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The X-Files Newbie Recap: “Talitha Cumi” & “Herrenvolk”

For Mr. X: "Think of me softly when you say goooodbyeeee"

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THE ALIEN BOUNTY HUNTER’S BACK!

But Mr. X is dead.

I guess this is what they call swings and roundabouts.

:(

Talitha Cumi

I was hoping someone might have dug up Ratboy by now but it appears he’s still trapped in the basement with the ship. Hello darkness, my old friend. Can anyone tell me – a simple yes or no, no spoilers – if Ratboy does reappear? I want more out of that plot thread.

Right, so, craic galore in these episodes. I fuckin’ love this bounty hunter storyline. He’s so smooth and lethal and unkillable and he just. keeps. coming. Much like the killer in It Follows, he too represents a gnawing fear of the inevitability of death but he looks so much cooler doing it. I’ve had a look over my previous recaps of this storyline (see “Colony” and “End Game”) to make sure I remember everything well so let’s get to it!

We open with a dude shooting people up in a café. An old man with a velvetine voice steps forward and attempts to talk him down, then heals the two shooting victims and the shooter himself after he’s hit by police. The healer then disappears from right under the police’s noses after giving his name as Jeremiah Smith. Boom.

Jeremiah

Up in Rhode Island, Mrs Mulder meets the CSM at what looks like a summer house. We later learn that she summoned him there. They have a heated conversation as Mr. X takes photos from a discreet distance. Sometime after the CSM leaves, Mrs Mulder takes a stroke and is rushed to hospital. Mulder hurries to her side. She’s lucid enough to write the word “palm” on a piece of paper before being moved to another hospital. Mulder wonders if there’s a correlation between what she wrote and the incident at the café. The healer was described as having cured people by laying the palm of his hand on their wounds. Scully warns there’s no way of knowing what it means, as Mrs Mulder’s mental capacities may have been severely affected by the stroke. We later learn Mr. X is the one who called the ambulance for Mulder’s mum. Can we all sob a little? Please.

Mulder and Scully head back to HQ and review tapes of the café incident. They spot Smith on one of the tapes, speaking to an officer. Someone passes across the screen and next thing Smith’s appearance has changed, although he’s wearing the same clothes. My sister noticed the clothes thing before I did. She would like credit for same, as it was my first clue this was the bounty hunter back for a reckoning. I fistpumped when he reappeared properly. I’m not gonna lie.

Elsewhere, a bunch of the CSM’s cronies arrive in a social security administration office and take a man who looks just like Jeremiah prisoner. Jeremiah is evidently one of the clones we heard about in “Colony” and “End Game”, which explains why the bounty hunter is after him. The CSM has Jeremiah wrapped up and taken to an underground prison, where he proceeds to interrogate him. The conversation is mystifying. We’ll come back to this later.

At FBI HQ, another Jeremiah Smith arrives to give a statement, indicating that there’s been some kind of misunderstanding. He claims not to remember anything but says it felt like having an out of body experience. Actual victims-of-out-of-body-experiences Scully and Skinner share a loaded look, regard him suspiciously and send him on his way with a caveat to stay in the locality. Mulder, meanwhile, is up at the summer house in Rhode Island. Apparently his family used to spend summers there when he was a child but his mother refused to ever come back after she and his dad got divorced. Mr. X arrives behind him. He tells Mulder about his mother arguing with the CSM and gives him photos of the incident. He says the CSM was looking for something, but doesn’t know what it might be. Mulder tears the place apart but finds nothing of note. He takes out the paper saying “palm” again and, remembering what Scully said about his mum’s mind being a bit jumbled, wonders if she meant to write “lamp” instead. He duly proceeds to smash up all the lamps in the house, eventually recovering a small silver implement. It’s the stabby thing the bounty hunter used to kill the clones! And it was right under his nose the whole time. A moment’s silence for the many lamps which died to bring us this information.

Mulder hightails it back to HQ and storms into Skinner’s office, demanding that he summon the CSM. Skinner says he can no longer do that. Scully, who was already there, tells Mulder that Jeremiah gave a statement. She and Mulder go to the same social security office we saw before, where yet another Jeremiah is working. They attempt to bring him into custody but he escapes into a crowd of people, shifting appearance so they don’t recognise him. I was wondering why he could shape shift when he was one of the clones but of course this particular one turns out to be the bounty hunter. We learn as much when he appears outside the prison where the actual Jeremiah’s being held and reverts back to his regular appearance.

The bounty hunter's back!

