Season 6, Episodes 11 and 12: “Two Fathers”/“One Son”
Original Airdates: February 7 and 14, 1999
Okay so we’re halfway through season six and it’s a mythology two-parter. This is, it’s been five and a half years of mythology at this point, it’s been oilians and shapeshifters and Consortiums and rebels and even if you have managed to keep track of it, you probably haven’t always managed to make sense of it. And the thing is—they know that. They they, the people making this show, they know. They know that there’s mythology fatigue. How do I know they know? Because they made us these episodes. And blew everything up.
“Two Fathers” is anchored by a narration delivered by the Cigarette-Smoking Man to a Someone who later turns out to be Diana Fowley, that rat. It’s big and it’s purple and it normally would be super-irritating, but here it’s a godsend, it’s the Cigarette-Smoking Man carefully, calmly, slowly outlining the facts of the conspiracy. The way he tells it, the Consortium starting working with the Colonists after Roswell, collaborating and bargaining with them in the hopes of stalling invasion-by-black-oil-infection. The members of the Consortium handed over members of their family in exchange for an alien fetus; the alien fetus was used by the Consortium to work on alien-human hybrids that would survive the invasion. Secretly—and at the behest of Bill Mulder—the Consortium also worked on a vaccine for the black oil.
Not surprisingly, there’s a little bit of retcon in the Cigarette Smoking Man’s explanation. Somewhat surprisingly, the retcon involves Fight the Future, which wasn’t so damn long ago? But what can you do. One of Fight the Future‘s major pegs was that the Consortium didn’t fully realize the power of the black oil—that when they saw that the black oil created a fully new alien inside of a human body, they realized they were being used, that the invasion would be terrible and unstoppable. The way the Cigarette-Smoking Man tells it, it seems as though the Consortium knew all along the power of the black oil, and that the hybrid project was not a “save all of humanity” gambit but a way for them to pick and choose the survivors: themselves, and the family members they loaned out to the aliens.
With the hybrid project reframed as survival science, the Consortium once again goes from being a bunch of old dummies to a bunch of selfish jerks. Samantha Mulder was the Mulder family’s sacrifice, handed over—reluctantly, hence the showy abduction scenario—so that she could be tested on and, eventually, turned into a hybrid. A survivor. The Cigarette-Smoking Man claims that the Consortium’s goal was to delay the invasion by working really, really slowly on the hybrid project, which seems a little flawed—so the aliens were cool with holding off until the Consortium could save itself? And if so, why did the Consortium work on it at all, why not set up a super-sham? Missing, always, from this new information is a full explanation of the strength and/or weakness of the aliens. With all their power, with all their biology, why did they have to work with the Consortium at all?
But that’s for another time, or that’s for never, because the Consortium’s days are numbered. Cassandra Spender has turned up, and it’s bad for two reasons. First, because she’s the first successful alien-human hybrid, and second because the only reason she turned up is because the rebel aliens (remember them?) found and attacked the site where she was being worked on. The Consortium realizes, quickly, that she was allowed to survive so that the colonizing aliens would find out that they’re been successful in creating a hybrid. Which would get the invasion started. Which would seem to indicate that the rebels are primarily interested in just getting said invasion started, except, then one of the rebels (in disguise) infiltrates the Consortium and tries to get them all to agree to collaborate with the rebels. So maybe actually the play is, keeping Cassandra alive was a way to force the Consortium’s hand and get a nice alliance.
Have I gotten this far and not even mentioned our agents yet? I’m sorry, our agents. They’re here, too. Cassandra refuses to speak to her son, dear Jeffrey, insisting on Mulder only. She tells our agents that she knows the truth, that an invasion is coming, that she must be killed. And the funny thing is, the Consortium mostly agrees—everyone except Cassandra’s ex-husband, C.G.B. Spender. AKA the Cigarette-Smoking Man. AKA Jeffrey’s dad. AKA the guy who has killed tons and tons and tons of people but who cannot, for some reason, bring himself to kill his ex-wife. “A woman I never even loved,” he says. And yet.
What elevates “Two Fathers”/“One Son” above your typical mytharc infodump is its use of family, a theme woven deep and clear throughout. About family: The Consortium, bound by a secret, handing over their own loved ones—Cassandra was CGB’s sacrifice, or didn’t you know—so that they can live on in whatever world the future holds. About fathers: the Cigarette-Smoking Man chastising Jeffery for not being as good as Mulder. About sons: Jeffrey finding himself unable to assassinate one of the rebels, and Krycek—a prodigal son if ever there were—doing the job for him, then feeding Jeffrey enough information to turn him against the man Krycek will never, ever forgive. Two Fathers, Bill and CGB. One Son, Mulder and Spender, except not Spender. Because Spender gets himself shot.
But-we-never-see-the-body! Exclaim we all at once. No, we don’t, but it doesn’t matter, at this point. What matters is that Jeffrey Spender is shot by his father, CGB Spender, because CGB Spender has no use for a son who does not demonstrate—what, exactly? The passion, the get-go, the angst that has driven Mulder? The Cigarette-Smoking Man shoots Jeffrey because, he says, Jeffrey has betrayed him—but Mulder’s done nothing but work against him, and he loves Mulder. Like crazy he loves him, like, they have a genuinely touching scene where the Cigarette-Smoking Man explains himself to Mulder, then gives him some information—the pickup location where the Consortium’s friends and family will be whisked to safety—and says, “Save her. Save yourself.”
Only who is “her.” Samantha? He’s talking about Samantha, when he’s talking. Or is he reaching further, is he talking about Scully? Tireless Scully, who spends the majority of the episode working, culling evidence, digging into the files even after Mulder has given in and up. Scully, who is correctly suspicious of Fowley and who flares at Mulder’s suggestion that she not make this personal. “Without the FBI personal interest is all that I have,” she reminds him. “And if you take that away then there is no reason for me to continue.” Personal interest, or another way to say it, family. The choices you make that bind you together, like the Consortium, who realize too late that the rebels mean to attack them at this pick-up location. Almost all of them—even Cassandra—die. Only the brutal survive: The Cigarette-Smoking Man, Fowley, Krycek. And Marita, who reappears, red-eyed and desperate, inside the same facility where Jeffrey attempted to save his mother from what she didn’t want. Only those who turn their coats as quickly as their backs.
In his last act as a character who has not been shot by his father, Jeffrey recommends that Mulder and Scully be returned to the X-Files, and so they will be, but things will not be the same. The conspiracy is no longer the threat, now. It’s the rebels and the colonists, fearful and unknown. Just like family.