"Free will. With every choice, you change your fate."
REVIEW: So it's Groundhog Day, or taken from the leads' point of view, it's Star Trek TNG's Cause and Effect. I love temporal puzzles like this, and though I would usually admonish The X-Files for doing a sci-fi plot that doesn't really fit the show's matrix, this time it works. It even kind of redeems the absurd ending of Dreamland II. That episode ended with a badly thought-out paradox in which Mulder inherited the apartment renovated by Fletcher in another timeline. In this episode, a big deal is made that Mulder now owns a water bed, and that he doesn't know how he got it. I believe this is how he becomes unstuck in time and doesn't follow the "script" the way others do. It's this awareness, which he likens to déjà vu, that makes Pam, the Bill Murray stand-in, interact with him in the hopes that, like her, he might be able to change all their fates. The paradox might even be trying to smooth itself out, causing all sorts of quantum trouble for Mulder, a cursed existence that inexorably leads to his and his partner's deaths in a spectacular explosion. If History had intent, we'd be saying she's trying to eliminate the people who were involved in that kinky paradox.
There's a certain pleasure to be had in seeing the same events unfold again and again, with subtle differences each time. And there are new scenes as well, so we get a fuller picture each time. Some of the pleasure is perverse, because Mulder's near-psychic certainty at the end isn't much different than the powers of "deduction" he's exhibited before. Gilligan and Shiban also make sure the background matches the foreground, with Scully trapped in an "endless meeting" about predicting future crimes. The episode is dramatic - beloved characters dying, a disturbed criminal, a strong and emotional guest-star in Carrie Hamilton, all make sure of that - but things like the boring meeting, Mulder's slapstick, and the eventual jump cuts across several resets, give it a lively, comedic quality as well. A good balance.
The ending is a bit of a bummer, I'll admit, as if Fate demanded its pound of flesh, no matter who had to give it. Mulder's solution was still sound - and another run-through might have have created the "perfect" timeline, if he'd thought to make sure no one set off the silent alarm - and, as is usual for he and Scully, was largely based on the trust that exists between them. How many time have we been exactly here, with Scully not believing in anything EXCEPT her partner? Pam gives up on Mulder at some point, falling prey to despair, but when called, Scully does as she's asked. It's one of the few leaps of faith she habitually makes.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - I love this kind of thing. Just wish the show had allowed for a happier ending.