7.10: Sein und Zeit
Or Being and Time. As I intimated when reviewing Amor Fati, I had in mind this two-parter was a stinker. To expound slightly, that it turned Mulder’s passionate quest for the truth about his sister into godawful, lukewarm, Carterised “spiritual” solace via a very peculiar definition of walk-ins. That hasn’t really changed, except that there is a reasonable idea for a story here, just one that would have been much better divorced from the wearying and by-this-point borderline risible attempts to attach it to the mythology arc (via an enormous and irksome retcon).
The walk-ins idea is such a common one, even Wiki doesn’t muddle it (a person whose soul has departed its body and been replaced with a different one). The X-Files even covered this previously with another episode also starring – coincidentally? – Mark Rolston: turbaned cult myth-arc number Red Museum. That one was much more rewarding, although the concept was paid little more than a passing acknowledgement. Quite why Carter and Spotnitz should have chosen to muddy it by having the walk-ins referenced, give-or-take, correctly here – “old souls looking for new homes” – but then characterised as those wandering spirits who rescue the hopeless/distraught and transform them physically into starlight is a kind of WTF? If it had an “X” precedent, I might have been willing to give it some vague leeway, but as it is, it just seems like Carter was looking for an easy, glib quasi-spiritual “out” to the arc – à la the church at the end of Lost – and any old nonsense with a New-Age whiff would do (I should stress, I’m not accusing the actual concept of walk-ins of this).
The structure of this one is promising enough, however, giving us the old “Mulder has a hunch and he’s going to be proved right” – and also a bit wrong. The first bit, alleging the couple in a case he isn’t assigned are innocent of any misdeeds in respect of their daughter, is a good beginning. Particularly as we have seen mom mysteriously scrawling a message ending “No one shoots at Santa Claus!” There’s some good low-key writing here, as Mulder visits the couple and advises their “lawyer” to get decent representation before warning them things could “get very confusing”.
Kathy Lee Tencate: … they live in starlight… They took her, to protect the soul from the great harm it would have suffered in her life, just like they did my little boy.
And the visit to Kathy Lee Tencate (Kim Darby, of True Grit, the original one), who was given the same message sign-off, adds to the intrigue, even if the ghostly vision of her kid is a regrettable portend of things to come. Because while this, scrambled as it is of coherence (above), is engaging, and Skinner’s dismay at Mulder’s behaviour entirely understandable (“All you’ve done is hand our only suspects the Twinkie Defence”), the insertion of Mulder and his sister is entirely regrettable.
First, he’s wrong on Amber being dead, then he’s wrong on Scully psychoanalysing that this has nothing to do with his sister (and while she’s right, it’s in a manner Scully would never admit). It’s now Mulder’s mother’s turn to suffer the expedient Carter demise, since he’s running low on possible candidates (and CSM is sacred. Sickly, but sacred). Having been told Samantha was a walk-in (evaporate-off might be a better term), mom promptly commits suicide due to an illness she conveniently never mentioned, and Mulder, convinced it’s a set up as she was going to tell him his sister wasn’t abducted, insists on an autopsy.
None of this, aside from Mulder’s admission that he’s “way too close to this case to have any kind of sound judgement”, strikes a note beyond weak swill. It’s basically Carter saying; “You know that carrot I put on the stick for six years? Not an especially enticing carrot, but a carrot nonetheless? Well, it isn’t a carrot at all. It’s a manky swede”.
So again, the episode ends effectively – mum tells Mulder her daughter mouthed what she thinks was 74, and Scully see’s Santa’s North Pole on Route 74. Although, why her parents didn’t recall going that way when they said the number meant nothing, is presumably down to plot expediency – with the discovery of numerous very obvious graves. Obviously, none of these kids benefited from the very selective Carter-styled walk-ins. This is a mostly engaging episode, but it’s also skirting unpleasant territory – child abduction – in a way that’s both soft soap (escape with the angels!) and vaguely distasteful (lob in a serial killer as a distraction). What really lets it down is harping on Mulder and sis. What we need is…