Written by Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz
Directed by Kim Manners
In a season, which has been remarkably free of mythology episodes, perhaps more by design then by choice, one would hope that if we were going to start down this road, particularly so close to the movie, that we might be able to get some clarity. We should know better by now.
By far, the most daring thing about the new two-parter is how Mulder’s cynicism about the beliefs he has held his whole life has really been affecting him emotionally. We’ve seen hints of his anger and hostility all season, but it becomes incredibly obvious in Patient X. Mulder can no longer stomach the idea of alien abduction, so the episode plays with irony by having him deal with nothing but believers. It starts by having him go to what amounts to Comic-Con for alien abductees and shows him playing the spoilsport, trying once again to convince people of his truth, and having them be just as unbelieving as the rest of the people he tries to convince. What is truly painful about this is that one can see that Mulder’s wants to embrace his own beliefs very badly, but is just as determined to stick to his ‘new gods’ as he was his old. It’s a very painful and dark performance to watch, and it gives Duchovny some of his best work this season.
It’s a good thing its there, but the rest of the episode is beyond messy. After four seasons of having men in dark rooms speaking in ambiguity about projects, now we have scenarios where everybody is talking about aliens. We have Krycek now talking about it in Kazahkstan, Covarrubias mentioning to the Syndicate in New York, everybody in the Consortium mentioning, and now we have this fairly new player— Cassandra Spender, the so-called Patient X of the title. Cassandra seems to sound even more deluded and out-of-touch when it comes to talking about aliens— ironically, that’s something both her son and Mulder agree upon. The irony, of course, is that she is deluded, though we won’t find out about why until next year. Hearing so many people talk about extra-terrestrials should be freeing, but it comes across as though Carter and Spotnitz are simply trying to hard after all this time of being vague.
Then there are the facts that none of the human relationships make sense anymore. It was bad enough that Krycek was inexplicably into the Russian’s pocket when we last saw him in Season 4. Now, he seems to betray his current masters because he seems determined to be no more interested in serving anybody . The episode no more gives him any reason for this motivation than for his inexplicable affair with Covarrubias later in this same episode. (Which begs the question, when the hell did these two ever have the time to begin much less be emeshed in the relationship there in? By all accounts, they’ve been opposites of the globe since they were introduced) And it can’t have been a relationship based on trust, since both betray the other within minutes of meeting again. The Well-Manicured Man is back, too, and within a few minutes of learning of these new invaders, he begins to think of betraying the conspiracy that he has followed for nearly thirty years.
Which brings us to the new players involved, the aliens themselves, which we see sort of in this episode. And let’s be honest, if our only choices ARE between being colonized by creatures with black oil, or burnt to death by another group with fire wands, it’s small wonder that Cassandra and all her fellow abductees want to believe in some more benign species of extra-terrestrials. No one even tries to explain why these new creatures would burn dozens, if not hundreds of innocent people to death, nor why this would be considered a better alliance. It’s just brought forward for the sole purpose of showing that Earth seems screwed, one way or the other.
Of course, the writers do find a very valid way of making all of this pertinent: Scully. The minute we learn that abductees are being brought into this (and the episode makes it extra clear by having one of the massacres take place as Skyland Mountain), we start to realize their may be danger Scully finds herself being dragged into this event against her will, but for once this isn’t do to the manipulations of either Mulder or the Consortium, but rather the chip that saved her life earlier in the season. When she starts feeling drawn about halfway through the episode, we start beginning to wonder if this is going to an episode that finally deals with Scully’s abduction, and it certainly seems to near the end of when she finds herself at another abduction site, sees a UFO for once, and then seems to be cornered by the faceless aliens. We don’t believe Scully can die—- not so close to the movie— but having seen what happened so far, we don’t know how she can survive either. And that’s a better cliff-hanger than we’ve had in awhile.
Patient X is as messy and confused as all the other episodes in the mythos, and more complicated, too. Where it succeeds is having Mulder and Scully at opposite ends for once, and making it seem like they’re actually reaching them naturally. It won’t last, of course, but it succeeds more emotionally then the mytharc generally does, which at least is an accomplishment we haven’t quite managed in awhile.
My score: 3 stars.