So here we are. The first episode of the first season truly without Mulder. Oh, he’s still around in terms of the plot and the concerns of the characters, but in terms of leading the crusade? Mulder is gone, and at least at this point, there is no indication of where he might have gone or why. Quite simply, he is no longer the one searching for the truth through the basement office of the FBI.
Before I talk about what I think of the events of the episode itself, I want to take a moment to talk about the general attitude of criticism that has descended on the series, now that Mulder is no longer the main character. You see, while I have gone to great lengths to keep myself out of the spoiler loop and remain fresh for this new season, I have heard the comments of fandom and read some of the press reviews. The press reviews are almost entirely negative, but the strange thing is, they almost never address the actual material. Instead, most of the criticism seems to hinge on the fact that Mulder, or some unique quality they believe he brought to the series, is no longer a part of the show.
This makes no sense to me, because these same press writers made a point to say how well the beginning of season 8 reinvigorated the series. They still talk about how much Robert Patrick brings to the table. And Mulder wasn’t all that involved in the beginning of last season, and if anything, they acknowledge that his presence at the end of the season only resulted in mixed signals and confusion.
Beyond the constant complaints that Mulder is no longer around, which is a silly complaint since this is well past the point when everyone should have been aware of it, there is the complaint that this season premiere is just more of the same. There’s the endless conspiracy talk, the odd personal relationship issues, the betrayals, the melodramatic dialogue…and since we’ve seen it all before, they say, the episode is unworthy.
Now, far be it from me to deny personal tastes. I am, after all, writing my opinion and putting it out for all to see and hear (metaphorically!). But if this is what the “X-Files” has been for eight years, then why are people complaining when you get what the “X-Files” is known for? Why expect the show to be something else?
I think there is a very good reason why this episode falls a little flat, if it does, and it has nothing to do with the absence of Mulder or the similarity of the plot to past mythology offerings. And I think that looking back on the beginning of last season, there is a clear difference. Season 8’s premiere followed a season finale, “Requiem”, that was easily one of the best episodes of the season, and left many fans reinvested. But the season finale for season 8, “Existence”, left many fans disillusioned and upset at the muddled and pandering way that several plot threads were “resolved”.
Is it any wonder, then, that the general attitude going into this season is less than optimistic?
This episode begins the two-part mythology episode that is meant to address those issues, and as such, there is a lot of work to do. Maybe too much, and when you begin adding new characters on top of that confusion, there’s little chance that the results are going to be sterling.
That said, this episode is for the most part capable, if still a bit clunky in places. The introduction of Shannon McMahon was effective, in that there is definite mystery as to the motive behind her actions. We can infer from the promos that she is one of the replicants from the end of last season, but beyond that, what do we know? Not very much. The fact that she can obviously breathe underwater, however, points us back to “The Erlenmeyer Flask” and the hybridization experiments being conducted to create super-soldiers, according to Deep Throat. Could there be a connection, given the flashback to Knowle’s comment to Agent Doggett about that very program?
This brings up an interesting point, because there is obviously something more than human, as Krycek might say, about Scully’s son. The replicants in “Essence” were in the process of destroying the evidence of hybrid experiments conducted in various in-vitro and fertility clinics, one of at which Scully had been treated. The obvious deduction, then, is that Scully’s child was an unforeseen consequence of the experiments. Not what they were looking for, but something potentially better. This would explain why they wanted to get their hands on Scully, yet still wanted the child to be born. They want the child to see what it is and how they can use it.
As for Mulder, there are several reasons why he could have left. We may get more of a hint to that next episode, but for now, my guess is that he knew that he was also an unexpected case. The “alien virus” that resulted in the replicant process within the human hosts did not take, for an unknown reason. If those behind the replicant experiments were interested in William because of what he might be, then they would also be interested in Mulder for similar reasons. They would want to know why he was able to resist the process, and so he might have left to protect Scully and William.
That covers one part of the episode, but there was equal emphasis on the investigation started by Doggett regarding the FBI involvement in the replicant incidents. Here is where we run into some of the familiar territory, because Kersh and his “ally” AD Follmer are trying to shut down the investigation, and evidence is disappearing. Add into that Follmer’s past relationship with Agent Reyes, and you have the potential for a nice bit of betrayal and suspicion.
