Written by Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz
Directed by Kim Manners
When this two-parter aired in February of 1999, ads dominated the airwaves as how to these episodes would at last bring “Full Disclosure!” And certainly Carter and the rest of the writers no doubt thought this was what we were getting. But by this point, we had seen so many mythology episodes promising us that this would be “the episode that would change everything!” And nothing ever did. Hell, if they weren’t going to give us all the details in Fight The Future, why the hell should we believe them now, when all indications had been that they were going into a new direction?
And yet, this two-parter does give a certain amount of direction and force that the mytharc has been missing for as least the last three years. One could make the argument this is because they were finally (and to see them admit as much in the DVD collections is enraging) about the close the door on the storyline that had been going on ever since Anasazi. But from a more personal, its because we finally get a look at the mythos from the inside, as the CSM finally gets to tell his story. The Smoking Man has been going through so many changes over the course of the series, from the ‘supposed’ backstory that we learned in Musings to his inexplicable assassination and return during last season, that its fairly shocking when we finally realize that this is our first real look at the enemy Mulder and Scully have been dueling with for five and a half seasons. William B. Davis clearly relishes the opportunity to give a rich and layered performance, and Carter is willing to (almost) give him a chance to tell his story without the usual purple prose that we’ve come to expect from the mytharc. To finally realize that this monster, who we’ve seen order murder after murder, and who has no problem killing a colleague he’s worked with for at least a quarter-century, does have a human side is surprisingly moving. Way back in One Breath, he described himself as a man who had no family, a little power, and was in the game because he believed in it. Now, of course, we realize he was lying about the first part, but can not disguise the fact that despite everything that has happened he still has more admiration for his enemy than his own flesh-and-blood son. And he is so frozen by his inability to kill the woman that he admits he’d never loved that he seems willing to sacrifice the human race to keep her alive.
Davis’ performance is a masterstroke, but it’s not the whole story. The rest of the Spender family (though honestly, once you’ve got a title like CSM, C.G.B Spender just doesn’t have the same resonance) gives equally fine performances. Of particular note is Chris Owens’ work as Jeffrey. As Skinner points out, he was put in charge of the X-Files solely to keep Mulder and Scully in check, and clearly to find out what has happened to his mother, missing since The Red and the Black. When Cassandra finally reappears, the sole survivor of the attack on the trains, the clear joy that we see on his face is one of the rarest emotions we’ve seen, as is his shock to learn that the only person his mother wants to talk to his nemesis. Owens goes through a true range of emotions as the full culpability of what he has been a part of comes down on him. It’s hard to tell which is the more shocking moment: when he realizes that the aliens that his mother has spent her life telling him about are real, or that neither of his parents regard him as the man they believe as capable with the truth. The scene where he goes to kill an alien who has infiltrated the Syndicate has the same strength as a similar scene in The Godfather (Owens even looks a little like a young Pacino) and has much of that movie’s power. But what really resonates is the moment at the end, when he finally finds the strength to realize that he will no longer take orders from his father. It’s a high point of the series, frankly.
Veronica Cartwright also gives a fine performance as Cassandra. If in her first appearance, she seemed more than a little eccentric hippie, her work here as she realizes what she has been a part of for twenty-five years is outstanding dramatically. It finally seems to close a chapter that we’ve been trying to find out about for awhile about just how truly ruthless her ex-husband has business. The monologue that she gives when she finally realizes the truth is also exceptional.
Of course, this being a mythology episodes, there are parts that just hang there. By now, the term ‘alien-human hybrid’ has been used so many times that when one finally seems to have been made, the viewer is bound to feel “so what” rather than this being a revelation. Then there’s also the character problem – Krycek seems to have been re-embraced by the Syndicate rather fully considering how many times he’s betrayed them. And the fact that it’s finally revealed that Diana Fowley is in league with CSM seems less like a revelation, and more of a legitimate reason for shippers to hate her. One could add to the complaints that it isn’t until the second half of the episodes that Mulder and Scully are given much to do, but this seems more a strength for once – a general argument as to how their absence from the X-Files has actually had real ramifications that will not be fully realized until the next episode.
Ultimately, the revelations that we have been promised in Two Fathers don’t seem to be as earth-shattering as the writers have been promising us. But what makes the episode work almost in spite of that is the fact that the story we’re being told almost seems coherent and doesn’t seem to be pulling information out of the air. One would expect more out of the mythology at this point, but for once the emotional ramifications seem to give us more impact than any story about aliens, and make the cliff-hanger resonate a little more than it should.
My score: 4 stars.