Season 2, Episode 17: “End Game”
You might notice I didn’t really go into an extensive discussion about “Colony.” A lot happens in “Colony,” but most of it I found could only be really well discussed if related to the events in the follow-up episode, “End Game,” and I didn’t want to spoil too much. “End Game” has many problems, a lot of confusing elements I just didn’t understand. Most of them have to do with Samantha.
It’s hard to tell whether or not Mulder truly believes this woman is his sister. He does confront her about it a little in “End Game,” but not so much as to ignore what she says and drop the matter. In “Colony” he reassures his mother that she is Samantha, but that’s most likely an attempt to put his mother’s mind at ease. He never asks for a DNA test, never requests an ounce of proof from Samantha that she is who she says she is. And, strangely enough, neither do Mulder’s parents. If she’s really been gone for twenty-two years, don’t you think that someone would have woken up, slapped a hand to their forehead and said, “Uh, dur? Let’s see how much of this is actually real?”
If Mulder has learned anything from Scully, it’s that he needs more than a belief to find the truth; he needs hard evidence. He says as much in the Season’s opener, “Little Green Men”:
MULDER: Seeing is not enough, I should have something to hold onto. Some solid evidence. I learned that from you.
See, I didn’t say it. Which brings me to the point that what Mulder says and what Mulder does are often two very different things. It bothers me that Mulder doesn’t even question, at least not enough, that this strange woman who just randomly showed up at his father’s house is his long-lost sister come back from whatever. What bothers me even more, however, is that he seems to be consciously aware of the fact that he’s not questioning her. He doesn’t want to question her. For whatever reason, Mulder is not using his brain.
Let’s go back to “Colony” and look at the first conversation between Mulder and Samantha. Samantha is telling Mulder exactly what he wants to hear. She even throws something in there about abductions and tests. Did it not seem the least bit suspicious to Mulder, or Mulder’s family, for that matter, that Samantha just comes waltzing into their lives again, affirming that Mulder’s flimsy beliefs have been completely true? Now, I know that Mulder is often right about a lot of things without necessarily any evidence to back them up, but this is Samantha we’re talking about, not just some routine X-File (if such a phrase can be warranted). That’s a pretty big deal.
Which is why I think no one can truly buy that this strange woman is actually Samantha, from the moment she first appears on screen. The writers just wouldn’t do that this early in the show, and they certainly wouldn’t pronounce Mulder as completely correct about what happened to his sister. That would undermine the point of his search for the truth, and it would also undermine Scully’s role on the X-Files.
Speaking of Scully.
When Mulder learns his partner has been kidnapped again and that the alien Bounty Hunter wants to trade her for Samantha, Mulder doesn’t even waste time trying to find a solution that will bring Scully and hopefully Samantha back safe. He doesn’t want to see his sister go, but there’s no way in hell he’s putting Scully in any more danger.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me while I theorize and read way too much into things when I know I probably shouldn’t. As a reviewer, that’s my job, but if overdone speculation annoys you, you might want to skip the part in the new, fancy font.
Why does Mulder make the trade if he truly believes Samantha has returned to him? Yes, I know he’s got Skinner back there with the shooter, but come on, Mulder’s never dealt with anything like this before. He has no idea if this will actually work. Mulder really and truly is putting Samantha in great risk by even appearing to make the deal. Here are some explanations I have come up with:
1. Scully means way too much to Mulder at this point. In a way – and I tread on dangerous ground when I say this – she’s become more important to him than Samantha. Whether or not you’re a Shipper or a NoRoMo you can’t deny that Mulder has this affection for Scully that he has for no one else. She’s already been abducted, and he’s not going to ruin her life because of his crusade. This begs the question, though: if Mulder honestly believes that Samantha is who she says she is, then he’s basically found what he’s spent his whole life searching for – time that included years before he met Scully. And Scully, as we’ve already established, stays with Mulder on the X-Files because she believes in him, not because she believes in any of his theories about what happened to Samantha. How would Scully feel if Mulder traded her for his sister? Mulder doesn’t even appear to consider that.
2. Mulder doesn’t actually believe that Samantha is is real sister – or at least, he has very strong doubts. If that’s the case, though, why the hell does Mulder act the way he does when the Bounty Hunter takes Samantha over the bridge? Why does he get all teary-eyed when he has to tell his father? Why didn’t he confront Samantha about it more? And even more significantly – why is it that when Mulder delivers the news about Samantha’s “death” to his father, WHY IS IT THAT HIS FATHER ASKS HIM NO DETAILS, NO FURTHER QUESTIONS, EVEN AS TO WHY MULDER WOULD TRADE HIS LONG-LOST SISTER FOR HIS PARTNER?
