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[Script Watch] Beyond the Sea

Welcome to Script Watch!  After doing Fight the Future, I decided it might be fun to go back to Season 1 and check out an earlier script. First on my list? Beyond the Sea!

I’m honestly not sure whether or not this is the final version of the script, but the most recent pages seem to have been added on November 23, 1993. If anyone wants to follow along with the original Twitter thread to join in on the discussion, you can find it here.

(And don’t worry, any script is going to be easier on the eyes than the blinding red FTF script.)

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[Script Watch] Fight the Future

And that concludes our script watch of Fight the Future!

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How Not to Talk About a Relationship: The Communication Styles of Mulder and Scully [Part 1]

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So, I started writing this directly after Plus One aired in defense of the awkward dialog in the bed scene, but then it kind of grew into its own thing. Now that we’re about to embark on the end of the season (series?), I’ve decided to split this into two parts examining the evolution of the characters’ relationship and the ways that they communicate. This part will cover Season 10 up through early Season 11 (ending with Plus One), and then after the finale, I’ll evaluate how it has evolved to that point.

What’s going on with Mulder and Scully in Season 10

Mulder and Scully have been in a really weird place since the beginning of Season 10. They’ve been split up for an undisclosed amount of time when we first catch up with them. It could have been six months, five years, who knows? I always imagined it as maybe a year or two, though. Their wounds still seem fairly fresh. I can imagine Mulder starting to become restless after nothing went down back at the end of 2012. Sveta points out that Mulder’s depression is what ended the relationship, though it’s unclear exactly how that manifested and to what degree in order to drive them apart. Was he listless and unmotivated? Obsessive and irritable? Unpredictable mood swings? Alternating between all of the above? Mulder is an emotional guy, prone to both angry outbursts and bouts of self-loathing, so it’s not hard to imagine him treading into self-destructive territory. Despite their reconciliation at the end of I Want to Believe, there are still some lingering unresolved issues between them as far as Mulder’s obsessive pull toward the darkness vs. Scully’s yearning for the normal life that she can never realistically have after all they’ve been through. Mulder gives a hint in his comment to Scully in My Struggle, “I thought you were done with UFOs. ‘The stranglehold they put on your very existence,’ I believe is how you put it.”

Despite their separation, however, they’ve kept in touch and remained friends, and their initial interactions are a mix of familiarity and concern, though tinged with slight animosity. The thing that ultimately draws them back together isn’t any change in Mulder’s behavior, but rather that Scully can no longer pretend that she can ever escape her role in the conspiracy that is slowly re-emerging. Her quest for justice is reignited, along with a renewed fear for her son’s safety.

But after rejoining the FBI, they begin to fall back into their old patterns. Mulder once again has a more healthy outlet for his obsessions. They’ve got each other’s backs as partners and as friends. Any bitterness they may have felt after separating seems to have melted away as soon as they begin working together again. And when Scully’s mother has a heart attack, Mulder knows that the most important place he needs to be is at Scully’s side. And it’s here that they begin to really repair their relationship emotionally, though there are still barriers. In dealing with her mother’s death and the guilt and fears she has about William, Scully begins to open up to Mulder again, and he tries his best to comfort her, though the conversation tends to be one-sided, as their most emotional confessions often are. The subject of William seems to be especially difficult for Mulder to approach as he struggles with his own repressed feelings about his son; both his fears about where he came from and the fatherhood he never got to experience. Scully tries to confront Mulder about it head-on in Founder’s Mutation, when her emotional ties to motherhood get uncomfortably tangled in the conspiracy’s use and abuse of women. She tries to gauge how Mulder thinks of her here, as well, as she asks, sadly and pointedly, “Was I just an incubator?” His response, while touching, remains nebulous, “You’re never ‘just’ anything to me, Scully.”

By the end of Babylon, Mulder and Scully seem ready to start trying to figure out where things went wrong and if there’s any way to set them right, but they can’t bring themselves to be direct about it. Instead, they speak in metaphors, pondering philosophy, the nature of love and hate and language and God.

“I saw things, though, Scully. Powerful things. I saw deep and unconditional love.”
“I saw things, too. I witnessed unqualified hate that appears to have no end.”
“Yeah. But how to reconcile the two? The extremes of our nature.”
“That’s the question. Maybe the question of our times.”

They’re speaking about the case, but their eyes and tone of voice are having a slightly different conversation. Mulder takes Scully’s hand and walks with her. He stops and looks directly into her eyes.

“But where does the hatred end, though?”
“Maybe it ends where it began, by finding a common language again. Maybe that’s God’s will.”
“How can we really know? He’s absent from the stage.”
“Well… maybe it’s beyond words. Maybe we should do like the prophets do and… open our hearts and truly listen.”

This is how they articulate–beyond words.  By getting philosophical and layering double meaning into their conversations to avoid direct confrontation when broaching more difficult subjects.
Let’s face it, Mulder and Scully really suck at having conversations like normal people about personal topics. In 25 years, they have probably never had a direct conversation with each other about their current relationship status. They go with it, and there’s an implicit understanding between them, but if they ever need to talk about it?  Well, good luck with that.

 

Communication Styles

Mulder and Scully have five major methods of communication:

1. Casual Banter – Used for basic conversations without heavy subject matter. They’re pretty good at this one!
2. Metaphorical/Philosophical – Using the subject matter of a case or other topic as a substitute for what they’re actually trying to communicate to each other.
3. Desperate Confession – A more blatant, direct confession of feelings, usually following a traumatic event, and often heavily one-sided.
4. Barriers/Deflection – Shutting down and avoiding difficult conversations and/or deflecting with humor to bring down and avoid the seriousness of a topic.
5. Silent – Actual conversation consists of only eye contact and body language. May be completely silent or may take place over top of a separate verbal conversation. (See: Eye Sex.)

