The X-Files Newbie Recap: “The Red and the Black,” “Travelers,” and “Mind’s Eye”

Mulder and Krycek, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I [the moment has been interrupted by a crude joke]

This is why we can’t have nice things.

The Red and the Black

(Note: it’s been a while, so catch up on part 1 of this episode, “Patient X,”  here!)

As if being repeatedly kidnapped by aliens wasn’t enough, poor Cassandra Spender may have birthed a child with the CSM. Why would you do this to her, writers? Is it not enough to periodically put Scully through emotional torture, without inflicting it on another innocent woman? Ugh.

We open with a boy trudging through the snowy Canadian wilderness to pick up a letter. It will later transpire that the CSM wrote said letter, and it’s addressed to the FBI.

The FBI’s attention is currently taken up by what’s being described as a mass suicide at the dam. As you’ll recall, Scully and her fellow abductees had been lured to a bridge over a dam by an alien craft. There were pretty lights in the sky and then the hellish fire of death appeared, as administered by faceless alien creatures. Mulder comes to the dam searching for Scully. His heart almost stops when he sees a body with red hair but luckily, Skinner, light of my life and beacon of the universe, appears and says they’ve found her. Alive! And quite possibly the only survivor of the incident.

Dana has minor burns and shock, so she’s carted off to hospital. She wakes to find an unkempt and unshaven Mulder (I appreciate these details). Unfortunately, she doesn’t remember much. Mulder leaves to let her rest and is confronted by Spender, who’s looking for his mum. Cassandra isn’t among the bodies and they’ve only been able to recover her wheelchair.

Elsewhere, Covarrubias is still out of it. She’s being kept in some medical facility overseen by the VYMGA. The WMM opens one eyelid and finds black goo swimming underneath. He goes to see Krycek, who’s still handcuffed to the wall of the ship. Alex, everyone’s favourite punching bag, is threatened with much horrible suffering unless he hands over the vaccine against the black goo. The WMM also describes Alex’s [d]alliance with Covarrubias as “misguided”, because it’s not really a wound until you’ve rubbed salt in it. Poor Alex. Probably nursing a broken heart and mentally working his way through a Whitney Houston playlist.

At Wiekamp air force base in Virginia, a craft crash-lands. A faceless alien drags one of his companions from the wreckage, but they’re caught and apprehended by soldiers.

At the hospital, Scully’s feeling a little better. She examines photos from the scene on the dam, but still doesn’t remember anything. Mulder is clutching some X-ray results. It appears the chip removed from Scully’s neck was made in a government military research facility. He believes the chip allowed the government to monitor and destroy her “like a lab rat” if the truth were exposed. Scully bites her lip. She’s not immediately adverse to this theory, but feels there’s more to the situation than meets the eye. She says, eloquent and poetically soul-destroying as ever, that she was willing to follow Mulder on the basis of nothing but his memories and faith that the truth was out there. Whether he trusts those memories or not now, that conviction led them to where they are, and she won’t go forward without them. The MEMORY THEMES in this show, lads, good lord. I could write many dissertation-length essays about the subjective nature of remembrance and its impact on our day-to-day lives.

With Mulder in tow, Scully goes to see Dr. Werber, the hypnotist. Werber directs her to return to the “night place”. Scully finds herself back on the bridge, watching the alien craft in the sky with the others. The faceless figures appear and surround the crowd, but then another aircraft appears and fires on them. That aircraft then summons Cassandra Spender aboard, while everyone raises their hands and what looks like snow (or ash) falls from the sky. Scully comes to with a start. She looks at Mulder, saying “you’ve been here the whole time?” WHERE ELSE WOULD HE BE, DANA, IF NOT BY YOUR SIDE. My heart hurts.

Unfortunately, they now have to go back to Skinner and try and sell all this. Mulder offers his government cover-up theory. Scully explains what she saw under hypnotherapy. Walter is fucking flummoxed. He stares incredulously at the pair of them, saying the extra-terrestrial explanation is actually more credible than the military conspiracy story. I love everyone’s sudden willingness to embrace aliens after years of telling Mulder to shove it.

The WMM, meanwhile, and his crew are bickering. The faceless aliens apprehended at the Virginia crash site are resistance fighters against the alien colonists. The scarring on their face is protection against the black goo. The group is uneasy. An alien war is breaking out and they want to turn over the rebel they captured, lest they get in trouble with the colonists. The WMM says they have a vaccine now so they don’t need to obey them. The group decide to test the vaccine on Covarrubias to make sure it works.

