The X Files Revisited: 8.16 Three Words
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 episode sees Doggett and Mulder confront each other for the first time.
Fox Mulder's resurrection and David Duchovny's (temporary) return to The X Files saw the show in an interesting new place. Robert Patrick's John Doggett was too good a character just to throw away, Scully was pregnant, Skinner was more involved than ever and there was a new FBI villain in Deputy Director Kersh. What's more, the abduction, hunt for and return of Mulder had reinvigorated a tired show.
As I come towards the finale run of episodes I have had a realisation...this might be one of the best seasons The X Files ever did. It doesn't have the all time classics of earlier seasons but every episode is strong, the mythology is fresh and most intriguingly, Mulder's replacement is a great character.
Three Words is the conclusion to This is not Happening and Deadlive, part three in all but name. Mulder may have returned but just where he sits in this new world remains to be seen. Not on the X Files it seems as Kersh takes great delight in forcing Doggett and Skinner to tell Mulder he is no longer able to work on the cases that were his life. James Pickens Jr. plays a great villain; he's not a moustache-twirling baddie but a by-the-book authority figure that has had enough of Mulder and Scully's exploits. It's easy to see why they brought him back after a great run of episodes in season six.
It's also interesting that the show washes right over the slightly odd 'Mulder was dying of brain disease' plotline by having Mulder now in perfect health post-abduction. He might bear the scars on his cheeks for the remainder of the episode, but this is the hero back in the game and ready to start fighting again.
The central focus of the episode are the three words 'fight the future'. They were the tagline to the first movie and a mantra of the show, fighting the coming apocalypse, be it at the hands of aliens, a virus or shadowy human alliances. With the super soldier program emerging as the latest threat, a lone census worker Howard Salt bursts onto the lawn of the White House with a message for the President. Sadly his actions come to naught and he is shot dead cradling a disk drive labelled with those three words.
Three Words is a two-handed affair between Doggett and Mulder. They haven't met yet, but Mulder is already dismissive of this Doggett character. Even Scully's claims that he is above reproach falls on deaf ears. Still within the FBI but at the end of the line, Mulder raids the FBI archives for the disk drive; he's more reckless than ever and more paranoid. Like Scully in the first part of the season, Mulder comes off as a bit of an ass as he directs his anger towards Doggett - who again comes off as likeable and decent.
Absalom, the cult leader helping to save abductees in This is not Happening makes his escape from prison, tracking down Doggett in his home and forcing him to expose the secrets of the wider supersoldier conspiracy. The twist of course is that Howard Salt was a former abductee with knowledge of aliens amongst them. It's the next evolution in the idea of humans being catalogued through smallpox vaccinations; knowledge is definitely power and here the enemy will do everything they can to keep it. Absalom isn't actually a bad character, despite running a cult and his subsequent imprisonment. His actions are no less reckless than Mulder's; holding Doggett at gunpoint, he tries to break into the Federal Statistics Centre and is shot dead for his troubles.
The fallout is the first meeting between Doggett and Mulder and it is, not surprisingly, an explosive one. Mulder barges into Skinner's office as Doggett is being debriefed and punches him, accusing him of burying the truth and getting Absalom killed for what he knew. It certainly makes Mulder comes across as a bit of a dick and Skinner doesn't help, berating Doggett for his actions. I didn't buy it one bit; Doggett has proven himself too much to be put down now that Mulder has returned and it feels like a bit of a misstep, particularly as he is likely to be a continued lead on the ever-changing show.
Doggett even seems to get his own version of Deep Throat with the return of Adam Baldwin's Knowle Rohrer from Per Manum. Like Deep Throat and his successor Mr X, Rohrer is not a man to be trusted and he has his own agenda, giving Doggett the passcode 'fight the future' to access the secret census data. Of course, it is soon short lived when Doggett discovers it is a trap for Mulder and their final confrontation leads to the audience discovering Rohrer is more than human; he will continue to be a shadowy, villainous presence throughout the remainder of the show's original run.
"It's not fair. You've been dead six months and you still look better than me." It's a fond reunion between Mulder and the Lone Gunmen who reluctantly agree to help an ever-reckless Milder break into the Federal Statistics Centre and release the information about the alien usurpers to the media. It's interesting to see how far Mulder will go in light of his abduction; Scully won't help him and the trio - a voice of rebellion - do so only after warning him that he should leave this alone.
It's a tense final act as Mulder breaks in, aided by the Lone Gunmen on comms, while Doggett finds Scully and gives her the passcode. The realisation that it is a trap almost comes too late; Scully refuses to give up Doggett, who races to stop Mulder before he is killed; without characters like the Cigarette Smoking Man to protect him he is now a target for the mysterious forces behind this latest threat. Mulder is no longer the centre of events, showing how far the show has progressed in his absence.
Doggett saves Mulder at the last possible moment, putting his own life on the line to do so. It's the first step towards Doggett proving himself to Mulder, having already done so completely to Scully. The tension is still there (the upcoming Vienen will start to thaw their relationship) but in saving Mulder he shows that he will do the right thing. Even Mulder cannot deny that come the episode's end.
In many ways, I preferred Three Words out of the latest run of episodes. It marks a great return to the mythology, with its themes of secret government facilities and secret conspiracies and Mulder back on his crusade for the truth. But it also doesn't reset the status quo; apparently Duchovny didn't sign on for season nine because he felt it should be about Mulder and Scully only. But the show had changed. Doggett was now a key player and this episode feels like a step towards the end game. I used to think that the show should have ended with season seven's Requiem but season eight has changed my mind. With Mulder off the X Files and likely the father of Scully's unborn child, this feels like the happy ending they were supposed to have.