Hey boo

Mulder goes back to the hospital. The CSM arrives and an argument ensues. The CSM says Mulder’s mum asked to meet with him and may have been looking for information about Samantha. He says he’s known his mum since before Mulder was born, and he just came to visit her. Bollocks. To be frank. Mulder resists the impulse to murder him and lets him go. When he arrives back at FBI HQ, he gets into a scuffle with Mr. X. Mr. X tells him the weapon is the only way they can kill the aliens, but Mulder refuses to hand it over. Fisticuffs ensue. Again. As if Mulder has half a chance of besting the fucking Terminator that is Mr. X in combat (although he is not immune to bullets, as we shall sadly later see). The fight ends when both pull their guns on one another and Mulder manages to back away, with Mr. X warning him he’s a dead man.

Scully, for her part, has been doing some research. She discovers at least five Jeremiah Smiths living in multiple states and realises they all look the same. When she heads home later, one of them appears outside her door. She cautiously lets him in. He asks to speak to Mulder, saying he has important information. Mulder, a man known for his impeccable timing, calls midway through this conversation and asks them both to meet him at a facility off the I-95. Away they go, but before they can say anything the bounty hunter arrives with stabby thing in hand. There concludes the episode and the season (three down! Six to go), but I’ve saved the two most IMPORTANT parts of this episode til last so let’s review those now.

The interrogation scenes. I’ve been puzzling about these all afternoon. They’re tense and loaded and full of weird pointed metaphors, not all of which I’m sure I fully understand. It’s something other than Kylo Ren to preoccupy me, I guess, at least until I see The Force Awakens again. (Yes hi, I’m in the trash pile. He has great hair. Come join me!)

The basic jist is this: the CSM accuses Jeremiah, in healing the shooting victims, of putting his feelings ahead of The Project. Jeremiah says he no longer believes in The Project. The CSM starts talking about science and religion, saying science has supplanted God in the eyes of the people. They must never believe in anything other than science if The Project is to go forward. The alien shapeshifts into Deep Throat, asking him how many people he’ll kill to keep things secret.

In a second interrogation a little while later, the CSM again references God. He says people no longer believe in God, but they are afraid of Him. This fear compels them to place trust in authorities like him and his vague yet menacing government agency, because it appeases their conscience. In turn, the authority can slowly erode their freedom by manipulating their trust. People can’t be trusted with their own freedom because they’re weak and stupid and heil HYDRA, apparently. Jeremiah, a Stucky fan, shapeshifts into Bill Mulder and tells him (in a nice visual nod to Mulder’s dogged pursuit of truth and justice) that he can’t kill everyone or the love which makes humans who they are. He then says the CSM has lung cancer, and the reason he’s so protective of The [Infernal] Project is cos he wants to be one of the higher-ups with the aliens calling the shots.

Jeremiah as BillRight you are, so.

Let’s decode. Firstly, I find it interesting that the CSM is visibly unnerved by the shapeshifting. If he’s involved with The Project, which is presumably this specific branch of aliens’ plans to colonise Earth, then he mustn’t have had too many direct encounters with them or he wouldn’t be so freaked out by Jeremiah’s powers. I mean, it could be that Jeremiah turned himself into Deep Throat and Bill Mulder to guilt-trip him but the CSM is naught if not a cold-hearted bastard and I don’t think he’d be taken in by sentiment, even if an actual embodiment of all his past wrongs suddenly appears right before him. If guilt got to him in even a tiny way, he’d have a lot more difficulty looking Mulder in the eye. Surely.

I dislike you

I dislike you

Also, his spiel about religion is fascinating. If you want to talk about people putting faith in science over religion, I think you’re in the wrong country, mate. Faith in science isn’t what has a good 30% of Americans believing climate change is all made up. (I know skeptics exist in every country; just singling out the US here cos that’s where the show is set.) Besides, have you met Dana Scully? There are people out there with active faith in both. I do however like the implication that people believe out of a sense of fear rather than hope. Fear is a highly effective motivator, as we all know, and as – yes! – The Winter Soldier discussed in more detail, when people are frightened enough they’ll give authority to their government to do whatever it takes to protect them. Sure, they’re being misled, but they can still pretend to themselves that it’s all for the right reasons. But how exactly is the CSM planning on using science to sell alien colonisation to people?! No offence friend, but this plan is ludicrous. They’re clones. They shapeshift. Their blood is toxic and there’s a huge ice-cool assassin picking them off one by one with a pocket version of an ice pick. What the feck. Are you gonna package some medical advancements and claim they made them possible, and for this reason we should let them all assimilate? Maybe that’s the point of the whole smallpox vaccination spiel. Or is it meant to be more insidious? People will accept whatever random explanation they’re given for mysterious events because it’s easier than considering the alternative? Even at that, clones and shapeshifting might be pushing it. I have no idea what’s going on. The CSM is a very strange, stupefying, and utterly ridiculous man.

