Season 4, Episode 9: “Terma”
Usually (and I do mean usually) the second part of a mythology two-parter is the stronger. I’m not so sure that’s the case for “Terma.” We certainly do have a very memorable scene at the end with Mulder’s return, and Mulder’s escape from the Russian death camp isn’t exactly forgettable. But in terms of completing this story, “Terma” raises a lot more questions than it does answers. Which, of course, is the nature of The X-Files, I understand, but here it doesn’t feel quite right.
It doesn’t help that this episode begins with one of the most uselessly dark and dare I say manipulative openings in X-Files history. I seem to be the only person who remembers this scene enough to be bothered by it, but something about it feels very wrong to me. In case you didn’t pick up on it, this episode opens with somebody’s aunt going through euthanasia, or assisted suicide, which is a very serious subject that should be treated with kid gloves if at all. What we get out of this scene is nothing more than another demonstration of the black cancer. I would have been fine with that, had they not made such a show of the euthanasia, with the aunt telling the niece that she’s tired of the pain and the niece tragically asking if her aunt is gone. Take that out of this episode and view it on its own, and you’ve got a very sad, very serious and potentially moving story about euthanasia and the questions it raises. Which, obviously, is not the purpose of this episode – but therein lies my point. Why use a subject so serious and then do nothing with it except end it in a horribly twisted way? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
But, putting that aside, is “Terma” a good episode? Well, it’s certainly not the best episode we’ll ever get, mythology or otherwise, but like “Tunguska” it’s definitely not bad. It’s entertaining, it’s exciting, and full of characters like Krycek and the Well-Manicured Man. It’s actually a lot more important to the mythology than I ever realized, feeding into storylines that won’t resurface until the end of Season 6. And it undeniably has an amazing scene at the end, where Mulder returns to the courtroom and we see that look on Scully’s face, like a million Christmases have come early. So no, it’s not bad at all.
Still, though, there’s something about it that bugs me, and it’s this: “Terma” may move a little too quickly for the episode to ever really settle, at least until the end. As soon as Mulder escapes from the Russian camp, the action continues until the very end. Mulder is left no time to really contemplate what happened to him in the camp, and, perhaps most confusingly, discuss it with Scully. Because of this, I completely forgot the how important the whole Mulder-being-exposed-to-black-cancer thing was, even though that was the cliffhanger of “Tunguska.”
Also – blink and you’ll miss it – very few, myself included, seem to pick up on the fact that Krycek was the one who hired the badass old Russian assassin. I certainly didn’t realize that until this last rewatch, which was maybe the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen this episode. All it does, really, is put Krycek in an even more confusing position (and it makes him a really, really good liar and someone who is really good at taking chances – like thank goodness speaking Russian convinced Mulder to take him to Russia, right?). I’m pretty sure Krycek didn’t plan to have his arm cut off, after all. If this all was a plan from the beginning, he probably needs to plan better.
Still, though, I do love the last few scenes, beginning from when Mulder makes his surprise entrance to the end of the episode. I love whenever Scully’s the one to rescue Mulder, and the scene with the oil rig explosion is expert work from the king of all explosion directors, Rob Bowman. And, like I said, while the details of this episode’s mythology can become hard to remember, the visuals aren’t (probably in great part because of Bowman).
And, of course, we have a great few scenes with everyone’s favorite bad Brit, the Well-Manicured Man, whose frustration with CSM is almost too good not to love. If CSM is the ultimate nemesis, then Well-Manicured Man is the bossy older brother always telling him when he’s screwed up. It’s also interesting to see how quickly Well-Manicured Man’s attitude towards CSM’s methods changes when Dr. Bonita What’s-Her-Face gets killed.
So, while I can’t say it’s exactly the best The X-Files has to offer, it’s still a great ride, and we all need some Indiana Jones-esque action from time to time, even if we do lose a bit of clarity in the plot. And, like I said, “Tunguska” and “Terma” are deceptively important, so if you can recall details from these two a few seasons from now, you’ll be in good shape.
And Scully makes this face, so I can’t complain too much.
Final score for “Terma” is 7/10. Really, in my brain, “Tunguska” and “Terma” are the same episode. Not the best, but definitely still good. If not a bit confusing. But you can’t deny the good moments.
- Scully looks beautiful even when jailed.
- Does anyone find it odd that Scully doesn’t even question Mulder when he says “I can put my arms around you – both of them”? Shouldn’t that have gotten at least a Scully eyebrow?
- I love that last scene. It’s creepy and mirrors the scene at the beginning, kind of like a visual bookend. Also, I really wish we could see more of the badass old Russian assassin, but unfortunately this is his only appearance.
And some news!
For those of you that follow me on Twitter – or even if you don’t – I’ll be participating in the Global Rewatch hosted by the wonderful people over at X-Files News, and livetweeting as much as I can as they go episode by episode. I won’t be able to do all of them, but I have been able to do most. I also have some exciting news concerning this rewatch that I won’t announce just yet, but stay tuned!