Over the course of nine seasons and 2 feature films, The X-Files transcended its cult status, becoming a phenomenon and cultural touchstone. With a new series on the way, special agent Rick Shingler has accepted the assignment to rewatch the entire series from the beginning and provide detailed reports about his findings. Come with us now, as we explore the mysteries of the complete X-Files. S2E9: “Firewalker” (w: Glen Morgan/d: David Nutter) Now that the X-Files have been reopened AND Scully has been returned, it’s time to get back to some tried-and-true X-Files formulas, right? Like the first season episodes “Ice” and “Darkness Falls,” “Firewalker” places the agents in a remote location with a team of specialists and/or experts to stand up against a seemingly unstoppable, as-yet undiscovered life form. Yeah, I know. It’s just as much of a retread as it sounds. A notable guest star in this episode is Bradley Whitford, who would become a key ensemble player in The West Wing five years later. Here he is doing his best tribute to Apocalypse Now in his role as Dr. Daniel Trepkos. Adam Pierce, a scientist at the California Institute of Technology, presents Mulder and Scully with video footage from Firewalker, a robot they have sent into a volcanic fissure in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. The video shows the dead body of the project’s seismologist, Phil Erickson. Impossibly, as the body lies on the 130-degree cave floor, a shadow passes through the camera’s frame. Whatever caused the shadow turns its attention to Firewalker’s camera, destroying it. Pierce explains to the agents how he and Daniel Trepkos, the project leader, had suffered a professional falling out, leading Pierce to leave the project site. Mulder and Scully agree to come investigate, but Mulder tries to convince Scully to stay behind. He’s worried that she’s not yet ready to reenter the field, having only just recovered from her recent abduction. His protectiveness is met with typical Scully resolve. Once Mulder, Scully, and Pierce arrive at Mount Avalon, Pierce breaks off from them to check the equipment in the cave while the agents go to the laboratory to find the rest of the team. The three team members left are considerably traumatized by Erickson’s death and inform the agents about Trepkos’ bipolar disorder and how he seemed to lose his self-control after Firewalker’s first trip into the fissure. He ran away after destroying the lab. Outside, meanwhile, Trepkos appears in the woods and kills Pierce. After they find Pierce’s body, Mulder spends some time with Trepkos’ notes. There are several glancing references to some sort of silicone-based organism. Scully notes the scientist’s mental state and thinks his notes are likely the ravings of a manic, off-his-meds mind. It’s good to have you back, Scully. One member of the team starts having convulsions, and Mulder calls for a medevac helicopter to come and evacuate him. As Mulder helps carry the stretcher, he notices a bulge throbbing in the man’s neck. The scientist rolls off of the stretcher and runs into the woods, where he dies after some sort of tentacle bursts from his throat. Scully performs a quick autopsy and finds sand in the wound, indicating some sort of silicone-based spores. Mulder calls off the medevac and orders a quarantine of the site. He and another team member go into the cave to look for Trepkos. Trepkos welcomes them by shooting the team member with a flare gun. Then he pours gasoline on his body and burns him. He tells Mulder that everyone on his team was infected with these spores when Erickson broke open a rock after Firewalker’s first descent. The spores infect a host and then explode out to seek new hosts when the first host’s body is spent. The remaining member of the team is back in the lab with Scully, but Scully figures all this out on her own (because she’s awesome, remember?) and closes the scientist into a sealed chamber before the tentacle can burst out of her neck and infect Scully. Mulder and Trepkos arrive to rescue Scully to find she’s done the job for them (again, awesome). Mulder radios for a pickup for two people, because he doesn’t think Trepkos will want to go. He’s gone native, I suppose. He wears a headband and no shirt, and probably sits in a cave putting water on his head just like Brando in Apocalypse Now, so he’s not going anywhere. While Mulder and Scully enjoy a month-long stay at Camp CDC Decontamination Facility, the military sends in corps to confiscate the contents of the lab and close off Mount Avalon. Trepkos is officially declared missing and presumed dead. I don’t know. I just don’t know. It’s great to have Scully back. It was good to regain that dynamic between she and Mulder that was just not possible all season, circumstances being what they were. And the idea of a silicone-based organism living deep in volcanic rock is certainly intriguing. But that was about it for this episode. The scientists’ characters weren’t fleshed out, and the resolution was a tad confusing. I’m still not entirely sure why Trepkos stayed behind. His love for the Firewalker robot? Now they can live together in peace and make little robot/human/silicone hybrids to repopulate the Cascade Mountain range? Did he consider himself to be the new King of the Volcano? He claimed to be carrying the spores, but somehow they chose not to shoot a spiny sex toy out of his throat divet thingie (is there a medical term for that? Scully!). Again, I don’t know. It just felt like a little too much of a retread of territory covered a couple of times during the first season. S2E10: “Red Museum” (w: Chris Carter/d: Win Phelps) This one sort of sneaks up on you. The story is perhaps overly complex, but what appears to be a simple cult-kidnapping-teens-in-a-small-town case evolves ever so slowly into a small piece of the larger mythology of the series. It was originally written to be a crossover with the CBS show Picket Fences. Chris Carter and Picket Fences’ creator David E. Kelley had planned for Mulder and Scully to visit the other show’s fictional town of Rome, Wisconsin to investigate a case. Meanwhile, over on Picket Fences, their activities would be seen from the perspective of the town’s residents. The problem was, CBS executives weren’t