Friday, 16 October 2015

X-Files Rewatch | 3 & One Breath

It's time for the slightly out of place story of would-be vampires and the conclusion to Scully's abduction with '3' and 'One Breath'.

Praise be Jesus, the X-Files are back. What ‘3’ does, however, is illustrate how Mulder copes without Scully by his side down in the basement. I dread to think what he was like before Scully was assigned to him, but I doubt he was this bad. The way he lives now – which seems to be a few months from Mulder flipping his really badly photo edited bikini clad woman calendar – is most likely due to his grief and loss over having no idea what has happened to Scully, and no leads as to finding an answer. He has to live with Scully being an X-File; putting her file in the filing cabinet along with her badge and glasses. She’s ended up being the only one he trusts to just another file in the drawer. He keeps the cross necklace, however, and wears it throughout the entire episode (and I assume since Maggie gave it to him at the end of ‘Ascension’).

At least with the X-Files reopened its given Mulder to put his mind to something rather than dwelling on blaming himself for Scully’s abduction. The investigation he’s on is something that he seems to have been following for three months, waiting for the suspects to reappear. The suspects he’s looking for have murdered six people in the past year in three states. They seem to only kill at night, and by the end of the week he assumes that two more people will be dead and the suspects will vanish.
I’m not even going to try and delve into the history surrounding these vampires with ‘The Unholy Trinity’. The X-Files had already dabbled with werewolves up to this point, now it’s the vampires turn. But they hit the same snag that they did with ‘Shapes’, that the writers tried to change up the lure to make it their own which is fine, but to a point. Especially in this instance, because it’s hard to tell whether the vampires were actually real or just humans that get a kick or high from drinking blood. The mythology goes up and down in this episode. One minute it makes total sense, but by the end it seems as though the writers threw all the mythology logic out of the picture, leaving for a muddled ending.

 (via bleeping-ufo)

I’m not a huge fan of this episode. I appreciate it in terms of aesthetics, in what it’s trying to deal with in terms of Mulder being lost without Scully. As in how disheveled he looks and that he isn’t sleeping at all, but it goes too far on multiple occasions. The main being that because Scully’s not there, Mulder is able to have sex with a woman he’s put under protective custody. He would have never done that, even if Scully hadn’t been abducted but wasn’t on the case with him. The X-Files was never the sort of show that would stray away from its two leads’ personal lives, other than their close family. To me, that’s always been one of the main charms of the show. The focal point was always Mulder and Scully, and it always seemed to be deemed that their work and partnership didn’t really allow them either the time or the willpower to have a relationship with someone else when their relationship – even though platonic at this point in time – is so close. 

‘3’ is extremely low on my list of favourite X-Files episodes, but I will say it does hold some of my favourite moments of the show. Mulder’s snarky one-liners, the vampire club and they’re awesome choice of music and the overall look of the episode. Everything else just doesn’t fall into place, and seems really disjointed placed between two important mythology episodes. 

This is the first episode within The X-Files not to feature Gillian Anderson. There are only three other episodes throughout the series which she also doesn’t appear in, ‘Zero Sum’, ‘Unusual Suspects’ and ‘Travelers’. Although, she’s still credited in the opening credits.

“I thought, ‘This guy’s a monk. Let’s let him be a human. Especially in [Scully’s] absence’, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do it.” Chris’ statement about letting Mulder have sex in this episode because Scully isn’t there. Ridiculous.

The editing of the smoke in the sky to make Vancouver look like Los Angeles is so badly done.

In the final scene, the Unholy Spirit in Transylvanian, “I will live forever”.

The scenes in Kristen’s house were filmed at the house of professional ice hockey player Pavel Bure.

According to Duchovny, Anderson missed three episodes in season two, although it was cleverly filmed to appear she only missed this one.

‘Club Tepes’ is named after Vlad ‘The Impaler’. Tepes was the real-life inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The first shot of the bar is of a drawing on the wall. The drawing is of Vlad ‘The Impaler’ Tepes. He is a real historical figure known for his cruelty who impaled his enemies on large wooden spikes by letting them sink down slowly from tip to base as he watched.

