Last night we lived through the surreal experience of having more X-Files on Television. With very solid ratings still to consolidate after Live +7 and DVR numbers are collected, Nielsen already has assured that the revival is off to a good start. We’re sure that FOX and everyone at Ten Thirteen Productions are just as happy as the fandom.
However, we mustn’t rest on our laurels, and perhaps this is why the network and the producers decided to shift the order and air James Wong’s “Founder’s Mutation” as the second episode of the season. Originally slated as the fifth, this episode is one strong, gory and emotional story.
For our usual, detailed, recap and review, go ahead and click after the jump. Also… SPOILERS, don’t say we didn’t warn you!
We open to a “Previously on The X-Files…” and I’m already swooning because this is real. Fox Mulder recaps the series, and where they are today: Scully and Mulder are back together… to investigate more X-Files. Is that a collective groan I can hear amongst the fandom? Hell, no! We’re ready; these two will eventually get back together.
The actual episode starts with Dr. Sanjay (Christopher Logan - Supernatural) scanning his bloodshot eye to enter the Nugenics’ building, as others like him line up to enter as well. He’s greeted by an upbeat coworker who makes a worried note of how tired he looks; the man looks as if he’s a slave to his job. His coworker walks faster, away toward the elevator, when Sanjay is assaulted by an intense high pitched and painful noise… that no one else can hear. His coworker sees him in distress but Sanjay composes himself after he realizes no-one can hear what he hears.
Cut to a meeting between the scientists in this building. Their supervisor notifies them that the “Founder” looked at their research and ordered a “Do-Over”. The room erupts with complaints, having spent months and many resources on this investigation. But Sanjay is not quite paying attention, he’s still disturbed and dazed. Every noise and loud word are like nails to a chalkboard. Everyone demands a meeting with the “Founder”; they doubt he read any of the research. The supervisor claims that the founder - Augustus Goldman - is fully engaged with their work.
Sanjay continues to bear with the noise; outside, birds gather on the lawn. The co-workers continue to bicker, as his tension grows and becomes unbearable. Certain words stand out for him: “Data is the key” - “Go” - “Now”, it’s overwhelming, making him slam his notes and scream, asking if anyone can hear what he hears. But no, the room is silent - especially now that everyone is freaked out by his reaction. He apologizes and runs out of the room.
Sanjay goes then to a server room, where he’s going through the directories on a workstation like a madman. “Do it, NOW. Data is the key.” The voice in his head repeats. His coworkers bang on the windows and the door of this room, a security guard comes to try and drill through the lock. He’s in a daze, his co-workers are desperate and it’s getting to the point where he’s almost an automaton, only reacting when the sound starts in his head. The pounding on the door and the drill now going through the bolt are making it unbearable for Sanjay so he scrambles, takes a pen and scribbles something in his hand, before grabbing a letter opener and shoving it into his ear, to the shock and horror of the onlooking people. Oh James Wong, I’ve missed you. The body drops with a sickly thud and we cut to the credits.
Fox Mulder steps into the crime scene and Scully provides her theory: Consistent with witnesses accounts, Sanjay had a psychotic break and committed suicide. Mulder questions the place he chose to do it, though. Why the most secure room of the building? He was looking for something in the terminal that would be the only access to the isolated servers. Scully is already suspicious of Mulder’s motivations on this case. He snags the terminal’s hard drive as evidence but Linquist (Aaron Douglas - BSG) an agent from the Department of Defense rushes to thwart his plans. They have access to be in the room, to examine the body, to have the info that they received from the witnesses, but cannot have access to the data in those servers as it is property of the DOD. Mulder wants to talk to Augustus Goldman. Scully is surprised by his gutsy request, but Goldman wasn’t even in the building at the time and since the DOD won’t allow him to look at the drive, he wants to question him about the information Sanjay was trying to access. The DOD agent won’t confirm or deny of the whereabouts of Goldman.
Scully spots the surveillance cameras and challenges if he could confirm that those were in use at the time, he concedes to handing over the recordings while Mulder sneaks Sanjay’s phone out of his pocket and uses his thumb to unlock it.