brought into this conversation, and they were unwilling to play ball will Fox. What resulted was a standalone episode for each show. It turns out to be one of Carter’s more ambitious scripts to date, with several red herrings and echoes to the first season finale, “The Erlenmeyer Flask.” In the town of Delta Glen, Wisconsin, local teenagers are being kidnapped, then found drugged and in their underwear with the words “He is one” or “She is one” written on their backs in black magic marker. The recovered kids are mostly unharmed and unmolested. The Sheriff takes Mulder and Scully to visit the Church of the Red Museum, the local vegetarian cult. They arrive just in time for afternoon vespers, led by Richard Odin, who types his message on a time-delayed projected screen while a member of the congregation reads his words. Mulder tells Scully about walk-ins, people who have allowed their own souls to be over-written by the souls of other people. Finding nothing to link the Red Museum to the kidnappings, Mulder and Scully check into a hotel and go to what appears to be an exceptionally cozy dinner. The sheriff’s son’s girlfriend is kidnapped and returned in the same condition as the others. Scully examines her and finds some sort of unknown alkaloid as well as scopolamine, a controlled substance to which only a doctor would have access. Wait! Richard Odin was a doctor before he became a red-turbaned whack-a-doo, right? An old farmer comes along and shows Mulder and Scully two men who are injecting growth serum into cattle. The old man believes the serum to be the root of all of the town’s trouble. Later, the town doctor dies when his small plane crashes. Which seems random, but will come into play later. That night, Crew Cut Man (remember him? He’s the one who shot Deep Throat at the end of “The Erlenmeyer Flask”?) shows up and kills one of the men we had seen earlier injecting cows with the growth serum. The other cow-injector turns out to be a creepy peeper, with video tapes of the bathroom activities of his victims. Oh, and he’s also the kidnapper. He earnestly believes that a local doctor has been turning the town’s teenagers into monsters with the drugs he’s been injecting into them. Crew Cut Man murders the sheriff’s son next. Passing him on the road, Scully sees him and recognizes him as Deep Throat’s assassin. Her toxicology screening reveals the unknown substance from the girl to be Purity Control, which they learned about in “The Erlenmeyer Flask.” Mulder thinks the town doctor had been injecting alien DNA into the kids and that Crew Cut Man is in town to clean up all the potential evidence. He and the sheriff round up all of the teens who had been kidnapped and hide them in the main building of the Church of the Red Museum. See? Not only can weird vegetarian cultists be friendly, they can even contribute to the greater good. Mulder tracks Crew Cut to a meat processing plant, where the assassin is preparing to destroy the plant and all of the infected beef. Mulder wants to capture and question Crew Cut, but the aggrieved sheriff finds him first and shoots him as revenge for his son’s death. Scully can’t find any record of the Crew Cut Man’s identity. Additionally, she can’t identify the substance injected into the kids and the cattle. The inoculated kids all exhibit flu-like symptoms, while none of the vegetarians get sick at all. She believes the Church of the Red Museum to have been some sort of control group for whatever experiment the town doctor was conducting. The events of this episode are another small piece of the larger puzzle being assembled for us. In increasingly typical X-Files fashion, more questions are raised than answered. What could the purpose of these tests be? Who did Crew Cut Man work for? Why did he coincidentally arrive to play clean-up crew so shortly after Mulder and Scully arrived to investigate? What the heck is Purity Control, exactly? Did Scully have her own separate hotel room during their stay? Was that thing at the restaurant a date? Will we ever get answers to these questions? S2E11: “Excelsis Dei” (w: Paul Brown/d: Steven Surjik) This episode is largely forgettable because of its lack of resolution and somewhat muddy plot. The only thing holding it together is the careful character development of our two main characters. Their reactions to the case are a diverse as is possible. The handling of the rape investigation has been criticized as a fault of this episode, but I can’t help but think the opposite. The two agents’ reactions to the case serve as a thoughtful statement of our culture’s perception of this particular sort of crime. A nurse in the Excelsis Dei convalescent home in Massachusetts is attacked and raped by an invisible entity, prompting the appearance of Mulder and Scully. They question a bruised and battered Nurse Charters. She claims her attacker was a resident of the home named Hal Arden. Mulder and Scully arrive to speak with Arden as he is getting out of the bath. Giving the agents more than an eyeful as he gets out of the tub, it becomes clear to them that it is unlikely Arden’s equipment would have been up to the accusations leveled against him. They are soon informed by the director of the facility of Nurse Charters’ penchant for confabulation, particularly in instances which may relieve her of her duties. Even Mulder questions whether or not she might have faked her injuries. Scully, having seen the medical evidence of Charters’ attack, is the only one to exhibit empathy for the nurse. Something happened to her, and whether she has psychologically blocked the identity of her attacker or if it was something supernatural, Scully is going to defend her. Perhaps this is an echo of her own abduction, but mostly I just think this is Scully the feminist standing up against anything that smacks of victim shaming. They discover that one of the home’s orderlies is growing some sort of exotic mushrooms in a locked room in the basement which he has been giving to the residents as a surprisingly successful treatment for their Alzheimer’s. Of course, all drugs have side effects, and this one has a doozy. To wit, the users begin to see and allow the manifestation of the spirits of all the residents who have died in the home. And these spirits? Not