"Providence"

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"Cooom-biii-yaaa, my lord! Cooom-biii-yaa..."



Last episode, I began my review with a somewhat lengthy explanation regarding my frustrations with the mythology since “Fight the Future”. As many others have said with the same mixture of long-suffering sighs and gritted teeth, the mythology seemed to have dropped into some nebulous mush that no one could possibly decipher. The more annoyed voices, mine included, complained that the current mythology was obviously nothing more than a bunch of “cool” ideas tossed together with little or no planning behind them. As such, I had little faith that Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz could find a way to weave it all together.

Consider this my partial mea culpa.

“The Sixth Extinction” promised a further exploration of the issues of religion and alien, and the faith that both engender. This has always been an important underlying theme for the series, as shown in many of the excellent Scully-centric episodes dealing with her struggles of faith. Perhaps most importantly, the “Redux” trilogy placed Scully’s religious faith on an equal footing with alien technology, leaving it unsaid which was the origin for the remission of Scully’s cancer. At the same time, other mythology episodes placed the alien technology above all.

What this episode accomplishes, in many respects, is a glimpse of how all of the mythology offerings since “Biogenesis” link together to form a new conception of this dichotomy. Instead of strictly religion versus technology, we now have the more ambiguous conflict between the spiritual and material. The dialogue tends to thrust this into a “God vs. the aliens” struggle, but that’s largely a failing in terms of the execution of the idea. The concept itself stretches back throughout the entire series, and after seeing where this is going, it is a bit easier to conceive how they could “resolve” the series without answering too many specific questions.

The plot is again straightforward, but there are some wonderful twists along the way. William has been kidnapped by the cultist, and while Follmer is leading a rescue/recovery effort through normal channels, Scully is taking matters into her own hands. Enlisting the help of the Gunmen and Monica, she does whatever it takes to track down the cultists. When the single lead dries up and places her under Follmer’s scrutiny, it is discovered that Agent Comer is conscious.

Agent Comer reveals that the cult leader Josepho, a former soldier during the Gulf War, saw what he thought was a vision of four “sons of God” leading a miraculous assault on an enemy position. Josepho believes that these super-soldiers are aliens, and that the aliens are the children of God. Based on what he has read from the inscriptions on the uncovered alien vessel near Calgary, he believes that William is a miracle child who will lead the aliens to their rightful place as rulers of the earth. But because Mulder has stood against the alien colonization plans, and he might sway William towards the same path, they want to eliminate Mulder and take custody of William.

Agent Doggett, who has been in a comatose state since the accident at the end of the last episode, awakens after Scully prays for his life. Astonishingly, he awakes with a message, that Scully will be contacted by others, and she should not trust them. Immediately, Scully is contacted by Josepho, who offers to allow Scully to see William if she can offer proof that Mulder is actually dead. Of course, learning from her mistakes in “Trustno1”, she has not come alone, and with the help of Agent Reyes, she tracks the cultists down. It’s a bit late, of course. All this time, Jospeho has been trying to get into the alien vessel, but now that William is there, it is activating. In a burst of deadly radiation, it burns the cultists to a cinder as it leaves for some unknown place. But oddly enough, William remains behind, unharmed.

The episode ends with Doggett and Reyes contemplating his apparent vision, while Follmer reconsiders his own position. Agent Comer died under mysterious circumstances, with Scully and Reyes under suspicion, but it was never investigated fully. Skinner refused to sign the report because of the language placing Scully and Reyes in suspicion. Follmer did sign, but Reyes’ contention that Comer was healed before they left (by the artifact) seems to have some substantiation. Follmer tries to remove his name as well, but Kersh chastises him, telling him instead to explain the discrepancies and close the case, rather than leave it even more open to debate. As the episode comes to a close, we find that one of the other lead agents on the case, and the one responsible for Comer’s death, is in fact one of the super-soldiers.

This ought to come as no surprise. From the beginning of the season, it was clear that Kersh was walking a fine line between keeping Scully and the others out of harm’s way, while also seeing to the needs of the conspiracy. As I conjectured last episode, the conspiracy would have made sure that Kersh assigned Follmer to the case, and that Skinner kept Doggett and Reyes away from it. It all tracks back to the end of the “Requiem” trilogy.

I think it’s fairly clear that Josepho was incorrect in his interpretations of the inscriptions. Whether there was an occupant in the alien craft or not, it clearly saw the cultists as a threat and dealt with them readily enough. Note the use of radiation/heat to destroy the cultists…doesn’t that look familiar? I think it does as well, but back to that later. The fact that William survived suggests that he is far from normal and connected to the aliens in some way, but not the way the cultists (and presumably, the super-soldiers) expect.