Mulder and Scully are most direct with each other when they’re emotionally charged. Mulder especially.

“But you saved me! As difficult and as frustrating as it’s been sometimes, your goddamned strict rationalism and science have saved me a thousand times over! You’ve kept me honest… you’ve made me a whole person. I owe you everything, Scully, and you owe me nothing.”

Scully sometimes tries to bring up serious subjects, but Mulder often counters with humor.

“Have you ever thought seriously about dying?”
“Yeah, once, when I was at the Ice Capades.”

And then, of course, there’s the classic I’m-not-emotionally-ready-to-deal-with-all-of-the-horrible-shit-going-on-in-my-life response:

“I’m fine.”

But when “real talk” does happen in those more emotionally charged moments, it doesn’t always end well, which may encourage them to continue to avoid it.

“We’re so close now.”
“And I’m asking you let it go.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“No, it’s complicated.”
“What’s that’s supposed to mean?”
“Something that I knew would happen, that I’ve been afraid of, that I haven’t had to face until now.”
“What? Just say it.”
“I’m a doctor, Mulder. That’s not my life any more.”
“I know that.”
“You’re not understanding me. I can’t look into the darkness with you any more, Mulder. I cannot stand what it does to you or to me.”
“I’m fine with it, Scully. I’m actually okay. I’m good.”
“Yeah, that’s what scares me.”

 

By the time Season 10 wraps up, we’ve definitely made some progress in starting to repair Mulder and Scully’s relationship, but they’re still not back to where they were. Can they go back? What would prevent things from ultimately ending the way they did before?  They can fall back into each other’s lives, but they can’t make assumptions about where it progresses from there without talking about it, and god, they suck at talking about it.

Season 11 – Part 1 (My Struggle III -Plus One)

Three episodes into Season 11 have shown us three very different aspects of how Mulder and Scully communicate.

My Struggle III is nonstop desperate confrontation. It’s honest and urgent, direct and raw. Mulder is still extremely uncomfortable talking about William… especially now that everyone seems to want to talk to him about William. Mulder and Scully are affectionate toward each other, tender and concerned, but where do they draw the line? Mulder will slit a guy’s throat for Scully without hesitation, but he still doesn’t know if he can kiss her.

Skip ahead a bit (I’ll save my thoughts on the questionable timelines for Seasons 10 and 11 for later), and we come to This. It’s been at the very least a couple of weeks since the events of My Struggle III, and Mulder and Scully are possibly more in sync with each other than they have ever been. We find them asleep next to each other on the couch – extremely familiar and comfortable with each other. From their surroundings, it looks like they had eaten dinner together and were possibly going over some case files before passing out with the TV on. Could Scully be staying there after the events of My Struggle III as she recovered from her injuries, and maybe to stop her from driving alone for a while in case she has anymore seizures? Given the continued messiness of the house (compared to the more sterile living quarters we saw for Scully in Season 10), I’m not convinced that she’s moved back in permanently yet (and we’ll see that she hasn’t as of Rm9sbG93ZXJz). Maybe she just came over for the evening, or maybe she’s staying for a while. She refers to the house as “Agent Mulder’s residence,” but she also later refers to it as “our house” when talking to Skinner. It was certainly her house at one point in the past (and chances are that her name is the one on the mortgage)… could it be again?

Anyway, This is full of fun, playful banter and silent communication. Any confrontational talk is saved for Skinner. Mulder and Scully are functioning as two parts of one whole here. Seeing them here, it’s easy to imagine how they may have functioned together during their years on the run. There are so many times that they know exactly what the other is thinking just based on a quick glance. They have entire conversations using only facial expressions. When they jump (slide!) into action when the intruders first come to the door, it’s as if they’ve practiced for this very scenario before. They’re completely on the same page, and it allows them to relax and joke around with each other, despite the danger they’re currently in. There are flirty compliments, picking at each other’s muffins, and references to past, uh, “recreational” handcuff usage. They may not be “officially” back together in a romantic sense, but after this, you’d have to imagine they’d be asking themselves why the hell not.

Well, probably because that would involve talking about it.

 

Plus One

And that brings us to Plus One.

One of the biggest complaints about this episode is the somewhat awkward dialogue between Mulder and Scully in the bed scene, and I admit that on my first viewing, it kind of threw me off a bit, too. On subsequent viewings, however, it really clicked with me. The awkwardness was kind of the point. The dialogue doesn’t need to be re-written, it just needs to be translated. It’s not so much about what’s literally being said, but what they want to say but can’t quite bring themselves to be direct about.

Mulder and Scully are finally back on the job and out investigating a case. And then they’re thrown a bit of a curveball… and also one of the oldest fanfic tropes in the books. They arrive at a quaint little motel without reservations, and, oh no, there’s only one suite available. But hey, at least it has a pull-out couch.

While Scully hesitates, Mulder could not have agreed to that one room any faster. Scully seems a little suspicious of his motives. Could “just trying to get some shut-eye” be an on-the-case euphemism from the Season of Secret Sex?  We’ll probably never know. But Mulder is totally checking Scully out as she walks away.

Mulder continues to flirt and drop little hints when they’re alone together. Scully continues to brush it off. Professionalism on the case, or confusion about just what is going on here?

Meanwhile, Judy starts to tap into Scully’s existing insecurities. It seems ridiculous that Mulder would ever be interested in anyone else, but with everything that’s been going on with them, can Scully be sure? She’s already been dealing with her feelings about losing the chance to be a mother to her son, but now there’s an added layer of how Mulder perceives her. He loves her, he’d kill a dude for her, but is he still attracted to her? Scully is strangely direct, but still beating around the bush, “Mulder, do you think of me as old?”  He’s taken aback by the question, because, obviously, she’s still hot as hell. He tries to re-assure her, and it comes out in an endearingly awkward Mulderish kind of way. Scully playfully kicks him out, but then leans back against the door and sighs. Where, exactly, are they? Mulder has always been flirty around her, even before he’d developed any kind of romantic feelings toward her. They’re still physically attracted to each other. But now they have history. Somewhat messy history. Where does it go from here?