Kristen is portrayed by Perry Reeves, Duchovny’s girlfriend at the time. They’d been dating for a while whilst this episode was filmed. 

DR. BROWNING: An edema ball at the nostrils. Rupture of the skull due to internal steam pressure, these are indications of long exposure to extreme temperatures, not a sunburn for 15 seconds.
MULDER: The guards found no flammable materials? I had believed that this man’s illness was psychological.  
DR. BROWNING: There is a condition known as Gunter’s disease -- congenital erythopoietic Porphyria creating cutaneous photosensitivity.
MULDER: I’m familiar with porphyria. It’s an affliction which causes lesions and blisters when skin is exposed to sunlight, not fourth degree burns. Sufferers may have a hema deficiency which can be supplemented by a small ingestion of blood, not the kind of bloodthirst this man had. It’s probably ignorance of porphyria as a disease that led to the creation of vampire myths in Asia in the Middle Ages. I had dismissed the possibility of the actual existence of such a creature as myth.
DR. BROWNING: …You are really upsetting me. On several levels.  

(Reading John 53:54) “He who eats of my flesh and drinks of my blood shall have eternal life. And I will raise him up on the last day.” They have the same feeble literary grasp of the bible as all those big haired preachers do.

FRANK: Don’t you want to live forever?
MULDER: Not if drawstring pants come back into style.

In a couple of hours there’ll be no escaping the sun…son.

DR. BROWNING: (Putting a lamp by Frank’s flesh) Old coroners trick.
MULDER: I can make a quarter appear behind your ear.

COMMANDER CARVER: Eternal life. Smashed mirrors. Blood drinking. Should I be issuing my men stakes and cloves of garlic?
MULDER: Only if they’re hungry.

KRISTEN: Are you about to ask what a normal person like me is doing in a place like this?
MULDER: How do you define normal? 

MULDER: I didn’t check into a motel room. I don’t sleep anymore. 

It doesn’t feel right without Scully. At all. And it’s only season two, we’re so accustomed to Mulder and Scully as a pair. When one isn’t there, the show instantly loses half of its charm. It truly is Mulder and Scully that make The X-Files what it is. 

Scully not being there clearly has an effect on Mulder more than you’d think. It shows how much she means to him and how she’s changed him. He doesn’t sleep, he looks disheveled, he hasn’t shaven and his morals are compromised.

Mulder wears Scully’s gold cross necklace throughout the episode after Maggie gives it back to him. It’s his only connection to her now. She’s always been by her side, he’s become so used to her being another part of him for over a year now. Wearing it makes him feel as though she’s with him, even though she’s millions of miles (even lightyears) away.

After the underwhelming that was ‘3’, ‘One Breath’, in the simplest of terms, hits you in the feels. It’s an extremely powerful episode that marginally is rooted in mythology, but ultimately serves as a moving insight into how Mulder and those around him are coming to deal with the seemingly inevitable death of Scully.

The cold open is sadly bordering on the line of cheesy, but it does send a powerful message of Scully feeling irrevocable guilt, with certainly parallels the state in which we find Mulder when we arrive at the present. It’s ultimately a metaphor as to how Mulder and Maggie are having to come to terms with Scully being dead, even though they haven’t found her yet. Mulder believes it’s too soon, but Maggie is trying to come to terms with not knowing if her youngest child is dead or alive by having a gravestone prepared. The look on Mulder’s face when the gravestone is revealing is so overwhelming – he can’t even look at it. “Dana Katherine Scully – Loving daughter and friend – ‘The spirit is in the truth’”.

It’s clear throughout the episode that Maggie and her sister, Melissa, are more excepting of Scully’s expected death, Mulder simply won’t accept the loss until he sees Scully dead in front of him. As long as she’s still breathing, Mulder believes that there has to be a way for him to do something; to save her. He can’t stand idly by and watch everyone give up and accept Scully’s fate so easily, which only adds fuel to his anger and grief to the situation.

