Season 3, Episode 1: “The Blessing Way”
In my review of “Anasazi” I talked more about my personal experience with the episode, which is not the job of a reviewer, but I decided to discuss the conspiracy/mythology stuff in the next two reviews since we have our first three parter. “Duane Barry”, “Ascension”, and “One Breath” are three related episodes but since the only part of “Duane Barry” that’s related is the end and they squeezed an extra episode in between “Ascension” and “One Breath”, they’re not a true three parter. No, so much happens in “Anasazi”, “The Blessing Way”, and “Paper Clip” that they had to split it into three. If only they were three equally good parts.
Of the three, “The Blessing Way” is by far the weakest and it’s not just because of Chris Carter’s purple prose. I can get past that, but I can’t get past this episode’s other problems. It’s not bad, not at all – it’s really too important an episode to be bad – but it does have issues the other two don’t. Think about these three episodes as an okay sandwich with two really good pieces of bread.
But, I need to make up for my lack of serious reviewing in my “Anasazi” review and discuss what’s going on with the mythology so far.
The most important development in the conspiracy from “Anasazi” is not the boxcar full of bodies, as you might suspect, but instead what we learn about two things: the Cigarette Smoking Man and Mulder’s father. First, and most importantly, we learn that the Cigarette Smoking Man does not work alone but with a whole group of shadowy men just like him. The show gave little hints of this in Season 2 – what with Krycek’s involvement and the group at the end of “Sleepless” – but this is the first time the Syndicate has ever been directly addressed. We don’t actually see them until “The Blessing Way”, but we know they’re there. What we need, of course, are characters just as interesting and/or sinister as the Cigarette Smoking Man himself, and not only does Chris Carter not disappoint but he exceeds our expectations. We have the Well-Manicured Man, a fan favorite for his crisp British accent and his gentlemanly involvement in the evil conspiracy, and then we have the 1st Elder, who is much scarier than CSM because…well, listen to that voice. Look at his face when he speaks. This man has no emotions. He will snuff you out like a candle if you get in his way. To see “sinister”, you only have to look at him.
Then we have the issue of Mulder’s father. From what happens in “Anasazi”, we know that Mulder’s father was involved in the conspiracy somehow. We also know that he has some sort of relationship with CSM, and that he’s deeply regretful for what he did. Unfortunately, he speaks in mostly cryptic, vague statements when talking to Mulder in “Anasazi”, so we don’t know specifically what his involvement was. We do know it was serious enough to get him killed. Just what was he about to tell Mulder?
It seems strange that, if what Bill Mulder was about to reveal to Mulder was serious enough to kill him, Mulder’s father wouldn’t have taken a few more safeguards before promising to reveal all to his son and then taking a trip to the bathroom. I mean, he even had the little swingy bathroom mirror door, which means that as soon as he shuts it someone’s going to be standing behind him.
Now that Bill Mulder is dead, though, we won’t know the truth, at least not from him. He seems determined to speak in cryptic statements, even from beyond the grave, so Mulder’s going to have to find out some other way.
As for Scully, a hugely important thing happens to her in “The Blessing Way” – actually, two very important things, but we’ll get to the second one later. The first is that she goes through a metal detector and finds a metal chip in her neck. It seems to be a computer chip of enormous complexity (though it’s probably not by today’s standards), and she has no memory of how it got there or who put it there. Since Mulder is lying unconscious in the desert somewhere, she can’t really consult him about it, and she can’t launch an investigation because she’s been suspended from her duties at the FBI.
Things get even worse for poor Scully, though, when her sister goes over to her apartment and Alex Krycek and his buddies shoot her, thinking it’s Scully. Now Melissa Scully is in critical condition.
Now let me talk for a minute about Melissa, because her time on the show is so unfairly short that I feel it’s only fair if I give her a bit of my time. I always liked Melissa as a character because she provided such a strong character contrast to both Scully and Mulder. If you remember from “One Breath”, Mulder doesn’t listen to Melissa because he doesn’t hold any value in spiritual things. We’ll talk about why that might be when I review this season’s episode “Revelations”, but for now just know that spirituality makes Mulder uncomfortable. It makes Scully uncomfortable, too, but not for the same reasons. Scully was raised Catholic, but she’s also a scientist, and it’s becoming clearer that justifying the two within herself is very difficult for her. This is a struggle that happens in many people, and usually they try to lean on the parts of both things that they connect with the most. Scully may wear that cross because it symbolizes a belief in a faith, system, or philosophy. What she doesn’t believe in are things like “spiritual forces” or “spiritual energies” or “magical godly healing powers.” Scully’s a Catholic, but she’s a scientific Catholic.
Melissa, however, seems to not only rely on her belief in the spiritual but use it to help the people around her. She tries to do as much in “One Breath” with both Scully and Mulder, and in “The Blessing Way” she tries to send Scully to visit someone whom she thinks might help Scully recover her lost memories. Scully tries, but she eventually shuts the doctor (and, effectively, her sister) out. She ain’t got time for that.
What bothers me about Scully in “The Blessing Way” is that her concern for Mulder seems to be placed at a lower priority level than finding out what the chip in her neck is. That sounds cruel of me to say, but I feel if this episode had been in, say, Season 5 or 6 Scully would not have rested until she’d turned over every stone in that desert herself. In “The Blessing Way” she’s upset about finding the chip, losing her job, but Mulder? Maybe she’s hiding her emotions, but she certainly didn’t hide them when Mulder got shot in “Beyond the Sea”, and she’s made no secret of her affection for Mulder (“Mulder, I wouldn’t put myself on the line for anybody but you”).
Maybe she truly believes Mulder isn’t dead, like she tells Mulder’s mother. But then why isn’t she looking for him? Who does she think is going to find him? How can she be sure that Mulder is all right?
It’s not like hiding emotions is uncharacteristic for Scully, but Scully’s not just hiding her emotions, she doesn’t seem to be excessively concerned about Mulder at all. She goes to a regression hypnotist and walks to her mother’s house, but the episode never lets her rest and confront her emotions concerning the potential loss of her partner. And it never will, because by the end, Mulder’s come back.
Oh, excuse me, “returned from the dead.”
Final score for “The Blessing Way” is 6/10. Introduces us to very important aspects of the mythology, but is the weakest episode of the three parter.
- I don’t understand how Chris Carter can go from writing something ridiculous like “Memory, like fire, is radiant and immutable” and then in the same episode write the line “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” That’s one of my all-time favorite X-Files lines, and it comes from an episode that’s usually ridiculed for its hokey purple prose.
- Speaking of which, the Well-Manicured Man says that line, and he’s really cool.
- “Eyes forward. Put your hands where I can see them. Don’t turn around or I’ll blow your head off. Don’t think I won’t do it, you son of a bitch.” *MASSIVE SIGH* C’mon, Scully. It’s Skinner. Give the poor man a chance. Shouldn’t you direct all this angry energy into finding Mulder?