altogether pleased with the service of the abusive staff of the place. One of the patients finds the orderly’s secret stash and overdoses on the ‘shrooms. As he convulses on the floor, the angry old person spirits that smell vaguely of cloves and bedpans (disclaimer: I don’t actually have any way of knowing how they smell) close Mulder and Nurse Charters in a bathroom and begin flooding the room. Scully works on the convulsing OD patient, and stop his seizure. At that moment, the bathroom door breaks down and the water floods the doorway. Mulder and Nurse Charters are OK. The orderly is turned over to immigration to be deported and the residents go back to their semi-vegetative state without their magic mushrooms. Mulder and Scully’s slightly opposing viewpoints serves as the highlight of this episode. Mulder finds it all-too easy to dismiss Nurse Charters’ claims, or to talk himself into believing that she was not the victim she claims to be. Scully, however, stands steadfast in the corner of the victim. Never once does she falter in her belief that Nurse Charters was hurt and violated and that everything else about the case is background noise. The manifestation of the spirits is the key element of this episode, but its specifics are never really made clear. Just because the elderly people are tripping balls on mushrooms doesn’t exactly translate immediately to “gateway between spirit and flesh”, you know? We’ll file this one under the unresolved weirdness column and move on. S2E12: “Aubrey” (w: Sara B. Charno/d: Rob Bowman) This odd little ditty even baffles Mulder for the greater part of the episode. It’s a case where all the pieces of the puzzle are so scattered, it’s sort of surprising that enough of them can be pulled together to form a picture at all. Some logical assumptions must be made on the part of the investigators, and not all of the witness testimony is reliable or even logical. The end result amounts to a twisted little supernatural mystery. This episode marks the first appearance of Terry O’Quinn in the X-Files universe. He will return to the X-Files twice, each time in a different role. He would also go on to be a series regular on the X-Files’ sister show Millennium and Chris Carter’s short-lived sci-fi drama Harsh Realm. O’Quinn would also portray John Locke on the genre-bending Lost a decade or so later. In Aubrey, Missouri, the local police lieutenant (O’Quinn) and one of his detectives have been having an affair. To make an awkward situation even worse, the detective, named BJ, is pregnant. Lieutenant Tillman arranges for them to meet in what has to be the seediest motel in all of Missouri to discuss it away from the station. While BJ is waiting for him, she is struck with a vision of someone burying a body in a field. She comes out of the grip of the vision to find herself in that selfsame field digging up the skeletal remains of the man from her vision. Mulder and Scully arrive to find the remains to be identified as belonging to an agent who had been working a serial killer case in the area back in the 40s. In that case, someone was raping and murdering young women and carving the word “SISTER” on their chests. As they examine the remains, BJ somehow recognizes that the word “BROTHER” has been carved in his chest. Scully spends a little time with BJ and they discuss the hazards of workplace romances. BJ doesn’t really want to talk about it, but Scully sure seems to. Tillman arrives to tell them that a murder has occurred that matches the crimes in the 40s, down to the carving on the chest. BJ tells them that she had dreamed about the victim the previous night. BJ goes through old mugshots and identifies a man named Harry Cokely, who had been sent to prison decades ago for raping a woman and carving the word “SISTER” on her chest. They question Cokely, to find a man tied to an oxygen tank and old reruns. In short, there’s no way this man could have committed the newest murder. That night, BJ awakens to find her own chest carved with “SISTER”, and blood in her bed. She jumps out of bed and sees young Cokely (the one from the mug shot) in the mirror. Tracking down Cokely’s victim, they find Linda Thibideaux, a widow bearing the scars of her decades-old encounter with Cokely. She recounts the incident, and Mulder and Scully jump to the conclusion that she became pregnant after the attack. Thibideaux admits to giving the baby up for adoption. Tracking this information reveals that BJ is actually Thibideaux and Cokely’s granddaughter. Finally, Mulder can form a theory. He’s been bursting for an opportunity to cook one up since they arrived, but he didn’t have enough pieces to work with until this juicy bit of information fell into their laps. His working hypothesis is that genetic homicidal markers had been present in BJ’s DNA that became active once she was pregnant. She is genetically predisposed toward the specific sort of crime her grandfather committed as a young man. Jeez, and here I only got green eyes and a predilection for blondes from my dad. BJ attacks Thibideaux, but stops short when she sees the SISTER scar on her chest, matching her own. Seeking the source of her mania, BJ goes to Cokely’s house. She slices the tube for his respirator and attacks him with a razor. The agents arrive at Cokely’s just in time to see him die. His death somehow squelches BJ’s crazy and she is arrested. She is placed in a psychiatric facility and put on suicide watch after attempting to self-abort her baby. OK, I’m going to go out on a limb here and state my firm belief that at this point in the series, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are deeply involved in an illicit affair. I’m fully aware that this is a topic for heated discussion, and I’m likely to lose a couple of readers for planting myself squarely in the ‘shipper’s camp, but having watched the entire series beginning to end several times over before even beginning this column, I see enough subtextual evidence that I simply cannot view it any other way. I believe it started soon after her return in “One Breath” and is an ongoing situation throughout the rest of the franchise. Chris Carter is to be commended for his careful steerage away from Ross-and-Racheling or even David-and-Maddying (extra credit if you