That Awkward Conversation

Mulder can flirt all he wants, but nothing is ever going to move forward until they figure out where they are and what they want. Scully wakes up a third time in her hotel bed, feeling a presence hovering over her. This time no one’s there. No Mulder bringing news of another death. As relieved as she is not to have a demonic doppelganger hovering over her, she kind of wishes Mulder was there. And it’s finally time to fix that.

She wakes him up and tells him she can’t sleep. She’s done with being in FBI mode. She needs her friend. Or more than friend. Whatever they are now.

“Something about this case is getting under my skin.”

And it has nothing to do with all those deaths.

“Well, we’ve had stranger cases, Scully.”

We’re on a case and Scully is standing pouty-faced in her adorable silk pajamas at my bedside. What is going on here?

And possibly the emotionally bravest thing Scully has ever said:

“Can you hold me?”

She’s done pretending that she’s fine.

“Yeah. I can do that.”

Mulder is caught off guard again. He has no idea where this is going, but he will give her anything she needs. He pulls back the covers for her and wraps his arms around her. It’s most likely the first time they’ve done this since splitting up.

“What’s gonna happen?”
“What’s gonna happen when?”
“When we’re old.”
“What do you mean ‘when’?”
“I mean… sooner or later we’re gonna retire and…”
“Hmm.”
“Are we gonna spend time together?”
“I’ll come push your wheelchair… with my wheelchair.” He whispers this last part into her ear.
She smiles for a second, but then grows serious again; this isn’t what she’s looking for. This is deflection.
“That’s not what I mean.”
“Oh, I’ll  always be around, Scully. Offering bulletproof theories of genius that you fail to assail with your inadequate rationality.”
“And I’ll always be around to prove you wrong.”
“Hmm.”
“Promise.”
“No, but that’s not what I mean.”
“What do you mean?”
“What if you meet someone?”
Mulder is taken aback. This is not where he thought this was going.
“What if you meet someone… younger who… wants to have kids?”

It sounds like a ridiculous question, but Scully has a history of feeling threatened by the women in Mulder’s life. She experienced slight jealousy of women Mulder seemed to be taking interest in (see: Dr. Bambi), and had extremely adverse reactions to women Mulder has had an intimate history with (see: Phoebe Green, and especially Diana Fowley), and that was before they were ever together in any kind of official capacity.  When she tracked down Mulder at home and found Sveta with him, Scully is extremely hurt and tries to shut down and leave. It’s not just his continued obsession with the conspiracies that have haunted their lives, but that he’s found a new “key to everything” in a young, beautiful woman with abduction experiences not entirely dissimilar to her own. As unlikely as that may seem to us, it’s a valid insecurity to Scully.

“Oh, that’s what you mean.  Well… you could do the same. You could meet someone and… have kids.”

She puts out a short, bitter laugh. She’d been fishing for reassurance from him, but he doesn’t take the bait and instead deflects her concerns right back onto her. But this only digs deeper into her pain and insecurities, and she responds seriously:

“Mulder, that’s not gonna happen.”
“That’s nonsense.”
“No, it’s not. I’m… I’m at the end of that journey.”
“Do you want to have more kids?”
“Well… I would have liked to have had another one.”
“Mm. At the risk of sounding insensitive, what’s stopping you?”
“Mmm… Besides the fact that the first time was a miracle? And besides the fact that I don’t have anyone to have one with even if I could?”
“You’re a woman of science.”
Another short, bitter laugh. She was baiting him again, and again he didn’t give her the answer she was hoping for.

“Mulder, sometimes I think the world is going to hell, and that we’re the only two people who can save it.”

“The world is going to hell, Scully. The president working to bring down the FBI along with it.”

“What if we lose our jobs?”
“Yeah. Then what would we do?”
“We’ll think of something.”

In the end, Scully answers her own question when Mulder poses it back to her. They’ll think of something.

Direct eye contact. Quick break to Mulder’s lips/body. Resume direct eye contact. Mulder does the same.

Eye sex. Then sex sex.

Despite everything, Mulder has always known that there will never be anyone else. This is the woman who he flew to Antarctica for after getting shot on the head. This is the woman who literally brought him back from the dead. But it was she who left him, and he can’t make her come back to him until she decides that’s what she wants.

And that is what she wants, but Scully can’t ignore their past failures. She needs to know that they’ve grown and changed before they try again so that they don’t repeat their past mistakes. He needs to have matured, and she needs to accept that their lives are complicated and will likely never be “normal” and that maybe that’s okay.

And ultimately, they need to stop taking each other for granted and finally learn to better communicate. Scully has made the first step here, but the ball is still in her court…

 

To be continued…  

 

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[Episodes] 11×01 – My Struggle III

Well, that happened.

As of this writing, it’s been a few days since My Struggle III aired, and I’m still… processing things.

A week ago, I was marveling over the fact that, after nearly 25 years, I get one more chance to feel the excitement of a new X-Files season premiere. While media outlets seem to be bemoaning the fact that this will likely be the last handful of episodes we get, I can only feel grateful that these episodes exist at all. So many years after the series’ original run ended in 2002, who would have thought that we would have had not just a second movie, but two new limited series with 16 new episodes to catch up with our favorite agents?

