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Filtering by Tag: Dana Scully
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While keeping up with my 201 Days of The X-Files viewing schedule, I re-watched one of the show's most iconic episodes, "Beyond The Sea." Besides being notable for yet another reference to Mulder's porn proclivities ("Last time you were that engrossed, it turned out you were reading the Adult Video News," Scully quips), it's a perfectly constructed episode that reveals cracks in Scully's scientific demeanor.
The episode opens with Scully saying goodbye to her mother and father after she's cooked them a Christmas Day meal. William Scully addresses his daughter with a gruff but affectionate "Goodnight, Starbuck" before he leaves. Later, Scully falls asleep on the couch and is awoken by her father sitting in a chair across from her. His lips are moving but no sound is coming out of his mouth. Startled, she addresses him but he doesn't respond. The phone rings and it's her mother, informing her that her father has just passed away from a massive coronary. When Scully looks back at the chair, her father is no longer there.
The case this time involves a death row inmate named Luther Lee Boggs, portrayed with scenery-chewing glee by Brad Dourif, in a nod to his role in The Exorcist III. Mulder's profile of the prolific serial killer is what put him in his current predicament, but when he was first sent to the gas chamber, there was a last-minute executive stay and his life was spared. Boggs asserts this experience sparked the flame of psychic abilities within him and he has contacted Mulder claiming to have vital information about a recent series of kidnappings and murders, hoping to avoid his rapidly approaching rescheduled execution.
Mulder thinks Boggs is just a con artist but he's more concerned that Scully is coming into the office after her father has just died. She assures him that she "needs to work" so he drops the subject. At her father's funeral, the jaunty strains of Bobby Darin's "Beyond The Sea" are heard, the song that was playing when Captain Scully's ship returned from the Cuban Blockade. It's difficult to swallow the lump in the throat we feel when a clearly bereft Scully tremulously questions her mother, "Was Dad at all proud of me?" All her mother will say is, "He was your father."
When they visit Boggs in prison, Mulder goads him into putting on a psychic revelations pageant, positive he's exposed him as a fraud. He leaves in disgust. As Scully packs up her files Boggs starts singing "Beyond The Sea" and she stops cold. Boggs fixes his eyes on her and asks, "Did you get my message, Starbuck?" Scully looks wounded. Outside, Mulder can tell something is wrong, but she just attributes it to "my father" before apologizing and leaving.
Scully discovers some of the things that Boggs said about the location of the kidnap victims were true when she does a little investigating of her own. Mulder becomes angry when she suggests that Boggs was right, warning her that she should only open herself up to "extreme possibilities" when they're the truth, insisting that Luther Boggs is "the greatest of lies." Mulder's explanation is that Boggs is working with someone on the outside and is an accomplice in the kidnappings and murders.
Still, Scully advocates for making a deal with Boggs, if only to get information to save the kidnap victims before they become murder victims. Another visit to Boggs results in more information and a warning about Mulder's blood on a white cross. When the FBI agents visit the docks Boggs told them about, they find Elizabeth, one of the victims, but they also spy a boat leaving the scene. A gunshot rings out and catches Mulder in the leg. Scully notices two white crossbeams nearby covered in Mulder's blood.
Mulder's theory about Boggs having an accomplice seems to be confirmed when Elizabeth identifies one Lucas Jackson Henry as her abductor and there is evidence that Boggs and Henry committed murders together before the former's incarceration. Furious, Scully revisits Boggs and spits venom: "No one will be able to stop me from being the one that will throw the switch and gas you out of this life for good, you son of a bitch!"
Smooth-talking Boggs keeps seducing her. "I know who you want to talk to," he sneers, but insists he won't let Scully have her way until he gets a deal. She maintains that she doesn't believe him, but when she visits Mulder in the hospital she proposes there could be another explanation. Mulder tells her not to deal with Boggs, but Scully doesn't listen, visiting him yet again. He mentions the Blue Devil Brewery up by Morrisville.
As it turns out, that's exactly where Henry and the kidnap victims are. After a shootout and chase, Henry falls through some loose floor beams to his death. Scully notices a painting of a blue devil on the wall behind him and recalls Boggs warning her not to "follow Henry to the devil." She goes to thank Boggs for saving her but he suspects she still has "unfinished business," and begs her to come to his execution so she can "get her message."
But she doesn't. Instead, she visits Mulder in the hospital and tries to rationalize that Boggs might have gotten all the information he needed from her personnel file. "Dana," Mulder interrupts, "After all you've seen, after all the evidence, why can't you believe?"
SCULLY: I'm afraid. I'm afraid to believe.
MULDER: You couldn't face that fear? Even if it meant never knowing what your father wanted to tell you?
While "Conduit" showed that it was the fear of not knowing which drives Mulder, Scully presents a different side of the knowledge coin in "Beyond The Sea." From the beginning of the show, Scully has worn a small gold cross around her neck, indicating that she believes in something other than science, even though it has not been discussed up until this point. But how far does that belief go? And is it just faith in a God that keeps Scully going? Is the possibility of finding proof of something beyond science or even religion too frightening for her to accept?
