Season 8, Episodes 14 and 15: “This is Not Happening”/“Deadalive”
Original Airdates: February 25 and April 1, 2001
No, well, actually, it is happening. It’s happening, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Our show is getting older, and more frail. More forgetful, and more—somehow—nonsensical. These two episodes, the episodes in which Mulder returns! should be the boldest, and most wonderful. And somehow instead they are dull, and exhausting, and not half as mysterious as they would like to be.
If Season 8 has a single problem, it’s an existential one. What story is it telling, now? Why are we still watching? If we were watching for the conspiracy, the conspiracy’s gone. If we were watching for the Mulder/Scully partnership, that’s gone too. What’s left is a procedural—which is fine, god knows I love a procedural—but it’s a procedural without a backbone. Mulder pursued the Monsters of the Week because he had a genuine passion for the world’s weird. Why do Scully and Doggett pursue them? Because it’s their job? Because there’s nothing else? Because of contract negotiations?
I’ve argued already that the season would be stronger if it were entirely devoted to the search for Mulder. I still feel that way, if for no other reason than it would have delayed this dud of a two-parter. Instead of a fast-paced, action-packed, teary-shouty two-parter, we get a thing like we’re sleepily leafing through a yearbook of the show’s early years. Oh, look, it’s Jeremiah Smith, and he’s healing people or something. Oh, look, it’s Krycek, and he’s got that nanobot thing again. Theresa Hoese, Billy Miles, Mrs. Scully in funeral garb. All the prayers you said for continuity have finally been answered. But the old characters are inert, half-functional. Driving very little, floating by like ghosts.
What happens, right. Aliens dump the nearly-dead body of Theresa Hoese (abducted just before Mulder). Scully and Doggett investigate! Doggett brings in an old agent pal named Monica Reyes. Her main characteristics are: believes in “energies in the universe” and smokes Morley cigarettes; Scully hates her because Scully is written to hate every non-abductee woman who appears on the show. Theresa Hoese is whisked away from the hospital by a Millennium-ish cult leader who’s working with that old resistance fighter, Jeremiah Smith. Jeremiah heals Theresa of all of her alien-inflicted wounds. Scully, Doggett, and Reyes bust up the compound, Scully shouts a lot, Mulder turns up in the woods pretty much also dead, Jeremiah himself gets abducted, and Mulder has to get hooked up to hospital machines instead of alien healing hands.
Right around then Billy Miles shows up and he’s also dead but then he wakes up mid-autopsy and sheds his skin and he’s just like new! Suspiciously so, plus he now believes the aliens are here to save us, so that seems wrong. And Krycek appears and tells Skinner he has a vaccine to save Mulder from the same fate, and all Skinner has to do to get it is kill Scully’s unborn child, nbd. Skinner’s not interested in infanticide, but murder seems OK? So he decides to end Mulder’s life by unhooking all those damn machines. Doggett catches him, though, and Skinner for some reason tells him about everything (except the nanobots, that’s a secret between men y’all) and Doggett and Krycek have a fight which is sort of hilarious, because, Doggett and Krycek have a fight.
Uh what then, oh, right, Mulder survives, turns out the machines were incubating the bad thing inside him or something? So Skinner’s brutal act turns out to be a lifesaving act and for that reason no one decides to be mad about it. Mulder wakes up and quips to Scully and Scully cries and Doggett watches the both of them and realizes that he will never truly know the love of Agent Scully.
Something you will notice if you read that summary above is that a lot of things happen in these episodes. Something you will notice if you watch the episodes is that it feels like nothing much is happening at all. I thought at first this was a pacing issue, but in fact, the episode is—like the season—lacking essential questions. Or rather, the questions are there, but no one is asking them. Scully and Skinner are focused on finding Mulder but they’re not interested in parsing the evidence that presents itself along the way. Doggett is focused on having a pissing contest with Kersh about whether or not he should still be assigned to the X-Files. (Kersh: No. Doggett: Yes. Us: Why? Scully: Why? Doggett: …reasons? Kersh: OK buddy you’re stuck now.)
So no one, but no one, is focused on asking questions about what is Happening with the aliens. Theresa Hoese, Billy Miles, and Fox Mulder are all at different stages of a thing, of a something that is probably linked to colonization. Scully interviews Billy Miles, notes that something’s wrong with him, and then—what, does she let him go? Is he wandering around somewhere, now? What about Theresa Hoese, maybe we want to work that angle? Is Jeremiah Smith dead, also where has he been? Also Krycek, why does he want Scully’s baby dead, does Skinner maybe want to be an FBI professional for once and figure that out or…?
I mean, sure, all of these questions might (hah) be answered someday (hah HAH) but that’s not the point, the point is, you have two episodes here and they’re wasted, honestly. It’s fun to watch Doggett tussle with Krycek and it’s lovely, always, to watch Mulder and Scully have a nice hospital scene (Gillian Anderson does some real nice work in here, somewhere) but it’s otherwise hard to get behind these episodes. The pieces are there, but they ain’t doing much. Just sitting on the board in a big ol’ un-compelling pile. Deadalive.