I’d tried not to seek out spoilers, though just through existing on Twitter, small tidbits leaked out here and there. I managed to avoid the major stuff, though. Still, reviewers I trusted had dropped some hints that maybe My Struggle III wouldn’t be the strongest episode in the first half of the series. As someone who wasn’t exactly thrilled with My Struggle I or II, I was already planning to lower my expectations, though apparently not quite enough. I couldn’t help it. As soon as I heard the words “Previously on The X-Files,” a sense of giddiness rarely felt since my teenage years washed over me as I realized that, one more time, I was watching a new season of The X-Files.

Now, I’ve tried my best to look past a number of problematic episodes over the years, but there has to be a limit. I hit that limit back in 2016 with the episode Babylon, and I was really hoping it couldn’t get any worse than that. And I’m still not sure if My Struggle III is worse than Babylon or just equally disappointing for entirely different reasons. And up until the end, I was on board for most of My Struggle III, even if it suffered from poor pacing, overuse of voiceovers, a ridiculous number of car crashes, and just overall sloppy storytelling. An episode can be structurally weak while still managing to be somewhat entertaining. I just wasn’t expecting to feel physically ill once the episode ended.

And that’s frustrating, because there were things I genuinely liked about the episode, even if it was kind of a mess. I wanted to try to work out my feelings, good and bad, on some of the more controversial aspects of the episode.

Oblivious Misogyny 

Let’s just get this one out of the way. Chris Carter’s got some issues with women. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it’s 2018, and it’s time to try a little harder.

The day before My Struggle III aired, Chris Carter did a Reddit AMA, in which he, intentionally or not, insulted a large portion of his female fanbase. Here are a few of the more controversial snippets.

“I also wanted Mulder to be very particular about the furniture in his office knowing that some people – I’m not saying women – like to rearrange it when you’re not looking.” 

[In response to a question asking why Scully never got her own desk, even after both Fowley and Spender had their own individual desks in the office.] “I resent the calling of it misogyny, unintentional or not. Scully never asked for her own desk. What she would ask for is her own office.” [After which, a number of fans commented that yes, Scully did indeed ask why she doesn’t have a desk in the Season 4 episode “Never Again,” as well as promising that she’d get Doggett a desk in Season 8 since she never had her own.]

[In response to a question asking about the message it sends to women when they see that a character they look up to is being “tortured” in a way (abduction, infertility, giving up a child for adoption, etc.) and isn’t allowed to have a realistic response to the trauma.] “I think the message we need to be sending to young women would be more likely, “don’t take a job on the X-Files. You’ll be abducted like eight times, have chips implanted in you and who knows what else.”

And so on. Very dismissive responses that don’t adequately respect the legitimate concerns of female fans, especially considering that the vast majority of writers and directors on the series have been male. It put a bad taste in my mouth, but his flippant responses to fans’ concerns aren’t anything new. He’s been doing this in interviews since the ’90s, and we’ve dealt with it, since, after all, he was responsible for creating one of television’s greatest female characters. (Of course, I’d say that other early writers such as Morgan & Wong were just as (if not even moreso) important when it came to initially fleshing out Scully’s character, not to mention the life that Gillian Anderson breathed into her. But that’s another topic all together…)

What is new, perhaps, is that it’s not the ’90s anymore, and television audiences are far less tolerant of misogyny, intentional or not, and viewers are far more likely to call it out. But this goes far beyond whether or not Scully has a desk or her name on the door, or even in freakin’ 2016 answering what appears to be the only desk phone in the office as “Agent Mulder’s phone.” Let’s talk about what television audiences experience along with their iconic female characters. Let’s talk about rape culture.

Mulder and Scully were put through a lot over the course of the series. Abductions, near-death experiences, loss of friends and family, etc. Some fans have argued that Scully’s character has been tortured throughout the series more than Mulder’s, and I’m not entirely sure that that’s true. Mulder’s had it pretty bad, as well. He’s been beaten, tortured, abducted, experimented on, and even spent a few months presumed dead and buried. The difference is that in Scully’s case, she’s far more often sexualized and objectified in her abuse, and is often given less agency over it.

So, CSM’s reveal at the end of My Struggle III, that he is responsible for impregnating Scully, is extremely upsetting. Even if it’s all a lie, just the mere suggestion that he violated her in that way, even if “with science” rather than via a physical assault, is horrifying to women. I imagine that Chris Carter was going for pure shock value with this one, as the William storyline is already complicated enough as it is. But even if we just accept this suggestion as just another horror unleashed on our favorite agents, it’s Chris Carter’s denial that impregnating a woman without her consent is rape that’s draws the most fury.

From an Entertainment Weekly interview that went up shortly after the episode aired:

EW: When CSM says he’s William’s father, is he literally his father, to some biological extent? Along with alien DNA?
CC:  No. He’s the figurative father if he’s not the actual father. He didn’t rape Scully. He impregnated her with science.

Medical rape is still rape. There was no consent. Her body was used without her knowledge or permission. If you’re going to abuse your characters in this way, I suppose we’ll deal with it whether we like it or not, but don’t insult us by denying what it actually is. This trivializes it and allows it be used as a plot device without proper repercussions.

And while we’re talking about retroactive medical rape, let’s talk about En Ami.

En Ami

Now, I’ve actually always had a soft spot for the Season 7 episode En Ami, where Scully and CSM go on a weird road trip together as CSM tries to use Scully to obtain what is potentially the cure for all human disease, and she cautiously goes along with him, at least in part out of a desire to learn more about the chip in her neck that was the potential cause and cure of her cancer.

This episode was a bit controversial at the time, in part because part of the agreement was that Scully had to go behind Mulder’s back, and there was some clear tension between them due to her putting herself at risk in this way. Some have argued that the whole thing was out of character for Scully, though I’d argue that it was in line with her character development during Season 7 which saw Scully making a definitive transition between skeptic and believer and picking up some of Mulder’s traits along the way.