In the last scene, Scully tells Mulder that she did know what her father wanted to tell her because, like her mother said, "He was my father." While "Beyond The Sea" purports to show Scully opening herself up to extreme possibilities, she ends up reverting to her closed-off views at the end. It seems to be Scully's faith that keeps her going, but it's faith in not believing. Mulder has faith in things he wants to believe, the intangible and abstract truth for which he so desperately searches. It will be a while before Scully can walk through those particular doors.
In preparation for the upcoming six-episode season of The X-Files in 2016, a rewatch of all nine seasons of the original series seemed like a timely idea, especially since I never finished the last two.
In the midst of all the "remember the '90s" nostalgia about clothing, cars, and how ridiculously youthful both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson look, I realized something important: I finally get it.
It's not that I finally "get" why the show was such a big deal. I was a huge fan of The X-Files when it first aired in the early '90s. It was my pre-Hannibal Hannibal, with the same creepy aspects that I loved about The Twilight Zone and Twin Peaks, plus a dash of Unsolved Mysteries. In several cases, it actively frightened me ("The Host," "Hungry," and "Folie À Deux" immediately come to mind).
What finally makes sense to me is Fox Mulder's unwavering dedication to finding the truth that he insists is out there. Fear of the unknown is one of the most primal fears, but what about the fear of not knowing? That's the precise fear that drives Fox Mulder.
Episode S104, "Conduit," finds Mulder and Scully in Iowa, where Ruby Morris has disappeared in the middle of the night, during what her mother Darlene describes as a blinding flash of light. What makes the incident intriguing to Mulder is that this light fits in with several alien abduction stories he's uncovered in the X-Files themselves.
"I know what happened. It's just like it was before."
Scully, along with the audience, thinks that Mulder is drawn to this case because of its similarities to the events surrounding his own missing sister, Samantha, which he had revealed to her in the show's pilot episode. He denies this, insisting that Darlene's own past is the hook. When she was in Girl Scouts, Darlene, along with a few others, saw a UFO in the same Lake Ogobogee area where Ruby went missing. Mulder is convinced that those same aliens have come back for Darlene's daughter.
More is revealed during the course of this episode suggesting that perhaps Ruby was just a runaway teen in trouble. Darlene's younger child, Kevin, meanwhile, has become engrossed in writing down thousands of pages of binary code and like Carol Anne in Poltergeist, tells Mulder that the messages are coming from the TV.
Mulder is intent on finding out more from Kevin, but the NSA eventually shows up and starts ransacking the Morris home, taking Kevin in for questioning because some of the stuff he's been writing might be a threat to national security. After that, Darlene warns Mulder and Scully to back off. Scully tells Mulder that solving this case won't bring his sister back. He swears he's not giving up on Ruby until they find a body.
Not long afterward, Ruby reappears in the woods, confused, but seemingly unharmed. Mulder pleads with Darlene to be receptive to her daughter's memories of what actually happened. "She should be encouraged to tell her story," he says gently, "not to keep it inside, it's important that you let her." Darlene dismisses him, saying that Ruby can't remember anything. But Mulder persists, and we see for the first time what Scully has tried to get him to admit, and what the people who assigned Scully to the X-Files believe is Mulder's greatest weakness as well as his greatest strength: his desire to know.
"But she will remember one day, one way or another, even if it's only in dreams. And when she does, she's going to want to talk about it, she's going to need to talk about it."
It's then that I finally understood why Mulder spent so many years searching. Losing a family member to death is one thing. I lost two grandparents and a stepfather within the same year when I wasn't yet a teenager. That was awful. Having a sister vanish in front of you with no idea where she went, who took her, or what happened to her must be unbearable.
For those in search of missing family members, the fear conjured by simply not knowing must be agony. For Mulder, it has the added indignity of marking him forever as a fanatic and making authorities less likely to dig into what he suspects are the real reasons behind her disappearance.
"Do you believe the voice?" "I want to believe."
"Conduit" ends with Scully listening to a tape of one of Mulder's therapy sessions, in which he's been hypnotized and asked to recall the events of that night. It's utterly heartbreaking and for the first time when watching this episode, I truly felt his fear. It's not a fear of the unknown or even a fear of the uncanny, but the fear of not knowing.
I thought: what if it was my own sister who'd disappeared in the middle of the night? What if no one believed me when I told them what I thought happened? What if I never truly found out? What if I never saw her again? Just thinking about that scares the hell out of me. Not long after that series of deaths when I was a child, my dog disappeared into the night, never to be seen again, either alive or dead. It was so traumatizing I didn't even write about it in my diary. In fact, I can barely remember it.
Even though Mulder remembers what happened that night, it's with a couple of caveats. His memories haven't helped him or his sister; the rest of his family has been torn apart.. He's become privy to the memories themselves, but separated from the act of remembering, something which would instill terror into anyone's heart.
Mulder's curiosity is both a blessing and a curse for him, but it's the fear at the core of that curiosity that makes "Conduit" a remarkable episode and proves that The X-Files still compelling after all these years.