Wednesday, 18 July 2018

X-Files Rewatch | 'Paper Clip'

credit: 20th century fox
The three-parter to end all three partners, ‘Paper Clip’ concludes the “is Mulder dead?” narrative that has been spun since that god-awful (in a good way) cliffhanger in season two’s ‘Anasazi’. If the name ‘Paper Clip’ sounds familiar to you — and not as a piece of stationary — it was actually a secret program implemented during World War II that involved the U.S. Army recruiting over 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians so that America could advance against Russia in the Cold War and the Space Race.

Even though the episode title takes the name, it doesn’t fully delve into the program. Instead, Chris Carter utilizes it as a minor plot device — by insinuating that the project may have been responsible for creating a race of human-alien hybrids — but uses it more so as a backbone for the episode, introducing the fictional ex-Nazi character of Victor Klemper (based on the real-life Dr. Hubertus Strughold) to open up even more theories about Mulder’s father and his shady past with the Syndicate —thanks to a good ol’ photo that Mulder discovers.

credit: giphy

‘The Blessing Way’ ended with Skinner and Scully fighting over the infamous tape in Mulder’s apartment, only to stop once they heard footsteps outside the door. Of course, it was Mulder. Scully’s reaction is absolutely priceless: a mixture of relief, annoyance, and immense wonder that Mulder could just waltz back on in after all this time apart filled with uncertainty. Scully never really discusses the emotional turmoil she’s been through whilst Mulder was D.O.A., but she does answer his question as to why she believed he’d been alive this whole time — she “just knew”.

Anyway, enough of my fangirling, back to the tape. Skinner continually insists throughout the episode that if he hands over the tape, he can get Mulder and Scully reinstated into the X-Files unit and, well, keep them alive to continue their work and search for the truth. Mulder however, wants to keep the files.

He believes all the answers are on that tape, and he needs to find out why the Syndicate killed his father, what happened to his sister, and what they did to Scully. Yep, you heard it. What happened to Scully is now a top priority for Mulder. Her abduction is something he blames himself for — much like his sister — when really the fault lies within the shady government. It’s just unfortunate that he and his family got caught up in the governmental conspiracy, and that Scully eventually would too. 

Again, back to the tape — who would Skinner hand the tape to? Why the Syndicate of course. The Cigarette Smoking Man and the group don’t actually know that Mulder is alive, so CSM has to lie that he can produce the tape the following day… somehow. It’s strangely funny — and creepy — to think that the government and the entirety of America is practically run by old white men.

Out of all the monsters and shit you see on this show, they are the most threatening — the real monsters. It’s not far from the truth either, in whichever decade you view The X-Files from; the existence of the Syndicate supports the ‘false government’ conspiracy, that each ‘President’ of the United States is just a puppet — the shadow government, the departments with a bit too much control, are really running the show.   

credit: giphy

So, it’s no surprise then, that Mulder and Scully stumble across a suspicious mining facility where behind some security-laden doors lies an array of cabinets filled with files… lots and lots of files. As Mulder states to Scully, it’s not a surprise that a facility like this wasn’t known to the FBI and was, in fact, hiding a pretty secretive vault.

“You’d be surprised what’s not on the map in this country,” he tells her. “What our government will do to keep it that way.” Chills. The existence of this facility further aligns the narrative with that age-old conspiracy of what medical records and seemingly trivial information about a country’s population is really used for.

In this case, those files contain an array of population data including birth and smallpox vaccination certificates, and old tissue samples. All the files have the same material in them, leading the agents to conclude that this mining facility is, in fact, a database of the American population, which is in no doubt is connected to the collection of DNA for the human-alien hybrid project implemented both by the Syndicate and through Operation Paper Clip. 

You know what’s coming next. Of course, both Mulder and Scully’s data is in these files, and they also deal with some nasty surprises. 

Firstly, Mulder obviously goes looking for his sister’s file. He finds it, but there’s something odd regarding the printing of her name. It seems as though it’s not actually typed onto the file, but rather a sticker a top of another name. He peels it off, and lo and behold his name is underneath. Mulder was originally the choice by his parents to be abducted rather than Samantha (we later find out that this was solely his father’s choice, and his mother hated him for it). This obviously raises a lot of questions, especially why Samantha was picked over her older brother.  

credit: giphy

Then there’s Scully’s. Her file is stored under her birth year — 1964 — and contains the same documentation as every other file… except, the tissue sample is recent, not old like the others. 

It’s clear that this is a direct result of the Duane Barry abduction, and the piece of foreign metal she recently discovered in her neck. Again, this throws up a lot of questions, and believe me this is only the beginning for Scully’s journey (obviously, if you’ve watched the series before, you know what happens. Give the new viewers have a chance).

Eventually, Mulder has to make a choice. The deal needs to be made, and the tape needs to be handed over. “These answers mean nothing if we’re going to be hunted down like animals,” Scully explains to Mulder. “We are operating outside of the law right now, we’ve given up on the very notion of justice. We have turned ourselves into outsiders, we have lost our access, and our protection.” 

And she’s right, as much as Mulder wants to deny it. He knows she’s right underneath it all, hence why he lets the decision fall to her — he knows he’ll go with his heart rather than his head and make the wrong decision. In some cases, it’s better for the brain to do the work, and Scully has a lot of logic and capability to form a rational decision for the both of them. 

And that is what she will continue to do. Scully somehow has the capacity to keep a level head in the face of some pretty high stakes and emotion, including the relief-filled return of her partner and the sudden death of her sister, Melissa. ‘Paper Clip’ marks the true beginning of Mulder and Scully’s joint fight for the truth, and thankfully the mythology hasn’t exactly hit a point where it’s become too confusing to follow.

Right now, it’s about the agent’s personal lives being intertwined with a conspiracy they didn’t ask for, and how that continues to unravel throughout the third season. 

• Mulder witnessing a light and a UFO, Scully witnessing aliens running past her. SHE’S THAT CLOSE BUT DROPS HER TORCH. FFS.

• Skinner is totally on Mulder and Scully’s side now, totally.

• Krycek’s grown his hair out, so 90s boyband now. Leather jacket and jeans, too. Total bad boy — Really digging his new style.

• Skinner got beat up, good job he’s in a hospital.

• This is where you pucker up and kiss my ass” AAAYYYY SKINMAN

• The code used to enter the mining facility is Napier's constant. Although, it's an error as the code used is '27828' whereas the first five digits of the constant are '27182'.

• Said mining facility is named after Dr. Hubertus Strughold, the German scientist that Victor Klemper is based on. 

SCULLY: What do you think your father would have been doing here?
MULDER: I don’t know, he never came home wearing a miner’s cap. 

SCULLY: [Sees a set of weird doors] Mulder, come look at this. What do you think?
MULDER: I’d like to try number one, Monty.

SCULLY: You were right. There is no justice.
MULDER: I don’t think this is about justice, Scully.
SCULLY: Then what was it about?
MULDER: I think it’s about something we have no personal choice in. I think it’s about fate — Skinner told me that he talked to you, that you were insistent on coming back to work. Now if Melissa’s death-
SCULLY: I need something to put my back up against
MULDER: I feel the same way. We’ve both lost so much. But I believe that what we’re looking for, is in the X-Files and I’m more certain than ever that the truth is in here.
SCULLY: I’ve heard the truth Mulder, now what I want are the answers.

[Now all they have is each other, and Mulder proceeds to embrace Scully, hand in hair UGGGHHHH]

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