I felt that while risky, the lure of not just potentially invaluable medical knowledge, but real answers about the chip inside of her would be enough for Scully to take that risk the way that Mulder may have taken potentially stupid risks in the past for the sake of learning The Truth. And while Scully did this without informing Mulder, she had tried her best to stealthily communicate with him, even if her plan was ultimately thwarted. I actually loved the tension between Mulder and Scully at the end. It was uncomfortable, but it felt like a real consequence of a breach of trust, no matter how well-intentioned.

But what I really loved about the episode was how CSM didn’t intimidate Scully. She knows he’s dangerous, but she has no respect for him and doesn’t let him push her around.

So of course the worse part of the episode was the one that ultimately became the most significant, when Scully awoke in bed after falling asleep in the car with her clothes having been changed. I’d always imagined the real point of that scene was that CSM had found out that she was wearing a wire rather than a more stomach-turning violation. I had tried to determine a point in the episode where she may have been drugged, but I’m not aware of anything that we saw on-screen that would point to that (the only thing I recall CSM offering her to consume is a Life Saver, which she turns down with a great “WTF” look).

Perhaps the scene had been planted in the episode for this purpose all those years ago, just as the opening of All Things had been inserted to imply the potential of pregnancy by more traditional means, but digging it up 17 years later is as infuriating as it is exhausting (seriously, the “who’s the father” thing had already gotten old halfway through Season 8).

Even more confusing is the dialog change in the flashback in My Struggle III compared to the original episode, to imply that CSM’s housekeeper had helped to bring Scully in from the car. Still wrapping my head around why that change had been made and what significance, if any, it may have.

But, yeah, mostly kinda irritated that this stain has now been put on an episode that I had actually liked. Ugh.

#JusticeForMonica

And getting away from creepy, awful thoughts of medical rape for a while, let’s talk about the still-unresolved character assassination of Monica Reyes.

I’m still holding out hope that Reyes will be allowed to redeem herself, and despite her actions, I still can’t see her as one of the bad guys. But still, I’m having an extremely hard time wrapping my head around how a character with as much integrity as Monica Reyes would ever make that sort of deal with the devil unless there are some circumstances that we as an audience are not yet aware of. I can’t see Reyes ever accepting an offer for protection at the cost of the rest of the world. The Reyes I knew from Seasons 8 and 9 would have gone down fighting for the good of humanity. It’s possible that she made this choice just to be able to fight CSM’s plans from the inside, but between My Struggle II and III, nothing of that nature has been revealed to us.

It’s actually quite a shame that we haven’t been able to delve more into Reyes’ motivations, because that on its own could have made for a great episode, rather than a quick flashback in My Struggle II. Having Reyes in a role of an informant would be fascinating and could shed some light onto how characters like X or Marita Covarrubias could have ended up in the position they were in if we’d seen it from the perspective of a character we’d already gotten to know beforehand.

Anyway, from My Struggle III, we do see that Reyes doesn’t necessarily approve of what CSM is doing, though she’s going along with it anyway. Curious what was going through her mind when she held that gun to Skinner’s head, and if he got it from her so easily because she doesn’t actually have it in her to harm him. It seems that she doesn’t exactly have conviction in her current role, but I still want to see her side of the story in a way that makes sense for her character.

And Spender?

Look, Spender’s a great character and all, but after re-watching William recently, I’m having a really hard time believing that Scully would have asked him to hide her son for her, especially after the line “I have seen my share of the hideous, of the disgusting and the repellent, but you, sir, are the most perfect expression I will ever see of all that is vile and hateful in life.” And the fact that what he did to William wasn’t so much for the child’s benefit, but to spite his father.

I’m happy he got a decent face back, though. I don’t really care how unrealistic that part might be. Good for him.

Mulder, Scully, and Skinner

Okay, let’s get to the part that I actually liked about My Struggle III.  For the most part, the characterizations of Mulder, Scully, and Skinner really worked for me. Maybe not the part about Skinner reading Morse Code in Scully’s brain, but the rest of it.

There was a bit of role reversal for Mulder and Scully here, which I think was used to great effect in emphasizing the characters’ current, well… struggles.  Scully wasn’t quite herself, though to be fair, she’d never had to deal with her long-lost son sending her premonitory visions of the end of the world before, either. I’ve heard some complaints that Scully’s role in this episode was mostly to play the victim, and I don’t know if I really agree with that. Sure, she spends most of the episode in the hospital, got in a car accident, and some dude really wanted to kill her, but she wasn’t accepting any of it. Despite it going against her usual common sense as a doctor to leave the hospital in such a condition looking for answers, she was fueled by pure determination, because she knows it’s up to her to save the whole goddamn world.

Meanwhile, Mulder is just done with everyone’s shit. On one hand, this is an older, slightly jaded Mulder who’s so fucking tired of being lied to and manipulated and has no time for nameless people spouting half-truths at him to try to get him on their side. On the other hand, he’s grown enough to know that it’s not worth chasing shadows seeking justice just so he can try to feel useful when he knows the most important place he can be is at Scully’s side. These are the lessons he learned in episodes like One Breath and Redux II. We saw this more mature Mulder last season in Home Again, where he knew that being Scully’s anchor was more important than any case they might be investigating. This Mulder is “here,” no matter what strange twists and turns their relationship might take. He only leaves at her insistence, and even then, he’s doing it so that she doesn’t try to leave the hospital to investigate on her own and put herself at further risk.