It’s interesting however to watch Mulder deal with Melissa’s new age beliefs when it comes to the outcome of whether Scully is going to live or die. She, like Mulder, believes in something that to everyone else is beyond absurd and is an annoyance more than anything. It may seem strange that Mulder dismisses Melissa’s beliefs, coming from a believer himself. But his mind is plagued with the notion that he’s about to lose Scully, so even Melissa’s beliefs that Scully’s death and death as a whole is a natural process annoys Mulder to no end. He’s unable to see that the outcome of what Scully has been through is a result in death; it’s the natural order of things. His mind is clouded with guilt that it’s his fault she’s in this position, much like with his sister. 

Melissa tries her hardest throughout the episode to get Mulder to see through his delusions and self-hatred, and ultimately saves him. She’s not afraid to tell Mulder what she thinks – much like her sister – and is adamant that he needs to get his head out of the darkness and be with her sister and accept that he needs to say goodbye. She confronts him into realising that a person that he loves is about to die, which enables Mulder to set down is revenge and go say his last words to Scully and ultimately say goodbye. Which leads to a heartbreaking yet sincere scene between the two. Mulder looks so defeated when he sits beside Scully. Holding her hand, he doesn’t know how to feel. He can’t stand losing her like this, sitting idly by whilst watching her die. He eventually leaves and returns home to a trashed apartment after picking Scully over his need for revenge, and collapses crying in the doorway. He breaks. We don’t know if Scully is dead, so this breakdown in Mulder ultimately points to maybe he just watched her die. He then gets the call that Scully has miraculously woken up, and the look on his face makes me well up every single goddamn time. He’s so relieved and happy that he’s got his Scully back.  

‘One Breath’ is one of The X-Files masterpieces. It’s so expertly crafted in its storytelling, visual aesthetics and character development. Nearly every character has a new dimension added to them. Whether it’s Skinner telling Mulder of his experiences in Vietnam, X revealing that he was once like Mulder, the Lone Gunmen trying to help Mulder with his grieving process or Maggie fully realising how much Scully means to Mulder. It’s painfully clear within their reactions to one another. The pain in Maggie’s voice and eyes as she tells Mulder that he grieve with the family is beautiful. She feels that he is now part of the family, something which I don’t think Mulder can actually process, since he’s never really had one. 

Even though Scully is barely active in this episode until the last scene, her presence is beautifully captivated through stunning cinematography and visualization. The metaphor of her being tied to the dock by the boat was extremely powerful, especially the moment where she is aware that Melissa and Mulder are standing there waiting for her to come back to them. Which makes it even more saddening when the rope eventually breaks, signifying that Scully is on the way out. But it's the beautifully written scene between her and her father where he tells her he isn't ready for her to join him yet that is so profoundly moving. She is finally able to hear how much her father loves her, which seems to act as a catalyst to bring her back to Mulder, her mother and Melissa. 

Anderson shined in ‘Beyond the Sea’ in season one, and Duchovny does so in this episode. Both manage to showcase their entire spectrum of acting by putting the other in life threatening danger and having to face beliefs that they aren’t sure they want to face. Duchovny does such a terrific job of navigating through the spectrum of emotion that Mulder goes through in this episode; it demonstrates that he really knows Mulder and how to handle him in terms of both how Mulder acts and the development he must go through.

‘One Breath’ thankfully ends on a high note, with a touching scene between the two leads finally reunited. They are both so ecstatic that they’re together again, and Mulder is so sincere that he doesn’t want to burden Scully with sticking by her whilst she’s recovering. If this were any other TV show, Mulder would be stuck by Scully’s side the entire time she was recovering. He knows he needs to give her space, and I think she’s thankful of that. It displays their respect for one another, solidifying the notion that nothing can break them further.

I love Mulder’s relationship to the Lone Gunmen. They’re the only other people that actually care about him, like noticing he’s down because of Scully.

