Tuesday, December 14, 2010

X-Files--"Ascension"

“Ascension” is the episode in which much of the early mythology comes together. For the first time, Mulder runs headlong into agents of the Syndicate. Skinner, who up until this point has been as hostile to Mulder as he has been helpful, realizes he needs to aid Mulder along much more overtly. Perhaps most importantly for the sake of the series, “Ascension” features Scully’s abduction with strong implications she has been subjected to a fertilization procedure. A nifty way to include Gillian Anderson’s real life pregnancy while enriching the show’s over all mythology story arc.

The episode begins with Mulder returning home to Scully’s desperate answering machine message. Her home is turned into a crowded crime scene, but there is no trace of her. The Fbi assumes she has been kidnapped by Duane Barry. They work under the theory that he is a brain damaged psychopath acting act his fantasies rather than an abductee taking Scully to the site in which he was originally taken by aliens. Mulder thinks, whether he was taken by aliens or not, Barry believes he was enough to want to offer up Scully to them. Skinner refuses to spend resources following mulder’s hunch, so he goes AWOL with Krycek to do it himself.

I have to admit, I think Skinner’s reluctance is odd. He is convinced Barry is acting out his fantasies in kidnapping Scully, but will not entertain the theory part of his fantasy is an alien abduction? Why not? It is the only lead they have to go on anyway until Barry kills a highway patrolman who stopped his car, then heard Scully banging around in the trunk. The video from the patrolman’s car video camera is the first concrete proof they get on where Barry in headed and it happens to be in the same direction as a hotbed of UFO sighting activity. Even if a normal person would doubt Barry had been taken by aliens before, he is a nut he cannot tell it is not real. You have to think like him in this regard.

It appears that Mulder and Krycek are the only ones to see the patrolman’s video footage, because whoever is in charge of the case never catches up to the two of them in pursuit. It is clear that Krycek is impeding Mulde’ attempts to find Scully, but I do not see how he could have curtailed the legitimate investigation or Skinner, who is not in on the conspiracy, is being obstructionist, too. It is the strange second act which keeps ’Ascension” from reaching the heights part one achieved. Events all come together for Mulder alone to be on the trail of Barry while apparently no one else in the FBI is bothering to investigate at all. I find it too tough to swallow the Syndicate would stop such a big manhunt without someone raising an eyebrow. These guys are supposed to be too shadowy to ever get caught.

Krycek does take an active, on camera role in stalling Mulder from rescuing Scully, including murdering a tram operator in order to strand Mulder in midair. Channeling Spider-Man, he escapes the predicament, but reaches Barry too late. He claims Scully was taken just before Mulder showed up. Interestingly, Mulder does not believe barry’s story at first. He suspects Barry murdered Scully. Barry winds up dead, presumably by Krucek’s hand, when Mulder is out of the room. It is only then he realizes the Syndicate’s involvement.

He does not suspect Krycek, either, until he discovers the Cigarette Smoking man’s brand in the ashtray of Krycek’s car. It had been made obvious to the audience at this point the syndicate gave Barry Scully’s address and Krycek, as their agent, helped buy time for them to take Scully from him and kill Barry to cover it up. He then disappears. When presented with the circumstantial evidence by Mulder, the relatively powerless skinner does the only thing he can--reopen the X-Files to spite the Syndicate.

“Ascension” is flawed, but still a cut above the herd. The episode has implications for the entire series, so I cannot blast it too much. I think some of the conspiracy stuff which allowed Barry to go on his merry way without any FBI interference is highly implausible, but otherwise, the story is quite good. I appreciate how mulder’s guilt over endangering Scully is compelling him to risk life and limb for her. Once again, David Duchovny plays the character’s obsessive behavior wonderfully. While Mulder has dedicated his life to uncovering the truth, he will still drop it under the realization people matter more.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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