When Mulder doubts Scully’s visions in the beginning, it’s not a dismissal so much as concern that she’s suffered an unexplained traumatic event (the first thing she tells him is that he needs to go find the Smoking Man, who Mulder believes to be dead), and he needs to know that she’s all right before he can even think about pursuing anything else. And layered somewhere below that, I’m sure he doesn’t want to believe that what she’s saying could be true, even when he knows that she wouldn’t be telling him this if she didn’t believe it with every fiber of her being. But in the end, it all comes down to her. And when he sees her being attacked in the hospital, there is absolutely no hesitation as he goes in for the kill on her attacker. The move is both swift and savage, and I found the unexpected moment of gore to be surprisingly satisfying. Could there have been a less lethal way to end the man’s attack on his partner? Certainly, but he wasn’t about to take any chances. Mulder had no patience, no sympathy, and no mercy for this man who was trying to take the most important thing in the world away from him. Scully is all that matters.

We also see Mulder’s discomfort in discussing William, which pretty much falls in line with his portrayal last season as he represses guilt, fear, and longing for what could have been. And he’s no more comfortable talking about his son with Skinner as he is with some random shadow government. I wasn’t sure how they were going to work distrusting Skinner, yet again, into this season. While the background surrounding Skinner’s manipulation still makes my skin crawl, I have to admit that the individual character interactions were really working for me. Mulder’s attacks on Skinner in the early days were often a bit misguided, but here it’s hard to blame I’m-so-fucking-done-with-it Mulder, fresh off of slitting some dude’s throat, for not tolerating any bullshit from someone who’s supposed to be a friend.

But then Skinner pushes back. He’s got his own fears and frustrations building up inside. In this episode, we see Skinner take charge, even when being bullied, threatened, or dismissed. He’s sick of people walking all over him, and it doesn’t matter if it’s CSM or Mulder (or WTF, Reyes?). He’s still being manipulated, but his patience for it is wearing about as thin as Mulder’s.

 

What’s up with William?

And finally, what is the deal with William? Is CSM really his “father,” and, if so, in what way?  What does this mean for Mulder? For Scully?  I imagine that whatever the case may be, things aren’t exactly as they seem.

Some snippets from the episode to try to pick between the truth and the lies. I’m especially focused on CSM’s cryptic conversations with Reyes, as she’s theoretically the one he’s been confiding in and has more inside knowledge than others he may be trying to manipulate.

From the opening monologue:
– “I’m a father to two men who have figured more into the future than they might ever know.”
– “I ask only for the years to show my sons and their sons I was right. What their father did had to be done.”

– Episode tagline morphing from “I want to believe” into “I want to lie.” Since this episode is supposed to be CSM’s struggle, one can imagine that this can be attributed to him.

– CSM’s face looks way better than it did last season. Is there a story reason for this? Could alternate realities or alternate timelines be a thing? Or is that make up just too much work?

- Reyes: “The boy is in danger. You said so.”
CSM: “But I don’t understand from whom.”
Reyes: “You’ve always had your enemies.”
CSM: “Yes, but why go after the boy now?”
Reyes: “Maybe they know he’s your weakness.”
CSM: “They couldn’t possibly know that.”
Reyes: “But suddenly everyone knows everything of you and your plans.”

CSM knows that William is in danger, but not from whom. Does CSM have some sort of connection to William, possibly similar to the way Scully does? In what way is William his weakness? And is there any way William could have anything to do with CSM being alive right now and not burnt to a crisp?

- Reyes: “Scully and her boy have a bond beyond you, beyond science.”
CSM: “She’s completely unaware of that.”
Reyes: “Really? What makes you so certain?”
CSM: “It’s a secret only you and I know.”

Is this referring to William guiding Scully with his/her visions? It’s something that CSM and Reyes are aware of, but theoretically not related to however CSM contributed to William’s existence.

- CSM: “I fear only for Scully and the boy, and the harm my enemies may bring on them.”
Reyes: “I think you’re in love with her.”
CSM: “I worry for her. I always had Mulder to protect her. But now he’s going to force my hand.”
Reyes: “You won’t shed a tear for Mulder.”
CSM: “Of course I will. He’s my son.”
Reyes: “What if Scully finds the boy first?”
CSM: “You and I won’t let that happen.”

Is this related to the prophecy in Provenance/Providence that either Mulder or William must die?

- CSM: “It’s the fourth turning, Mr. Skinner. Civilization is in its final stages. Alliances are crumbling. Truth is fluid and alterable. The only truth left is to survive it.”

“Truth is fluid and alterable.” Hmm.

– Altered dialogue from En Ami (added in the bit about his housekeeper). Again, is there any significance to this difference? It seems strange that it would be added in rather than just using the original clip as it was if there wasn’t a point to it.

– From the way the line is delivered, which may or may not have anything to do with the way it’s been written, I’m not buying CSM’s claim that William is his son, at least not biologically. His answer to Skinner’s question seemed a bit too opportunistic. And there wasn’t enough smugness to it.

While I don’t doubt that CSM likely played a role in restoring Scully’s fertility in some way, I’m not ready to count Mulder out of the paternity race just yet. (And not just because Frank Spotnitz confirmed after the end of the series’ original run that yeah, Mulder was supposed to be the father. We miss you, Frank.)

First, it would be emotionally dishonest considering the themes that had come before this. “The truth we both know.” Mulder thinking “About my son … about his mother.” “I think our son left us both with an emptiness that can’t be filled.” Mulder’s unresolved hopes and fears for his son in Founder’s Mutation. And probably most significantly, the dying words of an occasionally prophetic woman aimed squarely at him: “My son is named William, too.”

Though the show hasn’t always been emotionally honest with its viewers. We’d been given hints for years that Samantha was still alive, only to discover seven seasons in that she had been taken from this world long before the show ever began. But while that betrayed the promises the show had made, I think that Samantha’s fate was still intended as a beautiful, freeing resolution to that story arc and wasn’t intended as a betrayal. Meanwhile, CSM’s claim to William’s parentage is a repulsive idea that aims to shock more than anything.

