Scully and Skinner find themselves at odds with both newly appointed Deputy Director Kersh and with Special Agent John Doggett, who's heading up the task force looking into Mulder's disappearance. In the course of his investigation, Doggett uncovers evidence that Mulder had never recovered from the illness that afflicted him in Season Six’s ‘Biogenesis’, and that his condition had continued to deteriorate during the year leading up to his disappearance, although how or why Mulder kept this information from Scully is not explained. (Also not explained: who slipped the Gibson Praise file under Doggett’s door?) At first glance, this episode seems to offer some hope that a Mulder-free (or at least Mulder-lite) version of The X-Files might actually be viable, but Chris Carter’s circular dialogue proves to be its undoing. The same old questions get asked over and over again, with no answers anywhere in sight.
Reaching the same conclusion for different reasons, Scully and Skinner move their search for Mulder to the Arizona desert at the same time as Doggett’s task force. Both teams are looking for Gibson Praise—last seen in Season Six’s ‘The Beginning’—in the hope that he can lead them to the missing agent. (Also looking for Praise: the alien Bounty Hunter.) This is where we first see Scully cast as the new Mulder (the passionate believer) and Doggett as the new Scully (the rational skeptic). Ultimately, their searches come up empty, and the audience is treated to some fairly disturbing images of the medical procedures that Mulder is being subjected to on board the alien ship. After failing in his assignment, Doggett is assigned to the X-Files as Scully’s new partner, setting up the uneasy alliance that will define the show through its remaining two seasons.
With Mulder's disappearance all but forgotten—at least temporarily—Scully and her new partner tackle their first Monster-of-the-Week: a bat-like creature out to avenge wrongs that occurred 40 years in the past. The main purpose of this episode is to reinforce the fact that Scully is taking over Mulder's role. She figures out what's going on here with the kind of intuitive leap that he used to make all the time, while Doggett, with his reliance on old-fashioned police work, finds himself at a distinct disadvantage. ‘Patience’ has some decent scares, but suffers from its unrelenting dark tone. The few moments of comic relief that Mulder could be counted on to deliver with his dry wit are conspicuous by their absence.
Scully makes the foolish mistake of traveling on her own to the Middle Of Nowhere, Utah, to investigate an unusual murder case. She soon finds herself the captive of a religious cult who choose her to be the next host for the slug-like creature that they believe to be the Second Coming of Christ. Just as Mulder did on many occasions, Doggett comes to her rescue at the eleventh hour, performing an emergency ‘creature-ectomy’ on her back. The gross-out factor here is about as high as it gets, which is unusual for a Vince Gilligan script. Also unusual for Gilligan is the complete lack of a sense of humour, which is rapidly becoming a Season Eight trademark. More encouraging is the concern that Doggett shows for Scully, both before and after he rescues her, a sign that their partnership will be a little less hostile than their first meeting implied.
The sudden reappearance of Billy Underwood following his abduction in 1990 at the age of seven affects Doggett and Scully in very different ways. While his main concern is in catching the kidnapper, she struggles with a much more disturbing problem: the fact that Billy seemingly hasn’t aged a day in the ten years he was missing. In the end, the revelation that ‘Billy’ is a ghost—not the first we’ve encountered in the X-Files universe, and certainly not the last—feels like a real cop-out. The episode works better the second time around, when advance knowledge of the ending allows the viewer to place a different interpretation on events as they unfold. ‘Invocation’ also plants the seeds for a future story line as we receive our first hints that Doggett himself has lost a son.
Robert Patrick is reunited with his Terminator 2 co-star Joe Morton in what is easily the best episode of Season Eight. Morton plays Martin Wells, a friend of Doggett who’s been charged with the brutal murder of his wife, and is now living the days following her death backwards—one day at a time. Viewers willing to make the leap of faith necessary to accept the basic premise—really just a variation on Season Six’s ‘Monday’—will be rewarded with a first-rate performance from Morton, as Wells puts the pieces together in a desperate attempt to figure out what’s happening and why. Strangely enough, Doggett and especially Scully are barely in ‘Redrum’, making this an unusual choice for an episode that ran relatively early in a season featuring significant changes in the cast and setup of the series.
Doggett teams up with Skinner to investigate the deaths of 20 members of a religious cult and the two FBI agents who had them under surveillance. All the victims have died from being struck in the forehead with what appears to be an axe. Scully’s sudden hospitalization with abdominal pains causes her to sit this one out, a fact that allows Gillian Anderson to quite literally phone in most of her performance. This is actually a pretty good episode for the first three-quarters of its length. Unfortunately, it runs out of plot around the end of the third act and limps to a tedious conclusion. In the end, it turns out that the deaths have been caused by psychic abilities brought on by hallucinogenic drugs. That’s an explanation that doesn’t sit well with Deputy Director Kersh, who’s clearly uncomfortable with the whole idea of the X-Files.
