"Every minute of every day, we choose. Who we are. Who we forgive. Who we defend and protect. To choose a side or to walk the line. To play the middle. To straddle the fence between what is and what should be. This was the course I chose. Trying to find the delicate balance of interests that can never exist. Choosing by not choosing. Defending a center which cannot hold. So death chose for me."
REVIEW: A cheating teaser makes us think they're killing Skinner off, and since Kersh has been in charge all season, that could actually have been legitimate. As the episode progresses, even if he were to survive, everything points to a game changer. His touching speech about straddling the line and never giving Mulder and Scully the support they needed or deserved seems the kind of promise that could change their fortunes going forward. What we're not seeing until the end, however, is that Skinner isn't being killed but manipulated. That a-hole Krycek (well hidden 'til the reveal, though transients with hair all over their face surely can't walk the halls of the FBI without getting stopped?) now has the finger on a button that can stop Skinner's heart thanks to "dormant" nanomachines in his system. For Mulder and Scully, it seems a case of "yeah, I was pretty out of it, I shouldn't have made any promises", but he's really been taken hostage by the Conspiracy. Skinner's been "turned", quite against his will.
The show is acting like a conspiracy thriller again, and it was about time. The comedies can be fun, but only in contrast to a more dramatic thruline. We get it here. The feeling that a beloved character might be sacrificed. Action beats and stunts. Investigation that leads to shocking revelations ("they're building a heart attack" is a great line), with Scully working on the "how" and Mulder on the "why". A strong structure is bolstered by a cool look to the flashbacks, and composer Mark Snow is really bringing an orchestral feel to the X-Files theme, seamlessly using it in different contexts - and it works!
I'm not sure I really followed the nanotech bill conspiracy plot, but that's the MacGuffin, isn't it? Senator Matheson, Mulder's contact in Senate (oh yeah, he exists, right?) is pushing for it, but Tunisian elements (who have developed it?) want to kill its inventor (and do) to, presumably, prevent the U.S. and other countries from gaining access to such a weapon. Krycek's infection of Skinner leads the old team to investigate, but that is peripheral, even unconnected, to his agenda. Because Skinner runs afoul of the political intrigue, the Tunisians try to kill him, so Krycek must act as his guardian angel until he's completed his demonstration. Or it's possible the Conspiracy, having gotten its hands on this thing, want to hold a monopoly on it, and getting the FBI involved, killing the inventor, and stopping the bill in committee is all part of the plan. But that's all decor for what is essentially The X-Files' version of D.O.A.
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Senator Matheson never appeared again. One my presume this whole S.R. 819 scandal ruined his career.
REWATCHABILITY: High - Skinner's back in the game and so is the Conspiracy, in an episode that's as tight a thriller as we've seen in a long time.