"But sir, these men aren't dead yet." "Isn't that the prognosis?"
REVIEW: Wooo! Apocrypha starts with a flashback to 1953 where a young Daddy Mulder interviews a dying sailor who was flashed by black oil... with his partner, a young Cigarette Smoking Man! It's the kind of mythology-building that gives you the right kind of chills, and it will be fun to learn about the X-Files' history over the coming seasons. More chilling still is the realization that the latter had an agenda of his own that probably flies in the face of the Syndicate's. He keeps getting called to the principal's office for his screw-ups, but it's looking more and more like every "mistake" was actually him getting caught red-handed doing something crooked on the side and lying about it. This cold-hearted bastard obviously has a deal with the black oil entity the others don't know about, and it somehow turns John Neville's Well-Manicured Man into a friendly figure, where he should really be considered sinister. But to date, he's been pretty "honest" with Mulder and Scully, telling them the truth whenever possible; not even Deep Throat and X can say that. The lines between the agents of the Truth and the Conspiracy keep shifting.
As with the previous episode, Mulder is in an action plot, while Scully faces her demons, except she gets up to some proper action too, this time. The Pyrrhic victory of the week brings her sister's killer (and Skinner's shooter) to justice, though one gets the sense the cops arrive just in time to save his life and her soul. The X-Files is what I would call the Drama of Repression if I were to write its thesis, both in character portrayals and overall theme, so seeing one of the leads lose it emotionally like that is as shocking as any gross-out horror moment. Though Mulder has the man he thinks killed his father in hand (for a short while before he's back to tracking him), his story doesn't have the same weight to it, largely because he does keep his cool. Scully's story ties up a loose end. Mulder's keeps the mytharc going, and it's where the plot kicks in that the episode actually suffers. The leap to North Dakota, for example, feels like a structural snafu. At least the characters have the self-awareness to chuckle at how preposterous the plot of their lives is.
That's one lighter moment. There are others. Like the Lone Gunmen confusing would-be spies at a skating rink. A fun bit that's almost a dead end, if not for Mulder's amusingly "high-tech" use of a pencil. Or the reappearance of Agent Pendrell the DNA tech who has an obvious crush on Scully. Nothing over the top this time, but a pleasant recurring presence. After the heaviness of Piper Maru, these are welcome, and they counterbalance the creepy body horror of Apocrypha as well. Thick oil oozing of people's faces as it body jumps or returns to its spacecraft, brrrr. Never mind the instant cancer-giving bio-weapon and the Smoking Man euthanizing ways.
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Ok, if we understand this right, there really was a UFO that crashed in the Pacific, and that ship was salvaged and brought to the U.S. on that ship in the episode Nisei. And on his own authority, after Mulder discovered the craft, the Cigarette Smoking Man moved it to a decommissioned missile silo in North Dakota. But the ship presumably can't fly because it's missing a vital component, an A.I. housed in a lubricant-like substance that can also drive human beings. By episode's end, it's back in the ship. Perhaps it IS the ship, in some sense. So what was the black oil doing outside its craft in the first place? Well, perhaps it was trying to get itself salvaged, moving through military personnel in the area during WWII, killer some submariners before having to return to the site where it lay once again in wait inside a downed pilot.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Another cool mytharc episode with emotional resonance, though imperfect because it tries to jam so much into its 45 minutes, it tends to take jarring shortcuts.