Investigating The X-Files: Season 5, part 1

After the excitement and revelation in Season 3, season 4 of “The X-Files” felt like a meditation on suffering and mortality. Scully got diagnosed with cancer, Max Fenig died without achieving his goals, and we learned that the Cigarette Smoking Man is a lonely and frustrated novelist. The season ran the bummer gamut from Scully getting angry because she doesn’t have a desk and has let her ambitions fade in “Never Again” to Mulder faking his death in “Gethsemane.” I finished it feeling emotionally wrung out, so the gentler, more contemplative tone at the beginning of Season 5 came as a relief.

“Redux” and “Redux II” wrap up the mystery of Mulder’s apparent suicide, provide a cure for Scully’s cancer, and introduce the theme that most of the episodes in the first half of Season 5 explore. The trials and benefits of family, both the one we are born to and the ones we create, lie at the core of both the myth and non-myth episodes. In particular, Scully’s difficult relationship with her mother and brother drives the story arc.

“Redux” relates the events of “Gethsemane” as they actually occurred. It shows Scully deciding to risk her reputation to protect Mulder after he killed the Department of Defense guy who had him under surveillance. Mulder takes advantage of his presumed state of deadness and the DOD guy’s security pass to break into a research facility. While Scully gives her “Gethsemane” testimony to the FBI and prepares to name Skinner as the bureau mole, Mulder finds himself in the same Pentagon basement where we’ve seen CSM stash evidence on a number of occasions.

Before Scully can point her finger at Skinner, her metastasized cancer gets the better of her; she collapses and ends up in the hospital. In “Redux II,” Mulder wants her to have the microchip he found labeled with her name in the Pentagon implanted in her neck. Scully’s family wants her to pray, rest, and avoid Fox Mulder and her work at the FBI at all costs. Mrs. Scully sometimes seems prickly in these episodes, but her daughter is dying, so I can’t hold it against her. On the other hand, Scully’s brother Bill establishes himself as a douchebag of royal proportions. He treats his sister like an idiot child, has no respect for her work or beliefs, and seems to resent Mulder for reasons that go deeper than his stated dislike of the danger he poses to Scully.

It seems unfair that as Scully fights for her life she must also choose between her loyalty to her family and that she feels for Mulder. Immune to Mulder’s misery and desperation over Scully’s illness, Bill acts like he’s about to start a rumble in every scene. His anger strikes me as inflated, self-involved and hardly about Scully at all. In the end, Scully has the chip inserted, she prays, and she keeps going with her doctor’s unorthodox treatments. Her cancer miraculously goes into remission. Her brother, however, continues to suffer a chronic case of asshole.

“Redux II” also adds another layer to the ongoing Mulder family drama. In a bribe to bring him over to the dark side, CSM introduces Mulder to yet another Samantha. This one claims to be the real thing and to have little memory of her past. She says CSM raised her as a daughter, and she doesn’t really want to meet Mrs. Mulder or be accepted back into the bosom of her birth family. Samantha #47 leaves with a promise to consider seeing Mulder again, and more questions get raised than answered. Toward the end of the episode, Mulder makes a good guess and outs Section Chief Blevins as the leak inside the bureau. The syndicate doesn’t like this exposure and has Blevins killed. They also don’t like that CSM wasn’t able to rein in Mulder, so they put a bullet in his cancerous chest as well, presumably killing him.

Later in the season, Scully and her mother spend Christmas with Bill and his wife. The wife is heavily pregnant and neither Bill nor his mother quite understand why Scully isn’t over the moon about it. Even when she tells them that she recently found out that she’s infertile as a result of her abduction, they still aren’t nearly as sympathetic as I expected. In “Christmas Carol,” an investigation into a woman’s death puts Scully in touch with Emily, a young girl who looks suspiciously like her dead sister Melissa at the same age. Scully’s family becomes convinced that Scully has created a delusional scenario because she wants a child so badly.

Mulder doesn’t think she’s nuts, so his poking around and some DNA tests confirm that Emily isn’t Melissa’s daughter, but Scully’s. A doctor takes the eggs from abducted women, fertilizes them, and implants them in nursing home patients. Despite her unusual provenance, Scully desperately wants custody of Emily. When the girl gets sick and begins showing decidedly alien-human hybrid characteristics, Scully must accept that this opportunity to be a mother simply wasn’t meant to be.

