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“Home Again” and Looking at the Big and Little Questions on The X-Files

9 Feb

Mulder’s quest began a long time ago with a simple question that lacked in a simple answer – who took his sister and why? That night is what led to his interest (okay obsession) with all things paranormal, ultimately leading to his partnership with Scully. In this 6-episode revival The X-Files isn’t so concerned with what happened to Samantha Mulder (‘explanations’ in the past range from cloning, a shadowy government conspiracy, aliens and a serial killer giving Mulder answers and then taking them away), but rather addressing the child that Scully and Mulder had and then gave up for adoption in order to protect him. William is the thread that runs throughout and a sadness hangs over Scully (and Mulder) in the same way Samantha did during the original series.

With William it isn’t so much what happened to him – even though Scully has plenty of those questions – as they know the reason why he is no longer in their life, but more about the decision they made and if there could have been another way. A lot of this is saturated in guilt; Mulder felt guilty for being the one not taken way back when and now Scully is consumed with this feeling that she abandoned her child.The X-Files 10.04 Mulder and ScullyThere is no way to reconcile this guilt other than by bringing William back into the fold in some way or other and it definitely seems like they are building to some kind of resolution. Or as much of a resolution as The X-Files can offer because they’re going to leave some questions (okay probably a lot) unanswered in case they want to do more (which if the ratings are any indication, Fox will definitely want more). When it comes to this storyline YMMV depending on how invested you are in this side of Mulder and Scully’s relationship and for the record I am very much in. I wear my shipper status and feelings with pride.

The intimacy levels are not just about the romantic and the bond between Mulder and Scully goes beyond William and any potential romantic involvement. The way “Home Again” (written by Glen Morgan) mirrors the season 2 return of Scully in “One Breath” (co-written by Glen Morgan) is achieved on several levels. From overt references with a flashback clip of Mulder talking to Scully, the talisman (Scully’s cross necklace/her mother’s mysterious quarter chain) and the desire to will someone back to life. Mulder needed to know what had happened to Scully after Duane Barry abducted her and Scully’s questions in the present shifts the focus onto a few personal mysteries rather than a larger conspiracy. Gillian Anderson nails the heightened emotions with this devastating line “I don’t care about the big questions right now, Mulder. I just want a chance to ask my mother a few of the little ones.”

In a touching conversation at Margaret Scully’s bedside, Scully wonders if they ever encountered anyone with the ability to wish another person back to life. Mulder of course did such a thing when Scully was in her coma – “I invented it” – and the “you’re a dark wizard” response is a much needed moment of levity before Scully’s mother wakes up, mentions William and then dies. Giving Scully even more reason to question her decision and think about the son she gave up. Mulder’s close relationship with Scully’s mother began in “One Breath” and Mulder and Scully’s lives have been so entwined on every level that I am so glad he was here for Scully in this moment (initially I was concerned he would be stuck in Philadelphia working on the case for the whole episode). Scully perfectly fits under Mulder’s chin in a visual which yep, caused more feelings.The X Files 10.04 Mulder and ScullyThe big and little questions of The X-Files come in a variety of forms and one of the prevailing strengths of this show is its ability to weave between themes that impact the overall worldview of these characters (generally the mythology infused episodes) and ones that focus on something smaller (monster of the week episodes). These ‘monsters’ come in many different forms and can be funny (like last week’s episode “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster), scary (“Home”), other worldly (“Squeeze) or very much rooted in reality (“Irresistible”).

What “Home Again” does is combine a MOTW with the overall mythology and at times this episode does suffer from doing too much and would maybe have benefited from an extended run time. That’s not to say it isn’t a good episode and for me it is on a par with last week’s super fun standalone outing; while the monster backstory is pretty forgettable everything that radiates from Scully is engrossing. It also does a good job of  reinforcing the strength of the Mulder and Scully relationship no matter how long they have been apart and what they have both sacrificed; the core of The X-Files is always them.

Costuming wise this is also reflected once again in their mirrored style/color choices from matching black coats in the emotional final scene to the blue of Scully’s shirt and the polka dots (!) on Mulder’s tie.The X-Files 10.04 Scully and MulderThe phrase “back in the day” gets used a couple of times; first at Margaret Scully’s bedside with regards to wishing someone back to life and later on when Mulder points out he’s not running up stairs to which Scully replies “Mulder, back in the day I used to do stairs and three inch heels.” Take that Jurassic World pump doubters. Mulder always one with a quippy comeback remarks “Scully, back in the day is now.”

What this does is deliver a playful moment in an episode that is steeped in heavy emotion showing that The X-Files is still a master at weaving between super serious or scary with lighthearted interactions. This pair has been through so much trauma on every level, but thankfully they still have each other and a sense of humor. This is required when going into dark buildings which may or may not house a dude who can pull arms off a human like wings off a fly.

Oh yes they also have flashlights and this prop will never not make me giddy. The X-Files 10.04 flashlightsThe flashlight moment which was teased in the trailer happened in “Home Again” and yep it was wonderful.

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The episode ends with Scully doubling down on her partnership with Mulder and his work while also pointing out that there are so many mysteries with regards to William that she’ll “never have answered.” Mulder gives no verbal confirmation that they didn’t “treat him like trash” but the gesture of pulling her into him is an act of comfort and one intended to give Scully reassurance. I also have a feeling we might get some William answers or at least vague hints by the time this mini-series is over. Nothing concrete of course.

Watch the promo for next week’s episode “Babylon” below and just know that Lauren Ambrose being back on TV is another reason to celebrate.

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