This is such a serious flaw that I honestly found it hard to continue being emotionally invested in the episode, or at least, in Samantha’s fate. There’s nothing that bothers me so much as plain lazy writing. The X-Files has a pretty incredible lack of laziness in its scripts and to see it pop up here is deeply frustrating. Nobody would react like this. Mulder wouldn’t react like this. Mulder’s father wouldn’t react like this.
The only voice of consistency in this entire episode is Scully, as she immediately confronts Mulder about why he didn’t tell her that it was Samantha who was with him and not just some random woman he found on the street. And when she asks him if he’s sure if it’s really Samantha, we get this infuriating bit:
SCULLY: Are you sure that it’s your sister?
MULDER: Why would you even question me on that?
Oh, I don’t know, Mulder, maybe because YOU NEVER DID.
Oh, let’s just get back to the episode.
So, we discover indeed that Samantha is not Samantha but a clone who looks remarkably like Samantha (or enough like Samantha to completely convince Mulder’s family, at least). So basically all the emotions Mulder went through in the last episode and the first half of this one was all for naught. Man, these people really are cruel.
Mulder learns from X that the alien Bounty Hunter is on his way back to his ship, which is located somewhere near Alaska, I think? Whatever. It’s icy and cold. So, Mulder decides to go up there without a second’s thought about the consequences of his actions and the fact that he knows the alien Bounty Hunter can literally transform into anyone. Gee, what a shocker. Before he leaves, though, he does try to redeem himself a little:
MULDER [in an email]: Scully, when you get this message, I will be too far away for you to stop me, but where I’m going I cannot allow you to follow. I won’t let you jeopardize your life and your career for reasons purely personal to me. You were right, Scully…you said a line has to be drawn somewhere. I’m drawing it for you here. I’ll contact you when I can.
Oh, Mulder, you spontaneously sweet thing, that’s a lovely message but it’s not going to do squat. Scully would follow you if you decided to go to the moon in a helicopter. Get used to it.
When Scully finally rushes in to save the dying Mulder, I love how she’s desperate yet at the top of her game. Mulder’s been saving Scully for a while; now it’s time for Scully to come to the rescue. Which brings us to the final scene.
SCULLY: Thanks for ditching me.
MULDER: I… I’m sorry, I… I couldn’t let you risk your life on this.
SCULLY: Did you find what you were looking for?
MULDER: No. No. But I… I found something I thought I’d lost. Faith to keep looking.
It’s well-written and touching, but it still doesn’t make sense. At what point did Mulder “lose his faith”? He might have lost it briefly when the fake Samantha was thrown into the river, but he found out that it hadn’t actually been Samantha pretty soon afterwards. And he obviously didn’t lose too much faith to keep looking otherwise he wouldn’t have approached X with any requests for information and he wouldn’t have gone to Alaska. Also, when did he get his faith back? When the alien Bounty Hunter told him Samantha was alive? How did he know the Bounty Hunter wasn’t lying? Did he get it back as he was lying in the snow about to be killed by a sharp metal object slowly lowering to chop his body in half and suffering the effects of exposure to the green liquid? That would be a point where most people would lose their faith, but it’s Mulder, so who knows.
Perhaps, though, what Mulder really lost – ah, here is my lame attempt to make sense of all this – was belief and confidence in himself. If that’s true, then it can only be for one reason – he didn’t have Scully with him. Mulder has a personal crusade, but he also has Scully, and now the two have become linked forever. It’ll be more justified once we get to the season finale, but there’s no separating the two anymore. Try as he might, Mulder’s going to be lost without Scully there. Maybe that’s when he realized he’d found something he’d lost – not when he was being royally ass-kicked by the alien Bounty Hunter, but when he woke up and saw Scully by his bedside.
(Insert Shipper “AWWWW” here.)
Final score for “End Game” is 5/10. There are just too many things in this episode that don’t add up, are never explained, and often never brought up again. It’s not completely bad, but it’s definitely a huge drop in quality from the other mythology episodes up until this point. Well, except for “Red Museum.” But come on.
Some Brief Speculations
A-HA! Bet you thought I was going to give you some Notable Nuggets, didn’t you?
Well, I’ve realized in the course of doing these reviews that not every episode has Notable Nuggets, or that the entire episode is basically a Notable Nugget. I’ve used the Notable Nuggets section mostly as a nitpicker and a Shipper, but since I’m pretty much doing the same thing in my reviews, sometimes it isn’t necessary.
What I will say about this particular review is that I have absolutely no idea why it ended up being so long. I don’t particularly like or hate “End Game” more than any other episode. Maybe I didn’t realize how rich in confusing substance it was, or maybe I’m just in a mood for speculation today. Whatever the reason, I apologize for the length, if that’s something that bothers you.