Thursday, December 16, 2010

X-Files--"One Breath"

“One Breath” features the long awaited return of Dana Scully. Okay, she was only gone for one episode, but good grief, what an awful episode. “One Breath” is one of the most pivotal episodes of the series, both in terms of mythology and on a characterization level. Its implications will last the entire series.

In spite of Mulder’s encouragement to not give up hope for Scully‘s return, her mother decides to purchase a tombstone for her daughter. Miraculously, Scully reappears in a coma at Georgetown University Hospital before the funeral can be held. No one knows how she got there or what exactly is wrong with her, but she is nearing the condition for which her DNR demands the plug be pulled.

Interestingly, the episode has very little to do with Scully. She spends the entire episode in a hospital bed, unconscious save for the final scene and a dreamlike sequence in a boat that I suspect was filmed earlier. Word is she Gillian Anderson, still drained from her duties as a new mother, often fell asleep during filming. The heart of the episode is Mulder coming to terms with his guilt over what has happened to her. While Scully’s mother and sister, Melissa, worry over her bedside, Mulder spends much of what is likely Scully last time left alive seeking revenge.

He is pulled in that direction by the Lone Gunmen, who discover from her stolen medical chart whatever experiments have been done on her destroyed her immune system, Mr. X, who saves Mulder at the hospital from a mystery man attempting to steal a vial of Scully’s blood, and Skinner, who anonymously gives Mulder the Cigarette Smoking man’s address. None of this salves Mulder at all, even when Skinner iacitly admits respect for Mulder’s search for frightening truths, something he has avoided since an out of body experience in Vietnam. Mr. X finally offers up scully’s real kidnappers by secretly arranging an ambush in mulder’s apartment when he will supposedly be out of town. Mulder waits to kill them when they arrive.

But throughout the episode, Melissa, a New Age type, as been counseling Mulder to let go of his guily ridden desire for revenge so he can appreciate Scully last bit of time. She even interrupts his waiting in ambush. Melissa finally gets through to him, even though he does not buy into her touchy feely routine. He abandons his plan to kill Scully’s kidnappers in order to be by her side. It is a breakthrough, but not that he has forgiven himself. It will be very clear in future episodes when the implications of the experiments Scully was subjected to that he has not.

While the bulk of ’One Breath” is about Mulder’s struggle with his guilt, Scully’s ordeal is by no means unimportant. Her story exists in a purgatory existence which represents her soul’s decision to stay or leave. She meets her father, played again by Stargate SG1’s Don S. Davis. Scully does eventually come out of her coma when her soul decides it is not her time to go. She is prompted by a Nurse Owen, who tells her time is not up. No one knows who Nurse Owen is. Presumably, she is supposed to be an angel. I hate to take away from the idea, but considering how the storyline eventually plays out, she was probably an agent of the Syndicate. But we can pretend for a while, if you so desire.

“One Breath” is one of the best episodes of the series. Ironic, considering how little Gillian Anderson has to do in it. There are a couple of oddities. Why would Mulder be with Scully’s mother when she is buying a tombstone? That seems like a family affair with which co-workers ought not interfere. One could assume Mulder and her mother have bonded, so perhaps it is a sign he is now a part of the family. A point in that favor is that Melissa makes a note Scully told her not to call him Fox, yet her mother does so frequently with impunity. Maybe the two are connected enough to make funeral arrangements together. Weird, but it is television.

Another unavoidable aspect is that, even in a baggy hospital gown, it is obvious Anderson has recently given birth. You might think that is okay considering the fertilization experiments to which Scully was subjected, but the medical exams never say she had a child while missing. Presumably, the obvious signs she has recently given birth are not supposed to be obvious. Oops.

No matter. “One Breath” is still one of my favorites.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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