2x05: Duane Barry
So this agent is a terrible hostage negotiator. I'm just putting that out there. Geez.
"That man is afraid, and the only way you're going to win his trust is by trying to understand what he's afraid of." - Can the approach Mulder elucidates be extended to the method the conspiracy uses on him to win his trust?
Krycek is a rat bastard. But we already knew that, didn't we? (I did.)
The suiting up of Mulder is awesome. And in a way it reinforces how young he still is. (But I'm a sucker for this kind of scene.)
What Mulder tries to do with Duane Barry? (talking to people who've been overlooked or ignored) - this is what Mulder does. This is why he pursues the truth, even if he doesn't consciously realize it yet. Is this what makes him different from X? Is this what they think is his weakness is and ultimately what makes him who he is? (Compare and contrast this with X later in 1 breath, and did X end up in the game to find out the truth for "the truth" or because of the people it impacts?
The idea of Scully in Mulder's ear (and vice versa) is an extremely powerful one. I love this.
**Mulder believed him**. I cannot stress that enough. Mulder believed - wanted to believe - that Barry was really an abductee and that he was telling the truth.
Maggie verifies that Dana isn't really "a believer" but she (Maggie) is, at least somewhat. (We will, of course, later get Melissa at the other end of that continuum.)
The really fascinating question is how much of Duane Barry's experiences, escape, and actions in these episodes is orchestrated by the Consortium to get Scully out of the picture? (The music playing in Barry's car reinforces that - Nick Cave's Red Right Hand.)
The level of aggression Mulder shows to Barry is so very antithetical to his usual character. Scully is usually the more aggressive one, but if anything is going to drive either of the two of them to violence, it's going to be the endangerment of the other one.
Krycek seems to doubt his mission, which is interesting.
This episode really shows scope. There's a really impressive shadow war going on in in the background.
"They have something on everyone" - so what is it? What do they have on, say, Skinner? Or Krycek? Or X? How did all these people come to be involved in the conspiracy?
Note the changed episode header, which is an odd choice for a stand-alone episode, even given that it's happening in the middle of the major Scully-Abduction arc. (DENY EVERYTHING)
Skinner wants to protect Mulder.
Skinner also gives Mulder back the X-Files.
Mulder falls back on his profiler training to deal with going back into the X-Files alone. So where is Mulder's head? He's dulled. His speech, his countenance - he looks like he's in a stupor and sort of on autopilot, at least until the case gets "interesting" when the guy supposedly dies of burns in the cell. He played a hard card with the suspect's delusion, but honestly didn't think it would hurt the guy. He really believed it was a psychological artifact.
Sidenote: we had a very different relationship with blood back then. Yes, he asks Kristin if she's afraid of AIDS, but over the course of the first two seasons of the show people are a lot more blase about being around open blood.
WTF Mulder? WHY ARE YOU SLEEPING WITH THE CRAZY VAMPIRE CHICK? REALLY?
He's back to being alone and it's because of his mission - go on as you began - (and how many times over the course of the series will Samantha and Scully parallel?) EXCEPT, and this is a big difference, the show never gives Samantha her own agency. She is, functionally, an artifact of Mulder's psyche. SCULLY on the other hand, is very much not, she is nothing *but* agency, and while he blames himself for things that happen to her in a self-loathing sort of manner, he's never functionally responsible for them, nor for saving her (with the possible exception of Fight the Future, but we're not there yet).
2x08: One Breath
Contrast Dana as a child vs. the Dana who will kill - and relatively easily.
Would Scully have gone to the hospital or taken out the bad guys in the apartment? (I almost want to say that we'll actually see a similar situation with Scully later in the series? But I can't swear to it. She's certainly more cold-blooded about this kind of thing than Mulder is, or can be. Although in part that's my utter devotion to Wintersong's "The Lost" talking.
Watch the lighting in the scene of Mulder's apartment right after they get the tombstone and before he gets the phone call that Scully is alive. It's exactly like the lighting they used on Tooms (and possibly other "monsters" who blend out of the shadows). "Monster lighting" if you will. Will Mulder become a monster? If so, which kind of monster will he be? The bestial, impulse driven kind that Tooms is? Or the methodical, impersonal kind that the shadow conspiracy members are?