Let’s move on.

Fun fact: apparently “talitha cumi” is taken from a Bible verse where Jesus resurrects a small girl. Noteworthy. Scully could have told me this, no doubt.

Herrenvolk

This however means “master race”, as in the Nazi version. Nope.

We open with an electrician climbing a telegraph pole and being stung by a bee as five identical blonde boys look on. He starts writhing in agony and plummets to the ground to die. That bee was a wasp, unless Canada has some very strange bees. Tracker jackers anyone?

Back to the cliffhanger from the previous episode. Mulder and Jeremiah bolt from the bounty hunter. Scully tries to step between them, but the bounty hunter shoves her out of the way. After a chase through a warehouse, Mulder manages to surprise the assassin and stab him with the alien weapon in the back of the neck. He collapses, apparently dead. Mulder races after Jeremiah, who’s attempting to flee in a boat. He wants him to come back to the hospital and cure his mum. Jeremiah says he can’t; the CSM will be waiting for them. Instead, he convinces Mulder to come away and see something which involves his sister. Of course it involves his sister. Damn these aliens, to be honest. They always know which exact button to push. Scully’s left to watch them literally sail off into the night, and as if that wasn’t bad enough the bounty hunter suddenly comes to and takes her hostage. Again! Bravo.

Jeremiah and Mulder head to Canada, where the former shows him a pile of crops. Fascinating, mate. The crops are being tended to by a bunch of clone children – the blonde boys from the start of the episode, and girls who all look like Samantha. The kids don’t talk and there are no adults around. Mulder has a relatively calm and dignified freak-out but before they can do anything the bounty hunter rolls up, having eavesdropped on a call Mulder made to Scully earlier. One of the Samantha clones leads Jeremiah and Mulder to a hidden compartment which looks just like a bee hive. The bee metaphors are getting a bit on the nose here, lads. Jeremiah warns Mulder he won’t be immune to the bees. Mulder pours petrol over himself, as one does, and they sneak inside. The bounty hunter follows them, but they manage to get the jump on him and he ends up engulfed in bees. I’ve just realised how utterly ridiculous this sounds out of context. Anyone have that Nicholas Cage/Wicker Man meme to hand?

Not-Samantha 2.0

Back in DC, the CSM and his cronies are hovering about Mrs Mulder’s bedside. Mulder and Jeremiah have botched their plans by not showing up. One of the cronies has copies of the photos Mr. X took of the CSM and Mrs Mulder at the summer house. He suspects a security leak and suggests they “plant” information to coax the mole out of hiding. The CSM, who apparently didn’t suspect Mr. X at all (this honestly surprised me), agrees and a decision is made to circulate a rumour that Mrs Mulder is being left “unprotected” and will shortly be dead.

Scully gets back to FBI HQ. Pendrell, bless his heart, has downloaded several ~10GB hard drives’ worth of material (LOL) from work computers belonging to the various Jeremiah Smiths. Some of the data appears to be encrypted. Scully takes a copy and heads to Mulder’s apartment. She places an X in the window but Mr. X is already outside. He says he’s been looking for Mulder to tell him something important about his mother. (Eep!) Scully demands he help her with the data. The encrypted information is basically a series of alphanumeric codes, each beginning with “SEP”. The most Mr X is willing to impart is that “SEP” stands for smallpox eradication programme. Well. Science and faith, was it? The CSM might have taken out that arsehole who started the autism and MMR rumour and done us all a favour.

Professor Scully

Scully, armed with this information, goes back to Pendrell. Through some complicated sciencing and a biopsy of the smallpox vaccination scar on her arm, she eventually concludes that the data refers to the location of a specific protein in her body. She presents this to Skinner and a contingent of FBI higher-ups as evidence that someone is cataloguing all those who have been vaccinated in the US. They check their drinks for roofies and say this is the kind of thing they’d expect from Mulder, not her. In private, Skinner says WTF. Scully, not one to be dissuaded, asks if this isn’t why she was assigned to the X-Files: to put Mulder’s wilder notions under scientific scrutiny. Next thing, Mulder calls, demonstrating once more his impeccable timing. He says he’s on his way back to see his mum. He has Jeremiah and one of the Samantha clones with him, though he doesn’t mention Samantha to Scully. The bounty hunter, armed with impeccable timing of his own, appears again and crashes a van right into them.

