a call on his cell phone. He leaves the warehouse to meet with Scully at his apartment, but this was a really bad move for as soon as he departs the scientist-killer from the mountain drops by and offs Arlinsky and his partner.
Things get a whole lot worse because Kritschgau tells Mulder that his entire life has been a hoax. His existence has been an instrumental tool for the Department of Defense. The misdeeds and backdealings of the government were concealed by a web of lies and the fabrication of alien species. Everything in Mulder's life was fabricated; Samantha's disappearance, his regression therapy and even the alien body he has just seen. The point was to make Mulder go public with his evidence and thereby attract the attention of the populace. While the people looked to him, the DOD could continue it's evil deeds under cover of darkness.
Mulder thinks Kritschgau has spent a few too many hours in the dark by himself, but when he and Scully return to the warehouse and find two dead scientists and one missing alien, he sees how Kritschgau might be on to something. Mulder clings to a few shards of evidence, but when Scully tells him that her Cancer was part of the plot to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate, it all comes crashing down.
Mulder tries to find solace in his dark apartment, but as he watches the scientific conference we saw at the beginning of the show, it's obvious he's at his wit's end.
The scene moves to the present where Scully, still in the meeting with the FBI brass, reveals that earlier that morning she was called to Mulder's apartment to identify his body for the local police. Tearfully, she says, "agent Mulder died late last night from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head."
When those words first came from Scully's mouth at the end of season four an enormous gasp from X-files fans rang across the country. Looking back, we all know what happens, but hindsight has done little to tarnish the excellence of "Gethsemane." The fact that Fox is repeating this episode during the build-up for the film shows that it figures prominently within the mythology, so watch it again because it will undoubtedly make a difference on June 19.
Note: This review originally appeared at Ontap.com. It's reprinted here for archival purposes.