And yet, that is perhaps the weakest part of the episode. Follmer’s conversation with Reyes at the bar is a mess, and one cannot even begin to understand what is being said most of the time. One gets the sense that Follmer may have been pulled into the conspiracy when they realized that Doggett was going to involve Reyes, and they wanted someone who could possibly influence her loyalty to Doggett.
What I find equally hard to believe is the sudden lack of support that the other characters give to Doggett. Everyone involved has been in that position before, and if these events are happening 48 hours after Scully gave birth, then they ought to understand that it is extremely unlikely that the danger is only going to continue if they investigate. Skinner I can almost understand, but on the same token, he later decides to join Doggett in the raid on the water plant offices, so what was the point of all that talk in the beginning? And I had a very hard time believing that Scully would suddenly ask Doggett to stay away from her and William, after what they had gone through. I can only guess that Mulder asked her to stay away from the others, but even then, it is hard to believe that Scully wouldn’t just say as much.
For all these weaknesses, though, there is the sense that this is something that goes far beyond the FBI, and definitely ties back into the experiments conducted by the Syndicate. With most of the Syndicate dead, the question becomes, who is the one behind all of this? Mulder would say aliens, and that’s what we were led to believe, but that is no longer quite so certain. Yes, aliens were involved, but that has always been the case with Syndicate operations. So is there possibly a human authority also involved, perhaps even Strughold?
Only time will tell, but hopefully some things will come together in the next episode.
Some other thoughts:
- So the EPA administrator was looking into an additive to the water supply. If McMahon was a replicant, I imagine she was trying to keep Wormus from discovering what it was really for…which means it was likely something bad. It reminds me of the alien plot in “Vienen” to distribute the black oil through the worldwide oil supply.
- I love the new opening credits! And the purists can relax, the tagline was the same as before.
- So….did all the DogGoddesses out there love that bedroom shot of our man John?
- Probably about as much as I enjoyed that shot of Monica!
- Speaking of which, I think just about every character possible was naked at some point in this episode!
- I really don’t like the idea that this episode was set only 48 hours after “Existence”. First of all, William is at least four months old, and Scully did not just give birth, I assure you. And does anyone actually believe that an internal investigation would actually start right away, over a weekend no less? Give that a few months as well.
- As I said earlier, I think Follmer was brought into the conspiracy when Reyes was pulled into the investigation. He might even have been promoted to the position when Reyes became involved in the manhunt for Mulder.
- At least Mulder told Scully before he left this time. It’s more consideration than he usually affords someone.
- As much as some people might think they are trying to make Doggett another Mulder, everything he does is entirely within his character. He is definitely the type of person who would do what it takes to expose someone acting illegally within the Bureau.
- That said, Monica’s dramatic show of support was very poorly done.
- Did anyone think that bar scene between Monica and Follmer made any sense? It was like they were going to an Ambiguous Dialogue Anonymous meeting.
- I like how everyone is calling each other by the first name, except Scully with Doggett. It’s like she is putting him off even in the way she addresses him.
- Either I’m getting used to how oddly 1013 writes characters these days, or they are getting more consistent with Monica Reyes. Either that, or Annabeth Gish is putting more work into defining the character.
- Someone needs to tell Reyes that it’s a lot easier to deny that an autopsy was performed when you don’t have Polaroids.
- If Doggett was trying to sound nonchalant about Knowle while on the phone with his old war buddies, then he was doing a very bad job of it. This is one man who doesn’t believe in casual conversation!
- Scully is slipping. She did the entire internal cavity analysis before even checking the externals for contusions and lacerations?
- OK, having never bothered to watch the finale of the “Lone Gunmen” series, I have no idea why Langley is blue…and so that moment seemed a little overdone to me.
- Why didn’t McMahon wait for Ma Scully to be stupid enough to open the door and stare blankly into space? I mean, gee, it took all of five seconds for her to do that!
- Nice of the dead water plant guy to leave a piece of paper with a rather obvious E-mail address on his desk.
- It was also very nice of Follmer to give Skinner an easy alibi…making it obvious that whoever is in charge of the conspiracy wants Doggett out of the way.
Overall, this was a decent enough season premiere, but as in years past, it suffers from being in the middle of what is basically a three-part mythology arc. Add to that the weakness of the first part of that arc, and you’ve got an episode with too much junk weighing it down. The real test will come next week, when they have to come up with an actual explanation for some of this!
I give it a 6/10.
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