Scully: I’m just constantly amazed by you. You’re working down here in the basement, sifting through files and transmissions that any other agent would just throw away in the garbage.
Mulder: Well, that’s why I’m in the basement, Scully.
Scully: You’re in the basement because they’re afraid of you, of your relentlessness, and because they know that they could drop you in the middle of the desert and tell you the truth is out there, and you’d ask them for a shovel.
One of the things my re-watching The X-Files has done is remind me of just how good the early mythology episodes of the series could be. These episodes had just a bit of extra buzz and hum to them that set them apart from the monster of the week stuff that was the show’s bread and butter from week to week. And no where is that more evident than in the mythology episodes from season three.
We get a lot of mythology in season three — no less than seven episodes are devoted to the on-going arc. It’s also a time when it felt like the creators had some idea of what the end game for all of this was and were slowly layering in elements that would pay off at the big eventual reveal. It felt like the Syndicate had a plan and it was only a matter of time before Mulder uncovered the truth behind everything.
And then it all started to go horribly, horribly wrong.
Looking back on the entire run of the mythology, I’m tempted to say that this two-parter is the last time it feels like the creative team had a good handle on where things might be going or that it would make any rational sense. The big news here is the introduction of the black oil — an alien intelligence that can jump from person to person and is trying to get back to its spaceship that is held in a silo somewhere in North Dakota. Watching these two installments, I can’t help but get the feeling the black oil was intended only as a one-time thing or one element of the on-going mythology instead of what it becomes in later seasons.
But there’s time to get to complaints (or possibly even a re-evaluation) later.
For now, I’ve got to admit that this two part episode is just about as solid a mythology story as the series has given us to this point. At this point, the pattern for mythology episodes was pretty much set. Mulder and Scully are separated and looking into various aspects of the potential global conspiracy and the search for evidence. And while these searches are generally personal for Mulder, often involving elements from his family’s past that’s unaware of, we’ve seen the stakes raised for Scully a bit as the series unfolds.
Here we’re reminded that Scully lost her sister in the season premiere and see the impact that is having on her. When Skinner tells her the case is going to be made inactive, Scully is upset. This spurs Skinner into action, saying he’ll keep looking into and that ends up with the assistant director shot in a local coffee house. In later seasons, it would feel more and more like Skinner had an unrequited crush on Scully — and certainly you get echoes of that here. (See also, poor Agent Pendrall who labors in vein to get Scully’s attention but never quite does).
The episode also ties into the other big mythology elements of the season — including the recovered UFO that Mulder saw a few episodes ago. The fact that a French salvage ship has found something on the bottom of the ocean where the UFO was reportedly found is a nice touch. It’s here the Black Oil has been waiting, inhabiting a pilot of a downed WWII aircraft and waiting its opportunity to escape. (It also makes me wonder just what the poor guy and the oil did on the bottom of the sea for fifty or so years. I can’t imagine that time passed quickly).
Mulder globe trots as he follows the Black Oil (though he’s not aware that its inhabiting anyone just yet). This brings in the other element in play from the season premiere — the DAT with the secrets on it. Seems that Krycheck has it and is selling secrets to the highest bidder.
I recall first seeing this one and the genuine surprise the show pulled by bringing back Krycheck. I’m not sure how they worked around the SAG rules to keep the actor’s name out of the opening credits, but it was one of the better surprise moments the series managed.
I also recall the feeling that part two wasn’t paced quite as effectively as part one. And watching it again, I can’t quite shake the feeling. The whole pursuit inside the silos is nice, but it feels like it’s all over a bit too quickly with Mulder and the CSM trading barbs — once again. I have to admit that part of me had overlooked how much interaction these two have on-screen.
I suppose that shouldn’t take away from the fact that just about everything leading up to that point — and the horrible fate we see befall Krycheck — is all rather good.