The X Files Revisited: 4.24 Gethsemane
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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. We reach the season four finale - a game changing episode that seemingly changes everything...
After nearly 100 episodes, how do you keep things fresh and exciting? Well in The X Files's season four finale, it took its entire premise and turned it on its head. Aliens aren't real, it's all a hoax to cover up a government conspiracy and Mulder and Scully have been their pawns for four years.
I always remember Gethsemane being a good season finale but I didn't realise how bold and daring it really was. The episode begins with Scully testifying in a joint FBI hearing, led by Section Chief Scott Blevins who assigned her as Mulder's partner in the pilot episode. In the space of two minutes, Scully disproves everything about the X Files and calls Mulder a victim of the biggest of lies. It is an intriguing pre-title sequence that suggest Scully has turned against her closest friend and the intrigue doesn't let up. 'Believe the lie.' the title sequence tell us; a prevalent theme across the season finale and the opening two episodes of season five that make up the 'Redux' trilogy.
The lie we learn is the discovery of a supposed alien corpse, frozen for thousands of years in the Yukon Mountains in Canada. In the same manner that Mulder was given the real possibility of hard evidence of extra-terrestrial life with the stolen data tape in season two finale Anasazi here the proof of alien life becomes the holy grail that looks set to validate all their work on the X Files.
Unlike any episode before it, this episode feels like everything is coming full circle. 97 episodes in and we are revisiting the soul purpose of The X Files; Mulder's search for alien life and the secrets behind his sister's abduction, for Scully scientific proof to back up Mulder's beliefs. It is why she follows him even to the very end, breaking away from a family dinner - complete with the debut of her brother Bill (Pat Skipper) - to help Mulder investigate this latest discovery. But it is also a turning point for them both, as her cancer brings death even closer she tells Mulder she won't go with him to the Yukon, risking her life when she has very little left. As we saw in Memento Mori earlier this season she starts to question where her partner will end up after she is gone. What will proof do for him? It is a question that Mulder ultimately can't answer and one that will seemingly break him by the episode's end.
What the episode cleverly does is play on the idea the alien discovery is the holy grail and the shadowy forces behind the conspiracy will do everything they can to cover it up. The doomed expedition is soon dispatched by a mysterious gunman and Mulder and his ally Arlinsky arrive at the camp to discover everyone murdered and the alien gone. But that is all part of the plan. One man Babcock survived the shooting and buried the alien, giving Mulder the change to take it back to the US for study. But even then evidence is ripped away as Babcock reveals himself as a mole, Arlinsky is murdered and the corpse stolen.
Then comes the brutal twist - it is all a hoax to make Mulder believe. After Scully's investigation into ice core samples taken from the alien corpse finds evidence of hybrid DNA - and the possibility that alien life is real - she encounters Department Of Defence employee Kritschgau (John Finn) when he steals the sample and attacks her in a stairwell. Fuelled by her passion to help Mulder on is quest she tracks him down in a thrilling chase sequence through a parking lot and learns the terrible truth; her cancer was given to her to make Mulder believe.
It is a stunning twist at the eleventh hour and deftly puts a spin on everything that has come before. Scully's abduction, Melissa's murder, military cover ups, UFO sightings and secret government files - everything was another dark and tragic step to lead Mulder and Scully to this point. The truth, if it is to be believed, is that aliens are a convenient smokescreen for human experimentation, secret military aircraft, made more palatable by the myth that aliens are secretly abducting people. And as as season cliff-hanger it is a bold one, topped by the final blow as Scully tells the hearing that Mulder committed suicide after learning the grim truth.
Gethsemane shows how season finales really should be done. It is hugely cinematic in style - the shots of the helicopter flying over the Yukon Mountains and Mulder and Arlinsky climbing the slopes through the snow are absolutely stunning. And it leaves you gripped, desperate for next season. Along with Anasazi, this is perhaps the best cliffhanger the show has done. The stakes are impossibly high; Scully is facing death, Mulder has apparently killed himself; the episode lives up to its title by presenting this as the final days of Mulder and Scully and seemingly showing her (at least at first) to be a Judas figure.
What was intriguing was how the show was obviously going to get out of that twist. The entire foundations of The X Files have been torn down. That's one hell of a way to end a season. Fortunately that momentum would continue into season five's Redux opening two-parter.