"I wouldn't change a day... Well, maybe that Flukeman thing."
REVIEW: What is meant to be a touching character piece has, I'm sad to say, way too many over-written monologues for it to feel like much more than a writer's indulgence (the usual suspects: Morgan & Wong). The guest-star seems to be reading from historical accounts, Mulder himself goes under hypnotic regression and narrates former lives, and the whole thing is book-ended by poems by Browning and Shelley. It's all quite overwrought. Which isn't to say it's badly acted. Duchovny gives a effective performance, and Kristen Cloke (Morgan's real-world wife who played my favorite character on the much-mourned Space: Above and Beyond) cycles through various personalities (or historical personae) quite proficiently. It's that old multiple personalities trope you often see in media but that psychologists say doesn't really exist, but with a reincarnation twist.
In the foreground is a story ripped from the headlines as a new Waco turns into a Jonestown. A compound surrounded by FBI, a charismatic said to have weapons hiding behind women and children, and ultimately, the faithful drinking poisoned Kool-Aid... It's all very familiar. Until Vernon's youngest wife starts doing voices, of course. Using true events like this actually helps with the theme of the episode, as tragedies must, like lives in a reincarnation matrix, be cyclical. Since we know how this kind of thing could end, there's an air of urgency, only slightly hampered by scenes of Scully looking for old Civil War pictures in an archive. And it's supposed to create the illusion of an epic love affair that's been going on for centuries while outside elements block the sister-souls from the one another. If you buy into that, then you buy into the dark ending and its effect on Mulder. If you don't, you at least get a discussion on whether or not reincarnation gives one justification to commit suicide.
But buying in isn't a given. If we take Mulder's regression at its word, he, Scully, Samantha and Melissa have always been intertwined in their past lives. This hits the theme of fate explored in the mytharc, but really? Random cultist #1 is part of this equation? It also seems impossible for her to have an incarnation living in a Jewish ghetto in Poland AND a crabby old man during the McCarthy era. See The Truth for my theories, but taken as given, it looks like a gaping plot hole, and ultimately, it's a distraction from what the show is really about, pushing a new perspective on the characters that really isn't warranted or needed.
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: How can we resolve the discrepancies? Three ways. First, there's the notion that reincarnations aren't linear. There's no dialog to that effect - in fact, the opposite, as Vernon waits for the right souls to be "ready" to leap into his unborn children - but souls could be atemporal and overlap their own timelines, etc. Second, Mulder could be getting it completely wrong and Melissa is channeling the dead, isn't a reincarnation of any of them. The episode muddles the issue by referencing Vernon's channeling powers AND the reincarnation of souls. Mulder's regression speaks to former lives, yes, but Melissa's personalities come to and fro of their own accord, even under hypnosis. So a bit of column A and a bit of column B. Third, and my money's on this one, the discrepancies are part of a fantasy Mulder constructs while under hypnosis (Scully's been warning us about this every time Mulder's resorted to hypnosis) and he's put the people he now knows in roles they never really held. So I'll buy he was once a Jewish old woman or a Civil War soldier, but not that Scully et al. were always around in other forms. He's simply projecting their essence in the figures around him (Scully always a trusted authority figure, Sam always a loved one, etc.).
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - While thoughtfully acted, this episode just comes off as over-written and overwrought.