And then what we’re presented in My Struggle III directly… We learn that, if indeed Scully’s gut instincts are correct, William is the one providing her with these visions. Including the vision where Scully realizes that she needs to find William in order to save Mulder. Why would they be seeing this if it wasn’t true?

And as for William’s “special” status… Can we stop ignoring that Mulder has also been through some pretty fucked up stuff that could alter his DNA much like Scully’s? He’s been infected with the black oil and given an experimental vaccine. He’s had crazy brain activity (not entirely unlike what Scully’s now experiencing) after being exposed to rubbings from an alien ship — from the same artifacts that William had been able to move with his mind. And subsequently, he’d been operated on along with CSM in some kind of crazy joint brain surgery because CSM wanted in on that. Then he’d been abducted — god knows what the aliens did to him then — and finally discarded so that an alien replacement would be able to use him as a host, prevented only by some crazy science shit that Scully was able to whip up real quick (no wonder she’s apparently humanity’s savior).

So yeah, keeping hope alive, but trying to prepare myself for some more gut-punches in the meantime.  We shall see…

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[Episodes] En Ami Rewatch (Pre-My Struggle III)

 

And then My Struggle III ruined everything, heh.  Seriously, though, I’ve gotta believe that he just messed with her chip to allow her to become pregnant the old fashioned way. Like, with Mulder. Two episodes later. Or something. C’mon, Carter. Let us have this one.

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[Episodes] 02×03 – Blood

Notable for being Darin Morgan’s first story credit before he officially started writing for the show.

The Case

The case, according to the FBI:  A series of seemingly random killing sprees occur in a small town.

Mulder’s Theory:  Smashed electronics are found at the scene of each murder, leading Mulder to believe that the machines may somehow be influencing the killers.

Scully’s Theory:  After finding traces of it in the body of one of the killers during an autopsy, Scully thinks that LSDM from a pesticide may have something to do with it.

What’s actually going on:  The LSDM seemed to be affecting individuals triggered by certain phobias, possibly allowing them to be affected by subliminal messages broadcast on electronic devices that may or may not have been related to controlled experiments by the government.

Did Mulder and Scully solve the case?  As far as the FBI is concerned, most likely (though this case wouldn’t have been classified as an X-File, since the X-Files unit was closed during this episode).  Objectively, one killer was located.  A potential killer was stopped and brought in.  The agency using the pesticide agreed to research the affect it may have on the population, though only if they could do it without drawing attention to themselves.

Interpersonal Relationships

Mulder and Scully:   Even though they’re no longer formally working together, Mulder apparently still sends long-ass emails to Scully for her input on his cases, and she just waits for him to get to the weird shit.  She also performed the autopsy for his case and flew out a few hundred miles to join him when he needed her help.  You know, like any work acquaintance might do.

Frohike and Mulder:  Frohike is a creeper, and it’s implied that Mulder probably gave him Scully’s phone number in exchange for a letting him borrow his night vision goggles.  We also get this exchange between Frohike and Mulder:

Frohike:  “So, Mulder, where’s your little partner?
Mulder:  “She wouldn’t come. She’s afraid of her love for you.”
Frohike:  “She’s tasty.”
Mulder:  “You know, Frohike, it’s men like you who give perversion a bad name.”

Agents in Peril

Fox Mulder:  Pretty much all Mulder in this one.  First he was slashed in the arm by a knife-wielding woman whose microwave told her to kill him, then he was sprayed down with some potentially psychotic pesticide, and finally, he went head-to-head with a man with a shotgun who was already in the process of shooting up the place.  Also, he tripped while running up stairs and re-opened his knife wound.  Ouch.

Recurring Elements

Glasses:  Two different scenes where Scully’s wearing glasses.  Woo!  [The Glasses Master Post]

Physical Fitness:  We see Mulder going for a jog while working on the case.

Porn:  Mulder’s excuse for not reading the August edition of “The Lone Gunman” was that it arrived the same day as his issue of Celebrity Skin.  (Frohike also has a number of pin-ups in his work area.)

Not Officially an X-File:  This episode takes place after the X-Files unit had been shut down the first time.  Mulder is back to investigating violent crimes, and Scully is teaching and doing autopsies at Quantico, but they still manage to get together to figure this one out.

 

 

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[Episodes] 01×17 – Miracle Man

In which we have a religious case without much focus on Scully’s faith and casual MOTW Samantha sightings.

The Case

The case, according to the FBI:  Local authorities suspect that a religious group is running a scam.  A boy known for healing the sick is now thought to be killing those he’d supposedly healed.

Mulder’s Theory:  Samuel can repair electromagnetic energy to heal or destroy it to kill.

Scully’s Theory:  Poisoning.

What’s actually going on:  Leonard was poisoning people to frame Samuel as revenge for bringing him back to life to live with his disfiguring scars.

Did Mulder and Scully solve the case?  Yes, they caught the killer (Leonard).  Though Samuel’s body is now missing from the morgue…

Agents in Peril

None, really.  Mulder was seeing weird visions of Samantha, but neither agent was ever in any real danger.

Observations

– Scully mentions that she was raised Catholic and has familiarity with scripture, although aside from being pretty firm in her belief in God, she remains pretty skeptical about the claims of religious healing and whatnot.

– Sexy roof people.
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Recurring Elements

Sunflower Seeds:  Mulder is munching on sunflower seeds as he watches the video of the preacher with Scully in their office at the beginning of the office.

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Hotel Stay:  Mulder and Scully discuss locusts together in a hotel room.  They’re also seen in their individual rooms toward the end of the episode as we see that Mulder is carrying around a photo of Samantha and Scully is typing up her case report.

