Sunday, January 2, 2011

X-Files--"Anasazi"

“Anasazi” is the second season finale and the point at which The X-Files rose from a cult favorite to a mainstream hit. That is a mixed blessing as far as I am concerned in terms of the series’ edgy, gritty feel in the first few seasons, but there will be plenty of occasions left to talk about that. The cliffhanger of Mulder’s possible death echoed Star Trek: the Next Generation’s “Best of Both Worlds” both in fan chatter over the summer on how the story could be resolved and being the point at which both series came into its own.

Needless to say, “Anazazi” is a pivotal episode. Some have even dubbed it the Kitchen Sink Episode because of how many of the series’ mythology is packed in. Because it is such an important episode, I am willing to forgive the implausibility of the two catalysts for the story--a Navajo boy discovering an alien corpse and a hacker pulling the entire department of Defense file on UFOs--happening at exactly the same time. The Navajo hint these events occurred because secrets find a way to survive like animals in the desert, but that is still hard to swallow. The less said, the better, no?

In the teaser, a young Navajo boy finds a buried boxcar full of alien corpses in the new Mexico desert. He brings one to show his grandfather and father. At the same time, a hacker successfully breaks into the DOD computers and pulls everything about the alleged alliance between the Syndicate and aliens. He becomes a hunted man overnight, but through the Lone Gunmen, arranges a meeting with Mulder to hand off the disk. He asks for nothing more than the truth to be told.

Mulder is sick, feverish, and having trouble sleeping. The condition puts him on edge and acting irritably. His on edge nature gets worse when he pulls up the file only to discover it is gibberish. While he rants about being jerked around, Scully notices the files are not gibberish, but written in Navajo to keep them encoded like the win talkers during World War II. Thankfully, Nicholas Cage does not show up. I do not think I could handle that right now.

The Cigarette Smoking Man the conspiracy has been blown and Mulder has the whole kit and caboodle. Skinner attempts to get Mulder to lay low, but they wind up in a fistfight instead. Scully is between a rock and a hard place. She has to cover for Mulder regarding the files at great personal risk to herself without knowing if it is really worth it. She is reminded at an impromptu inquiry her job was to debunk Mulder’s work, not cover for him.

Many of Scully’s actions are a reminder that she was supposed to be an semi-antagonist early on. As it turned out, very few of the first season episodes had her playing that role. Throughout the second season, the two have been trusted allies and personal friends. There is now an underlying notion, considering his guilty over her abduction, that mulder has a biog brother need to watch over her. Perhaps he is projecting his inability to save his sister onto her. I do not know, but whatever the case, it has bonded the two up until now.

Mulder is now being hunted. A sniper near misses Scully in his apartment in an attempt to kill him. His father, who is finally revealed to be associated with The Cigarette Smoking in the conspiracy, is killed by the returning Aleex Krycek while Mulder is there. The bond between Mulder and Scully is nearly broken when she has his gun tested while he is sleeping off a fever to determine if the bullet that killed Bill mulder came from his gun.

She winds up shooting Mulder to prevent him from killing Krucek. Frankly, it is about time she re-asserted herself back to her first season toughness. She takes Mulder to New Mexico to recover from both his gunshot wound and the drugging of his water supply, something she happened to discover and now realizes is the source of his odd behavior. She explains everything, then introduces him to the grandfather from the teaser. He has been slowly translating the hacked DOD files into English. Scully discovers her name associated with Duane Barry. The revelation prompts her to express full support for Mulder’s quest for the truth.

Mulder is lead out to the buried box car by the Navajo. When asked why they want to help him, the grandfather explains the Anasazi from which the episode gets its title disappeared without a trace centuries ago. He believes they were abducted. Mulder discovers piles of stacked alien corpses. The Cigarette Smoking man arrives, sets the boxcar on fire, and seals him inside. The ’To be continued” makes for a long summer.

“Anasazi” is an exciting episode. Creator Chris carter even felt the need to cameo as one of the senior FBI men questioning Scully. It is the most pivotal mythology episode until this point and right up there with one of the best season ending cliffhangers. Are there flaws? Yes. Aside from the big coincidence of the alien corpse discovery and the DOD computer hacking at the same time, one wonders why Mulder was being drugged before either of those events happened? It would make sense to take action against him after he has the files, but not before. I chalk this up to a muddled sequence of events. Perhaps there was a significant period of time between the hacking an Mulder’s acquisition of the files in which the Cigarette smoking man knew Mulder would get them. I do not know, but the only effect is “Anasazi” earning four stars instead of five. Not bad.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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