"Don't go looking for something you don't want to find."
REVIEW: A strong teaser, full of mystery and efficient in the way it imparts details, is followed by a dark and personal episode - not something I was expecting in this season of mostly sunlit comedies, but definitely welcome. The Santa Claus connection alone represented the potential for something vaguely silly - thoughts of kids kidnapped to work in a toy workshop came into my head, I won't lie - but as it turns out, a pedophile/petting zoo Santa is behind the abductions - and murders! - of a number of missing children. A parent's worst nightmare, and that nightmarish quality is well-rendered without becoming exploitative. At its heart, the episode is about the parents' confusion and the need to explain these essentially inexplicable crimes. Case in point the woman wrongfully convicted of her son's murder years ago who now claims she did do it, rewriting history to explain the event. Sein Und Zeit has a verisimilitude to it - the way the media covers the abduction, the unglamorized woman in prison - that keeps the story immediate and harrowing for any parent who has had these fears.
Mulder, who has lost a sister at a young age, personalizes this case, of course. A (sad) wink to Samantha would have been fine, a subtle use of backstory, but as time goes on, Mulder loses all objectivity. Things get even more intense when his mother calls him, perhaps feeling the loss of her Sam as well while watching these news reports, but Mulder is too busy to have a conversation with her. She commits suicide, piling on his guilt, apparently because she had an inoperable, disfiguring form of cancer, but Mulder taps into his years of professional conspiracy theory to spin a web of intrigue that links her death, Sam's disappearance and all these other kids' abductions, believing the mad(?) rantings of a woman who claims "old souls", guardian angels, are possessing and giving visions to family members so they can solve these crimes, putting the lie to the entire UFO thread. By the end, he can't trust himself anymore and puts himself off the case, his world view in tatters, and it's Scully who "becomes" Mulder, finding the murderous Santa on a hunch based on a supernatural clue. Whenever they've been apart, they've always become the other, that's part of the dynamic. Anderson has a relatively small role in this, and mostly plays it stern and impatient, but Duchovny's touching breakdown makes her break as well.
Even with the subplot about Mulder's mom, Sein Und Zeit feels like a one-off. Teaser, investigation, fall leads, solve. So it's with some surprise that a "To Be Continued" card appears on screen at the end. Granted, the ghostly kids and the undetected abductions have not been explained, but that happens a lot on The X-Files. Sometimes, it's frustrating. Here, it seemed to work. The audience had just enough information to understand how and why everything happened, even if the mechanisms were mysterious. And if the death of Mulder's mom isn't due to foul play, and her secrets re: Samantha aren't related to old souls hiding in starlight or whatever, then what's left to say? By making a random supernatural mystery a part of Mulder's personal story, the episode has given itself an extra 45 minutes to breathe. Hopefully it won't undo what it did here.
REWATCHABILITY: High - A dark and intense story with links to Mulder's story. It doesn't need a second episode to be watchable.