get that reference, dear readers) this relationship. Duchovny and Anderson should also be noted for keeping this relationship as only the merest subtext between the lines of the episodes of the show. Their relationship remains adult, consenting, and purely in the background throughout the life of the television series, only to emerge fully-formed in the second feature film years later. I don’t think things are always perfect between them, and I’ll point out those times as I see them, but for now, it’s a fresh new thing between them. But then this case comes along that starts to get Scully to thinking about the downside of workplace romances… S2E13: “Irresistible” (w: Chris Carter/d: David Nutter) This just may be the single strongest stand-alone episode of the entire season, and probably ranks in the top ten episodes of the show. It would be easy to accredit the strength of this episode solely to Nick Chinlund’s exquisitely creepy performance as the death-fetishist Donald Pfaster or Chris Carter’s 45-minute horror movie of a script or the disorienting lack of supernatural elements or Scully’s coming to grips with her post-traumatic stress following her abduction several episodes ago. But in truth it’s all of those elements that coalesce into a nearly perfect hour of television. Carter’s original script portrayed Pfaster as a necrophiliac, but the standards and practices people at Fox were leery of putting a guy having sex with dead teenagers into America’s living rooms, so he dialed it back and allowed the sexual element of Donnie’s exploits to remain implied. Donnie is fired from his job at a funeral home when he is caught mutilating the corpse of a local teen girl. Time passes and Mulder and Scully are called in by FBI field agent Bocks when he finds himself stumped by a grave desecration case. Supposing it to be possible UFO activity linked to the mutilation, he contacts MUFON, who suggest he contact Mulder. Immediately upon arrival, Mulder dismisses the idea of extraterrestrial activity and helps Bocks to draw up a profile of the death fetishist who is digging up the graves. Scully is uncharacteristically discomfited by the sight of the mutilated body in the grave, but keeps it to herself. However, she admits to finding it odd that Mulder would drag them out to Minneapolis on a case which he so clearly knew not to be an X-File and questions his motive for taking the case. He produces two tickets to that evening’s Vikings/Redskins game. Unfortunately, they are called away from the game when Bocks finds two more exhumed and mutilated bodies. Mulder composes a profile for an escalating fetishist who is likely to start looking for warmer bodies to cut up. Pfaster cruises one of Minneapolis’ more tourist-unfriendly areas and finds a nice young blonde working girl, who he brings back to his apartment. Somehow, she isn’t creeped out by Pfaster, his serial-killer-mobile, or the fact that her john wants her to bathe. She draws the line, however, at cold water and funeral wreaths surrounding the bed. Her body is found the next morning. Scully is disturbed by the crime scene, but, again, keeps her own counsel. Pfaster attacks a young blonde coed from his adult education course and is arrested. Coincidentally, the agents (including Bock) mistakenly interrogate another guy who attacked a different girl the previous evening, thinking he was their fetishist. Unfortunately, they don’t bother looking at the guy in the next cell. After they leave, Pfaster questions his jail mate about the agents, particularly Scully. Scully decides to have the pro’s body shipped back to DC for analysis, where she goes to see her therapist. She admits to feeling powerless and anxious about the case, yet still entirely trusting of her partner. Analysis of Satin’s (that’s the hookers name – I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Prince had written a song about her at some point) body reveals a fingerprint on the woman’s thumbnail, which leads them to Pfaster. She ratchets up her resolve and flies back to Minneapolis to assist with wrapping up the case. She fails to notice that her arrival at the airport is watched by Pfaster. He follows her rental car and runs it off of the road, abducting her. Mulder goes into crisis mode and they discover Pfaster’s mother had owned a house locally before her death. Scully, her hands and feet bound, sees Pfaster transform into several menacing shapes, most notably a demonic-looking creature straight out of Ozzy Osbourne’s nightmares. She puts up a valiant fight with Pfaster before Mulder and Bocks knock the door down with a team of agents to subdue Pfaster. Scully finally allows herself to trust Mulder with her deepest emotions and breaks down in his arms. While it’s possible to look at this episode as an example of Scully showing weakness, it is this writer’s firmly held opinion that it does exactly the opposite. Not only is she able to come to grips with the trauma of her earlier abduction, she is able to find the strength within herself to entrust another person (and I’m not talking about her therapist) to help her with the burden of that trauma. For someone of Dana Scully’s resolve, that sort of surrender does not come easily and has to be a conscious decision. Her demonic visions are nothing more than her Roman Catholic subconscious looking for a face to assign to the sort of incomprehensible evil that emanates from Donnie Pfaster. While the visions may seem somewhat superfluous to an otherwise strong non-supernatural case, they do bear a certain distinction. Chris Carter has said that this episode, including the demonic imagery, was the partial inspiration for his later series Millennium. S2E14: “Die Hand Die Verletzt” (w: Glen Morgan & James Wong/d: Kim Manners) What’s the old chestnut about every ending being someone else’s beginning? That would prove to be literally the case with this episode of the show, at least from a creative standpoint. This episode would mark the last for Morgan and Wong, who were sprouting wings and flying to Space: Above and Beyond, which they co-created. It would prove to merely be a hiatus, however. Sadly, their show would only last for one season before Fox would decide to drop it from their schedule. Luckily for us, that would open up Morgan