Written by Chris Carter
Directed by R.W. Goodwin
One would like to give the finale for Season Four credit for managing to do something that Talitha Cumi was not able to do for Season Three. Bringing a proper tone of darkness to what has been an exceptionally grim season with a setting and a climax that are a better mesh. However, in order to do so, Gethsemane commit an unforgivable sin — a betrayal that will help cost the series its soul.
Considering that Scully is, as we have assumed for quite some time, in what can only be considered the final days of her life, there is a deliberate pain that the character who undergoes the most significant change is Mulder. For the first time since Memento Mori though, we see what the overwhelming cost of this has been to her family. One may be inclined to openly dislike like Bill Scully, Jr, but the fact remains his anger at seeing how his sister has effectively cut herself off from everyone except for Mulder — and that he is in Canada trying to recover the body of an extraterrestrial, this criticism is very pertinent. The fact that Scully does what she has been doing for the entire cancer arc—- hell, for most of the series—- and basically deny everything that’s happening around is as frustrating as always, but what makes it genuinely resonate is the fact that we she is also hurting people other than herself. She may not believe in Mulder’s quest, but it seems to have become hers almost by proxy.
And the fact of the matter is Mulder has been kept honest by Scully—- all through his meetings with Arlinsky, he does his damnedest to be as skeptical as he possibly can. The cynical part of me thinks that after everything that he’s seen he should know better by now, but through more then half the episode, he seems utterly determined to look at his ‘Holy Grail’ with the kind of measured science that Scully would be proud of.
And that is what turns out to be the biggest flaw of the episode. After Scully has finally tracked down her assailant and cornered Kritschgau at the Pentagon, he tells her a story. That’s all he does. He claims to have evidence that proves that everything Mulder has been led to believe his entire life has been nothing more than the biggest of lies, but he never bothers to actually show it to either agent. One can forgive Scully for her willingness to buy into Kritschgau’s story more easily— given the evidence she has gathered about her own abduction, she would be more inclined to believe this story than Mulder would. But Mulder seems willing to reject his life’s work—- something he believed in as recently as an hour ago—- in favor of story that goes against everything he has been trained to believe. It is a leap far bigger than Mulder is capable of making.
And, it must be confessed, it was one that I as a viewer could not accept at all. At last the series back and forth about its own mythology has caught up with it, and reached a point that I couldn’t accept at all. One might have been able to believe this argument last season, when the series tried to convince us that there was no such thing as an alien abduction. But it walked away from it, and by now has had the viewer actually see an alien or two. To ask the viewer to believe that Jeremiah Smith and the Bounty Hunter were not aliens is just the kind of point Mulder should be making—- and somehow seems to slip his mind. How does he knew that Kritschgau’s timing isn’t even more deliberate— he does manage to get him away from where an actual alien autopsy was being done, just time to have the observers murdered and the body stolen. And somehow neither agent has the common sense to deal with this
I’d say it was the biggest flaw of the episode, but we all know it wasn’t. We still have to deal with the confession from Scully that Mulder has committed suicide. What strikes me as appalling, then and now, is that so many viewers of the series seemed willing to believe this lie. Ah, guys, the series has been renewed for Season Five? There’s a feature film that Duchovny’s agreed to do? Remember? Had this even happened later in the series run, it might have been believable, but at this time in history, I still don’t see how anyone could’ve.
Oh, there are some daring things about this episodes. Daring to do a season finale with none of the regulars such as Pileggi and Davis around? That’s a bolder move than some that the series has done before, and sadly won’t try again. And the performances of Duchovny and Anderson are much more emotionally painful then we tend to get with mytharc. The climatic moment when Mulder is told that Scully was given cancer to make Mulder believe in his quest is one of the rawest moments the series would ever do. But as good as it is, it’s not nearly convincing enough to make us believe. And later actions the series will take will cause us to realize that all of this reality was nothing more than just another lie. They may have done it to get to ‘the truth’, but the cost to the viewer was great. And consider that the series would, in typical fashion, backtrack on this, one would wonder what the whole point was.
One can disagree about whether Gethsemane was the true moment the series lost sight of its mission. I would try to convince myself that it hadn’t a couple of times in the years to come. But this is clearly the moment the series stumbles badly in the mytharc, and though it will try rather frantically to claim otherwise, the footing is never solid again.
My score: 2.5 stars.