MULDER: You ignore my call for help, and then you expect me to do what you say, YOU CAN GO TO HELL!

Mulder’s anger issues again rising up. He’s on edge from Scully being in the hospital but him not being able to do anything about it. Duchovny’s acting in this episode is amazing. ‘One Breath’ is his episode to show his acting ability, much like ‘Beyond the Sea’ was Anderson’s. 

In Scully’s dream, her father calls her Starbuck and himself Ahab. They also name each other this in ‘Beyond the Sea’. These are the names of two characters from the novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Scully’s favourite novel.  

LANGLY: We’re all hopping on the internet to nitpick the scientific inaccuracies of Earth 2.

Earth 2 was a science-fiction series that ran through 1994-1995 on NBC. The series told the story of the Eden Advance team who were supposed to set up a colony on a distant planet after Earth had become inhabitable. 

DOCTOR: “Presently we have Dana listed in critical condition; comatose. There is complete unawareness of self or environment, there is no evidence of language comprehension, no evidence of voluntary response to external stimuli. My apologies, but no one can tell how Dana arrived at the hospital…because of the absence of Dana’s recent medical history, I’m at a loss for a medical prognosis. I can’t determine with certainty how long she has been in this state. There are no indications of acute injuries, traumatic or non-traumatic, I can’t find any signs of degenerative or metabolic disorders. We have conducted every test possible (She’s been bathed since her admittance, so they can’t examine her for trace evidence).

BYERS: The chart shows abnormal protein chains in the blood. The amino acid sequence is a combination I’ve never seen before. I downloaded Scully’s medical data to the newest Lone Gunmen, he goes by the name ‘The Thinker’.
FROHIKE: He’s a hacking genius.
BYERS: The Thinker reports the protein chains are the by-products of branched DNA.
MULDER: Branched DNA?
LANGLY: The cutting edge of engineering.
BYERS: The biological equivalent of a silicone microchip.
LANGLY: This is way beyond cutting edge. This is technology 50 years down the line.
MULDER: What’s it used for?
FROHIKE: Could be a tracking system.
BYERS: Developmental stages of a biological marker.
MULDER: You mean a high tech identity card?
LANGLY: Or something as insidious as grafting a human to something inhuman.
BYERS: Good theories gentlemen, but all for not. This branch DNA is inactive. Waste product. Whoever was experimenting on Scully is finished. Now it’s nothing more than a biological poison.
MULDER: Will she live?
BYERS: Um, her immune system has been decimated. And I doubt even a healthy human body has the ability to fight this. Mulder, there’s nothing you can do. 

BYERS: Good work sneaking out those charts.
FROHIKE: Tucked em’ in my pants.
MULDER: There’s plenty of room down there.
LANGLY: You look down, Mulder. Tell you what, you’re welcome to come over Saturday night, we’re all hopping on the Internet to nitpick the scientific inaccuracies of Earth 2.
MULDER: I’m doing my laundry.

X: Your plane ticket.
MULDER: We barely know each other.

MELISSA: Why is it so dark in here?
MULDER: Because the lights aren't on.

Continuing on from his appearance in '3', we get a glimpse at what Mulder’s home life has ended up being like since Scully’s abduction. Panning across his apartment, Scully’s X-File, the photograph of Scully in Duane Barry’s car and other files are strewn everywhere. He’s on his couch in the dark watching porn and just keeps rewinding it.

I admire the set design and how you can tell so much about a person just from things in their apartment. Mulder’s has always not cared for himself so in turn doesn’t care for his apartment and how he lives, but it’s become more chaotic since Scully disappeared. Scully has been the only person in his life that cares about him and has actually stuck around, but now she’s been taken away from him. And this is all in a platonic relationship at this point in time, for Christ sake. They are two parts of the same coin, destined to be with one another in whatever capacity.

When Scully is found and in the hospital, Mulder completely loses it. He’s letting months of pent up anger, agony, despair and probable thoughts of Scully dying out. She’s here in front of him with no explanation has to why, and he’s also burdened with believing that it’s his fault, that she’s in this condition because of him.

