Feb 23 2012 12:00pm

Reopening The X-Files: “Anasazi”

Reopening The X-Files on Anasazi

Season 2, Episode 25: “Anasazi”
Original Airdate: May 19, 1995

There’s an earthquake, and an old Navajo man says to a younger Navajo man: “The Earth has a secret it needs to tell.” Well, guess what, Earth, you’re not so special. In our season two finale, everyone has a secret to tell. Everyone’s got something that could blow the lid off of something else. Only the trouble is, even with the lid gone, it is very hard telling what exactly is inside.

Reopening The X-Files on Anasazi

A hacker who calls himself The Thinker breaks into the Department of Defense’s files and puts some of the good ones onto a DAT. A bunch of dudes from a bunch of different countries make some intense phone calls about it and meanwhile the Lone Gunmen visit a cranky Mulder. They tell him that The Thinker wants to meet with Mulder, only Mulder, and so Mulder, only Mulder does. The Thinker gives him a tape, says it’s UFO intelligence files, Roswell and beyond. Mulder brings the tape to work, which frankly seems sort of stupid but anyway it might not matter, because the files are encrypted. Mulder throws a hissy about it before Scully says she recognizes the encryption as the same Navajo code-talk that was used during World War II.

Reopening The X-Files on Anasazi

Mulder is called to see Skinner regarding a rumor about how Mulder maybe has some “sensitive files.” Except that’s not the only sensitive thing Mulder has! Which is to say he also has sensitive feelings! And he hauls off and punches Skinner, which goes well, if you like watching Mulder get put in a headlock. (I do.) So now there’s going to be a disciplinary hearing and Scully is asked if she has any idea why Mulder has gone crazypants and she says no, no idea at all, and they say even if you might lose your job if we catch you lying and she says, even then. After her interrogation she asks Mulder why he did what he did. He says he doesn’t know, he says he has a fever. And he’s surly to her, real surly. He tapes an X to the window but can you really count on an X in a window, these days? 

Reopening The X-Files on Anasazi

The Cigarette-Smoking Man visits Mulder. Sorry, no, not that Mulder. Bill Mulder. Pa. This surprises everyone, including Bill. The two are old chums, or something. They drink on the porch and the Cigarette-Smoking Man tells Bill that the files have been stolen, and that our Mulder has them, oops. Bill doesn’t like this at all. “My name is in those files,” he says. The Cigarette-Smoking Man nearly almost says “Duh,” but instead advises Bill to deny everything. Bill thinks about it, decides instead that he has a scrap of conscience, phones his son and asks him to visit. At the house he speaks distantly, of long-ago and far away. “You’ve never thrown in,” he says to his son. “The minute you do that, their doctrines become yours, and you can be held responsible.” Then he excuses himself to take a pill, and when he closes his medicine cabinet, Krycek’s reflection is there in the mirror. Then a gunshot, and Bill Mulder dies on the floor of his bathroom, requesting his son’s forgiveness.

Reopening The X-Files on Anasazi

Mulder calls Scully, who hears his grief and his panic and advises him to leave the scene, to come to her apartment, not his. She’s been to his apartment, and while she was there someone shot through the window, the bullet grazing her forehead. So a feverish Mulder comes to her place and she lays him down and while he’s sleeping it off, she takes his gun. She means well, she’s running it through ballistics to clear him of his father’s murder, but when Mulder wakes up he takes it as a judgment, calls her up and yells. Scully goes to Mulder’s apartment to scrape the bullet out of his wall, and while she’s there she sees a water deliveryman. Follows her hunch down to the basement and sees a filter on one of the water tanks. Agent Bitchcakes meanwhile takes a cab home. He sees someone lurking outside and gives chase: it’s Krycek. Mulder grabs him, lands several good hits, throws him against the hood of a car and demands to know if Krycek killed Mulder’s father. Krycek doesn’t say one damn thing about it, then Scully comes round the corner and points her weapon at Mulder. When he won’t release Krycek, she shoots Mulder, winging him. Krycek runs.

Reopening The X-Files on Anasazi

Mulder comes to in a room in New Mexico, where Scully has a bandage around his shoulder and a good reason for doing what she did. If Krycek killed Bill Mulder and then Mulder killed Krycek with the same weapon, clearing Mulder’s name would have been near impossible. Scully is smarter than any of us. She also shows him the filter she pulled off of the tank in his apartment building, a filter that she supposes was drugging his water and making him awful. Scully is much smarter than any of us. Then she introduces Mulder to Albert, a legit Navajo code-talker who is translating the files from the DAT. Scully is the smartest person who ever lived in the entire world, and all arguments to the contrary will be disregarded until I can examine the water tanks in your apartment building. But there’s something that’s preventing Scully from celebrating her own brilliance, and that’s what she and Albert have found in the files. They’ve found her name. Duane Barry’s, too. The context isn’t clear yet. But she’s a part of it.

