Season 2, Episode 6: “Ascension”
I wouldn’t trade places with Mulder in these next few episodes for anything. The poor guy has to be going through a lot. He’s lost the X-Files, and now he’s lost Scully. He now has to look for three things: Scully, his sister, and the truth, and he has no means with which to do so. Things couldn’t really get much worse.
Mulder isn’t exactly the most emotionally open person in the world, either. He likes to mask his true feelings behind excuses – for example, as we saw at the beginning of this season, he hides his shame about getting kicked off the X-Files behind his paranoia, hoping he can avoid Scully. This causes him to become mopey and self-pitying.
In the next few episodes, Mulder will mask his feelings behind his desperate search for Scully – only this time, he won’t be able to control them as well. These are without a doubt Mulder’s episodes. They may be about Scully, but she’s gone; it’s Mulder who must change and challenge and cope.
I’ve often talked about how good the X-Files is at endings, but “Ascension” has one of the best beginnings to any episode on the show. It picks up right where “Duane Barry” left off – we see Scully’s kidnapping scene again, then we follow Mulder as he goes to his apartment and listens to the messages on his answering machine. When he hears the one left by Scully, the look on his face is absolutely devastating. Kudos to David Duchovny – his face changes only slightly, but at the same time it’s enough to let you know that Mulder’s world has just flipped. What I love most about this scene is that he doesn’t say a word – not a single word. And he doesn’t have to.
After that, Mulder bulldozes his way through the episode. He won’t stop, not even for a second, in his search for Scully. He’s a man of action, basically taking care of everything – the search, Scully’s mother, Duane Barry, everything except for himself. He’s so desperate to find Scully that he won’t allow himself to rest, or feel, or stop to think. He nearly drives the car off the road on the way to Skyland Mountain.
We also need to address Krycek. We learned in “Sleepless” that Krycek is working with the Cigarette Smoking Man, and that they intended to somehow get rid of Scully. This wasn’t addressed in “Duane Barry,” and Krycek shows up very briefly in that episode, but we’ve been waiting for him to strike. He finally does when Mulder goes up in the tram to the top of the mountain. He knocks out the tram operator and stops the tram car so that Mulder can’t get to the top, and when Mulder (the IDIOT) decides to climb his way up, Krycek starts the tram again to try and make him fall off. Mulder doesn’t fall off, though, because he’s Mulder, and reaches the top of the mountain.
When he gets there, it’s already too late. Whoever took Duane Barry away has now taken Scully, and crazy Duane Barry couldn’t be happier about it. Mulder takes him into a house and holds him there for questioning.
It’s here we come to a scene which always leaves me conflicted.
Mulder, deep down, knows he’s lost Scully. He believes that she was abducted by aliens, and that there’s nothing Duane Barry can really tell him that will help get her back. But Mulder interrogates Duane Barry anyway. Mulder’s reached the end of his fuse, and he’s a bomb ready to go off. Every question he asks Duane Barry – every time he says “Did you hurt her?” or “Did you kill her?” he knows the answer already. These aren’t questions he’s directing at Duane Barry; he’s directing them at himself. He lost Scully. It’s his fault. And that thought fills him with so much rage and hurt that he takes it out on Duane Barry. By choking him.
I just have never been able to buy that scene. It reminds me of the dreadful Star Wars prequel films, where Anakin Skywalker starts choking someone whenever he doesn’t get his way. Granted, Mulder’s conflict is a lot more serious and justified, but to me Mulder doesn’t seem like the kind of person that would react in that way. But here’s where I have trouble. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe Chris Carter is trying to tell us something. Scully is so important to Mulder that when she’s taken away from him, he acts out of character and does things he wouldn’t normally do. Because when he’s lost Scully, he’s lost a part of himself.
We’ll be dealing with this even more when we get to “One Breath”, so I don’t want to talk about it too much.
The remaining issue in this episode is Krycek, who just kind of waltzes off the stage after Mulder finds out whom he really works for. I kind of wish he’d stayed longer, or made a more definite exit. One thing’s for sure – we’ll be seeing much more of him.
This show is beginning to climb out of “good” into “amazing” territory. No wonder the episode’s called “Ascension”; they might as well be talking about the show as well as the story in the episode.
Oh, wait. I spoke too soon.
I hope you’re ready for the next review, guys. It’s going to be…interesting.
Final score for “Ascension” is 8/10. THIS IS GETTING SO GOOD.
- The talks between Mulder and Scully’s mother are really quite fantastic. I didn’t bring them up because they fit better within the context of “One Breath,” but I didn’t want to let them go unmentioned.
- I actually felt really sad when Duane Barry died. Like Mulder, it was hard to figure out whom to blame for Scully’s disappearance, but Duane Barry certainly wasn’t it. He was kind of crazy in a noble way, and I ended up liking his character a lot.
- If your heart doesn’t break when Scully’s mom tells Mulder to keep Scully’s necklace, this show isn’t for you.