The DOD requests that they remove the body so they can secure the room and Scully begins to protest but Mulder talks over her, comically exiting the room and walking past her, surprising Scully in his determination to evade the DOD. He wants to get out fast because he just stole evidence; this has her all tied up in a knot about the repercussions this could have if they discover that they searched the phone without a warrant. Mulder skirts the issue because he considers Sanjay a victim, even when Scully reminds him it was a suicide. Mulder moves along anyways as they walk through the building’s hustle and bustle, scientists everywhere… a janitor looking sullen, etc.
Mulder finds a contact on Sanjay’s phone, Gupta - he called that number every night. Scully reminds him that he was from India and that word means “Secret”; he’s surprised she knows that and she snarks that she’s “old school, pre-google.” So I guess she has decided to not venture there for more stem cell research, huh?
Cut to Corner Pocket Bar, in Washington, DC. Mulder arrives at the dark establishment that’s filled with suspicious men, as you would any DC watering hole. He finds Gupta (Vik Sahaay - NCIS) sitting at a corner booth; an Indian man dressed in business attire. He prefers not to share names. Mulder identifies himself as Sanjay’s friend, and still suspicious of a couple of men nearby, he asks Gupta to talk in a more private place. But the man is hesitant, he doesn’t know Mulder well enough; Mulder assures him that he’s safe. The man leads him to a closet, and then… kneels and starts unbuckling Mulder’s pants. Man, are we in 2016 or what?!
Mulder stops him right away, clarifying that he really just wanted to talk. But Gupta doesn’t believe him; he thinks that Mulder is just terrified to come out of the closet, to let go of the self-loathing and the judgement and be free. He tells Mulder to stop tormenting himself, because the truth is in his heart… I want to make a joke here about all those other jokes we made these last eight years about other bodily parts and where to stash the truth, but I won’t because the episode itself is already for mature audiences.
Mulder stops Gupta as he begins his way out of the closet and tells him that Sanjay is dead. The man’s face and determination changes immediately.
At the FBI Morgue, Scully prepares to start her slicing and dicing, I mean, Sanjay’s autopsy. She describes his personal details, and declares that cause of death is obviously the bloody letter opener that she proceeds to extract. This is so not for the faint hearted. She begins with her external examination and notices Sanjay’s closed fist where he wrote his last words.
Gupta opens up to Mulder, obviously affected by the news. Sanjay had been distant the last couple of weeks; he called him every night but he had only shared how upset he was about his kids dying. Mulder is surprised, since they thought that Sanjay didn’t have anyone-- his life was very simple judging by his apartment, but Gupta informs him that his dead lover not only was living two lives but also had two homes. Scully calls Mulder and so we…
Cut to the autopsy bay; Scully had to pry open Sanjay’s hand to see what he had written: Founder’s Mutation. The Founder is what they call Dr. Goldman at Nugenics, but Mulder doesn’t think that’s the mutation Sanjay was referring to. The autopsy revealed that he had destroyed his acoustic nerve and then continued to the cerebral cortex, ending up in the auditory cortex… as if he was hunting for something. Scully remembers that the witnesses claimed he blurted something out before leaving the room: “Can anyone hear that?” But no one could. Mulder remarks that sound is nerve impulses interpreted by the brain, so he wonders if those same impulses could be replicated without the actual vibration striking the eardrum. They decide to go where Sanjay actually lived.
On the way there, as they stop at an intersection, they wax poetic about how it seems hard to believe that he had to hide his lifestyle in 2016, but Mulder doesn’t think that his sexual preference was his only secret. She lets go of the brakes and starts to advance when a kid jumps in front of her Packed With Safety Features and Reasonably Priced Ford Explorer™. We’ve seen this teen… he’s the janitor from the Nugenics building. He scrambles away while neither Mulder or Scully think much of it.
They arrive at Sanjay’s second home. The place is in the dark but even so you can tell that this was home to him; it’s filled with many more trinkets, pictures, and his research. As they go through the space wielding their flashlights, we can see that someone is watching from outside a window. Scully finds all the pictures of Sanjay’s kids: they’re all under 10 years old, deformed, and they seem to be in a hospital. She spots the lights of police patrol cars-- they must have triggered a silent alarm-- so they have to hurry to get usable evidence before they come inside, but as they rush about, Mulder starts to hear the same noise that Sanjay heard, knocking him down to the floor as Scully rushes to his side. The cops come in and Scully comes out and identifies herself as Mulder continues to be stunted, kneeling on the floor, visibly overpowered by the intensity of this sound in his head. He hears a voice that for a minute he mistakes for the exchange happening in the other room: “Find her…” “Help me…” “Find her…” and that’s when the sound gets even worse.
