The X-Files Newbie Recap: “3” & “One Breath”
Two things: (1) I happened across Vertical Limit on telly yesterday, and I think I actually kind of miss Krycek? Where is that greasy-haired weasel and his curiously long eyelashes? (2) I watched a few episodes ahead. Expect flailing in future recaps, and not just cos Josh Lyman’s in the next episode after these.
I can’t believe you all told me this was rubbish. How dare you badmouth such gloriously corny early 90s softcore trash. Charmed made an entire show out of this kind of thing and that’s still my favourite series ever. (No, seriously. Take your dismay elsewhere.)
So! Mulder versus the vampires. Vampires are very much my thing, so even though this was really silly I enjoyed it. Mulder also managed to dredge up some folklore even I hadn’t heard of.
After a brief few scenes of him back in his X-Files office being sad and looking at Scully’s badge and wearing her cross (lie down, try not to cry, cry a lot), he heads off to California to investigate some strange killings. The body’s been drained, there are marks on the jugular, every mirror in the house was smashed and there’s writing in blood on the wall. Remember when everyone was afraid of Marilyn Manson back in the early 90s? I feel like this is what concerned parents were picturing.
A night watchman in a local blood bank is found chewing on the stores and is promptly hauled in for questioning. Mulder says flat out he doesn’t believe in the vampire myth (this is actually rather surprising) but this aversion is tested when the sun comes up and the guy is burned to a crisp in his cell. No fewer than three guards witness this incident, and everyone’s very confused. The medical examiner gets quote of the season thus far when Mulder, thinking out loud about blood disorders which may have contributed to the emergence of vampire legends, says he’d dismissed the existence of the creature itself as a myth.
Were Dana about, she’d empathize.
Mulder then goes to a rock club, where everyone’s jiving in leather. Why is it that early 90s hair always looks so incredibly dry and unconditioned? Follow the white rabbit to the hair care aisle, more like. He gets chatting to a curious woman who carries needles in her bag and says things like “I take the lives of others inside me, into my blood” before she duly ensnares another victim and heads off. She’s a strange one. She seems very intuitive and can tell straight away that Mulder has recently lost a “friend” (as opposed to a “lover,” which we all know is just silly given the way those two would be carrying on).
While investigating the latest crime scene the next day, Mulder manages to pull some prints and gets a name for his erstwhile companion. Kristen Kilar, who has previous addresses in Oregon and Tennessee at locations where similar murders have taken place in the past. He and a crew of police head over to search her place and he finds a loaf of bread filled with blood in the oven. When she comes home after dark, he’s waiting for her. Kristen is not one of the killers, it seems, but she’s being pursued by them. The blood-stuffed loaf of bread is supposed to protect her. She apparently became a vampire when she was younger because her father used to beat her and once knocked out her front teeth. The blood trickled down her throat and thus a seriously furrowed brow was born. She in turn converted her abusive boyfriend (the guy who burned up earlier in the episode) but when he made like-minded friends it all got unnatural and she decided to leave. They’ve been pursuing her ever since and are responsible for all the weird killings along the way.
Mulder sees an opening for utterly ill-advised bonding given their recent losses (bit of a stretch when the other person’s bereavement was occasioned by UV incineration) and tries to get her to come into protective custody. She says no, and the evening morphs into a very weird sort of date? He shaves, then she helps him shave, and honestly the point we must remember in all this is that Mulder is FINALLY shaving. He’s looked disgraceful for weeks. She cuts him and goes to lick the blood off her fingers but he stops her, saying it’s not who she is and won’t make her happy. Also, gross. This is so, so funky. Then the guy who burned up earlier shows up outside.
To make a long story short, this guy – John – had rationalised his vampiric tendencies earlier by saying he’ll never get old or die. The entire basis of his willingness to murder people is to stave off eventual death, because that always works out so well. Anyway, now he starts ranting to Kristen about how the rumours are true and they can indeed come back to life and she too can evade death if she kills someone who “believes.”
