The return of Mulder’s sister, a shapeshifting alien bounty hunter and secret clones in this series-defining two-parter…
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. Colony and End Game mark a bold new direction for the show, setting up many story threads that would run for the remainder of the series…
With a number of characters and themes established in season one, the second year of The X Files finally saw the show get its teeth into some big mythology stories, establishing a pattern that would remain all the way through to season nine. A multi-part story in the first half, the same in the second and a cliffhanger ending that would be resolved the next year. Gillian Anderson’s pregnancy drove the abduction storyline but it wasn’t until Colony and End Game that we really got to see Chris Carter’s vision of the show’s mythology unfold, unhindered by extraneous forces.
“I have lived with a fragile faith built on the ether of vague memories from an experience that I can neither prove nor explain. When I was twelve, my sister was taken from me, taken from our home by a force that I came to believe was extraterrestrial.
This belief sustained me, fueling a quest for truths that were as elusive as the memory itself. To believe as passionately as I did was not without sacrifice, but I always accepted the risks… to my career, my reputation, my relationships… to life itself…
What happened to me out on the ice has justified every belief. If I should die now, it would be with the certainty that my faith has been righteous. And if, through death, larger mysteries are revealed, I will have already learned the answer to the question that has driven me here… that there is intelligent life in the universe other than our own… that they are here among us… and that they have begun to colonize.”
Colony begins with an epic tease, Mulder’s voice over recounting events that will take him further than he has ever gone before even as the audience watch him taken into a military hospital in the middle of the arctic, Scully rushing in to stop the doctor, warning him that the cold is the only thing keeping Mulder alive. If Duane Barry through to One Breath was about the dramatic ordeal Scully faced, then Colony and End Game is Mulder’s equally harrowing journey.
The first part gives the audience a great mystery, a UFO crashing into the arctic sea and then a series of discoveries in the investigation of a dead doctor uncovering a series of clones living in the US. Unbeknownst to the investigating Mulder and Scully is the alien bounty hunter hiding among them as he completes his mission of killing off the clones and destroying all evidence of their existence.
Cult favourite Brian Thompson (he played the demonic Judge on Buffy The Vampire Slayer) makes a thrilling debut as the killer able to change his face and infiltrate the investigation by pretending to be the poor FBI field agent Weiss and then CIA operative Ambrose Chapel. Possibly one of the most overt alien presences in the show at this point, his shapeshifting abilities fit in perfectly with the monster-of-the-week style cases while expanding the overall mythology. And here the show delivers a great Terminator pastiche as he stalks the burning corridors after killing the clone doctor – even the music has that Terminator vibe.
It also links directly back to the mythology established in the season one finale The Erlenmeyer Flask, with the clones floating in the glass tanks and the green ooze pouring from their decaying bodies exactly like the human-alien hybrids of that episode. The clones aren’t exactly the same, but the alien DNA present in both builds on the show’s continuity.
But really, the big moment of Colony is not the bounty hunter killing off clones along the east coast but the return of Mulder’s sister Samantha. The flashback to her abduction in the season opener Little Green Men pays dividends here as Mulder is reunited with her at his father’s home. David Duchovny plays the scene with great angst, guilt and relief, portraying every believable emotion effortlessly and proving that when given the right material he could knock it out of the park. It is also the episode that introduces his reserved, bitter father (Peter Donat delivering a great gruffness to his performance) and his mother (Rebecca Toolan) with a real softness to mulder developing through his relationship with her.
Megan Leitch meanwhile makes just as big an impact as Samantha – the episode cleverly sets her up as one of the clone Doctor’s assistants, creating an air of mystery around her return and her motivations. It is something that would be expanded massively in the concluding End Game
With Mulder occupied with family matters it is Scully who takes the more active function in slight twist of roles and it was nice to see her out on the edge, searching for clues of the clone experimentation and going off the grid when she walks in on Ambrose / the bounty hunter destroying evidence. And it all leads to that great little cliff-hanger where Mulder arrives at her motel room just as she gets a call…from Mulder.
With the mystery laid out in Colony, End Game really has fun with the premise, killing off Samantha just as Mulder got her back, revealing her to be nothing more than a clone and having Scully face the bounty hunter before Mulder races off to the arctic circle to get answers and almost getting himself killed.
It is End Game that spells out the planned alien colonisation of Earth storyline as Samantha reveals the truth to Mulder. At this stage those answers are tainted with paranoia once she is revealed to be a clone, though her comments were never really disproven in the show.
In another significant moment, the second episode also sees Skinner step up as a major player. He might have reinstated the X Files in Ascension but he also played the book on numerous occasions, blocking Mulder and Scully’s path and all seemingly under the shadowy gaze of the Cigarette Smoking Man. In this episode he helps Mulder with the dangerous exchange of hostages on the bridge – a scene that takes Samantha away from Mulder again and then helps Scully track Mulder to the arctic. After first refusing to help Scully, I cheered when he came face to face with Mr X and literally beat the answers out of him.
It is also worth noticing that this is Scully’s first encounter with the shadowy informant and they seem to trust each other even less than she did with Deep Throat.
And so the episode builds to that dramatic pre-title cliff-hanger at the start of Colony. After failing to protect the female clones that pretended to be his sister – and losing out on the chance to find the truth of where Samantha really is – he pursues the alien bounty hunter to the frozen arctic and a lifeless submarine trapped in the ice after losing power in End Game‘s pre-title sequence.
Those last scenes add a much bigger, more epic scale to the story and like the trip to Puerto Rico in Little Green Men, really adds to the global feel of the show’s more confident storytelling. The scene in the submarine, Mulder discovering the dead crew, is terrifically tense, particularly when he encounters the sole survivor. Yet again it’s a game of is he real or is he really an alien but this time it pushes that mystery as far as it can go before Mulder realises the truth. The brutal fight leaves him exposed to the retrovirus in the green alien blood when he shoots the bounty hunter. As to why the alien pulled him out of the submarine before submerging it to find his ship is never really explained but it does lead to a blinded Mulder lying under the fin of the submarine’s mast, almost cut in two before he makes one final roll across the ice to safety. It is nail biting stuff.
The two-part story ends in almost the same manner as the equally dramatic conclusion to the abduction story in One Breath – complete with the same score. But this time it is Mulder recovering from a brush with death, Scully at his bedside. Yet again they find each other against insurmountable odds and at this stage in the show’s history that close bond continues to drive the show forward. There is no question of anything romantic, though shippers certainly wanted it at the time; it is easy to see how five years further down the line that did develop though.
The story of Colony and End Game is another thrilling step forward in the show’s mythology in an already confident season with plenty of gems. It might have seen like a lot of teasing without any pay off in the show’s mythology but looking back now, it sowed the seeds for many more dramatic moments to come.
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