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Samantha Mulder:  Samuel mentions that he can see Mulder’s pain regarding Samantha’s abduction.  Mulder sees a young girl who we can assume is supposed to be Samantha, though no one else can see her.

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[Episodes] 01×01 – Deep Throat

In which we meet out first informant, and Mulder and Scully still need to work on this whole “trust” thing.

The Case

The case, according to the FBI:  Case was shelved without an investigation.  Investigating the disappearance of a military pilot.

Mulder’s Theory:  UFOs.  Or something.  Military test pilots going kind of crazy… (evolves into planes built using UFO technology)

Scully’s Theory:  Aurora Project defense department surveillance project withe the pilots suffering from stereotypy syndrome produced by extreme stress.  Maybe these guys are flying these top secret military planes.

What’s actually going on:  Probably military aircraft built using UFO technology.  Pilots could be messed up from flying the aircraft or from the military messing with their heads…

Did Mulder and Scully solve the case?  The case was closed, if not solved satisfactory.  The pilot is back, but not quite the same…

 Character Introductions

Deep Throat:  Deep Throat introduces himself as someone who is in a position to know many things about the government and someone who has a lot of interest in Mulder’s work.  He tells Mulder to drop the case at first, but also tells him that he can be of help to him.  He sees Mulder on his own terms when he has something to gain and currently doesn’t have much interest in communicating with Scully.

Interpersonal Relationships

Mulder and Deep Throat:  They first meet in a bathroom.  Deep Throat lets Mulder know that he’s familiar with his work and advises him to drop the case.  The relationship is respectful, but Deep Throat lets Mulder know from the beginning that he’s only helping him because it serves his own interests, as well.

Mulder and Scully:  Scully is still concerned about her reputation at the bureau and not having her field reports read like a tabloid story.  She shows a combination of bemusement and impatience (mostly impatience) with Mulder’s UFO theories and calls him a sucker for buying a print of a UFO in the diner before Mulder reveals his motives.  Scully expresses some concern for Mulder’s job in addition to her own credibility.  There’s a good amount of tension between the two of them as they butt heads over whether the aircraft in question could have any extraterrestrial origin (with Scully flat out thinking Mulder is gullible/nuts and Mulder getting frustrated that Scully is so closed off to the possibility).  The trust is not there yet.  Mulder blatantly lies to Scully and then ditches her when he feels that she’s not going to take his investigation seriously.

Agents in Peril

Mulder:  Both Mulder and Scully are roughhoused a bit when their car is stopped by some Men in Black, with Mulder taking the brunt of it.  After Mulder ditches Scully and goes off to the air base alone, he ends up getting tackled, restrained, drugged against his will, and his memory fucked with.  Scully must come to save his ass.

Scully:  Scully is accosted at the motel, and when she realizes she’s in danger, bolts to lock herself in a car, which then has the window smashed open to get to her.  She then holds the dude at gunpoint with his own gun and is pretty much a complete bad-ass as she forces him to take her to the base to find Mulder.

Recurring Elements

Glasses:  Scully is wearing glasses when we first find her in the bar waiting for Mulder.  [The Glasses Master Post]

Physical Fitness:  Mulder is jogging at the end of the episode when he meets up with Deep Throat again. [Physical Fitness Master Post]

Hotel Stay:  Mulder and Scully spend a good amount of time discussing the case together and making phone calls from their motel.  In an age where people still looked up numbers in phone books and made domestic long distance calls using credit cards.  It’s weird seeing Mulder and Scully without cell phones.

Mulder’s Apartment:  Rare Mulder’s kitchen sighting near the beginning of the episode!  He appears to be cooking a can of Campbell’s Soup on the stove.  It may be joining a sandwich or something somewhat bready looking on a plate on his counter.  Also, his phone is probably being tapped.  Get used to it, buddy.

Informant:  Well, the episode is named after one, so…  yeah, we meet Deep Throat.  In the bathroom.

Mulder Ditch:  Mulder flat out lies to Scully about dropping the case and then runs off, pretty much immediately after leaving her sight.

 

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[Episodes] 01×13 – Gender Bender

Or how attitudes toward sex have changed over the past 20 years.

The Case

The case, according to the FBI:  A series of unusual deaths following sexual contact.  Mulder requested to be informed of this one based on past cases he had been following.

Mulder’s Theory:  Human pheromones, somehow linked to The Kindred based on the presence of a unique type of clay that they mine.

Scully’s Theory:  Drugs?

What’s actually going on:  The Kindred are shapeshifters who kinda poison you when they come into sexual contact with a human (possibly alien-related due to the crop circle thingy at the end, but it does’t really go into more than that).

Did Mulder and Scully solve the case?  Probably not in a way that would satisfy the FBI.  They figured out what was going on and may have stopped it in the short term, but the suspect was never actually caught.

Agents in Peril

Scully:  Brother Andrew tried to seduce (and by extension, kill?) Scully, but Mulder broke in just in time to stop him before she could “do the wild thing with some stranger.”

Scully and Mulder:  When attempting to apprehend the suspect, both Mulder and Scully temporarily get knocked down, but eventually regain their composure and get back to the chase.  An ambulance does come to patch them up after the suspect gets away.

Observations

– Mulder, don’t touch that.  Why are you touching that?  For the love of god, please don’t put it in your mouth.

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Recurring Elements

Mulder’s Slideshow:  We have a Mulder slideshow in the office!

Sunflower Seeds:  When Mulder and Scully are supposed to be walking back to their car through the woods, Mulder is casually munching on some sunflower seeds while they talk.  I guess they never really did get to eat dinner.

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The Many Faces of Alex Krycek:  Okay, not Krycek, but of course this is Nick Lea’s first X-Files role, playing a victim named Michael.  Let us all just enjoy some screenshots of a young Nick Lea.

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