and Wong’s schedule to return to the X-Files in the fourth season. See you later, boys. It was nice working with you, too. So, while we’re seeing the end of the road for this episode’s writers, it marks the first episode to be directed by Kim Manners, who would go on to direct more than fifty episodes of the series and prove to be the most prolific of all the X-Files’ directors. In a small town in New Hampshire, four members of the faculty at the local high school are meeting to discuss various school-related topics. Jim Ausbury would seem to be the de facto leader of the group. They are entirely insipid and insufferable and everything Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend used to scream about when they were still angry kids and not old men making excuses for their lyrics. The drama teacher wants to have the kids perform Jesus Christ Superstar! Shocking. I’m sure we missed the in-depth discussion about hemlines and spaghetti straps wherein the school’s 13 and 14 year old girls were oversexualized by the 75% male group of educational overlords. Ooo. This hit a personal nerve, I think. Dialing it back. Anyway, the twist comes when they finish their meeting and agree to end with a prayer. A prayer to Satan. “Die hand die verletzt,” they chant (it translates from German to “The hand that wounds”). Out in the woods, some high school students make their way to the locally-legendary “Witches’ Altar” to play out their hormonal hijinks. They get more than they bargained for and one of the boys is killed by an unseen force. Mulder and Scully arrive the next day to see the mutilated corpse of the boy. His eyes and heart have been cut out. The local adults believe that the kids have unleashed some sort of unholy force by reading a spell they found in a library book. The townies’ argument gains validity when frogs begin to rain from the sky and Mulder notices the water draining in the wrong direction, according to the Coriolis Effect. Speaking of which, if water drains one way north of the Equator, and the other way south of the Equator, which way does it drain on the Equator? I’ve always wondered about that. Good luck finding a bathroom in the Congo or the Amazon to find out, right? Where was I? Oh yeah. Weirdness happening. Unknown to anyone else, the substitute science teacher, Mrs. Paddock, has the eyes and heart of the murdered boy in her desk drawer at school. Ausbury’s step-daughter Shannon freaks out when it comes time to dissect her fetal pig, which prompts her to have a conversation with Mulder and Scully. The trauma surrounding the dissection triggers repressed memories of having suffered ritual rape and torture at the hands of her step-father and his friends. She claims that they impregnated her no less than three times, only to use the baby as a sacrifice in their rituals. Whoa. It gets dark quick in New Hampshire this time of year. Ausbury angrily denies her claims. Shannon, having recovered enough from her trauma to worry about a bad grade, stays after school to take another stab at her pig. Mrs. Paddock uses Shannon’s bracelet to magically remote-control the girl so that she slits her wrists. Ausbury learns that his cohorts are planning to set Shannon up as the scapegoat for the other boy’s death, which prompts him to come clean with Mulder. Yes, Shannon was forced to observe rituals with his group. Yes, her memories were modified and repressed hypnotically. But no, she suffered no sexual abuse of any sort. Mrs. Paddock uses Scully’s stolen pen to cast her trusty “Mulder, it’s me. I’m in trouble.” phone call spell (magical patent pending) to lure Mulder away from Ausbury and back to the school. He cuffs Ausbury to the railing in the basement of his house and rushes to Scully’s aid. Paddock’s pet boa constrictor arrives and eats Ausbury. At the school, the other members of the faculty capture Mulder and Scully, convinced that their sacrifice will regain favor with their dark master so that the bad things will stop happening. Instead, Mrs. Paddock causes the faculty members to kill each other. I guess their tribute was too little, too late. Mulder and Scully free themselves and find Paddock to be gone. The note “It was nice working with you” is written on the chalkboard in the science classroom (which served the dual purpose of tying up the episode and serving as a fond farewell from Morgan and Wong to the cast and crew). It’s perfectly true. School boards and PTO moms are a special kind of evil. What was really fun about this episode was that it was the first to show the more whimsical possibilities of the show. Sure, there is definitely some dark stuff in the middle there, but the rest plays as the very blackest sort of humor. This humor will serve up some of the show’s finest (and funniest) hours. See: “Humbug,” “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” “X-Cops” and “Bad Blood,” to name a few. Having stretched the boundaries into non-supernatural territory with the previous week’s “Irresistible,” the possibility for humor further expands the show’s footprint, which will serve as proof to the viewers (not to mention the network) that this is a series with the possibility of longevity. S2E15: “Fresh Bones” (w: Howard Gordon/d: Rob Bowman) You know it was only a matter of time until we got to voodoo, right? Marine Corps Private Jack McAlpin is stationed at an INS containment camp in North Carolina. It would appear he is coming apart at the seams. He snaps at his wife and child, storms out of their house and drives his car into a tree. The tree, it seems, is no innocent in this scenario, as there is a voodoo symbol drawn on it. McAlpin’s wife contacts the FBI after the military is uncooperative and withholding regarding her husband’s death. Mulder and Scully arrive at the containment camp to look into the situation. The camp is housing several dozen Haitian refugees, including a boy who sells Mulder a good luck charm. They meet with Colonel Wharton briefly before splitting to pursue their own threads of the investigations. Mulder meets with one of the refugees named Beauvais. He is locked up in solitary for helping to incite a riot in which a small boy died weeks earlier. Scully, meanwhile, is attempting to perform an autopsy on McAlpin’s body, but finds the remains