The X Files Revisited: 5.01 Redux, 5.02 Redux II
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. Redux and Redux II are the epic opening two episodes of season five that bring about great resolution and changes to the series' direction...
Season four finale Gethsemane certainly left the show in quite a predicament. Scully was dying of an incurable cancer inflicted on her by the shadowy forces behind her abduction, extraterrestrial life had been exposed as a hoax to cover up more sinister plots by the government and Mulder had committed suicide. Which was a great way to end the season, even if it did put the show in a bit of a conundrum. The first movie The X Files: Fight The Future was on its way and no matter how dramatic the ending three things were clear; Scully wasn't going to die, the hoax surely had to be a hoax and Mulder clearly hadn't committed suicide.
So the Redux two-parter that opened season five had a choice; continue with the 'lie' or quickly acknowledge the season four cliff-hanger was all a big tease and keep things moving. Fortunately it does the latter largely successfully. The pre-title sequence returns to that moment 24 hours earlier as a tearful Mulder despairs over the lie and gets his gun - and promptly discovers he is being spied on in the apartment above him. By shooting the spy in the face and leaving the body in his apartment Mulder finds the perfect opportunity to use the dead man's pass to sneak into the Department Of Defence for answers while no one is looking for him. This scene setting mostly works because the episode had to find a way to get out of Mulder's death - remembering the same trick had been played two years earlier - and quickly sets about pursuing the truth.
Redux Part 1 is a fast paced affair that sees Mulder enter the heart of the enemy in search of answers and a possible cure for Scully. All while she desperately searches for evidence to prove that her cancer was genetically engineered before she faces the panel led by Section Chief Scott Blevins from Gethsemane. At the same time mysterious Department of Defence ally Michael Kritschgau reveals that there is a mole hidden within the FBI.
The real success of the opening episode and the concluding two-parter is the sense of progression in the storyline, of the threads unravelling. As Kritschgau helps Mulder gain access to the Department of Defence facility housing all the government's secrets, he continues to tease the idea of aliens as a smoke screen - the idea that the Cold War was a 50-year PR incident centred around the real purpose, warring governments, human experiments and secret technologies 'disguised' as UFO sightings and alien abductions'- continues to be a remarkably intriguing premise and one that feels plausibly real. Even if as a viewer you still hope that it is the hoax and it really is aliens.
Scully desperately rushing her own scientific experiments to prove the hybrid cells from the ice samples match her cancer, threatens to blow the conspiracy wide open. You wonder where this is all going as she marches into the hearing towards the episode's end and starts talking out the conspiracy. Accompanied by Mark Snow's perfectly imonious score and flashbacks to the pilot and key episodes like Paper Clip and this continues to feel like a full-circle moment. It is no coincidence Blevins is at the centre here as he was the one who assigned Scully in the first place.
And it really shows them at their best, both agents using their own skills to find the truth. Unfortunately there is a downside; the over reliance of voice overs. The X Files has always had its fair share of poetic monologues but here there are seemingly excessive. Both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny deliver them with passion but it quickly gets to a point that they overshadow the drama. I also found the idea that all clues point to Skinner as the FBI mole a little groan worthy. The show had gone so far to turn him from antagonist to key ally for Mulder and Scully and framing him as the enemy in their midst felt like a backwards step.
Fortunately these quibbles are negated by all the tense high drama and there are some thrilling moments, from Mulder discovering the room full of [fake?] alien corpses to human experimentees reminiscent of Scully's own abduction flashbacks from season two's Ascension to his escape from the Department of Defence observed by the Cigarette Smoking Man. But the final scenes are the most gripping as Scully prepares to expose Skinner as the mole in the hearing before she collapses in his arms and Mulder discovers to his horror that the cure he so desperately searched for is nothing more than deionised water. With Scully on death's door it makes for a great cliffhanger going into the final part of the Redux trilogy.
Redux II is a far more character driven piece after the mysteries and tension of the previous two episodes. With Scully in hospital about to face her final days, Mulder makes a dramatic return to the living. Again the amniosity with Skinner felt unnecessary though I did like that Mulder never really believed he was a traitor and even went as far as to involve him in his quest to find the real mole.
The episode also explores just how close Mulder and Scully are - something that makes her brother Bill feel like the enemy as they both argue over the best course of action to save her life. From Mulder's frantic search for Scully when she is taken into intensive care to the powerful, emotive scene as he visits her while she sleeps and emotionally weeps as he clutches her hand. In her waking moments she is willing to take the blame for the murder of the man in Mulder's apartment just to save him and willingly follows his course of action when the small microchip is found in the deionised water he stole from the Department of Defence. This really is a story that takes both characters to the very edge, so much so that you have no idea how the series will ever get back on track.
But it isn't just Mulder and Scully who get their decent amount of screentime; Redux II sees the Cigarette Smoking Man involved in the action like never before. His rivalry with the fellow shadowy figure the First Elder comes to a dramatic head while we see him finally deliver on his promise to help Scully. We have always seen Mulder and the Cigarette Smoking Man on opposite sides, but this episode teases a potential alliance as he first encourages Mulder to look closely at the cure and then offers something just as important; Samantha.
This episode finally answers the question of Teena Mulder's affair; Mulder isn't the child of the show's villain, his sister is. Bringing his supposedly adult sister to the diner - once again played by Megan Leitch - we witness a potential happy ending. She has been alive all time time, believing Mulder and their parents to be dead. She shares a relationship with her paternal father and even has a family of her own. And all the Cigarette Smoking Man wants in return is for Mulder to work for him, an offer he refuses despite the access it provides to Samantha. I loved seeing the more paternal side to the show's villain, like last season's Cigarette Smoking Man-centric story we see him as more than just a puppet master in the shadows.
But in the end this ultimate temptation by the devil is taken away.The First Elder has the Cigarette Smoking Man shot. His 'death' destroys Mulder only chance of another reconnection with Samantha, tarnishing the joy of Scully's miraculous recovery. He finds faith in his search for the truth without destroying his principles, while Scully finds faith in religion at the end too as she faces death. The chip destroying the cancer is absolutely a deux e machina, but in the context of this story and everything they have gone through it absolutely works.
It is also another mythology story that feels like progression. Mulder 'outs' the real mole Blevins just as the audience wait for bated breath for him to announce to his hearing that it is Skinner and the high-ranking FBI is swiftly dispatched as the consortium covers everything up. The elimination of the series's villain is another shocking twist, though when Skinner tells Mulder the body was never found, you know he will be back. Given his appearance in the revival, it seems the Cigarette Smoking Man cannot be killed!
While I remember the trilogy that was season two finale Anasazi through to season three's Paper Clip as being one one of the highlights of the show's mythology, the Redux trilogy is equally as impressive. It brings the conflict with the Cigarette Smoking Man, Scully's cancer, Skinner's loyalties and the foundation of the X Files to a head in a satisfying manner and feels like a renewal of strength for the show that has floundered a couple of times to weave its many mythology threads together. A confident, exciting and emotive tale, this is surely a great way to lead into the next episode - the show's 100th.
After this we'll conclude our revisits to The X Files with that 100th episode Unusual Suspects before taking a six-week break to review season 10 on Channel 5....