At the office, Mulder gets a visit from Spender. He plays a tape of himself as an 11-year-old, undergoing hypnotherapy. Spender rubbishes his mum’s tales of alien abduction. He thinks she cooked the whole thing up as a way of coping when his dad abandoned the family. This is only interesting in light of the subsequent revelation that the CSM is his dad. Or purportedly so, anyway. It’s hardly a coincidence that the aliens are so interested in Cassandra Spender if she was shacking up with the CSM. We’ll wait and see how that plays out. [eye roll]

Mulder heads home and finds a napkin on the ground, with the words “things are looking up” written on it. Suddenly, Krycek leaps at him out of the darkness. There follows the finest exchange since—yes!—my beloved “stupid-ass haircut.” Quoth Alex: “You must be losing it Mulder. I could beat you with one hand.” (It’s funny cos he only has one hand.) Mulder’s reply: “Isn’t that how you like to beat yourself?” This line almost killed me, lads, if I’m being honest. I did not sign up for this in my charming alien conspiracy show. The two brood angrily at each other for a while until Alex launches into a Dom Toretto-style high-stakes speech about aliens and the downfall of humanity. To paraphrase: the aliens are at war, invasion is imminent, colonisation’s the endgame, Mulder needs to pull his head out of his ass, and there’s only one rule. Resist or serve! What the feck ever, babe. Just admit you’re in love and be done with it.

While Mulder (begrudgingly) processes that spiel, Krycek goes on. Abductees are being killed so as to upset the colonists’ plans. An alien rebel is in custody. He must be freed, or humanity’s hope for resistance will die with him. Krycek finishes this excellent run of form by KISSING MULDER ON THE FUCKING CHEEK and giving him his gun, then disappearing.

A moment, please.

Caption this image!

https://youtu.be/yB6S3c7f8XA

[necks bottle of wine]

Nope.

Scully arrives at Mulder’s place a short while later. The piece of paper Krycek left has the name of the air force base on it, so they head that way. Earlier, the (actual!) alien bounty hunter showed up and broke in. When our heroes arrive, a truck is preparing to leave. Scully stops, staring at the driver’s face. It’s the guy the VYMGA sent to bring Cassandra to the dam in the last episode, but he was killed in the massacre. Of course, it’s the alien bounty hunter in disguise. While the soldiers are distracted, Mulder jumps onto the back of the truck. This goes better than his last attempt at jumping a truck and he actually makes it inside. The alien rebel is aboard. A short way down the road, the truck stops and the bounty hunter prepares to kill the rebel. Suddenly, the whole place is lit up. Mulder jumps out with his gun and shoots, but the light drenches everything. When he comes to, the truck is empty. Soldiers shove him into a cop car with Scully.

The WMM visits Covarrubias again. Her eyes are clear, suggesting the vaccine works.

Finally, Spender visits Skinner. Walter has no news on his mother, but says that Mulder has opened an X-File on the case. Skinner regards him suspiciously. He says Spender has a “patron”, someone with “a high level of influence.” Spender, looking perplexed, leaves. In the hallway, a mail worker gives him a letter. The return address is in Canada. It is the CSM. Mind marginally blown. Dramatic musical cue here!

Well. I mean. Lolz. We could *pretend* like that CSM thing was the big reveal of this episode ORRRR we could all just take a few minutes and go read some tasty, tasty Mulder/Krycek fanfic. I know what I’m doing, friends. See you back here in five.

But seriously: this was a fun, engaging episode until that silly plot twist at the end. I knew better than to believe the CSM was dead after our last encounter with him, but it still seems like a needlessly contrived way to bring him back into the fold. Unless all this will turn out good in a few episodes/seasons? I’ve seen what some of you cryptically write about the mytharc, so I’m not confident.

That said, I do like the idea that the war between the aliens has escalated. I’m interested to know when the balance of power shifted from the bounty hunters to the colonists. As I understood, the bounty hunters were sent by HQ to wipe out the clones, no? So when did the clones (the would-be colonists) become so powerful as to actually pose a threat to HQ’s plans for the abductees? The shadow of the black goo also looms, as the rebels’ fear of it suggests it’s effective on aliens as well as humans. Ahh. Vast, multitudes, etc. Always here for more about the aliens.

Travelers

I spell this “travellers”.

In which we discover that Bill Mulder was a player in the vintage X-Files. What’s that line about apples and trees?

In 1990, a landlord enlists a local cop to help him evict an elderly man named Edward Skur. They find a body in the bathtub, and the cop, startled, shoots Skur, who falls down the stairs and dies. His final words? “Mulder.”