Scully and Doggett investigate a murder where the victim was killed by a shot fired with deadly accuracy through the roof of a building. Once again, Scully makes an intuitive leap to the right conclusion when she surmises that the shooter has a form of x-ray vision that allows him to see through solid objects. Like Season Seven’s ‘Rush’, this episode wastes an intriguing premise on a lackluster presentation, inserting its cast of forgettable characters into a predictable soap opera plot. Some of the more memorable moments in ‘Surekill’ come from Doggett, who actually manages to crack a few jokes. In fact, his comment about Elvis’s hotel room sounds exactly like something Mulder would have said.
The latest Monster-of-the-Week is Ray Pearce, a man whose body is turning into metal following his accidental exposure to an experimental ‘smart metal’ alloy. Aside from some clever visuals—such as the shot of Scully standing in the middle of the wrecked car—there's little to recommend in this episode. Mostly, it just lets us see Doggett and his partner going through the motions one more time. It’s enough to make you wonder if Season Eight will consist mainly of rejected scripts from earlier seasons, with Scully getting all of Mulder’s lines, and Doggett all of Scully’s. Doggett’s comment that men made of metal are something you only see in the movies is, of course, an in-joke reference to the character that Robert Patrick played in James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Another week, another monster. This time, it’s an Indian fakir who’s able to assume a variety of forms and guises. After traveling from Bombay to Washington in a truly disgusting manner, he begins killing people seemingly at random in order to get revenge for 118 deaths that occurred in his village—the result of a leak at an American chemical plant. Scully tries harder then ever to solve the case by thinking like Mulder, and is quite disappointed with herself when she doesn’t quite succeed. She even calls on the assistance of Mulder’s friend Chuck Burks, last seen in Season Seven’s ‘Hollywood A.D.’. For his part, Doggett seems to be losing patience with Scully’s insistence that he look at everything with an open mind. Their relationship has none of the intensity that helped define the bond between Mulder and Scully, but the hint of friction exhibited here is welcome, nonetheless.
Mulder’s back! Unfortunately, it’s in flashback only, as Doggett learns that Mulder sought a cure to his mysterious illness by seeking out a soul-eater: a creature that can cure the sick by eating and then regurgitating their bodies. Skinner assumes that Doggett’s trying to discredit Mulder, but soon joins him in his investigation, realizing that he’s looking for the truth, just like everyone else. Scully isn’t seen at all in this episode, and Doggett claims that he can’t involve her because she signed Mulder’s false case reports. That allegation raises all sorts of questions: if she knew nothing about Mulder’s illness, then what was she doing helping him cover up his attempts to find a cure? And if she did know, then why wasn’t she helping him? Faulty logic aside, this is a fairly successful episode, with some darkly moody scenes and some quite effective makeup effects.
Some kind of flesh-eating organism is killing people in the Boston subway system, so Scully and Doggett are called in to investigate. While Doggett leads a team into the tunnels, Scully stays behind to monitor things from the control room. Despite the fact that much of ‘Medusa’ consists of seemingly endless shots of people tramping through deserted subway tunnels while Scully yells “What’s happening?” into her headset, this is still slightly better than the last few Monster-of-the-Week episodes. There’s not really enough story here for a full hour, so things are drawn out somewhat by the artificial tension created when a transit system bureaucrat keeps reminding Scully that the trains must start running again at 4:00 PM. Doggett is out for blood when he barely escapes from the tunnels with his life, until Scully informs him that—in true X-Files fashion—all the physical evidence has been destroyed.
Scully’s pregnancy finally takes centre stage as she learns that her obstetrician is part of a group of doctors whose patients—all former abductees—are delivering very unusual babies. Simultaneously, we find out via flashback that Scully and Mulder had previously attempted—unsuccessfully—to have a test tube baby, using the ova that he recovered in Season Four’s ‘Momento Mori’. Along the way, Scully does her best to alienate her present partner by repeatedly either lying to Doggett, or simply not talking to him. It's a wonder he tries so hard to save her. The question is: did Scully and the other abductees all just happen to choose obstetricians who were part of the conspiracy, or were all the doctors recruited after the fact? Neither explanation makes any sense. Then again, this is The X-Files, a world where the rules of logic don't always apply.
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The sudden reappearance of a woman who was abducted in Oregon the day before Mulder disappeared sends Scully, Skinner and Doggett to Montana in the hope that the missing agent will be returned there, too. Doggett calls on Monica Reyes, an FBI agent he worked with when his son was murdered, for her insight into the case, but with her somewhat flighty nature, she doesn’t exactly endear herself to Scully. Eventually, Scully realizes that Jeremiah Smith, last seen in Season Four's ‘Herrenvolk’, is using his powers to heal the injuries of the returned abductees. Her hopes that he can do the same for Mulder are crushed when her partner is found dead. This should be one of the highlights of Season Eight, but it’s not. After Mulder’s abduction has been ignored for most of the season, his sudden return and ‘death’ seem almost like afterthoughts.