The next day they sit in Skinner’s office and he asks for a debrief. Scully invites him to check on the files but it turns out the DOD has taken over those as well. This situation is actually pretty comical as Murphy (Ryan Robbins - Arrow) some other DOD dude, just sits there, pours himself some water, and tells them that they can’t read them. But leave it to Mulder and his photographic memory: the files have the medical records of children with great genetical abnormalities and they need to determine how they are associated to Sanjay’s suicide. Skinner makes a point to sternly tell Mulder that the investigation is closed since they no longer have access to the files, and dismisses the DOD agent. When the man leaves, after dropping a few threats if information were to leak, Skinner stops the charade; he knows that his favorite duo knew better than to not take precautions. Mulder has managed to make copies of the top sheets of some of the files, and he thinks that the kids are failed genetic experiments, probably done by the government. Scully thinks that they need more time to prove Mulder’s theory. Skinner makes a final observation that with the budget cuts, the FBI has turned increasingly inefficient so the report would take days to declare the investigation closed. Gotta love this man.
Down in the basement, the door opens to Special Agent Fox Mulder’s office… you’d think that by now Special Agent Dana Scully would have been added to the nameplate but I’m not going to dwell. She’s parked in front of their new screens checking the surveillance footage from Nugenics. She’s synced all the cameras to the exact timecode of Sanjay’s suicide. This is 2016, guys… everything they’re using is wireless and sleek and I suddenly feel the loss of the romantic click of the slide projector.
As she passes the keyboard to Mulder, she asks - worried - about what happened at Sanjay’s apartment. He claims that he heard sounds, the high pitched frequency, and the phrase “Find her…” but Scully didn’t hear anything. Then Mulder spots something on the videos: the birds gathering outside the window the day Sanjay killed himself. She put it to the lawn being seeded that day but Mulder thinks it’s that they’re feeding on worms affected by infrasounds, vibrations too low to be picked up by the human ear but good to drive them out of the earth. Scully isn’t convinced, of course. How do all of these relate? For Mulder, Augustus Goldman might be the only one to answer that. Scully is worried that Mulder might end up like Sanjay. It’s dangerous, but when has that stopped them before… So, she concedes… she may have a way to get to the founder.
Cut to Our Lady of Sorrows, and Scully has a good rep here, having worked all these years in the hospital. She uses her influence to try and convince Sister Mary (Christine Willes - The X-Files) - one of the head nuns - to get them an audience with Goldman. He’s praised by the woman as the savior of the hospital, but a man that’s not particularly prone to the outside world. Scully lies to the nun, saying that they’re sparing him the shame of the public learning he’s under investigation, and Mulder adds it’s because of Obamacare. I had to snort at this. Mary’s hesitant to help and bother their biggest donor but Scully plays her best good Catholic girl impersonation and the woman agrees to relay a message to which Mulder is quick to advise that she should mention the phrase “Founder’s Mutation”.
As the sister walks away, a young pregnant woman knocks on the glass of the door to the rec room to get their attention. Her name is Agnes (Kacey Rohl - Hannibal) she’s distraught and needs their help getting out of the hospital because they want to take her unborn child. She signed papers that gave them rights over her and now she’s changed her mind, but this girl is so neurotic it’s hard to know what the real problem is or if she’s maybe just off her meds. She claims her kid has problems, but that she doesn’t want to give it away. This story starts to get to Scully, of course, and it’s just in time for Sister Mary to come back, so Mulder hands Agnes a card just in case she ever needs to talk.
Augustus has agreed to meet them, but now Mulder is more interested in how these patients are chosen, to which Mary gives him the usual sad story: homeless, no parents, drug addicts, and teen mothers that have been wronged by men. “Desire is the devil’s pitchfork…” Gotta love that Catholic guilt. But she says that as long as there’s a need and a defenseless child, they’d provide help. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening with Agnes, who looks on from afar as Planet of the Apes plays on the TV.
As they exit, Mulder is hot on his theory. He blames Augustus Goldman for everything that’s happening; he has to be related one way or another. His association to the DOD, this could be another phase of the project; the women could be incubators. That’s when Scully lets go of her poised contempt and calls him out on how he’s been avoiding the sore subject and is afraid of telling her: maybe he thinks she’d been just an incubator to bring her child into the world.