When the episode “Emily” ends with the girl’s death, I was left feeling that Scully would never be as close to her mother and brother again. It’s not that Scully’s blood relatives don’t love her or want what’s best for her; they’re just awfully ready to believe the worst about her. Scully sacrifices a great deal for Mulder, but at least he isn’t always jumping to the conclusion that she’s weak, stupid, hopeless, or incapable of knowing her own mind.

There’s great Mulder/ Scully chemistry in “Detour” and “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” The first episode after Scully’s cancer goes into remission, “Detour” offers a fulfilling old-fashioned monster story set against the backdrop of the agents avoiding a teamwork seminar. Mulder and Scully banter about the meaning of teamwork and get contrasted with more traditional perky and efficient FBI agents. Questions of partnership and family feature prominently in the justifiably famous “The Post-Modern Prometheus” as well. The ep combines a comic book aesthetic with a farcical comedy, Frankenstein, and the music of Cher to remind us that everyone wants to be loved and accepted, either by the families we’re born to or the ones we create.

Even the monster of the week episodes could better be described as family of the week. “Unusual Suspects” relates how the guys now known as The Lone Gunmen met Mulder and each other. Back in 1989, Byers, Frohike, and Langly were just run of the mill computer-hacking, D&D playing nerds. They meet a scientist named Susanne Modeski who’s on the run from FBI agent Fox Mulder. She helped to develop a bioweapon that the government wants to test on its citizens. She hopes to spill the beans before her former bosses can silence her. Byers has a huge crush and he enlists his fellow geeks to help her.

Alas, they don’t succeed. The story doesn’t get out and the baddie later called X and his henchmen abduct Susanne. In the process, the three lonely loners bond. They start on the path toward Lone Gunmen-hood when they, along with Mulder, witness the terrifying potential of the secrets and lies the government keeps from the people. Susanne’s last words before her kidnapping, "No matter how paranoid you are, you’re not paranoid enough,” galvanize the trio, and the rest is conspiracy-theory history.

The Lone Gunmen built something like a family out of a desire for companionship and a bunker mentality. They’re weird, but they’re way more functional than the families in “Kitsunegari” and “Schizogeny.” The former brings back Robert P. Modell from “Pusher.” He breaks out of prison with the help of his equally mind control-y fraternal twin sister, and the two go on a deadly spree. Examples of codependency run amok, each being more than willing to kill to protect the other. In “Schizogeny,” familial proximity breeds nothing but contempt. Angry and abusive parents start dying with the help of some angry orchards and a therapist who never worked through her own history of abuse at the hands of her father.

Cameos of the Guest Who Later Got Big and who were Already Big variety in the first half of season 5 include John “J. Peterman” O’Hurley in “The Post-Modern Prometheus,” Richard Belzer as beloved "Homicide" and "Law & Order" super-crossover Detective John Munch in “Unusual Suspects,” Chad Lindberg, who played Ash on “Supernatural,” in “Schizogeny,” and Anthony Rapp of “Rent” fame in “Detour.” Maine’s own Stephen King wrote the great creepy kid episode “Chinga.” Finally, just as Nicholas Lea appeared in an episode before he became Alex Krycek, a guy named Chris Owens played The Great Mutato in “The Post-Modern Prometheus.” He would join the cast a few episodes later as Agent Jeffrey Spender, daughter of Cassandra Spender and member of a family so dysfunctional it’s amazing, even by “X-Files” standards.

Posted in Professional, The X-Files
2 comments on “Investigating The X-Files: Season 5, part 1
  1. T V Static says:

    Once again, you are brilliant!
    I am really enjoying these bits and the actors who later got big are always entertaining.

  2. Reynard says:

    This really is insightful. The analysis for season 4 and the obsessions and ruminations on death were easy to point out. But the focus on the family in the first half of season 5 was really something I had overlooked.
    I was surprised that you did not tie the “Redux” trilogy to the events in early season 3 when you pointed out that Scully’s explanations started to look more plausible than Mulder’s. “Gethsemane” and “Redux II” represent the moment when Scully’s government-based conspiracy theories of “Paper Clip” and “731″ completely win out over Mulder’s notion of the “fantastic as a plausibility.”

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