‘DeadAlive’ begins with Mulder’s funeral, and ends three months later with his seemingly miraculous recovery from death. In the interval, Billy Miles—another mysteriously returned Oregon abductee—turns out to be alive after initially being pronounced dead. Hope that the same may be true in Mulder's case prompts Skinner to have the agent’s body exhumed. Krycek returns—nano-robot remote in hand—and offers to turn over the vaccine developed by Bill Mulder that will prevent the Black Oil infection from transforming Mulder into a ‘replacement human’. In exchange, Skinner has to prevent Scully from coming to term. This should be one of the highlights of the entire series—just as Season Two’s ‘One Breath’ was—but it’s not. Gillian Anderson gives a convincing performance as someone who regains everything that she thought was lost forever, but her efforts are wasted on a script that values plot contrivance over genuine emotion.
Now restored to perfect health, Mulder is anxious to get back to work, but Deputy Director Kersh has other thoughts on the matter. Undaunted by his lack of official status, Mulder quickly establishes a connection between the Montana cult of abductees and a man recently shot on the White House lawn. With the help of the Lone Gunmen and some information reluctantly supplied by Doggett, he breaks into a federal databank in an attempt to steal information on potential abduction victims. After the somewhat morbid tone of much of the season so far, it’s nice to see the return of Mulder’s self-deprecating sense of humour. It’s also nice to see his reaction to the news that Scully has a new partner. Unfortunately, the script manages to leave a lot of questions unanswered. Chief among them: who kept paying the rent on Mulder’s apartment after his funeral?
Monica Reyes, making her second appearance, calls on Mulder for his help with a case that she believes may be related to the murder of Doggett’s son Luke. Reyes has recently experienced a vision similar to one she had when the boy’s body was found. As might be expected, Doggett wants nothing to do with anything involving the paranormal, and refuses to admit—even to himself—that he’s had the same visions. Once again, Scully is on the sidelines as she returns to the hospital with another bout of abdominal pains. The best parts of ‘Empedocles’ occur in the scenes where Mulder and Scully are simply talking to each other. It’s a real treat to see them back together again, and to be reminded of just how well Duchovny and Anderson play off each other. Unfortunately, there will be few such moments in the remaining episodes.
Presenting yet another unique pairing, ‘Vienen’ teams up Mulder and Doggett to investigate mysterious deaths onboard an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. They discover that the rig is sitting on top of a large reserve of the Black Oil, and that most of the workers have already been infected. In the end, the rig is destroyed, and Kersh seizes the opportunity to lay the blame on Mulder, giving the Deputy Director the perfect excuse to fire him from the FBI once and for all. Many of the oil rig interiors could have been staged anywhere, but there are a number of establishing shots and scenes filmed on the open deck that are quite spectacular. It’s also nice to see Scully doing what she does best: diligent lab work—including her first autopsy in recent memory—that saves the day for her partner(s) in the field.
With Scully beginning her maternity leave, Doggett meets his new partner: Leyla Harrison, a young agent full of perky enthusiasm and with an encyclopedic knowledge of all of Mulder and Scully’s old cases. Their first assignment is to investigate a murder that turns out to have been committed by a man who can turn himself into a reptile. This is fairly standard Monster-of-the-Week fare, enlivened by the presence of Jolie Jenkins as Harrison: her wide-eyed sense of wonder provides just the right touch of comic relief. Writer/director Frank Spotnitz intended this to be a farewell to Mulder and Scully’s partnership, and manages to work references to many earlier episodes into his script. Even so, the viewer feels short-changed. If we’re here to say good-bye to the team of Mulder and Scully, why aren’t they the focus of the story, rather than supporting characters?
The identity of the father of Scully’s baby remains a mystery and Scully herself doesn’t understand how she was able to conceive following the medical procedures that she was subjected to—during her abduction—that left her barren. Despite all this, Krycek somehow knows that the baby will be ‘more human than human’, and that the replacement humans, of which Billy Miles is one, fear such children and want to prevent their births. To that end, Miles is busy killing the obstetricians we encountered in ‘Per Manum’. In an effort to protect Scully, Doggett calls on Reyes to take her away somewhere, to a place where the baby can be born safely. Once again, Chris Carter has written a script that makes little sense, replacing logic and clarity with misdirection and confusion. ‘Essence’, which should have been a highlight of the season, falls far short of the mark.
While Reyes prepares to deliver Scully’s baby by herself, Doggett learns that Knowle Rohrer, the mysterious informant he met with in ‘Per Manum’ and ‘Three Words’, is actually one of the replacement humans. The whole story just gets more confusing here, with the first mention of ‘Super Soldiers’ and the allegation that Deputy Director Kersh is involved somehow. Skinner finally gets even with Krycek (who seems to have misplaced his remote control) by killing him, robbing the series of its most interesting—and underutilized—supporting character. The replacement humans find Scully as she’s about to give birth, but then leave quietly, just as Mulder is led to the site by a mysterious light in the sky. To drive the point home, the three Lone Gunmen later arrive at Scully’s apartment, bearing gifts. The final revelation—the Mulder is the father after all—comes as a surprise to absolutely no one.