season 4, episode 14, “memento mori”
“the x-files” really took it’s time to develop their characters, not in a bad way, in the best way, actually. we feel we know these characters, by now, and to some extent we do, but episodes like this come along to further evolve their complexities. this episode is all about gillian/scully and she shines. but, you can’t discount mulder and skinner and even csm. the writers are taking great care with each character and this episode and the series as a whole benefit from it. many shows today rush into showing what the whole character’s being is right from the start and that’s why later episodes that try to expand on their persona can fall flat. “the x-files” is good at the slow burn and it works with their treatment of the characters, as well.
it’s been confirmed. scully has cancer. mulder can’t accept it and wants to pursue the truth behind it. scully accepts it and wants to pursue the truth, as well. she tells skinner that she would like to investigate through the justice department. they go back to the MUFON headquarters where scully met abduction survivors in “nisei.” they learn that all of them died of cancer, but one, penny northern. scully, in the midst of trying to be so strong, is afraid to talk to her. mulder tells her to go as an investigator. scully does go to visit penny and she seems optimistic about a treatment plan being conducted by her doctor, dr. scanlon. scully realizes that she needs to pursue the truth within herself at this point, leaving mulder to search for it in the “darkness of covert locations.”
as scully undergoes chemotherapy, she writes to him about how he must continue the search alone and how she is grateful for his strength to do so. these passages that are told to us through beautiful voice over are deeply moving and affecting. as mulder desperately searches for answers about the truth behind her illness and any possibility of curing it, scully narrates her faith in his strength. it is so well aligned. mulder’s scenes are angsty and action-y. scully’s are angsty and emotional. their divergent paths on the hunt for the same truths are so true to their characters and the overall message of the show. the main themes are interlaced with it: conspiracy, clones, secret experiments, shadow governments.
mulder asks skinner to set up a meeting with cigarette man. he will do anything to help scully, even if it’s just finding the truth. skinner tells him that it’s like making a deal with the devil and forbids him from trying that avenue. skinner, who we have always known to be a supporter of the agents and the x-files, takes a further step in his allegiance to them. this is a big development to his character. he’s always ridden the line between cooperation and dignity. the horrors inflicted on scully, now with this cancer, are enough to send skinner over that line. skinner makes the deal he would not let mulder make. we don’t know what he’s sacrificed at the end, but we know it can’t be good. csm exudes evil. skinner even refers to him as the devil. that feeling has permeated the scenes he’s been in throughout the series so far and in this episode it’s firmly established, but still with the delicious fog of mystery shrouding him and his motives.
mulder’s investigation turns up evidence that dr. scanlon, who is treating scully now, is on staff at the secret laboratory that’s been working on the branched DNA. mulder has to get word to scully to stop her treatment as a hitman with the same objective as the alien bounty hunter chases down mulder. it’s an episode about someone with cancer and we still get super tense and suspenseful action scenes. that’s “the x-files” for you. mulder comes across a lab, much like the one he found in “the erlenmeyer flask.” there are men in fish tanks. the man he had been searching the MUFON files with is there and is revealed that he is a clone like the samantha clone from “colony/end game.” all these connections to the mythology that was started at the beginning is comforting, seeing as more complicated mytharc plotlines have been introduced. these clones are the spawn of an experiment that uses ova harvested from abductees. mulder finds scully’s ova there and learns that the women who were victims of this procedure have all been left barren and afflicted with cancer. he takes a vial of it. could it be a key to her survival?
mulder makes it back to scully, only to see her missing from her room. he finds her at penny’s bedside, as she lay dying. he waits in the hallway for her. scully comes out after penny passes. they look at each other, both feeling the weight of what penny’s death means. it is a time of hopelessness, but then the two of them have an exchange where they are full of hope. scully says, “i decided tonight that i’m not going to let this beat me. i’ve got things to finish. to prove to myself, to my family, but for my own reasons.” she’s not following mulder into the dark anymore. she’s going into it on her own accord, for her own need to discover the truth. mulder says, “the truth will save you, scully. i think it will save both of us.”
so, mulder doesn’t tell scully about her ova until next season when it happens to come up. what the hell, mulder?
scully being so brave as she talks about her diagnosis and continuing to work in the field is so interesting to watch.
the scene between scully and her mom is fantastic and heartbreaking. they’re even developing mrs. scully in this episode. amazing.
nice lone gunmen assist.
mulder’s face when he sees she’s alive.
did you know? behind the scenes facts:
memento mori means “remember that you will die.”
oh, thank god for this episode after them fighting in “never again.” i needed this.
“share my burden as i have come to trust no other. that you should know my heart, look into it, finding there the memory and experience that belong to you, that are you” these could practically be wedding vows, girl.
mulder brings scully flowers and then makes a joke and makes her smile. “i stole these from somebody with a broken leg down the hall. he won’t be able to catch me.”
he’s the only one she tells when she first learns.
mulder says, “i don’t accept that. we can…” WE!!
the hallway hug. lengthy hug with a forehead kiss. GAHHHHHH!
s: “i feel these words as if their meaning were weight lifted from me knowing that you will read them and share my burden as i have come to trust no other. that you should know my heart, look into it, finding there the memory and experience that belong to you, that are you, is a comfort to me now as i feel the tethers loose and the prospects darken for the continuance of a journey that began not so long ago. and which began again with a faith shaken and strengthened by your convictions. if not for which i might never have been so strong now as i cross to face you and look at you, incomplete, hoping that you will forgive me for not making the rest of the journey with you.”
s: “quit staring at me, i’m fine.”
s: “mulder, whatever you’ve found or think you might find, i think that we both know that the truth is in me and that’s where i need to pursue it, as soon as possible.”
maggie: “you’ve always been the strong one, but you are my only daughter now.” the look of resolve on scully’s face is chilling.
s: “and if the darkness should have swallowed me as you read this you must never think there was the possibility of some secret intervention, something you might have done and though we’ve travelled so far together, this last distance must necessarily be travelled alone.”
skinner: “you can’t ask the truth of a man that trades in lies.”
skinner: “at least he doesn’t take an elevator up to get to work.”
csm: “you think i’m the devil, mr. skinner?”
m: “we gots to go.” this isn’t notable, i just thought it was funny hearing mulder say it.
s: “mulder, i feel you close, but i know you are pursuing your own path. for that i am grateful, more than i can ever express. i need to know you’re out there if i am ever to see it through this.”
m: “come on back.”