Ultimately, Josepho’s entire rationale and all of those “revelations” about William are grist for the mill. I doubt that they were valid in any literal sense. However, it had to have some germ of truth behind it, and I think it ties back to the inscriptions on the vessel. The writing is in Navaho, something that I think gets overlooked, because the theme of ancient prophesy ties back into the “Anazasi” trilogy. It sounds a bit silly to have William be a prophesized savior figure, but doesn’t that track directly with what Scully uncovered in “Amor Fati”? That a man would come to save the world from the viral apocalypse? All of which, apparently, was detailed on the alien ship, but from a slightly different perspective. The inscription on the ship suggested that the savior would lead the alien race to ascension.

All of the evidence, straight from “Biogenesis” through “Requiem” down to this episode, points to something that ties directly into the end of the Syndicate arc. The aliens behind the super-soldiers are using them, directly or indirectly, to prepare the way for colonization. They want Mulder dead and William alive for the same reasons as Josepho. But what if the alien ships in Africa, in Oregon, and now in Canada aren’t the colonists? What if they are actually rebel ships?

The rebels want to defeat the colonists, disrupt their plans, and so they would want William alive to lead them…fulfilling the prophesy. They would also want their ships to be able to eliminate the super-soldiers, and as such, they have the same “immolation” weapons that the rebels had in the past. The burning of the bodies were very similar, and would likely have the wonderful effect of melting down the metal components of the super-soldiers.

Not only that, but these ships are extremely similar to the ship shown in “Requiem”. Wouldn’t it make sense for the rebels to be experimenting with the bodies of the abductees infected with the super-soldier virus, trying to find a way to develop a defense, understand how it works? At the same time, the colonists are using the super-soldiers and the conspiracy surrounding them to cover their tracks, while they develop the means to distribute the black oil efficiently (ala “Vienen”).

The only part I’m not entirely sold on is the idea that the colonists and the super-soldiers are allies. It tracks in terms of the response to William’s birth by the super-soldiers in “Existence” and the comments by Billy Miles in “DeadAlive”, but it doesn’t entirely track with the actions of the super-soldiers overall. Still, there are a number of levels upon which the colonists could be connected/allied with the super-soldiers, and I hope that will be made less murky in the finale.

Besides the surprising continuity and cohesiveness of that aspect of the mythology, there was a shocking evolution of the abortive “new mythology” of Doggett and Reyes. Building on the discussion from the last episode, Reyes finds herself exploring her own issues of faith and spirituality, following in Scully’s footsteps in many respects. But more importantly, Doggett awakes from his coma with a vision, one that he cannot deny…and that ties directly to his denial of his vision at the discovery of his son’s body. It’s a great way to tie the two apparently unrelated events together, because it suggests that Doggett’s experiences and trials are part of a larger tapestry that includes William, Scully, and Mulder.

In terms of character, Scully picks up where she was left, struggling with her own blind irrationality. Regardless of the realities of the FBI rescue team, her willingness to break and bend several laws and policies to circumvent their authority put her in a very dark place. If it wasn’t for the need to keep the entire situation contained and secret, Scully would probably be under investigation. At the very least, she is now as vulnerable as Skinner, if not more so. I was also extremely thankful for the short but meaningful scene where Scully prayed for Doggett, acknowledging that when all is said and done, she does trust and care for him.

The other characters more or less remain the same as they were when they started, though it is doubtful that Reyes can continue to ignore the reality of aliens and UFOs. That’s nothing in comparison to what Doggett has to face. He heard a voice tell him to warn Scully, and that message helped her recover William. His connection to larger influences cannot be denied, and since that was at the core of his ability to cope with Luke’s death, it is inevitable that this experience is going to lead to some kind of closure.

Speaking of closure…the only aspect of the post-“Fight the Future” mythology that hasn’t been addressed now is the little matter of Samantha Mulder. In a sense, it has been dealt with, because one might say that the same guiding force that has touched Scully, Reyes, and Doggett was behind the “saving” of Samantha. But it might be nice to have someone consider that possibility.

My greatest disappointment in this two-part arc was the treatment of AD Skinner. Once again, as with so many mythology arcs, Skinner winds up caught within the conspirators’ web, doing what little he can to support the agents while saving himself. It’s a very old and tired position for him to be in, especially since it was made clear during season 8 that he was supposed to have chosen a side. While it’s true that his involvement in Krycek’s death could be used against him, or even the missing palm pilot for that matter, somewhere along the line that should have been referenced.

