"If you're trying to prepare yourself I want you to stop. Nothing says that we're going to stumble over him in some field. Nothing says he won't be fine."
REVIEW: Eight episodes from the end of the season, you're not expecting them to resolve the Mulder subplot/mystery or to bring in a possible replacement for Scully, but that's exactly when IS happening in This Is Not Happening. The abductees from last season's finale are dropping from the sky and - barring FBI interference - getting healed by friendly alien hybrid Jeremiah (remember him? the actor retired with this episode as he shapeshifts into another, no takebacks) which is why we've never seen those distinctive wounds before. The episode has some cool action, including a car-UFO chase and an FBI raid, creates a lot of tension as to whether or not Mulder will return. And when he does, he's dead! And Jeremiah's been taken up to the mother ship and can't bring him back from the dead!
Obviously, Scully is despondent, but so is Doggett. We discover here that the sympathy he feels for Scully has its source in his own lost child. The loss, but mostly the fear associated with finding a loved one in an unknown condition (dead or worse) is what binds him to her. And we find this out because an old colleague of his, someone who knows his secret, and has an unsettling amount of empathy. This is Agent Monica Reyes who will become quite important to the series, a ritual murder expert who... smiles a lot. In this universe, that's as weird as any case of the week! As a possible X-Files agent, she's definitely in the believer camp, but is less interested in aliens than she is in the paranormal. She's kind of New Agey, and claims to feel cosmic vibes, and to have inexplicable insight and Betazoid empathy. I'm not sure I like the idea of giving one of the agents confirmed powers, but see I believe Mulder is psychic (we even have evidence of a psychic bond between him and Scully in this very episode), I'm not sure I should be complaining. Generally, I like Reyes' pragmatism and "open mind", holding beliefs halfway between those of the original agents. The episode makes me want to see more of her, so we can call it a success.
Her inner compromise manifests in the story itself. Though she's open to the existence of UFOs and aliens, she nevertheless believes the bodies found are the work of a cult. And she's right! The people who are picking up discarded abductees and healing them follow a doomsday cult leader called Absalom, and are in fact, recruited from the ranks of those abductees. We'll see him again too. So an exciting episode that lays the foundation for much to come, with good roles for everyone. Skinner has evolved into Scully's father figure, for example, and even though Duchovny has little to do, Mulder basically haunts the entire story. But is he really a ghost?
REWATCHABILITY: High - The characters don't want this to be happening, but it is, and it's important to the series. Better still, it's well made, at times subtle, exciting, and emotional.