For the most part, Deadalive is an engrossing myth-arc episode, rebirthing Mulder entirely as it kind of rebirths the mythology itself, for better or worse. Carter and Spotnitz have their issues here – notably with the continuing Doggett incredulity and contrasting Scully turnabout credulity – but it’s really only in the final, Mulder-saving copout that the episode comes up empty in terms of plotting.
Scully: Agent Doggett, you spoke with his doctors. He was lying on his deathbed.
Doggett: I’m with you, Agent Scully. It’s a medical mystery, for sure. But don’t ask me to take a load of horse crap for the gospel truth.
Scully: I underestimated you, Agent Doggett. I thought this was just simple… resistance to extreme possibilities… when, in fact, you’re just downright bull-headed.
Doggett: Do you believe it, Agent Scully? I mean that stuff he said about aliens coming to save the world.
On the Doggett-Scully thing, the irony is that, while in the past, all those times Mulder would get exasperated about his partner stubbornly refusing to come on board with the obvious were entirely understandable, I now tend to side with Doggett. Partly, the reason is very simple; Scully’s volte face, a convenience of the writers to give her the Mulder role, is so shameless and inexcusable, it irks every time she adopts a vocally superior tone with him. Partly, though, it’s that Doggett does the sensible thing, most of the time, despite not believing (Scully reproves him that “The choice not to open up that grave was wrong”, but when he calls her out on the extent of her credulity, it illustrates she’s being unforgivably self-righteous).
Putting Mulder in the ground for a whole three months is quite a move, regardless, and the parallel thread with Billy Miles, pointing the way, is one that feels cogent rather than convenient. Indeed, the way in which this and Absalom are weaved into the episode represents some of the most assured arc plotting we’ve seen in a while. Less so, Krycek appearing, like Anthony Ainley’s Master, to make Skinner’s veins bulge with nanobots and direct him to kill Scully’s baby (or should that be CSM’s baby). Krycek really needs a moustache to twirl. Ultimately, he’s entirely ineffectual here, since he doesn’t get what he wants and it turns out our heroes don’t need what he has to offer.
That’s the episode’s major face palm, to be honest, the cheesy magic wand of somehow curing Mulder with “courses of antivirals”. It’s tantamount to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who and his penchant for administering a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics. It isn’t only dissatisfying, it seems to be actively disrespecting the intelligence of the viewer, expecting us to be fobbed off with something so cheap.
Doggett: You think this kid has sloughed his skin and come back as an alien?
The rebirth of Billy, complete with Body Snatchers by way of The Fly overtones – that shower drain must be severely clogged up – is good stuff, and suggestive of an entirely retooled direction for the show, had it been interested in going that route (impostors taking over the highest offices in the land). Skinner’s dilemma, whereby he’s set on killing Mulder, seems somewhat rash; wouldn’t you try discussing things with someone first, no matter what (with Skinner, the answer is “No, never”)? Which means the backhanded “By trying to kill Mulder he actually saved him” seems almost a stumbling way to make what he did seem excusable. Doggett also gets an altercation with Krycek suggesting he’s much handier than Mulder, albeit evidently no craftier (nothing he did in approaching the situation was exactly subtle).
And Kersh continues to be a Grade-A a-hole. The irony of all this is that the part of the episode I find least affecting is Mulder coming back from the brink and being reunited with Scully. My recollection is that it was welcome at the time, particularly as there was generally a fresher angle on how these arc stories were being told, but even if the public – per ratings – wanted him around, the show didn’t actually need him to tell its stories.