“You’re never just anything to me, Scully…” Mulder says, and David Duchovny breaks my heart along with Gillian Anderson in just the first of many scenes in this episode that dragged me through the floor. Full disclosure, I watched the episode for the first time with Roi Ollson and we had to pause because I could not stop punching her arm while flailing. Having admitted this crazy moment of fangirl abandon, I continue.
Scully asks if he ever thinks about William, and he does, but he feels like he has had to put that behind him… STOP, don’t hate on the man just yet.
Scully begrudges the fact that she has missed every year of her son’s life and sometimes hates herself for not fighting harder. Mulder won’t let her do this to herself and makes the case that his adoption was sealed and his location a secret so they could protect him. But was he an experiment? She dreads to think that he’s out there like one of Sanjay’s kids, fighting for his life. Mulder hits her with one awful and wonderful truth, the only thing that they can do is pull the thread and see what it unravels.
And so… we begin. In an alternate universe vision, Scully imagines dropping a 6-year-old William off on his first day of school. They joke and bicker and kiss. It’s a loving and warm picture that fills me with longing because this woman never got to live this, and it hurts so.damn.much. Flash forward to William coming out of the building after school; he’s 10-years-old now and independent. Scully watches closely but lovingly as her son waves good bye and goes to play with his friends as she reminds him to be home in time for dinner. But then there’s a brisk wind, and the colors fade to a darker hue. A group of kids walk down the street with concern on their faces toward an ambulance. William, now older, has been in an accident, his arm is broken at an odd angle and Scully tries to hide that she’s worried sick. It only gets worse as Scully’s fears go deeper. Now she hears William call for her; but this time she’s in their home, perhaps even the unremarkable house, and she rushes in her PJs to his bedroom door. He’s stands in front of the mirror staring in terror. When the 15-year-old turns to her, his eyes seem like two big dark orbs taking over his face, his nose and mouth have almost fused and shrunk. Looking so much like an alien, William asks, “Mom, what’s happening to me!?”
We return to our current reality, with a startled Scully sitting by her desk at her own home, visibly affected by these images and fantasies. Mark Snow’s score grabs your heart and squeezes as Scully opens a drawer and pulls William’s baby picture out. She takes a deep breath while on the verge of tears.
Dear Gillian Anderson, can we make an award just for you and you only?
Mulder and Scully talk with Augustus (Doug Savant - Melrose Place) at his company: Goldman Technology. He comments on Sanjay’s final words: “Founder’s Mutation” - he’s dismissive and considers his suicide weak and useless. Scully cuts to the chase and lets him know that she’s well versed in his work and how it’s heavily based in genetic manipulation. But he won’t let her continue and goes on to show them what he claims they’re doing: saving children.
He takes them to a hallway with windows to the children’s rooms, each with a different genetic affliction that has made them greatly deformed. He claims that they’re a cutting edge facility for the patients, and that there’s absolutely no cost to be treated there. Scully is shocked by some of these kids, and Augustus invites her to talk to one of them; a kid that has lived all of his life in this facility and claims to have no parents.
She questions why they have to be in sealed rooms when they’re victims of illnesses that aren’t contagious and Augustus is quick to dismiss the kid and to sternly explain that their therapies are one of a kind, unique in the world and they need to discard the factors that would prevent them from being effective. Like the outside world. He’s searching for the key that would get rid of all these genetic abnormalities. But Scully blindsides him, suggesting that the reason why the Department of Defense is funding his research is because he’s experimenting with alien DNA. Augustus is shocked by her accusation, thinking that she was the rational one, but their argument is cut short when a teen patient has a tantrum at the end of the hall behind the other glass doors. An orderly tries to calm her down but then all of a sudden the prepared snacks on a cart nearby start flying through the air as if on their own volition.
Mulder and Scully are escorted down by Goldman’s assistant, not having answered to Scully’s accusation and sparking Mulder’s interest, but his attention is diverted to his beeping cellphone: something has happened to Agnes.
When they arrive at the scene all they find is bad news: Agnes lies on the asphalt, dead, run over by a car. There’s no witnesses… and no baby.