of a dog where the private’s corpse should be. Lacking anything solid to work with at the base, the agents leave. While driving along the road, they find Private McAlpin shambling along in a decidedly not-quite-dead state. He’s uncommunicative and unresponsive, but he’s alive. Scully finds a chemical in his system which Mulder informs her is frequently used in Voodoo zombification rituals. They go to the graveyard to dig up the body of another soldier who supposedly killed himself at the base, but are disappointed to find someone else has beaten them to it. While at the graveyard, they encounter the boy who had sold Mulder the good luck charm back at the camp. He is catching frogs, he tells them, for Beauvais. His is willing to tell them that his name is Chester but is unwilling to tell them how he was able to slip away from the base. After lunch, he slips away from them. Mulder chases him, but loses track of him at the end of a dock. Only a black cat can be found where the boy should be. Another private, named Dunham, approaches Mulder to tell him that Wharton has been authorizing (and even ordering) his men to beat and torture the detainees. They question Wharton, who denies their accusations. Perhaps-not-so-coincidentally, Beauvais is said to have cut his wrists with a spring from his bunk. Leaving the base, Scully cuts her hand on a thorny branch that had been placed in their rental car. What they fail to notice is the voodoo symbol drawn on the pavement under their car. Surprisingly, X reaches out to Mulder for a private meeting. He tells Mulder that the military is about to circle their wagons and squeeze he and Scully out of this investigation. They find McAlpin with murder weapons near the scene of death of yet another Marine. Wharton tells them that their investigation is over and they can leave now buh-bye. It might be for the best, as Scully is really having some trouble with that scratch on her hand from before. McAlpin’s wife gives them a photo of Wharton and Beauvais together in Haiti, which is enough to lead the agents to rifle through the Colonel’s things. They find the remains of the exhumed soldier in a trunk as well as definitive proof that chicken feet make terrible paperweights. They go to the graveyard, where Wharton is performing a ritual over the Beauvais’ coffin. Wharton drops Mulder using the equivalent of a voodoo doll. Unfortunately, a reanimated Beauvais has his own plans for Wharton. Scully, meanwhile, is having trouble all her own. While waiting in the car, a full grown man seemingly births from the puncture in her hand and begins strangling her. She reaches for the good luck charm little Chester had sold Mulder earlier. As soon as she touches it, the spell is lifted and her vision disappears. She rushes to help Mulder. She arrives on the scene to find Mulder to be recovering from his attack and Wharton dead. At the camp next morning, the agents say goodbye to McAlpin. He is overseeing the transfer of the Haitians to another facility. They ask him about Chester, and he informs them that Chester was the boy who died in the riot weeks ago. Well, it’s no Serpent and the Rainbow, that’s for sure. Not that I’m disparaging this episode. It’s a pretty solid entry, though not a wildly remarkable one. There are a couple of interesting twists and some truly creepy moments, but the overall pace lurches along unevenly like a zombie with a roller skate on one foot. The Twilight Zone twist at the end does tie it together very nicely, though. S2E16: “Colony” (w: David Duchovny & Chris Carter (story), Carter (teleplay)/d: Nick Marck) / S2E17: “End Game” (w: Frank Spotnitz/d: Rob Bowman) This was the second two-parter of the second season. Duchovny and Carter had hammered out a story involving an alien bounty hunter, in which Carter saw an opportunity to crystallize some of the series’ larger story elements. Of particular interest was the expansion of the story surrounding Mulder’s sister Samantha. Mulder’s parents also appear for the first time. Darrin McGavin was sought for the role of Bill Mulder, Fox’s father, but scheduling did not allow it. Such casting would have been a coup for Carter, to be sure, considering how instrumental McGavin’s Kolchak: The Night Stalker was as an inspiration for the X-Files. This is not to diminish the work of veteran actor Peter Donat in this recurring role. His relationship with his son is clearly detailed in their interactions, and because of it we are able to see a side of Mulder to which we haven’t yet been privy. “End Game,” the second half of this arc is the first script from series newcomer Frank Spotnitz. Spotnitz would become an integral part of the show’s production, in so far that he would go on to write or co-write the majority of the mythology-based episodes, as well as both feature films. The story opens in media res, as Scully bursts through the doors of a triage unit in some presumably remote location. Mulder has been brought in, and he doesn’t look good. As she argues with the doctor about keeping Mulder’s body temperature low in order to keep him alive, he flatlines. Cue the opening credits, which serve as a time warp to two weeks earlier. The crew of a ship inside the Arctic Circle see something crash into the sea. They move to intercept it. Not long after, a doctor in an abortion clinic in Scranton, PA is confronted by a T-2000 cosplayer who sticks what looks like a cross between a switchblade and an icepick into his neck. Strangely, the doctor bleeds fizzy green slime. Captain Squarejaw sets fire to the clinic and leaves. Back in the basement office, Mulder has received an email with the obituary of the Scranton doctor, as well as obits for two other doctors in Jersey and New York. All three doctors are missing and presumed dead, and Mulder discovers, all three doctors are identical in appearance. He and Scully go to Scranton to talk with a Pro-Life minister who had made publicized threats against the clinic and the doctor specifically. He proves to be mostly a dead end, except for the newspaper clipping found at his house showing a picture of the doctor with a contact number to call for anyone who has seen him (or, presumably, someone who looks like him). They use the newspaper where the ad was placed to discover the existence