Mulder, who narrowly jumped clear of the van, attempts to bargain for Jeremiah’s life. The bounty hunter refuses, saying he (Jeremiah) is inconsequential to the Final Plan and is essentially cherry-picking the information he gives to Mulder anyway. He then throws Mulder to one side before (presumably) killing the Samantha clone and Jeremiah.

Back in DC, Scully, Skinner, and a group of agents are camped outside Mrs Mulder’s hospital bed. They’ve been waiting for Mulder to show up for hours and everyone’s getting antsy. When he finally does arrive, freezing and quite possibly in shock, he starts sobbing by his mum’s bed, saying he’s lost his only chance to save her. He wails about how he’s seen too much not to believe, and questions how Scully can put such faith in science. Scully says nothing happens in contradiction of nature, just in contradiction of our understanding of it. I cry. She’s so poetic. She says all they need is to hope for a place to start, and she believes they both know someone who can point them in the right direction.

I cry more. Dana, you sweet summer child. Mr. X is no more.

Our heroic duplicitous informant arrives at Mulder’s apartment, answering the call of the X in the window. The door is open. He’s suspicious. He goes to leave, but when he reaches the lift is shot by one of the CSM’s cronies. I’m surprised he wasn’t wearing a vest tbh, what with his well-documented fear of death. He manages to drag himself down the hall, leaving a trail of blood, and dies on Mulder’s doorstep having carved out the letters “SRSG” in his own blood. This is fucking awful. I really liked Mr. X :(((

First Queequeg and now this

First Queequeg and now this

These letters lead Mulder to the UN in the final scenes. Apparently SRSG stands for Special Representative to the Secretary-General, as Mulder’s greeted by Marita Covarrubias (Laurie from The Walking Dead!), said Special Rep’s assistant. She tells him the Canadian farmland he’s been looking for information about is abandoned and there’s no evidence of a bee hive anywhere. When Mulder basically breaks down in horror, she slips him a folder containing photos of the crops and the child clones. “Not everything dies,” she says ominously. Christ. I’m so tired. Mulder, let’s go take a nap for a few months.

As if that wasn’t a heavy enough ending, we cut to the bounty hunter arriving at the hospital. His expression is different. He comes into Mrs Mulder’s room and looks all concerned, but just when I thought he was gonna be a good guy of his own accord and save her it’s revealed the CSM is the one who summoned him. I mean, poo. THIS GUY IS SO ANNOYING WHY DOES HE HAVE A FINGER IN EVERY EFFING PIE [expletives]

I REALLY dislike you

I REALLY dislike you

The CSM wants him to heal Mrs Mulder. The bounty hunter needs to know why. These aliens’ concept of justice is fascinating to me. Jeremiah had made a big deal out of whether “justice” – his being executed by the CSM – was warranted, and the bounty hunter needs some kind of reassurance before he’ll heal Mrs Mulder. The CSM says she can’t die because basically that would mean Mulder has nothing left to lose, and that would make him too dangerous. He’s too important a part of the final equation for that to happen. This is enough for the bounty hunter, who dutifully heals Mrs Mulder before we fade to black.

Sound.

Everything is awfullll, X-Files edition. Guys, what. I’m so tired. Why is this happening to me. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do wonderfully enigmatic black ops types bite the dust when they fall for an orchestrated ruse? Why do morally ambiguous bounty hunters suddenly become very black and white when the CSM enters the picture? If he can summon bounty hunters is he not *already* one of the commandants that Jeremiah mentioned in the last episode? How many alien subplots can one man be involved in anyway? No wonder he smokes so much, he clearly has no time to ever eat. Or sleep. Or have a life outside of conspiring and murdering and planting moles and killing informants. He mentioned spending summers with the Mulders at their getaway house last episode. In what universe did you have the time, mate? Or the disposition? Please don’t turn out to have secretly been in love with Mrs Mulder the whole time or I’ll vomit everywhere.

And more importantly, would you not send someone to dig up Ratboy, for Christ’s sake?! PRIORITIES, PLEASE.

I’m entering a prolonged mourning period for Mr. X. Someone please come and massage my brain. That blood train was way, way too much.

Well, Merry Christmas to all! I guess. Next up is the infamous “Home”. Pray for me. It’s gonna be a rough few days.

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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