That is, believes in vampires. So he suggests she kill Mulder. I’m a little confused cos I thought she was already a vampire who could cheat death, but maybe she keeps falling at the final hurdle. There follows an altercation where the vampires attack (one speaks in tongues), Mulder and Kristen escape, then she goes back up to the house and sets fire to it. As one does. Mulder sits down on the road by their abandoned getaway car and stares at Scully’s cross as the firefighters tell him there are four bodies, none of which can be immediately identified because the fire was extremely hot. I don’t think bodies are ever readily identifiable after a fire, but sure whatever.
Mulder continues to believe.
This was the wackiest episode ever. Pair this with “Fire” and play spot the inconsistency.
Now, brace yourselves, cos Scully’s doing a Lazarus. And thank Christ, because someone has to save Mulder from himself. There’s some spiritual imagery where she sits in a boat and stares at the shore and has visions of a nurse who doesn’t exist and I’m still mulling over this, but the main thing is she comes back and she’s alive and well. Hurrah!
So, Scully is dumped in a hospital and no one can tell how she got there. Genuinely. She shows up out of nowhere and there’s no record of where she came from or who dropped her off. She’s in a bad way.
The doctor can’t find any sign of traumatic injury or degenerative disorders and can’t figure out how long she’s been like this. Given she’s effectively comatose, they check her will (helpfully faxed over by FBI HQ) (honestly, guys) and find very specific instructions which essentially say she’s not to be resuscitated if she’s in this bad a condition. Scully’s sister Melissa puts in an appearance, which is interesting cos no one ever mentioned her before. Last season, Scully mentioned having two brothers but said nothing about a sister. Melissa is something of a hippy medium type so knowing the very scientific Dana she might find her a bit morto. Melissa knows not to call Mulder Fox (though her mother continues to do so which is amusing) and says Scully told her as much. She also intimates that Dana is trying to decide whether to remain or move on.
Frohike shows up with flowers, and while he remains a complete fucking weirdo I’ll overlook it this once cos he manages to smuggle out her medical chart. Mulder goes to the Lone Gunmen office and they determine that there are abnormal protein sequences in her blood. While at first this looks like it could be a tracking device, it turns out to be a dead waste product. Scully’s immune system is decimated and nobody can tell if she’ll live or not.
Mulder goes back to her bedside. A dodgy agent in the next cubicle nicks a blood sample and Mulder high-tails it after him. Deep Throat 2.0 appears and tells him to calm down by very unhelpfully reminding him that this kind of rash action got the first Deep Throat killed, and now very possibly Scully too. 2.0 tells him to walk away and grieve and never look back and that he’ll live with himself, because 2.0 used to be like him but he’s learned how to be cold and emotionless. Yeah, chum, I don’t think you know Fox Mulder very well. He continues chasing the dodgy agent and actually catches him, but when the agent escapes 2.0 (who’s some kind of badass) intervenes and shoots him in the head. This is what it takes to find the truth, it seems. Only I had my sister check how many episodes Krycek is scheduled to be in (no spoilers for me, folks) I would assume he too had eaten a bullet at this stage.
Back to Scully’s bedside, and the doctor is pulling the plug. Dana’s mum and Melissa have agreed. Her mother invites Mulder (soz, “Fox”) to be present at the end, saying that his friendship with Scully was based on respect and so they too must respect her wish not to be brought back. Cut to a shot of Scully sitting in the boat when the rope tethering her to shore snaps and she floats off, and me shouting dully in the distance, “DANA, GET OUT OF THE FUCKING BOAT.” In the interim, she’s also had visits from a nurse telling her that she must leave only when it’s time, and her dad who tells her that they’ll be together soon but not now. I’m paraphrasing these scenes as they’re not exactly as exciting when you know she’ll live through seven more seasons and two movies, but as character insight they are somewhat illuminating. If Scully is present and aware throughout these visions (which she seems to be) then her belief in divinity and an afterlife and possibly even fate would seem to be very much a part of them. There’s no real religious element to it all but there is a sense of something stronger and deeper underpinning all going on around her. An early scene in the episode reveals that she and her brothers once killed a snake when they were children and the incident horrified her, as she felt she took something which wasn’t hers to take. Life, in her eyes, may be seen as something of a gift, if not necessarily one that’s divinely bestowed. But there’s certainly more to it than meets the eye. I could write more on this (maybe another season’s end recap when we get that far?) but there’s too much else in the episode for me to pause here.