of another look-alike doctor, this one in Syracuse, NY. As they move to make the drive to Syracuse, Mulder calls ahead to the local field office to ask an Agent Weiss if he could check in on the doctor in anticipation of their arrival. Weiss goes to the doctor’s house to see him having a confrontation with the same goon from the Scranton clinic. He bursts in to find a puddle of sizzling green slime and opens fire on the large man. His bullets puncture the man, but it looks like he’s full of PopRocks or something, because he just sizzles green and releases some sort of toxic fumes into the air, which quickly overcomes Agent Weiss and he collapses. Mulder and Scully arrive at the house later, where they are met by… Agent Weiss? They go around the house to check things out, leaving the supposed Weiss out front to keep an eye on things. Opening the trunk of Weiss’ car, fake Weiss looks at the real Weiss’ body before transforming into the large bounty hunter. Oh, great. A shape shifter. Those guys are such pains in the ass. Tossing the keys into the trunk with the body, he walks away from the scene. Finding no one home at the doctor’s house, Mulder and Scully head back to Washington. AD Skinner chews out Mulder over the death of Weiss, which Mulder knows nothing about. The agents are next contacted by CIA agent Ambrose Chapel (hey, wasn’t that a place in The Man Who Knew Too Much?) who spins a story of Soviet genetics experimentation leading to the human clones they’ve been encountering in their investigation. Thinking themselves to have a new ally (and this one from the CIA, no less!), all three go to visit yet another of the identical doctors, this one living in the DC area. The doctor in question is named James Dickens, and there is a woman with him who remains hidden when the agents arrive at the apartment. Dickens takes one look at Agent Chapel and does a swan dive out his fifth-story window. Impossibly, as Mulder, Scully, and Chapel look down on his twisted body, Dickens gets up and runs away. The agents pursue him. Chapel catches up to him in an alleyway and reveals himself to be the icepick-wielding shape-shifter. When Scully arrives on the scene, Chapel tells her that Dickens eluded him up a fire escape. Before following Chapel out of the alley, Scully accidentally steps in green goo. And she just bought those shoes, too. Scully’s instincts prove sharper than Mulder’s when it comes to Chapel. He wants to believe, but she trusts no one. Hey, it’s two themes rolled into one! Scully does an autopsy of Agent Weiss, because no one back in Scranton can determine a cause of death. It turns out his blood had thickened to the point his heart wasn’t strong enough to move it through his system. Mulder is summoned home to Martha’s Vineyard by his father, who cryptically informs him of a family emergency. In his absence, Scully follows a lead found at Dr. Dicken’s apartment to a warehouse, where she sees Agent Chapel destroying a creepy lab that looks somewhat similar to the one Mulder discovered back in the “Erlenmeyer Flask.” She gets away nearly undetected and tries to call Mulder, whose cell phone had been damaged while chasing Dickens the night before. And what of the family emergency Mulder was called home about? Oh, just HIS SISTER SAMANTHA HAS RETURNED FROM HER CHILDHOOD ALIEN ABDUCTION. You know how overly-dramatic parents can be about stuff, right? It seems to be legit. She tells Mulder about being returned after her abduction with no memories. She was raised by adoptive parents until undergoing regressive hypnosis and the memories of her pre-abduction family began to surface. Privately, she tells Mulder that the bounty hunter and the clones are aliens. One of the doctor clones was even her adoptive father. The shape-shifting abilities of the bounty hunter are something of an anomaly. The doctors make up a displaced colony of sorts, all working toward the same end. They need to find a way to make themselves appear human in order to fit in here on Earth, but all attempts have resulted in them all being identical in appearance. Using the fetal tissue of the aborted fetuses, they are hoping to eliminate this glitch so that they can all live and work together toward a day where they might take up stewardship of the planet, which humanity seems to be squandering. The bounty hunter is killing the doctors because their experiments in trying to bond DNA from the tissue of human fetuses (all the doctors work in abortion clinics for a reason, it turns out) are looked upon as a desecration of their race’s purity. Scully, cut off from Mulder, goes back to the now-empty warehouse where she investigates the lab Chapel had been in the process of destroying when she saw him last night. Picking up one of the plastic medical vials on the floor, she finds a still-moving fetus inside. However, before she can even begin to process this revelation, four of the doctor clones arrive and throw themselves into her protection. She does so, little realizing that her activities are being watched by the bounty hunter. Back at her motel room, Mulder shows up at the door. She lets him into the room just as her cell phone rings. It’s Mulder on the phone. Jeez. Shape-shifters are such a pain in the ass. Off the northern coast of Alaska, the USS Allegiance, a nuclear submarine on a cartography mission, discovers a craft of some sort beneath the ice. Upon reporting it to command, they are ordered to destroy it. The ship, however, defends itself by emitting an ultrasonic radio frequency which disables the submarine. Back in Scully’s hotel room, she puts up the good fight, but the bounty hunter (still disguised as Mulder) is much stronger than she is. Mulder and Samantha arrive at the hotel later to find Scully gone. Samantha is positive that the bounty hunter will offer a trade of Scully for her. She further explains to him that the bounty hunter (as well as the other aliens) can only be killed by piercing the base of his neck. Also, his blood is toxic to humans. See? Shape-shifter = P.I.T.A. Skinner shows up back at Mulder’s apartment, wondering what the hell is going on with his agents who haven’t bothered to report in for a couple of days. While he’s there, Mulder receives a call from Scully telling him that the hunter wants