The X Files Revisited: 3.24 Talitha Cumi
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The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. Now eight years after the second movie The X Files: I Want To Believe, the show is returning for six new episodes in 2016. Here at The Digital Fix, we are going to work our way through each season, reviewing some of the big episodes – and both movies – across the years in the build up to season ten. With 202 episodes, there is simply too much to cover every episode; instead we'll pick the story highlights of each year. Our look back at The X Files reaches the season three finale Talitha Cumi, but does it measure up to the previous two season finales?
One of the key ingredients of a good season finale cliff-hanger is its ability to leave audiences hooked for the following year. The X Files did this very well, with the X Files shut down in season one and Mulder apparently killed in season two (themes the show would successfully use again in later season finales). And so after the dramatic endings of season one's The Erlenmeyer Flask and season two's Anasazi the hope was that season three could end on another exciting cliff-hanger.
Talitha Cumi is a bit of an odd starting point for the series' on-going mythology story and in truth would have worked as a mid-season cliff-hanger instead. It starts intriguingly enough with a man Jeremiah Smith trying to talk down man holding up a fast food restaurant. When the police arrive things take a turn for the worst and the man shoots three people before sniper gets him in the chest. All standard fare until Jeremiah heals them all and vanishes without a trace.
Just how Mulder and Scully get involved in the case is a bit of a mystery. They don't learn about the 'miraculous healings of a holy man' until after they arrive on the scene and I have noticed at times during my series rewatch that the show does tend to shoehorn the FBI agents into a case without establishing a supernatural element first. In fact, this episode is guilty of doing that on two fronts, with parallel stories coming together only after there have been some vast leaps in logic.
That second storyline is the clandestine meeting between Mulder's mother Teena and the Cigarette Smoking Man at a lakeside lodge. This scene is probably the first time that the show suggests the series' villain might actually be Mulder's father. There is certainly some nostalgic talk between them of the good times they shared in the past. The Cigarette Smoking Man smugly claims that Bill Mulder was not as good as him in many ways, even if Teena states she has repressed it all. An argument over the secrets he has come to ask for, all captured on camera by Mr X, lead to a stroke and exactly a year after his father was shot and killed by Krycek, Mulder finds his mother in critical condition in hospital.
An incredibly weak Teena is able to write a one word message for Mulder - PALM - a reference that leads Mulder to make that bizarre assumption that his mother's stroke and the healer at the restaurant might be connected. And they are but at this point series creator / writer Chris Carter fails to make a natural connection between the stories; Scully tactfully tells Mulder his stress over his mother is leading him to make assumptions that aren't there and watching it I agreed, even knowing what was coming down the line.
This isn't to say Talitha Cumi is a bad episode by any means. David Duchovny acts the hells out of his scenes with his Rebecca Toolan's Teena - that beautiful connection established back in season two's Colony continues nicely here. And it is from that great season two two-parter that many of the story's strengths lie. Shapeshifting aliens, clones, Brian Thompson's bounty hunter and the talk of the Earth's colonisation all return to the forefront here.
I was a little surprised that Mulder and Scully don't click that Jeremiah is a shapeshifter too, having both faced the bounty hunter before but it does lead to a nice bit of intrigue and mystery as the Cigarette Smoking Man captures the Jeremiah Smith that healed the people in the restaurant while Scully and Skinner interview a second Jeremiah about the events at the FBI. We never really quite know if the second version is actually the alien bounty hunter in disguise but his reveal later on as Jeremiah escapes an attempt by Mulder and Scully to bring him into custody reveals Thompson's character is back on Earth.
Mulder meanwhile discovers that his mother was actually trying to write LAMP and starts smashing his way through every lamp in his childhood summer cabin. It is there that larger assumptions can be made as he discovers the cylindrical device used by the bounty hunter to kill clones - a weapon that could in turn kill him. It is the device that the Cigarette Smoking Man is after and one that Mr X tries to obtain through Mulder. Their latest parking lot meeting turns incredibly violent as Mulder's informant tries to take the device from him and that conflict that arose in the previous episode Wetwired reaches a stand-off. "You're a dead man Agent Mulder. Mr X warns him as he flees with the weapon, signalling what might be an end to their alliance.
The best scenes of the episode are the ones where the Cigarette Smoking Man interrogates Jeremiah Smith in his cell. Carter's strong dialogue becomes apparent here as the captor rants that Jeremiah's actions have come at a cost to their mission. We learn too that the date (for colonisation?) has been set and the Cigarette Smoking Man wants to have the power when it begins. Jeremiah telling him he has lung cancer - and therefore won't live to see it - cuts deep but not as much as when Jeremiah changes his appearance to look like Deep Throat and Bill Mulder, two people he had murdered in his quest for power.
As Teena Mulder deteriorates her son encounters the Cigarette Smoking Man at the hospital. His claims that he is here to check on Teena seems heartfelt but his claims that Jeremiah Smith knows the whereabouts of his sister Samantha adds another level of manipulation to events. Things build further in another tense scene as the 'real' Jeremiah comes to Scully's apartment in the early hours of the morning, referring to an elaborate plan involving Mulder's sister. And so with the truth about Samantha and the potential to heal Teena, Jeremiah becomes key to Mulder's quest.
Which brings us back to the season three cliffhanger. Scully brings Jeremiah to Mulder at an old factory only to be interrupted by the untimely arrival of the alien bounty hunter. It feels like quite a good weekly cliffhanger, not just not a cliffhanger for what has arguably been another very strong third season. The shutting of the X Files and alien box cars it is not.
Perhaps I should not judge Talitha Cumi too harshly but given the standards of what has come before it fails to deliver. It also starts that worrying trend of continuing to tease without given any answers. While I preferred season two, the third year was tonally more consistent and it deserved to end on something a little bigger than this.