Please note - the FBI notified the hospital of the terms of Scully's living will. I'm not sure if that's standard procedure, or if it hints at someone at a higher level deliberately trying to leverage her demise.
(Side note: she decided to create a living will after joining the X-Files. Stick a pin in this, we'll come back to it in just a bit.)
Then we have the dichotomy of Mulder and Melissa Scully. Mulder *should* be the believer - he always claims he wants to be a believer, but he openly scoffs at Melissa's beliefs and practices. He denies that Scully could've told her anything because the EEG didn't show any record of it. (Essentially he's asking for hard scientific proof.)
(Note the tiny tiny glimpse of very early internet here!)
So, who (or rather, what) is Nurse Owens? (Also, nice job on the Sixth Sense-style camera work - Mulder's eyes never actually track on Owens, nor does he given any sense of acknowledgement that there's someone else in Scully's room.)
So, X is frantic about Mulder pushing too far, and I do believe him when he says that it's for/because of his own sake. Is X Deep Throat's heir in whatever war they're waging? And there's fantastic commentary here from X about how he used to be Mulder (like Mulder) and the visceral evidence that the difference is the willingness to do terrible things and his "you'll be able to live with yourself Mulder, on the day you die" (implying of course that X certainly won't be able to live with what he's done).
Maggie both brings Mulder in and pushes him away. She draws distinct lines that Mulder can be involved in Scully's death, but that she doesn't consider him part of the family. The look on Mulder's face is heartbreaking.
Skinner knows more than he's letting on, and I loved the "No Smoking" sign nod. CSM says "If you're having trouble sitting on Mulder", which implies that CSM's faction of the Conspiracy (which seems to be the visibly acknowledged faction) has at least assigned Skinner to keep an eye on Mulder because of where he is, if not actually placed Skinner in that position for that job. It's further evidence that even CSM's "official" faction sees Mulder as important, because really, why the hell else wouldn't they just get rid of him? And Skinner is obviously deeply involved.
What does Mulder know that we don't know he knows? It's easy to forget that as viewers, we don't necessarily know everything our POV characters know.
Mulder tells Skinner "I didn't warn her about the potential consequences". Remember that pin we put in Scully's creation of a living will after joining the X-Files? Mulder thinks that he didn't adequately warn her, but something spurred her into creating the will. And she was well aware of what had happened to the DNA researcher, and even Deep Throat, back in season one. He may not've sat her down and bluntly said "Scully this could cost you your life, or worse", but she was well aware of what was going on around them.
Does Skinner believe Mulder killed the man in the garage like CSM claims he did? For that matter, does CSM believe that he did it, and how does that change his view of Mulder?
My favorite moment of the episode may be Skinner coming down into Mulder's office and stating that "I do not accept resignation". Not "I don't accept your resignation", but "I do not accept resignation". He's not just talking about Mulder trying to quit the FBI.
"I can't tell you why she was taken, it's too close to me" We effectively know that Scully was taken to remove her from Mulder's equation. She wasn't meant to survive, either. That was all Scully's (and possibly god's) doing. Then X offers him the men that took Scully, and we finally see why Mulder had "monster lighting" at the beginning of the episode. He's given the choice between taking revenge and stepping on to X's path, and turning around and taking the higher road. I don't think he sees it that way, for him it's a choice between facing Scully's death and distracting himself from the reality of it by trying to tell himself revenge on her abductors, but regardless he's on the edge of a precipice just as much as she is. To choose to take the lives of her abductors for revenge will destroy him just as surely as Scully's death would be the end of her life. Instead, we get Mulder at her bedside (thank you, Melissa) and he says "But I'm here". The tonal emphasis is on "here" as an indication of here rather than there and indicating Mulder's choice of location, as opposed to the more common "I'm here" that emphasizes as aspect of support as in "I'm here for you".
Photo from Shadow of Reflection