Written by Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz
Directed by Chris Carter
Among the many, many puzzling things about this episode is what the hell the title refers to. It’s obviously a reference to Stendhal, but why? And what exactly is Red and Black? The opposing sides of the war? The charred bodies of the victims of the alien rebels? The fact that the Carter and co. don’t even seem to care about interpreting the titles of their stories doesn’t exactly give you confidence that they know what the hell they’re doing, if they ever did.
Let’s deal with the high-points of this episode, because despite this being a mytharc show, there are some good ones. The sequence where Scully is hypnotically regressed to the events at Ruskin Dam has to count as one, not just of the episode, but probably the whole fifth season. For the first time, we finally get an idea of the scope and breadth of what is going on, and to see Scully at such a loss for words and panicked state only heightens the intensity of the drama. It’s one of the more shocking sequences, not just because of the damage that we see done, but because it finally drives home what the series has been dancing around for four and a half seasons. What’s even more shocking is Mulder’s stubbornness in the face of what he has come to believe— for years, he’s been trying to convince Scully that aliens exist; now that she seems willing to confirm it, he just can’t get let go of what he now believes. And when Skinner of all people tells him that, considering all the evidence that he’s heard, alien involvement seems the more likely scenario, it’s very telling as to where Mulder’s head is at that makes it more frustrating and agonizing.
Nothing in the episode is nearly as good, although there are some very strong scenes. The scene after the opening credits, when Mulder walks through the piles of burned bodies, frantically looking for his partner is very terrifying, even if we know that Scully must have survived. And the scenes where Jeffrey Spender are very good as well. Chris Owens would take a lot of abuse for playing a whiny, petulant flunky in most of his episodes, but in the scene where he tells Scully that he doesn’t believe that his mother was ever an alien abductee, we actually get a rare insight into his motivations, and feel a certain amount of sympathy for him. He may be wrong about Mulder being the one pushing aliens on Scully, but one gets why he feels like he’s being misjudged about everything.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the episode is just as confused as Patient X was. There definitely seems to be drawing of sides, and determination of a new kind of battle in the mythology. The problem is the kinds of alliances make no sense. How exactly does the Well-Manicured Man determine that the faceless man that they capture is an alien rebel? Let’s say, for the sake of argument that he got it from Krycek, but how on earth would Krycek have determined that? And even if he did, as Mulder eloquently puts it in their confrontation, he’s a liar, a murderer and a coward. Why on earth should anything he say be considered trustworthy?
There doesn’t seem to be any consistency in the hierarchy of the Consortium, either. In the last few seasons, the Well-Manicured Man has appeared to be the leader of this group. Yet somehow, the other Elders make the unilateral decision to turn the alien rebel over to the colonists without even asking him. None of them seem to be willing to explain why, or face any kind of punishment for it.
Then, there’s what appears to be the climatic scene. Or rather, the lack of it. Mulder is on a truck with the Alien Bounty Hunter, the alien resistance fighter, and then suddenly two more rebels show up. He fires his gun, and – that’s all we ever get. The Bounty Hunter seems to survive till Season 8 (assuming, of course, that it’s still the same one), we never learn what happens to the rebel, whose survival seemed vital to the resistance, and Mulder has no memory of what happened. And yet somehow, based on all of this, from this episode on, Mulder goes back to his old way of thinking. If this really was a life-changing event, you’d think the writers would’ve been willing to let us see it for once.
And, of course, in the biggest non-twist of all time, we learn that the CSM is still alive, and apparently living in a snowbound cabin in the outskirts of Canada. And yet despite his apparent death and his definite distance, he seems to have a great deal of influence in making sure that Agent Spender still has power in the FBI. At this point, we’re just supposed to expect anything is possible for this guy.
All of this would’ve been alright, if any of it had been usable for the movie that was to come. But the fact of the matter is this two-parter, for all its talk of aliens and black oil and old men gathering had nearly nothing to do with the movie that was to follow. You’d think that Carter, knowing this, might have been willing to provide us with a little closure in this whole mess. But right now, all the writers seem willing to do is to keep the franchise going, no matter how little sense it makes for the overall story.
“The Red and the Black” isn’t a bad episode. It has more action and some better effects then we’ve come to expect from the show at this point. But considering that the main point of all this action is to put our heroes right back where they were before this season started , one wonders what the point of the last half-season was
My score: 3.25 stars.