Season 7, Episodes 10 and 11: “Sein und Zeit”/“Closure”
Original Airdates: February 6 and February 11, 2000
Samantha Mulder has always been a concept. Never really a character, just a motivation, a young girl who disappeared and, through her disappearance, defined the lives of those she left behind. Mulder would not be Mulder if his sister had not disappeared, and thus, Samantha Mulder is important. But: not as a person. She has never had personhood, never had dimension. Never even really had consistent casting. She has been there when she was needed to serve the story, and now, she is done.
Why now, you might ask, why is now the time to get rid of Mulder's shadow? Well. It's not terribly hard to care about a character who is a construct, so long as she is meaningful to the characters you do care about. But lately, as the show has gone about defusing its early-season bombs, Samantha has become less and less interesting. Mulder doesn't really need her, as motivation; Scully never really has needed her. Furthermore, as those early-season bombs have been defused, the Samantha business has all been past-tense. Samantha Mulder was important: she was taken by the Consortium to balance Bill Mulder's accounts. She was cloned, likely, or used in cloning experiments. She was a piece of the mystery, but she's far from the point.
But how, then, do you lay a concept to rest? How do you make us feel bad about the death of someone who we never really knew, in seven and a half seasons of prime time television? You might have to get clever. You might, for instance, have to set us up with a serial killer narrative. Thus, “Sein und Zeit,” acts as the advance team for the emotions we've got to get ready to feel in the on-the-nose'd'ly-named “Closure.”
There's a young girl, you see, Amber Lynn LaPierre who has disappeared from her bed, at night. Disappeared entirely while her father watched television and her mother, apparently channeling something, wrote a strange ransom note. She's just a little girl, and everyone is upset, and no one knows even if she's alive or not. The parents are suspects, but the parents are innocent. Mulder puts himself on the case, his heart on his shoulder. Skinner barely agrees but he does agree, because no one really knows what else to do.
And how it turns out is that there is a serial killer, a guy who plays Santa at a North Pole-themed amusement park. He's the one who wanted to kidnap Amber Lynn LaPierre (each name another tug on your heartstrings), who watched her for hours and hours, videotaping her from his car, before taking her. Or, trying to take her.(Because he didn't actually.) (Getting to that.) She's one of many children he's targeted; when they find him they also find a field full of tiny, terrible graves.
The X-File is not in the kidnapping itself, but in the eerie circumstances all around it. The kidnapper—he barely gets a name, but it's Ed, in case you've got a trivia night coming up—is just a kidnapper, just a sick man who does a sick thing. The X-File is in the ransom note, and in two visions that Amber Lynn LaPierre's parents have. The first, her father, seeing her dead in her bed just before she disappeared. The second, her mother, seeing her as a ghostly figure after the kidnapping has happened.
Mulder meets with a woman named Kathy Lee who's serving a sentence for murdering her son. Her case, too, had a ransom note, one that said “no one shoots at Santa Claus,” the same as the one Mrs. LaPierre channeled. And although Kathy Lee has confessed to the crime, Mulder pushes her to admit she only did that in hope of parole, knowing that the truth was unbelievable. She tells Mulder that she believes her son was not killed but instead taken by “walk-ins…old souls looking for new homes.” A ghostly bit of hocus-starlight wherein the souls of children are protected (taken) (killed) (made dead?) just before they are about to suffer something horrible. Like perhaps a kidnapping, or a series of tests to clone you.
Speaking of a series of tests, Mulder's mother is on the phone, early, saying she knows he's on this case, saying she has something to say. Teena Mulder—one of the last living souls who knows a damn thing about all that went on when the Consortium was at its height. One of the last living souls, at least, until she kills herself. She has an incurable disease, we're told, but worse, she knows that Mulder's investigation will reveal to him his sister's fate. Mrs. Mulder has known for years that her daughter is dead, not because anyone told her but because she had the same visions as the LaPierres, the visions that told her that her daughter had moved on.
Because Samantha, too, was taken by the walk-ins. After being taken from her home. After living with the Cigarette-Smoking Man (and Jeff Spender, substitute bro) on an army base, after writing in her diary that she hated the tests that were being done to her. She fled at some point, was admitted to a hospital and then disappeared before the Cigarette-Smoking Man could retrieve her. Mulder and Scully piece all this together with the help of visions, and a super-intense police psychic whose son is also missing, and maybe a little bit of actual police work (done by guess who). And Mulder, for once: accepts it. Seems, even, at peace. He sees a vision of his sister happy, and this is enough to allow him to let go.
“Little” is used as a modifier for a lot of children in these episodes—they're going to try their darndest to find your little girl/just like they did my little boy. Over and over you are asked to remember that these are innocents, as clean as the driven snow. This is a common narrative for kidnapped children—no matter how much of a pain in the ass Samantha Mulder might have been, she was innocent the second she disappeared. And “Closure” really needs that innocence to sell you on the concept of the walk-ins, on the concept of acceptance. Because it's a terrifically silly idea—though perhaps not any sillier than a giant flukeworm, or some aliens—but it's also a comfort. A comfort that the show must give Mulder, and us, in order to shut down this storyline for good. Is it enough? Well. We don't always get to choose.