DOCTOR: There is also a situation I don’t know if you’re aware of. The FBI have notifed us the terms of Dana’s living will. Dana is a doctor, her criteria for determining life support is quite specific. She states that if her Glasgow outcome scale lists her-
MULDER: She doesn’t want to live in this condition.
DOCTOR: You signed the will as her witness.

You can already tell Mulder knows what’s coming as soon as the doctor mentions it. He put his face in his hands. Scully trusted him enough for Mulder to be her witness of her will. Jesus Christ.

MULDER: I owe her more than just sitting around doing nothing.
X: She was a good solider Mulder, but there is nothing you can do to bring her back!
MULDER: She’s not dead (the pain in his voice, man).
X: (Laughing) Listen to you. You’re a damn schoolboy, Mulder. You have no idea, no idea—
MULDER: Yeah, then tell me. TELL ME.
X: I used to be you. I was where you are now. But you’re not me, Mulder. I don’t think you have the heart. Walk away. Grieve for Scully, and then never look back. You will be able to live with yourself, Mulder (no he won’t).

MULDER: You never provided an answer as to why she’s here or what’s wrong with her. We need to study her.
MELISSA: She’s not a piece of evidence.
MULDER: She’s here because of unnatural circumstances.
MELISSA: She’s dying. That’s perfectly natural. We hide people in these rooms because we don’t want to look at death, we have machines that prolong life that should end. That’s a much more unnatural circumstance than any cause of her death.
MULDER: Yes, that’s very politically correct.
MELISSA: That’s very human. I love her. This is right.
MAGGIE: Dana has made our decision. (Mulder begins to walk way, trying not to cry). Fox. You and Dana had a friendship built on respect. Now in the last year, I have lost my husband and God knows I don’t want to lose my baby girl. But like you, I have always respected her. Fox, this is a moment for the family. But you can join us if you want.
MULDER: (Again, trying not to cry, shakes his head).

Maggie considers him part of the family. He and Scully are so close, and Maggie recognizes this. Mulder can’t bear to say goodbye to Scully. He’s trying to do everything he can from preventing his nightmare from unfolding. Everything he holds close to him, he manages to lose. First Samantha, now Scully.

MULDER: What if I…knew the potential consequences, but I never told her.
SKINNER: Then you’re as much to blame for her condition as Cancer Man.

Which is exactly what CSM wants Mulder to think. To make is seem like it’s his fault rather than the governments. It was their way of getting at him all along, they know how much he loathes himself anyway. It doesn’t take too much to push him over the edge. We all know is Scully were to die, it wouldn’t take him long to kill himself afterwards. Even this early on in their relationship. He can’t survive without Scully. He could before he met her, because he didn’t know what she could bring out in him.

MAGGIE: Hello, Fox.
SCULLY: Not Fox, Mulder.
MULDER: (Smiling) How ya feeling?
SCULLY: Mulder, I don’t remember anything. After Duane Barry—
MULDER: Doesn’t, doesn’t matter. (Getting something out of a bag) Brought you a present. ‘Superstars of the Superbowls’.
SCULLY: I knew there was a reason to live.
MULDER: I know you wanna get some rest, I just came by to see how you’re doing. Say hi.
SCULLY: Mulder, I had the strength of your beliefs. (Which goes to show that Mulder talking to her in the hospital helped her come of her coma, that she heard him talking to her.
MULDER: (Going into his pockets) I was holding this for you (gives Scully her necklace).

Scully looking at her necklace, it has new meaning now. Mulder kept it for her whilst she was missing, to have a piece of her with him even though she was gone. Now Scully can see that the cross signifies Mulder’s respect for her, and that it’s now a piece of him that she can have with her all the time. A sense of a safe place. That’s how I like to think of it, anyway. It signifies their relationship that is built on respect and trust and ultimately faith. Both in God and the fantastic.

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