Reopening The X-Files on Anasazi

So now we’re in New Mexico, and Albert says he has things to show Mulder, evidence of the secrets in the files. Albert talks in a way that, I will admit, makes me uncomfortable. It is borderline Magical Navajo, or it is not even borderline: “In the desert, things find a way to survive. Secrets are like this too. They push their way up through the sands of deception so that men can know them.” It would perhaps be more troubling if this was not the way that every man on The X-Files talks when he has a secret. It’s the way Bill Mulder spoke (“You’re going to hear the words and they’ll come to make sense to you”), after all. It’s a trick of suspense, to have your characters speak in phrases so vague that they must be specific. Otherwise they are not about anything at all. And as it turns out, when Albert talks of “the sands of deception,” he is actually being literal: there is something — a boxcar — buried in the sand on the Navajo reservation, and the earthquake has brought it to the surface.

Before sending Mulder on his way, Albert offers one more theory. He says once there was a tribe called the Anasazi, and then they vanished. Except maybe not vanished. Albert believes they were abducted, “by visitors who come here still.” He turns Mulder over to Eric, a young man, who takes Mulder out to the boxcar. Mulder drops down inside of it. He calls Scully from inside, describes to her what he sees. Bodies, alien-looking, in a pile. An image that grows more haunting as Scully describes to him what she’s reading. References, in the files, to experiments conducted by Axis power scientists given amnesty after World War II. Tests on humans who are referred to, in the files, as “merchandise.” As the weight of it dawns on Mulder, the door to the boxcar is slammed shut. The Cigarette-Smoking Man has found them. He sends soldiers to look for Mulder, and when they don’t find him, the Cigarette-Smoking Man gives the order: “Burn it!”

Reopening The X-Files on Anasazi

The boxcar, filled with bodies, goes up in flames, and season two leaves us with increasingly horrible questions. The last five minutes of “Anasazi” are loaded with hints of atrocities: boxcars, bodies, “merchandise,” experiments, an entire tribe vanished. It’s hard to say genocide when you don’t yet know the dimensions but the signifiers are there. We’ve traveled far beyond simply wonder if there are aliens, if there is a conspiracy, if wrongs have been done. Now there must be specifics, now there must be scale. Right now they seem incomprehensible. Right now Mulder seems dead. The latter would seem worse, if the former weren’t so terrifying.

Next week: “The Blessing Way”/“Paper Clip”

You’re lucky Meghan Deans is a good shot (or a bad one). She Tumbls and is @meghandrrns.

1. Lsana
I loved this episode when it first aired. Before, I'd enjoyed watching X-Files, but after this, I obsessed over it for a while. I spent all summer imagining how the next episode might resolve what they built here. And I admit I was disappointed. "Anasazi" felt like it ought to be the sort of episode that changed everything. didn't. Not really.

One question I do have: do we ever get an explanation of what happened to Mulder in that boxcar? As I recall, sequence of events was: Mulder in boxcar when CSM and goons show up and slam door. Goons search boxcar for Mulder and find that he has vanished (incidently, describing Mulder's disappearance in the exact same way that the disappearance of the Anasazi had been described early). CSM says he has to be in there and torches it. Next we see Mulder, he's being nursed back to health by the Navajo. Was any explanation ever given for what happened?
Ian Tregillis
2. ITregillis
This trio of episodes is another high favorite for me. It had a little bit of everything, plus a healthy dose of Scully solving everything by being awesome.

And although it was unclear about what they'd actually learned from the translated files on the DAT tape, at the time there still seemed promise that we might find out. I always found it odd that Mulder and Scully apparently never discuss in detail what Albert Hosteen translated for them. Even if the language in those files was very circumspect and oblique, this still should have been one of the biggest breaks of their career investigating the X-Files.
Steven Halter
3. stevenhalter
@ITregillis:I agree awesome episode with Scully being awesome. I also thought it odd that they didn't talk about what happened more.
Meghan Deans
4. Meghan
@Lsana, there's a little bit of an explanation in "The Blessing Way"--it's hard to tell how Mulder got out of the boxcar, but they find him buried in the quarry under rocks, so presumably he found some exit from the car. Then Albert's family takes him and nurses him back. Not a great explanation, but it connects at least one more dot.

@ITregillis, I agree, for all of the trouble the DAT gives them, they really only get a very little bit of information from it (also Albert translates REALLY fast). It does change the context of the abduction scheme, ties it into the hybridization discussion, extends the timeline some. But these are the episodes where it starts to feel like they're being super oblique just to hide things from the audience.
5. Eugene R.
This episode may have wound up as merely a tease, but it was a fabulous tease, at that, bringing in a sense of the depth of the alien conspiracy both in national and family histories. I like the concept of only being able to see the future by looking backward, a narrative structure mimicked by the "Krycek-in-the-mirror" reveal.

Oh, and I guess we can see why Darren McGavin turned down the role of Pa Mulder.

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