Scully autopsies the girl and declares that she died from blunt force trauma, most likely from the impact of a moving vehicle and that the fetus was surgically removed. She can’t tell if the baby was still alive when they removed it, but it was no coincidence, someone took it. They’re trying to get rid of evidence; Agnes wanted to talk and that baby was the only proof of her allegations of Goldman’s experiments. Mulder wonders if the baby could still be alive, but Scully doubts it because an adult didn’t survive the hit-and-run let alone a more fragile being. Of course, it would be unlikely for human fetuses.
Mulder recalls how in 1963 the syndicate was called in to collaborate with a project to colonize the world by creating human hybrids, and even when the project was ultimately unsuccessful, he doubts that they stopped trying. Mulder is suggesting changing the genetic makeup of a population which according to Scully is the next step in evolution. Mulder argues that every change starts with a founder’s mutation, so one child with the correct DNA combination could be the start. Mulder did some digging on Goldman; it turns out that his wife has been admitted as a criminally insane patient. She was accused of killing her unborn child, but the body was also never found.
The pair is now at Saint Elizabeths Hospital visiting Jackie Goldman (Rebecca Wisocky - Sex and the City) who’s completely in her own world and ignoring them while she stares at her lunch. She hasn’t said anything in ten minutes but when a cat comes into the room she takes her apple and throws it at the pet. Scully takes the helm this time, but Jackie won’t respond to questions about her husband since he’s the one keeping her there. Mulder takes a different approach, asking her if she misses her daughter. She does, but she also knows that her daughter was different.
She hadn’t realized until her son’s baby shower: Molly was two and had gotten away from her... and, unbeknownst to everyone, had fallen in the pool. The kid had been underwater for at least ten minutes and should have been dead. Jackie jumped in and when she reached her at the bottom, not only was Molly alive but she was also breathing under the water. Everyone had thought it’d been a miracle but she knew better. She decided to leave Augustus; he had to be behind it all, and the government as well, manipulating the embryo. Her unborn son would also become a victim of his plans so she had to get away. Augustus took Molly from her but still she was determined to leave, cutting him with a knife and escaping. She drove away from him, knowing the government would be coming back for her since she was still pregnant with Augustus’ child. She was driving too fast and hit a deer, overturning her car and getting hurt. She tried to get out of the car, in severe pain, and that’s when she started hearing the high pitched sound. She felt that the baby was talking to her in the only way he knew how and she knew what she had to do. She cut her womb open and let the baby come out of her. They claimed that she’d killed him but she didn’t, and the next thing she knew, she was waking up in a hospital and she never saw her son again. Jackie misses him, deeply… and Scully commiserates because “a mother never forgets…”
When they walk out of their meeting with Jackie, Scully admits that all of her training tells her that she’s delusional, but there’s something about her that she trusts. She heard the same tone that Mulder heard. So Scully jumps on the wagon with Mulder: would Jackie’s son be trying to communicate with him? That’s when Mulder spots a sturdy looking janitor with the same uniform as the young man in Nugenics. It turns out that they’re a company that serves many buildings around the city. Mulder goes back to the surveillance video and spots the young janitor in an office directly above the room where Sanjay committed suicide, and the two are definitely having a mental interaction. Mulder contacts the company and finds out the janitor also worked at Saint Elizabeth’s last month. Now they have a name: High school dropout, Kyle Gilligan.
They go to his house, a farm property on the outskirts of town, where his mom meets them with an attitude. She’s perfectly aware of the things happening around Kyle’s life, including Sanjay’s suicide. She claims to know everything that goes on in her son’s life. That was a punch below the belt of my feels and Scully’s if I ever saw one. Still, Scully wants to speak to Kyle but his mother claims he has nothing to say. Scully tries once more but the mother doesn’t want to expose him to stress and he’s a minor-- she won’t allow it. Mulder has had it. He hits her with another blow, claiming that she isn’t Kyle’s real mother. The woman knows she’s been had but fights it off, throwing them off their property. That’s when the birds start gathering again. Mulder starts hearing the high pitched noise and falls down the steps of the porch in severe pain. The mother is crying now, still trying to protect her son but Scully will have none of this. She runs through the bird covered field, and finds a shed. In it, she finds Kyle Gilligan. She trains the gun on him and orders him to stop.