A wet-round-the-ears profiler with a fabulously frothy comb-over comes to see Arthur Dales, a retired FBI agent. He introduces himself as Fox Mulder. He wants to know more about Skur, who’s been the subject of an unsolved FBI file since 1952. Dales opened that file and responds by muttering something about the House Un-American Activities Committee. Mulder later finds Skur’s membership card for the Communist Party, and spots his dad in some old footage of the HUAC.

Mulder goes back to Dales, who agrees to talk to him properly. Skur was wanted in connection with several weird murders. The victims’ organs and soft tissues were removed, but the skin was never torn. The coroners were mystified. Dales and his partner were sent to arrest Skur, purportedly because he was a Communist “fellow traveller”. They bring him into custody but he allegedly hangs himself the same night. When Dales goes to inform Skur’s wife, he’s startled to see Skur himself approaching the house. Skur attacks him, but he’s distracted by a neighbour and runs off.

Dales’ report on the incident gets him hauled into a meeting with the Justice Department. Cohn, McCarthy’s right hand in the Communist witch-hunt, politely warns him to amend it. Dales obediently goes to do so but then receives a heavily-redacted file on Skur. He and his partner are then summoned to the scene of a homicide. They find a withered body, killed in the same fashion as Skur’s other victims. A card on a nearby desk summons Dales to a bar, specifying that he come alone. At the bar, he meets youthful Bill Mulder.

Is it me or is young Bill Mulder kind of a … FOX. [Haha.] [I’ll see myself out.]

That’s not actually a bad likeness for Peter Donat, you know. Mulder (Snr) has a few things on his conscience. He tells Dales that there are two other men with the same condition as Skur; Gissing and Oberman. All three worked at the State Department and had something done to them by military doctors. Gissing and Oberman committed suicide recently, and Skur’s suicide was staged in an attempt to cover everything up. Mulder warns Dales that Skur wants revenge against Cohn and McCarthy, and that he’ll see Dales and his partner Michel as being in on it. Dales quickly goes to call Michel but the phone’s been disconnected. Skur is already at Michel’s and attacks him, with some gross creature crawling out of his mouth and into Michel’s.

Ew

Cohn arrives the next morning right as Dales is looking over Michel’s body. More threats are issued. Dales, determined to get to the bottom of this, decides to find out what happened to Gissing and Oberman. The files on both are missing, but an assistant says one of the names is in with the so-called “X-Files”. Dales takes a look. Gissing died a week ago and his body’s still in the morgue. There’s a huge scar on his chest. Dales asks the medical examiner to cut him open and they find a creature moving in his oesophagus. Ew.

Dales decides to pay Mrs Skur another visit. He informs her that Skur was subjected to a procedure called xeno-transplantation, where another species is grafted onto the human body. Nazi doctors first cooked it up during World War 2 and those of them pardoned by the US are now continuing their work. He asks Mrs Skur to tell her husband to come to him. When he leaves, he’s picked up by Cohn, with Bill Mulder in tow. Skur is hiding in a bomb shelter in the garden and when Mrs Skur comes to speak to him, he loses control and kills her. This is not a good day in the suburbs, lads.

Dales, wondering where it all went wrong

Dales is made to wear a wire and sent to meet Skur. Skur, still unable to control himself, attacks him but Dales is able to handcuff him to the bar. Mulder, to his credit, attempts to intervene during the attack but his colleagues stop him. They wait until the line falls silent before going inside to find Skur in cuffs and Dales glaring at them from the corner.

We then return to 1990, where youthful (Fox) Mulder is reeling. And wearing a wedding ring again, for some reason. I’m so suspicious of this. He asks why his father let “these men” dictate his conscience, in a deft illustration of how sweet a summer child he once was. Dales warns that if he keeps digging through the X-Files, they’ll bury him too. Chortle! How prophetic. Mulder is still wondering why Skur died saying his name. Dales says someone “with a conscience” probably released Skur, in the hope that the truth might someday be exposed. A flashback shows Bill Mulder driving Skur to the middle of nowhere and handing him the car keys. Bill was definitely a good egg before he was a bad one.

This was an interesting episode! A fun little detour into older, more heated times when paranoia was the opium of the masses and everyone was as shifty and suspicious as the Lone Gunmen are now. The link to the Communist witch-hunt is notable, actually, as it gave the government such an obvious means of discrediting anyone who posted a threat. That fallback then became the Cold War, and so on in an endless cycle of playing people’s fears and uncertainties about outsiders against them. Similarly, Skur’s being subjected to such a horrible procedure reflects everything that happened to Scully and her fellow abductees. The government has form in using people as unwitting test subjects in a mass, immoral clinical trial. All this makes for an episode that’s equal parts pulpy crime thriller and vintage sci-fi, and manages to add a few notes to the mytharc too. Oh, and as you can see above, young Skur was played by Garret Dillahunt! Another guest star destined for greatness.

