Season 5, Episode 14: “The Red and the Black”
When we last left our characters in “Patient X,” shit was getting real. Scully was standing on a bridge surrounded by rebel aliens ready to burn everyone to death, Mulder’s continued on his crisis of faith and trust we saw in “Gethsemane.” Not only is this particular mythology duo jam-packed with new developments, it’s got lots and lots of heavy emotional drama as well.
At this point, the mythology episodes are all leading to the upcoming movie, Fight the Future, so everything is a bit epic-ified. Mark Snow even gives us a sneak peek of the movie’s score. The alien virus in particular will become a very important plot point – more so than the alien rebels, which we’ll get to later. But, in keeping with most of the good mythology episodes, the main issues in “The Red and the Black” have more to do with the journeys of the characters than the alien business.
And boy are there a lot of characters in this one, so let’s get started.
Let’s start with our poor little blueberry muffin boy, Jeffrey Spender. This is the first time we see Jeffrey get angry at Mulder, but (spoiler alert) it won’t be the last. Jeffrey Spender, like Krycek (well, to some extent), is a character thrown into uncomfortable situations that are frequently out of his control. He can come off as sour, unlikable, and even kind of a dick, but I think that makes perfect sense. Similarly to Bill Scully Jr., Jeffrey has no idea what’s going on. He is desperately trying to find his mother, and the closest thing he can get to a real explanation for her disappearance is aliens. Wouldn’t you be a bit frustrated too?
If it sounds like I’m sticking up for Jeffrey Spender, that may be because I think he gets a semi-bad rap. He’s not a perfect human by any means, but he’s more realistic and relatable than most. Besides, do I even have to mention Chris Owens again?
Ironically, Jeffrey’s getting angry at the wrong person. Were it any other point in Mulder’s life, he might very well have been closely involved with Cassandra Spender. But, since he doesn’t believe her story about aliens and abductions, he has nothing to do with her disappearance. Jeffrey asking Mulder to stay out of the matter doesn’t make a lot of sense, since, crisis or no crisis, Mulder’s got the best avenue for finding out what happened to Cassandra (aka Scully). But we’ll cut them both some slack. Mulder’s having a spiritual crisis, and Jeffrey’s a newbie agent whose first case is searching for his missing, wheelchair-bound mother. Eek.
Jeffrey Spender isn’t the only one tied up with Cassandra Spender, however. It seems that Scully has some sort of connection to Cassandra – or, better put, that Scully and Cassandra share a connection with a group of people, all of whom ended up on a bridge with UFOs and alien rebels all over the place. Scully survives, but she can’t remember a thing. This time, however, neither Scully nor Mulder is going to deal with the convenient memory slip again. They have to dig into Scully’s brain to try and find out what happened.
Now, you might remember the last time Scully underwent regression hypnosis, it didn’t go too well. Quite frankly, I’m not entirely sure what’s so different about this time that it works, except that Mulder’s there. Maybe Mulder’s presence is so powerful that it jogs Scully’s memory, I don’t know. In any case, Scully starts to remember what happened on the bridge, and/or has a very powerful orgasm (oh, you were thinking it, you know you were thinking it). She describes the scary scenario on the bridge, reaches for Mulder’s hand without looking (!!!) and mentions that she saw Cassandra Spender float up into a spaceship, right out of her wheelchair.
Mulder doesn’t buy it (or he says he doesn’t, at least). But even putting that aside, Scully turns to Mulder after the hypnosis is over and says one of the most telling things I’ve ever heard a character say:
“Have you been here the whole time?”
Yes, Scully. Yes, he has.
“The Red and the Black” is not one of the series’s most well-remembered mythology episodes, but it’s really quite good. True, it can be bogged down by the 3.5 million different characters and plot lines, but the heart of the episode remains true to the same issues explored in “Redux II” and even episodes like “Paper Hearts” and “Memento Mori.” Specifically, that no matter what Mulder and Scully might believe, their only true belief is in each other. Just look how Scully responds to Mulder’s insistence that his own memories are false, even though she’s never bought that his sister was abducted by aliens:
SCULLY: Mulder, when I met you five years ago, you told me that your sister had been abducted … by aliens. That that event had marked you so deeply, that nothing else mattered. I didn’t believe you, but I followed you, on nothing more than your faith that the truth was out there, based not on facts, not on science, but on your memories that your sister had been taken from you. Your memories were all that you had.
MULDER: I don’t trust those memories now.
SCULLY: Well, whether you trust them or not, they’ve led you here. And me. But I have no memories to either trust nor distrust, and if you ask me now to follow you again, to stand behind you in what you now believe, without knowing what happened to me out there, without those memories, I can’t. I won’t.
Stop it, Chris. My eyes are getting wet.
Scully may not believe in aliens, but she believes Mulder. She may not trust anyone, but she trusts Mulder. Regardless of whether or not she believes, she needs Mulder to believe. She needs to follow the Mulder she’s always followed, not because he believes in aliens or the paranormal, but simply because he’s Mulder.
The end of this episode reminds me of the scene in Season 2’s “End Game” when Mulder was having a similar crisis of faith. Scully asks, “Did you find what you were looking for?” and Mulder says, “No. But I found something I thought I’d lost. Faith to keep looking.” Now, three years later, they’re having the exact same conversation, but they don’t need to say anything. They speak it without words.
Final score for “The Red and the Black” is 8/10. While it gets somewhat bogged down with all the characters and plot lines, it’s an episode with tremendous heart.
Notable Nuggets (And Nitpicks)
- The score for this episode is really wonderful, especially in the beginning and end.
- Even Skinner is like, “Mulder, get yoself together.”
- The alien rebels. Like, what? Where did they come from? I’ve never particularly cared for that development in the mytharc. Not that it doesn’t go anywhere. But it’s a detail that I tend to forget about and once I encounter it again it only makes it more confusing for me. Oh, well.
- Can we talk about that hair tuck tho?