The X-Files #286: Founder's Mutation

"Bad things happen when the birds gather."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Mulder and Scully investigate a strange suicide at the D.O.D., which brings them to a mutant-creating scientist.

REVIEW: (First off, no, they still haven't changed the opening credits sequence. Argh. Okay, let's move on.) Part of the interest this episode generates is in seeing how things have changed since the series was originally on the air. The genetic tech firm where the suicide takes place is ultra-modern. Mulder needs and gains access to a smart phone. Snowden is evoked. And still, our heroes consider them "old school" and "pre-Google". The techy setting, the slick HD look, and the show's capacity to make a gay blowjob joke (via Vik Sahay, Lester from Chuck - what is it with the comedy stunt casting this season?), far less veiled than the sexuality in the original series, all speak to a certain modernity. And that "updating" is also part of the story's theme; it's about manufacturing the next leap in evolution, whether that's breathing under water or reading minds. Scully's connection to a children's hospital where deformities are handled is well used to get us further into the story.

See The Truth for possible connections to the current version of the mytharc, but in a universe where mutants, both physical and psychic, make up a large portion of the case load, we don't need that larger context. Simply put, if the next evolutionary leap can occur accidentally in nature, and seems to have (in reruns), then it's no stretch for an unscrupulous doctor to try and achieve it deliberately. His horrific death at the end is earned - he conducted experiments on his own children, institutionalized his healthy wife, and stole fetuses from poor single mothers - though it still comes off as an abrupt ending, perhaps because the super-powered siblings disappear immediately after it. And the powers are perhaps too diverse - though the show's resources definitely allow it - with the same characters having gills and telepathy, infra-sounds that call worms (and thus creepy birds) and break glass, but also work on the hearing center of the brain without going through the ear drum. It's a little haphazard. Good body horror though to give the audience the squirm, with a suicide by letter opener, a dead deer on the road, a home-made C-section, and plenty of extremely deformed children.

But what takes the episode over the top is really the flashbacks that aren't really flashbacks, but dreams or "what if" scenarios concerning Scully and Mulder's son William, who would be 15 years old now. In these two separate sequences, Scully and Mulder present their best hopes and worst fears for their child, which are the same as any parents', except for the nightmarish alien factor. These come out of a wistful conversation between the two, but otherwise have no herald. Are we seeing something real? Their imagination? A dream? Sweet meanderings through times that never happened, transitioning through seamless effects, they're almost intimate poems in the middle of the action. And that action uses precise and haunting flashbacks as well, so there's no break in style.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Even before Mulder mentions it, the audience links the "Founder"'s work to the currently-supposed conspiracy experimenting on pregnant women and their babies. Was Augustus Goldman working with the conspiracy? That's the inference, she was working with the D.O.D. and they don't want Mulder and Scully on the case. But then is the D.O.D. a bit big and public to be running this particular game. Well, if there's one thing that's obvious in Chris Carter's convoluted universe, it's that the right hand probably doesn't know what the left is doing, and indeed, may have been brainwashed into thinking it IS the left. That's how the whole conspiracy can turn on a dime; even the villains we've seen might be working from the wrong playbook.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A pretty good horror/supernatural story that links to what's gone before, but it's a bit kitchen sink. The William sequences give the story greater meaning and feeling.

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