to exchange her for the woman who’s with him. Oh, that’s right. Scully doesn’t know about Samantha yet. They arrange the meeting on a bridge in Maryland, with Skinner and a sharpshooter hiding nearby. The shooter has strict instructions to aim for the base of the kidnapper’s neck. They make the exchange, and Samantha attacks the bounty hunter. As they struggle, the sharpshooter takes his shot. The bounty hunter falls off the bridge into the dark water, dragging Samantha with him. What really sucks for Mulder is that now he has to tell his parents that he lost his sister again. Dammit, Fox. This is why we can’t have nice things. Bill Mulder gives his son a note Samantha had left for him, containing an address, key card, and a note saying that if they become separated he should meet her at this place. Just as he arrives at what turns out to be a some sort of clinic, Scully calls to inform him that they have pulled Samantha’s body from the frigid water. After she hangs up, Samantha’s body begins to dissolve into a puddle of green slime. Mulder goes inside anyway, to find several copies of his supposed sister. Samantha’s return was a ruse in order to trick Mulder into assisting and protecting the female clone counterparts of the male doctors. They plead for his help, even dangling a knowledge of the real Samantha’s whereabouts in front of him. Understandably irritated, Mulder storms out of the clinic. Well, he tries to anyway. The bounty hunter has followed him and knocks Mulder unconscious before killing all of the “Samantha” clones and setting fire to the building. Go big or go home, right? Mulder pulls X out of the opera (you’re welcome, X) to demand answers about what the hell he is in the middle of. X reluctantly tells Mulder that the bounty hunter’s ship was discovered near the Arctic Circle, but command lost contact with the submarine that was supposed to destroy it. He warns Mulder that Naval Destroyers were en route to, well, destroy it. Exit Mulder, stage north. Scully tries to engage Skinner’s help in tracking her partner, but he refuses. So she attempts to contact X. He shows up at Mulder’s apartment where Scully is waiting for him, but he refuses to talk to her. Sadly for him, Skinner is waiting for him downstairs and gets all the info Scully needs from him because he’s so much more of a badass than X will ever hope to be. I know I’m sort of downplaying it here, but make no mistake, the Skinner/X fight is probably the single most triumphant moment of the entire second season. Meanwhile, Mulder is following his GPS and finds the top of the submarine sticking out of the ice. Going inside, he finds a single crewman who tells him that he hid from the bounty hunter when he boarded the vessel and started killing all of his crewmates. Mulder calls BS on his story, and the crewman ne’e bounty hunter reverts back to his square-jawed mongo form. Mulder shoots him, exposing himself to the alien’s blood. The bounty hunter informs Mulder that his sister is still alive before unceremoniously tossing out of the sub through the top hatch. He then submerges the vessel through the ice to escape. Mulder is discovered by a reconnaissance plane and brought to the nearest base to be treated for extreme hypothermia. Scully bursts in, bringing the story full circle from the teaser at the beginning of “Colony”. She basically invents a treatment for this alien virus exposure Mulder has suffered using antivirals and extensive blood transfusions until he pulls out of danger and begins to be healthy again. He tells Scully that while he didn’t get the answers he hoped for in this adventure, he was granted the “hope to keep looking”. This story proves that Mulder and Scully working as separate entities is not nearly as effective as when they work as a team. Extenuating circumstances within this story kept them apart, and both suffered as a result. The benefit of Scully working alone for a period of time on this case, however, was that she finally saw enough to be fully indoctrinated into the conspiracy that swirls around her and Mulder’s work. Because of that de facto rule established early in the first season, Scully has been sidelined or otherwise blocked from seeing the truly weird stuff. But in that warehouse, she literally held weird stuff in her hand. She was attacked by a super strong man who could change his shape and pose as her trusted partner. If she hadn’t before, Scully has now jumped feet-first into the rabbit hole. Also stepping into the spotlight in the second part of this story is Assistant Director Skinner. His position dictates that he maintains a professional detachment, which, frankly, makes him act like sort of a dick most of the time. But then he gets out of the office, and that professionalism takes a back seat to his need to protect his agents. Even after repeat viewings, it’s hard not to cheer out loud when he confronts X in the elevator. Bad ass. Unfortunately, that illicit relationship I talked about in a previous episode’s review? Skinner has figured it out now too. Watching the following stretch of episodes closely shows some subtextual evidence that he and Scully have a conversation that leads her to cool things with Mulder. Despite the epic nature of this story arc, it’s easy to feel a little cheated by the time we reach the end. Like the Mulders, we thought we had solved the mystery of Samantha’s disappearance which had been dangling on the show since the pilot episode. In the end, we get confirmation of her continuing survival, but that’s about all we take home with us. What we’re left with is an even more intricate web of intrigue than when we entered it. But that’s the X-Files. The more layers you peel back, the more layers you find. Array Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Dignan The thing about water going down the drain in opposite directions based on what hemisphere you’re in based on the ‘coriolis effect’ is an urban legend; water goes down the same everywhere. See: http://www.snopes.com/science/coriolis.asp This season seemed to amp up the production values of the show, particularly with Colony/End Game I thought. Die Hand die Verletz has always been one of my favorites, and Red Museum definitely creeps up on you and ends up as an outstanding entry for sure.