The X Files Revisited: 8.11 The Gift
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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. And then in 2016, it returned for six new episodes, a mix of mythology and case of the week stories that brought Mulder and Scully back the FBI. From the brilliant Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster to the frantic mythology cliff-hanger in My Struggle II, it was largely viewed as a success and there are hopes that season 10 is just the first of more. In the lead up to the revival, The Digital Fix reviewed the pilot episode and then carried on throughout the series, covering the best and most significant episodes of the show including the first movie The X Files: Fight The Future. The latest revisited puts the focus back on John Doggett's search for the missing Fox Mulder...
One of the most successful elements of The X Files season eight was its structure, making great use of David Duchovny only signing on for 11 of the 21 episodes and weaving a gripping narrative thread around it. In many ways it makes the most cohesive season in the entire run. While Mulder's absence in keenly felt, he doesn't just feature in the final eleven episodes. Instead he makes fleeting appearances in the two part opener Within / Without and this episode, The Gift firmly puts the focus back on the search of Fox Mulder after establishing Doggett and Scully as a partnership investigating X Files for the first chunk of the season.
The pre-title sequence shows Fox Mulder, absent for many episodes, make a surprise return in flashback, storming into a house in a dark night and firing his gun at an unknown assailant. The mystery throughout the episode is all about what Mulder was doing then and informs Doggett and Skinner's investigation. Mulder doesn't say a word but through glimpses of the past we witness his final days before he was abducted. It also references the idea that he was dying, a plot bluntly triggered at the start of the season. Thinking back to season seven, there is nothing to suggest he was a man knowing he was going to die, but the show sticks with this theme.
The show has spent a number of episodes establishing Doggett as agent that has demonstrated integrity, hard work, passion for his work and respect for Scully. Already that level of distrust levied against him at the start of the season has wavered and his hunt for Mulder seems a just one. Scully is absent from the episode not because he doesn't trust her but because he is trying to protect her reputation, understanding why she helped Mulder potentially commit a crime rather than jumping to conclusions and giving her up to his superiors for questioning. Instead he works with Skinner, a man who is now committed to the truth after witnessing the UFO during Mulder's abduction. Skinner fills the partner void but for much of the episode it is Doggett's lone quest in search for the truth and in doing so he comes to understand the kind of man Mulder was.
The monster of the episode is something truly repulsive, a creature of Native American folklore that cures the terminally ill by physically eating them and then regurgitating their remains. I've always considered the Flukeman from season two's The Host one of the most disgusting creatures in the show's history but this one comes close. Physically deformed from years of consuming the flesh of disease ridden victims, there is a moment where it elongates it jaw and begins to chomp his way through the flesh of the screaming terminally ill Marie Hangemuhl that is one of the most chilling moments ever seen on the show. Her husband listens to her screams, knowing that this is the only chance to save her and save her the creature does. After literally vomiting her onto the floor of the cave, she reforms and is discovered by Doggett as he searches for the creature. Her illness has gone and she can live a long and happy life with her husband.
Over the course of the episode Doggett learns that Mulder came looking for the creature, hoping to be cured and was willing to let himself be devoured alive to do it. But seeing the torment the creature endured, he chose instead to shoot the monster rather than save himself, an act that ultimately failed. It confirmed the belief that Mulder is a noble person, not the discredited, reckless man he was led to believe. And coming so close to Mulder's return, this is an important thing for Doggett to learn.
There is also a second conspiracy at play, as the local townsfolk, led by Sheriff Frey (guest star Michael McGrady) to enslave the creature for their own ends. When Doggett attempts to free the monster, he is shot and killed by the Sheriff in a shocking twist. It's the episode that sees Doggett become part of an X Files as his body is eaten and he is saved, awakening to find the creature dying in the arms of his mysterious carer (Caroline Lagerfelt), taking Doggett's death for his own. And that is the gift Doggett gives, something even Mulder couldn't, an end to the creature's pain and suffering.
Not only is The Gift a great monster story, it also continues the theme of hunting Mulder and shows just how well John Doggett works in a classic The X Files sandpit. He works with Skinner and the Lone Gunmen, proving that as a character he can lead just as well as Mulder and Scully. Thanks to Robert Patrick's performance, this episode emerges as one of the most thrilling episodes in season eight yet. And considering Patrick was only brought in because Duchovny wouldn't commit to a full series, that proves just how successful his introduction to show has become.