So, moving on, we get a brief reprieve from all this sadness when my beloved Skinner rears his magnificent bald head. The Cigarette-Smoking Man has come to visit and says that if he’s having trouble keeping Mulder in check, they (“they”) would have no bother doing it. Skinner, master of passive aggression, clears his throat and nods at a sign on his desk.
Marry me, Walter?
Mulder storms in not long after the Cigarette-Smoking Man (whom he and Skinner refer to as Cancer Man) leaves and they have an altercation. Skinner is rather insensitive and says that if Mulder knew the potential consequences of his actions and never told Scully, he’s as much to blame for her condition as Cancer Man is. I feel like they’re both doing Scully a disservice here because she wasn’t exactly a blushing naive, though then again her rationalism may have worked against her in that the whole conspiracy angle seemed so outlandish she probably never imagined it would come back to bite her in the ass. And besides, hurting her to get to Mulder is just mean.
Anyway, Mulder gets a tip-off about the Cigarette-Smoking Man’s location. He finds him, pulls his gun, and essentially makes to kill him. “Cancer Man” is unfazed. He believes what he’s doing is right and the world would fall apart if everyone knew what he knew. He says that if Mulder kills him, he’ll never know the truth, but he is becoming a real player in the game. Mulder gets a hold of himself and doesn’t kill him, but he does go home and write his resignation letter. Skinner gets it, tears it up, and tells him it’s unacceptable. He won’t accept resignation and defeat as self-punishment. He then goes on to share a Vietnam spiel – his unit was ambushed and he had an out-of-body experience which colossally freaked him out and continues to do so to this day. He’s never been able to look beyond what he saw but Mulder is not afraid of looking into the proverbial ether, and this is why he can’t quit. Mulder twigs it was him who gave him the Cigarette-Smoking Man’s location. Skinner dismisses the risk to himself, saying every life, every day, is in danger and such is the nature of life. I am woman enough to admit that I may have a crush on Walter Skinner.
Now 2.0 (the bad cop to Skinner’s good cop?) reappears and tells Mulder that some men will be coming to ransack his apartment at precisely 8:17 pm. He’s got him a plane ticket as an alibi but he can hang out at his house and ~greet these men if he wants. The law will never prosecute them so this may be his only chance to confront them and get some sort of revenge for Scully. Mulder has every intention of doing so, but Melissa rocks up about 7:30 and tries to convince him to come see Scully. She says walking into a dark place won’t help her sister and that he should come and express how he feels. Maybe it won’t bring her back, but at least she’ll know and so will he. Help me.
He decides to go and see her, of course. He says he doesn’t know if his being there will help her go but he’s there. His place is trashed in his absence and when he gets home, he starts crying. Why must you hurt me in this way, etc.
Finally, praise Jesus and all his saints, Scully wakes up. The boat becomes a hospital bed in the forest under the sun and she’s back among us. She’s even alert enough to correct her mum when the latter greets Mulder as Fox. He gives her back her cross and she tells him she had the strength of his beliefs in coming back round. Gah! No, you’re crying. Control yourselves, everyone, please.
Later, Scully asks a nurse if she can speak to another nurse who was watching over her while she was sick. Nurse Owens, she says. The nurse looks confused and tells her there’s no one by that name at the hospital. Predictable, but still interesting. This must surely be Scully’s equivalent of an out-of-body experience, depending on how much of it she’ll remember. The peacefulness and sanctity evoked by her vision is in stark contrast to Skinner’s observation that life is inherently imperilled. I guess this helps to underline the risk she’s taken in coming back, though I have to say that going into the great unknown would probably take more bravery than returning to what you know. Lots of food for thought. And a happy ending for once! Praise it all.
Grace Duffy is a pop culture devotée and sometime film critic currently catching up on her classic sci-fi. You can read more on her blog, Tumblr, or catch her frequent TV liveblogs on Twitter.
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