Mulder puts the young man in their SUV, while the mother continues to plead for them to not take him because he doesn’t know what he was doing and was just trying to protect her. Mulder continues to grill Kyle about his motivations to kill Sanjay, but he says that he didn’t want him to die-- he was helping him. Mulder doesn’t trust him, because he used the same methods on him as he did Sanjay. Kyle claims that he just wants to find his sister, and the minute that Scully mentions Molly’s name the boy changes his demeanor. He knows that Jackie is his real mother and he’s out to find his sister; Scully knows where she is.
They take Kyle to Augustus; the man examines him and tries to take his blood when Kyle abruptly asks him for Molly. His father wonders why he knows the name and Kyle confesses that his mother told him to find her, but he doesn’t even know what he would do once he does. Augustus concedes to let him meet Molly. He takes him to a room with a dark haired girl that looks pretty absent even when the boy introduces himself. Kyle knows that this is a charade and runs out of the room scouring the halls for her. Everyone goes after him but he’s found her. It’s the girl we saw earlier when Mulder and Scully made their first visit. They communicate telepathically… they touch the glass on Molly’s door and sync their “powers”, blasting every surface around them. Glass blows everywhere, doors rattle, and Augustus calls for Kyle to stop. Mulder and Scully take cover, and Kyle starts attacking Goldman with his mental powers as Molly neutralizes Scully who falls unconscious and throws Mulder against a wall at the end of the hall. Augustus won’t be surviving this.
Cut to the DOD taking over Goldman Technologies. Skinner talks to one of the agents-- they’re obviously been taken off the case and now it’s been classified as Top Secret. They don’t know of the whereabouts of Molly or Kyle since Scully was unconscious and Mulder blacked out when Goldman’s eyes “popped out of his sockets,” according to his recount of the man’s death. Skinner confirms that there’s no trace of him anywhere… but not all is lost… Mulder stole Kyle’s blood sample from the lab.
And then… 2001: A Space Odyssey plays on a TV set - Mulder’s TV set at the unremarkable house while he sits on the couch eating popcorn with 6-year-old William. There’s not a moment of this sentence that wasn’t painful to write. It gets so much “worse” or “better” depending on how much you like pain. Mulder introduces him to the concept of the Monolith or how William takes it “The Momomyth” - Alien life vs. Human knowledge. These are obviously the conversations that you - Fox Mulder - would have with your kid. One day he’ll have his own interpretation of the monolith. They cozy up to one another and he kisses his forehead. I melt.
Flash forward to a ten-year-old William in a field under magic hour while Mulder sets up toy rockets. William’s fin broke and he asks for help because “space is hard”. It might sound hacky but remember this is Fox Mulder’s idea of how his son would relate to him a grown up impersonating a kid’s psyche. This is probably why as a means of inspiration reciting the Kennedy speech of why we’d go into space would be the most natural thing to recite to your pre-teen. They’re adorable as they get ready and launch Mulder’s rocket. William wears a NASA ball cap and promises to go to space some day… but then we run into the darkness of another flashback and we hear a fifteen-year-old William scream for his father. Mulder rushes down the hall to his room and as he opens the door he sees the boy levitate as he gets abducted... just like Samantha. The flash consumes Mulder as we cut back to reality where Mulder sits at his kitchen table holding the same baby picture that Scully held earlier on.
So he hasn’t put it behind him all that much. His solemn face tells another story. Mark Snow does his duty to bring you to sobbing gasps as the camera pulls out on Mulder’s loneliness.
We crashlanded into The X-Files just over twenty-four hours ago. For a minute or two after having waited for so long for new episodes or movies having this abundance of new material almost feels like a binge. But we’re specialists at this aren’t we?
“Founder’s Mutation” is a very strong episode. James Wong delivers what he does best: a great mix of horror storytelling that will thoroughly creep out every fiber of your being while intertwining the on-going arc for the season.
There are many aspects that I liked about this episode. One of the most important is the way it settles comfortably as one of the entire series’ best episodes. “Founder’s Mutation” has everything that made us originally fall in love with The X-Files: a spooky plot irreverence gore great banter and then the emotional moments that tear us apart in a matter of seconds.
It felt like home to have Mulder and Scully step into a crime scene and fight their way through the red tape while trying to uncover the truth. It felt like old times when those discoveries led them to reflect on their own crusade leading us to suffer with them the after effects of where this torturous road has lead.
Because this was actually the fifth episode produced we have the opportunity to enjoy performances by Anderson and Duchovny that flow more easily than the ones we witnessed in the premiere. Their comfort is noticeable and the rhythm is back to the Mulder and Scully we’re used to. They’re even more interesting now that they can benefit of the changes brought by time.