I’ve had my issues with the mythology over the years, especially the lack of focus after the movie. But considering how many of the mythology episodes had to address cast changes, unknown renewals, and scheduling demands by the cast, I find it very hard to criticize Chris and Frank when they actually do a good job of making it all hang together. I still don’t like the whole William business, or the way Mulder’s return was handled, or the decision not to allow Doggett and Reyes to chart the course this season. But I do like what I saw during this episode, and more than that, I’m looking forward to the rest of the season even more than ever.

But could they please give Skinner a bit more respect, and do something about those clunky bits of dialogue?

Some other thoughts:

- If Josepho’s vision was accurate, and four super-soldiers really saved his life, then that would mean they were active at least 11 years ago. That fits Shannon McMahon’s story in “Nothing Important Happened Today”.

- I think Scully’s been drinking the Mulder juice a little too much. If the FBI wanted the agents dead, they’d be dead...period. There have been plenty of better chances to kill them off, one by one.

- Nice continuity nod to Skinner’s experiences in Vietnam...it’s been a while since he’s mentioned that.

- Apparently tonight’s episode is brought to you by Nokia and Verizon...

- How far did the woman get without a cop pulling her over for those gunshots in her windshield?

- Using a crow bar to pry open a UFO...yeah, OK...

- It never occurred to those two men to get the hell out of the UFO when it started moving?

- Why didn’t Scully or Reyes call the local authorities before driving out to Pennsylvania? That’s a damned long way to go and still expect the woman to be there...

- What was with Monica hugging Follmer? She knows he’s sleaze! You have to figure he’s using her to get information, but what about her?

- Scully makes a point to explain to Reyes why she can’t tell her the meaning of “jacket”...and then, without much provocation, tells her anyway!

- Is there a reason why the other artifact would spin around all the time, and this one doesn’t?

- Wouldn’t the nurses’ station notice that the monitors were off?

- If Josepho claims that God told him where the vessel was buried...what really transpired, since I doubt God told him the information?

- So according to the prophesy, if Mulder lives, he raises William against the alien colonization. If Mulder dies, William is open to becoming the leader of the alien colonization. Nice enough, but it really doesn’t tell us anything, since we don’t know if Josepho interpreted the prophesy correctly.

- You’ve just seen two of your followers turned to cinders. Wouldn’t that be a bit of a hint to get the hell out of Dodge?

- Skinner tells them to leave, and what does Reyes do? She runs right into the middle of the room full of agents. No wonder Skinner was trying to keep them off the case!

- I know many Doggett fans will probably think it’s too little, too late, but it was very nice to see Scully recognize Doggett’s value and mourn for his condition.

- Scully needs to go back to Sunday school, and so does Josepho, for agreeing with her. That biblical scene was from Ezekiel.

- “If you want to see the boy, you’ll bring me the head of Fox Mulder.” Gee, ya think Chris Carter wrote that line?

- Then again, she could bring him a plastic Mulder doll head from the movie a couple seasons back!

- Did the Gunmen use their own van? Not that Josepho would know what it looked like, granted, but just how thorough was this “confirmation” of his, that he didn’t notice the people watching from across the freakin’ parking lot?

- I guess Monica knows the meaning of the sound Langly makes when smacking the crap out of a laptop...

- Exactly what does Scully think she’s going to get out of screaming, “William!” across the countryside?

- Nice how they left the dead guys in the ship, huh?

- So where did that ship go, I wonder...back to some base to report? Not that it matters, I suppose, but there has to be a place where the ships are collecting and what not.

- I find it rather ominous that William emerged completely unscathed when everyone else was burned to a crisp. Not just unharmed by the blast of radiation, but also the inevitable fall to the ground. Instinctive self-protection, or something related to his relationship to the artifact last episode?

- Doggett’s experience had better get some kind of follow-up, or it’s going to be a waste of great material.

- Again, what is with Follmer’s hair at the end of this episode?

- Follmer is looking like the next candidate for a red shirt...the skeptical bottom-feeder who begins to come around to the truth, only to be pushing up daisies!

Overall, this episode took the promising beginning of the last episode and delivered a strong and surprising larger meaning to the pieces of the mythology we’ve seen over the past few seasons. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…those who bash these episodes simply because they relate to the “new direction” ought to be ashamed of themselves. With this kind of creativity, this series could easily end in a way that makes the entire series one seamless tapestry.

I give it a 9/10.


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