Season 4, Episode 17: “Tempus Fugit”
The mythology strikes again! Our next two episodes, “Tempus Fugit” and “Max,” are more of the traditional mytharc episodes. We don’t have the deep character exploration of “Memento Mori” in these, it’s back to things flying through the night, Mulder sneaking into places he shouldn’t, shootings, Skinner, UFOs, etc. Let’s get this party started.
Literally. We start out with Mulder very sweetly celebrating Scully’s birthday, although for me this part always leaves me feeling a bit sour because, well, Mulder’s finally celebrating Scully’s birthday (at least on screen) but Scully also has cancer and is quite probably dying. So it’s a mixed bag of emotions. Sweet scene, but I do wish Mulder and Scully could be sweet without necessarily facing disaster all the time.
The birthday celebration is soon interrupted by the plot, which comes in the form of a woman claiming to be Max Fenig’s sister. Max Fenig – the name ring a bell? Yep, he was that wacky geek Mulder and Scully met back in Season 1’s “Fallen Angel.”
I can’t speak for everyone, but I love Max as a character, and on my first watch of this episode I knew who he was immediately even though I hadn’t seen him for over three seasons. I think that’s a testament to how great his character is. It also makes these two episodes a little more melancholy than we’re used to, because (spoiler alert) Max is dead. He’s not coming back.
I always thought this was a rather unfortunate way to handle Max’s character in these episodes. We do feel the pain of Max’s absence, to be sure, and he’s a strong enough character that his death is able to leave an impact on the viewer. But I wonder what watching these episodes was like when they first aired. At that point, the last time the audience would have seen Max Fenig (assuming they’d even watched from the beginning) would be four years before. It’s easy enough for someone watching now to remember Max, as viewers today have all the episodes and are likely binge-watching, so the time between seasons is condensed. I remembered Max, but I didn’t have to wait four years.
Because of this, the effectiveness of Max’s death will probably vary depending on whom you ask, and I personally would love to know everyone’s thoughts on this – so comment below if you have any input!
But, back to the episode. Yeah, this one’s really good, guys. I wasn’t sure until I rewatched it, but there are a lot of really touching little moments that make this episode (or this pair of episodes, I should say) pretty golden in my book. They’re not really very special or tremendously important as far as the mythology goes, but there’s a lot in them that’s very well done.
For instance, I love the scene where Mulder looks at Max’s dead body. You can see how much it pains him that Max is gone. The camera then pans to a family standing around their dead family member and sobbing. This might be a bit of a stretch, but knowing how Mulder cared for Max, I like to think that this family is vocalizing the sadness Mulder feels. In a way, Mulder has lost a part of his family, a comrade that shared his beliefs about aliens, that lived his theories of aliens and abductions, that paid attention to his writing and had the same drive to find out the truth. Mulder hasn’t just lost a friend, he’s lost an ally.
And I also love Scully’s lack of energy. This is the first episode since “Memento Mori” that directly involves the cancer, and we find that it’s a thorn in our side. Scully’s tired, constantly hugging herself in the cold, and her entire demeanor seems fatigued. I like to think this was absolutely intentional, and it makes sense. It makes us sad and worried for her, as we should be.
So – I like this one, guys. And I like the following episode, “Max,” too. They are much better than I remembered and possibly the best mythology episodes of Season 4 besides “Memento Mori.” Solid, well written, well-acted. Good stuff. Nothing in here to make me mad, piss me off, or scream Chris Carter’s name in a violent fury. Absolutely nothing at all. Nope. Not one little thing.
Final score for “Tempus Fugit” is 8/10. It’s a good episode – memorable, entertaining, and quite touching in some spots. And like I said, there’s absolutely nothing infuriating about it. Right?
Notable Nuggets (and Nitpicks)
- There are actually a lot of notable nuggets in this one. I’d like to start off by pointing out that Mulder reaches illegal heights of adorable in this one, especially during the birthday scene, and David Duchovny needs to be arrested because of it.
- Also Mulder SCUBA DIVES. This begs the question: do you think Mulder and Scully have ever gone snorkeling together?
- I find it confusing that Scully feel she has to explain Mulder’s cryptic statements to the military officers with “We’ve been traveling a long way.” At this point does she still care if people are confused by Mulder’s many oddities? I don’t think so.
- The part where Mulder pulls out his business card from Max’s body is so touching, it almost makes me choke up. And I know what you’re thinking: “Knife Ink, how do you almost choke up?” And I have no idea. But I’m trying not to admit emotions. 😉