This episode had moments that really weren’t for all audiences which will make me continue to question why the show was placed in an 8:00 pm time slot but this is not to say that I don’t welcome them tackling these themes. In the past even at the time of I Want to Believe focusing on topics like sex & homosexuality had always been problematic for The X-Files. Before they had been skirted around in a much more demure way. In “Founder’s Mutation” I enjoyed that they’re not shying away from what our society has grown to and are treating the audience with the correct maturity.
Likewise this was an unapologetic episode. It presented monsters of all kinds in different degrees of depravity yet still with the firm drive to show us the human element in each of them. The characters have interesting layers that make them real and not a caricature of antagonists—ones without a background story or the road that created them.
Thanks to the sneak peeks and promos we were in the know that this story would be tackling the William arc. However nothing that was spoiled before could have prepared me for what we saw in this second episode.
This is the first time that we saw Mulder and Scully so openly discuss William and Scully’s pregnancy. Just like Scully requested we were treated to scenes that do not skirt the issues even as Mulder tried to ease the blow. Not only do we witness a clear challenge between them about what Mulder thinks may have influenced Scully’s pregnancy but it also comes with more insight into their emotional attachment.
William will always be a sore subject between them. He will always be a controversial topic for the fans. Even the show’s writers and Chris Carter himself have treated this storyline with hesitance at times often causing frustration in many. However this is not the case this time around. The “fantasy” sequences that presented us with Scully and Mulder’s ideas of what their lives as parents could have been are incredibly honest and revealing of their own desires and fears. They let us know what the roots of their shortcomings are of new traumas and old wounds that haven’t healed.
Scully’s take was a bit more predictable for me. Maybe this is because we have already had the opportunity to see this pain from her point of view or maybe it’s because I’m a woman. Either way it threw a punch that hit hard when you actually saw the candid moments that she never got to experience. The sense of regret grows exponentially and adds yet another layer to the array of injustices that she’s been forced to live. No matter how much Mulder tries to justify her actions and ease her pain for making the decision she did the possibilities will always haunt her.
Maybe Scully’s final redemption will be to stop adding items to the “What ifs?” list and instead confront head on all the things that she’s skirted around for one reason or another. Every fiber of her being is screaming for it and this is basically what Mulder advises… to let it unravel.
However it was Mulder’s take on parenthood that really surprised me. Past a brief comment in “Home” and a hesitant monologue in “Essence” we have never been given an honest take on his goals and dreams as a father. For me his stance was always full of doubt perhaps deeply grounded in his unstable relationship with his own parents. He didn’t have a happy normal childhood so it is understandable that these fears have kept him from even allowing himself these fantasies and desires. I mean the man is CSM’s biological child and raised by none other than Bill Mulder… with that history he could have a lot to fear about his capacity to steer the life of another human being the way that a father should. A lot of preconceptions now we get to see a vulnerable side to Mulder that we never quite considered before.
The comparison between the two visions of parenthood also speaks of their own opinions on the decision of giving William away. While Scully fears that he could be out there suffering without her care Mulder fears the possibilities of how his past could put William in danger.
There was a lot of story packed into just 45 minutes; however it felt balanced. I will always crave more but hey… I’m probably just greedy. The explanation of how Kyle unravels his own mystery and manipulates his way through the people around his father to find his sister could have used additional support. This would have allowed the audience follow his path more easily.
When it was first announced that the episode sequence would be changed I have to admit that I had a few hesitations due to the jumps in the timeline. The effects are certainly there and will be more noticeable as we go through the rest of the episodes but in my opinion this is not critical. I can see the reasoning behind the switches thus far so I only hope that the emotional arc and narrative continue through without significant impact.
The cinematography in this episode is very interesting; Ransom does a fantastic job creating dynamic set ups and uses visually engaging angles that complement Wong’s work beautifully. I found myself craving for a frontal shot of Scully running through the birds but hey that’s just the picky filmmaker in me.
Mark Snow slayed me as usual. The pieces he created for the segments after the fantasies are just so rich and haunting that even if you weren’t watching the episode they would still stir emotions in the most stoic of people.
Next episode is Darin Morgan's "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster" on February 1st at 8:00 p.m. Check you local listing for details.