Mind’s Eye

This was also a good ‘un. Solid week, this, with a string of murkily engrossing episodes and characters.

In “Mind’s Eye”, a blind woman is suspected of killing a drug dealer. She’s found at the crime scene, covered in blood and apparently attempting to hide the evidence. The lead detective, Pennock, seeks Mulder and Scully’s help. The murder weapon is missing, meaning they only have 48 hours to come up with tangible evidence of her guilt. Pennock believes the woman, Marty, has some kind of sixth sense which offsets her blindness. She has a juvenile record for drug offences and he’s absolutely convinced she’s their perp.

Mulder and Scully agree to help out and come to question Marty. She’s surly and arrogant, freely conceding details of the murder without actually confessing. Scully reckons she is guilty, and asks to inspect the crime scene. She and Pennock head off while Mulder, who as usual is not convinced, decides to give Marty a polygraph test. Her answers all check out, but the machine seems to spike whenever anyone mentions her “seeing” something. Unbeknownst to them, Marty is indeed able to see, but only in her mind’s eye. She has visions of a killer trekking around the city and threatening people. While in custody, she sees a woman in a bar being harassed and demands her phone call. She calls the bar, asks to speak to the killer and warns him to leave the woman alone.

Mulder and Scully discuss the case. Scully found a bloodied glove at the crime scene and sent it for testing.

When Mulder mentions that Marty has never claimed any benefits for her disability, Scully begins to wonder if she’s actually blind. They decide to get Marty’s sight tested. This confirms she can’t see, but during the test Marty has another vision. This causes some brief activity in her pupil, which Mulder spots on the machine.

None of this is evidence enough to keep her in custody though, so the DA orders that she be released. Marty is on her way home when she has another vision. The killer is attacking a woman in an alleyway. Marty asks for help and is escorted to the alleyway by a passer-by. Unfortunately, she’s too late, as the woman’s body has already been dumped. Marty walks back to the police station and confesses.

The killer is in some hot water himself. He has a stash of drugs hidden in a locker but his buyer isn’t interested any more. In one of her visions, Marty sees where the drugs are hidden. The cops and Mulder head to the scene and find the stash. In the meantime, Mulder’s formulated a theory that Marty can somehow see the murders as they happen. She keeps showing up at the crime scene cos she’s trying to stop them. Scully then calls with the results of tests on the glove. The blood on it doesn’t belong to Marty, which makes everything more complicated. Mulder, more suspicious than ever, decides to do some research. He digs out some files on Marty and then goes back to the jail to talk to her. It transpires that the killer Marty sees in her visions murdered her mother. She was pregnant with Marty at the time and doctors were just able to save the baby, but she was born blind. Mulder believes the incident created a connection between Marty and her father, the killer. She sees his crimes and feels responsible, but she isn’t. Mulder asks for her help in finding her dad and bringing him to justice.

The police pull prints off the locker they found the drugs in. This reveals the killer to be a recently-paroled convict named Charles Wesley Gotts. He’s been in prison since 1970 but disappeared shortly after being released a few weeks earlier. The blood on the glove also matches his, and proves that he’s Marty’s father. Marty agrees to help them catch him.

Mulder and Scully go to the bar Marty saw in her vision. However, Gotts comes to Marty’s place. She sees him coming and quickly knocks Pennock out, taking his gun. When Gotts enters her apartment, she sees herself through his eyes and shoots him.

At the end, Mulder visits her in prison. I strongly feel she shouldn’t be in prison given this killing bore all the hallmarks of self-defence, but whatever. Mulder asks if she’s OK. She says she’s fine, and hasn’t had any more visions. Instead, she sees the ocean whenever she closes her eyes, cos Gotts went to Atlantic City once and she was able to see it through him. That’s quite sweet. A relatively uplifting ending for a bleak story.

This was a good entry in the show’s procedural diaries, and featured a typically great guest performance from Lilli Taylor as Marty. The story itself is probably a little flimsy but it’s good to see Mulder sticking up for the afflicted once again. It’s been a while since we saw that earnest sense of justice come to the fore.

And now, back to my fanfic stash. [maniacal laughter] See you next week, friends!

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 Tumblr or catch her frequent TV liveblogs on Twitter.

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