The X-Files #225: all things

"What if there was only one choice and all the other ones were wrong? And there were signs along the way to pay attention to."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Scully finds an old flame dying in a hospital, leading her to ponder her life choices.

REVIEW: Gillian Anderson wrote and directed this episode, proving that she might just be as pretentious as her character's FBI reports. I kid because I love, though I'm not sure I love this episode. I do admire it though. It's certainly ambitious. When an actor is given a shot at the director's chair on a TV show, their character is usually sidelined (Duchovny's baseball episode, for example), but in this case, Scully is front and center, and in every scene. I don't mind its artiness - I'd call myself pretty pretentious in my interests too - but Anderson perhaps tries to bite off more than she chew, something she more or less admits on the commentary track, talking about the compromises she had to make in order to reduce her expansive script to a manageable 42 minutes. The most devastating cut is the lack of explanation for the mystery woman who seems to steer Scully's destiny, and becomes Mulder when she turns around. It's a very odd element, very much under-explored, and though I like the metaphorical twist of Mulder as life guide, it's also a redundant one. See, there's also this crop circle scientist who seems to know too much about Scully's state of mind, so there are TWO mystery women whose role in the story remains unexplained.

But then 2 is a very important number in the story. Here we have Scully wondering what her life would be if she had made a different choice - medicine instead of FBI - and though there's no reason for life choices to be bipolar, we often see them that way. Anderson peppers the episode with a rhythmic two-step coming from the Moby soundtrack, her former lover's heart beat, dripping water, the tap of a pencil, the swing of a pendulum, the swing of a street sign, or editing cuts between two faces. Things that come in twos often create the potential for a mistake, such as when Scully enters the wrong hospital room. But mistakes in "all things" can lead to serendipity. She meets the crop circle woman in that other room, sees things that are meaningful to her in dropped pictures, discovers her old flame through a hospital mix-up. And sometimes, a 2 is just a leitmotif - two nuns, two Buddhas, a same-sex couple...

But frankly, once you take away the bravura direction, you're left with a sometimes dull drama. We meet one of those older men Scully is reputedly into, and we're supposed to care that he might die, or that he ruined his life lamely running after Scully. Anderson makes us care about SCULLY, but rarely this Waterston fellow. His pull on her is slightly creepy, and we come to realize she's been changed by years of working with Mulder - and if there's a sea change in this episode, it's that she embraces something that's been happening for a while now - and that he can't respect her for it. Her sudden faith in New Age techniques may seem suspect, but it's part of that change, a change necessary if we're to move forward without Mulder, one that surprises him but not the audience. Her relationship with Mulder, teased to have gotten intimate but a bit if a con, is chaste, but it's deep. All this talk of making the right choices and of seeing the guide posts to your next life destination (a word that shares its roots with "destiny") pushes their relationship ever closer to that intimate setting, just as much an on/off switch as Scully's doctor/FBI duality.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium to Medium-High
- Admirable, dense and ambitious, the episode nevertheless suffers from over-ambition and a melodramatic thrust.

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