The Last Temptation of Fox
"Amor Fati" Plot Summary:
Mulder sits on a beach like the spot on the Ivory Coast where the spaceship was found. In the background, a doctor drones that they have no medical information, which can help him. "Enough!" says Mulder's mother. "You're turning him into a zombie." Then she speaks to her son, who is really strapped in a vegetative state to a hospital bed. Though his eyes are open, he cannot speak. "I know you can hear me, Fox," his mother says. "I can hear you, Mom," he replies, though his lips don't move. When she walks away, he cries out for her to stay, but no one can hear.
Cigarette-Smoking Man stands beside Mulder's bed, quoting Shakespeare and reflecting that mothers just want their children to be safe, whereas fathers want something more, some measure of glory for their offspring. "I know you can hear me," he adds. "I can always hear you...even when my mind is jammed with a thousand voices, I can hear you like a snake hissing," Mulder replies without speaking aloud. He wonders how CSM got into the hospital, but CSM is surprised that anything he does can surprise Mulder now. "Aren't you expecting me to sprout vampire fangs?"
CSM has come to offer Mulder a choice: he can kill him, which would be better than living like a zombie, or he can let him live. He injects something into the IV that lets Mulder turn his head, and speak. "Rise, and come with me," says the older man, telling Mulder he's suffered enough for the X-Files, his partner, and the world. Mulder is, after all, not Christ, nor Hamlet, nor even Ralph Nader. "Your account is squared. I'm showing you how to take the road not taken. Take my hand, Fox...I am your father."
Scully has fallen asleep over a sheet of symbols and is awakened by Kritschgau, who tells her he broke in because she's the only one with access to Mulder. She accuses him of duplicity, but he says he did what Mulder wanted: "It's why he asked for me." Kritschgau adds that Mulder is now proof of the very thing he sought to substantiate - the existence of alien life. "Destroy that, and I'll destroy you." Then Skinner calls Scully to the hospital because Mulder has disappeared. His mother checked him out. But Skinner cannot or will not tell Scully any more, because his own position is compromised. "The less I know, the better."
Mulder is on the beach again, seeing a young boy working on a sandcastle. Then CSM wakes him inside a car. "Would you like an explanation?" asks his father, telling Mulder that his own doctors worked on the agent to save him from the syndicate, the FBI, and his own workaholic obsessions. "You can only cheat death by disappearing," he advises, telling his son to become a man without a name like himself, and to learn to love life's simpler pleasures. The price for this is that Mulder cannot tell Scully or anyone else where he has gone; he is "entering a kind of witness protection program." CSM offers Mulder a cigarette. "I don't smoke," retorts Mulder. "Maybe now you do," says his father.
Scully hears a sound in her apartment and pulls a gun. But she is shocked to find Albert Hosteen, who was dying in a hospital when she last saw him. He tells her that she must find and save her partner, for the sake of them all. Working with security, Scully learns that Mulder's mother really did check him out, but the cameras on the ward were blacked out at the time. There's a fragmentary image of Mrs. Mulder talking to someone off-camera who is holding a cigarette.
Mulder is delivered to a house that CSM tells him is his new home. "You can drive back" to Scully, the X-Files, and imminent death, the man says, suggesting that Mulder take a look around first. In the kitchen, Mulder finds sunflower seeds in the fridge and Deep Throat by the counter, healthy and smiling. "You're dead!" "No, just really relaxed," jokes the man, hugging Mulder and explaining that he got to start a new chapter of his life, a mundane suburban life with a wife and kids down the street. "I thought you died for my quest," Mulder confesses. He's told that he can lose the guilt for that death and Scully's sister and the man he thought was his father. "Let it go. You're not the hub of the universe," advises Deep Throat.
Scully leaves repeated messages for Mulder's mom, then receives a book on Native American beliefs and practices from an unknown sender. She recognizes the letters on the front as matching those on the spaceship in Africa. Opening the book, she finds a chapter on the Anasazi, an entire culture that disappeared without a trace. Excited, she calls Skinner, asking whether he sent the book, but Skinner insists that he can't talk to her, even when she tells him that the sixth extinction was foretold, as well as one man who could save everyone. Rushing up to his office when he hangs up on her, Scully finds Skinner collapsing. A man runs from the scene, pulling the fire alarm to get away from Scully. He is holding a device like the one Krycek used to activate the nanoprobes in Skinner's body.
Scully storms to Kritschgau's home, insisting that she knows he let the information about Mulder get out. Then she sees her own notes on his laptop. Kritschgau has tapped into her personal files about the mysterious markings, and sent the information to NIH for analysis. He says it proves that Mulder has become alien, but she deletes the information.
On the beach, Mulder sees the boy working on the sandcastle, but waves knock it down. "You can build it again," he tells the despondent child. He wakes on a bed in handcuffs, but Diana Fowley enters the room in a nightgown, telling him that he can have a woman to take care of him. She frees his wrists and strokes his chest. He kisses her. In the morning he tells her everything is too perfect and he has obligations back in the world, but Fowley says he needs to plant his feet in the ground and learn about real commitment by becoming a father. He protests feebly, but goes with her to visit CSM - whose grandchildren live with him, as does Samantha. Mulder embraces her.
In the real world, Mulder lies in a coma, strapped to a medical platform with his arms out to the sides and machinery bound to his head. CSM and Fowley watch him, speculating on what he might be dreaming. Later, Scully spots Fowley at the FBI and asks if she wants a cigarette; when Fowley says she doesn't smoke, Scully says she could swear she smelled it on her clothes. "Let's cut the crap, shall we?" demands Fowley, trying to blame Scully for Mulder's condition. "Think of Mulder when you met him," Scully implores, asking the other woman to realize that Mulder would still risk his life trying to save her. Back at the lab, CSM can now justify having kept his son alive all these years. He is immune to the coming viral apocalypse. Mulder is the perfect alien-human hybrid of which the syndicate dreamed.
Mulder dreams the years rushing past. He marries Diana, has a family, gets gray hair, and attends his wife's funeral. CSM tells Mulder that he knows about the vision of the boy building the sandcastle. When Mulder asks the boy what he's making, he realizes that it's a spaceship. But the boy wrecks his creation, telling Mulder it's his ship and he's destroying it. In the real world, Fowley strokes Mulder's face. CSM advises her to stop thinking of the man and think about the sacrifice he's making for the world. CSM believes his son would have chosen this fate. Mulder has become the very thing he sought: proof of the existence of extraterrestrials.
Hosteen goes to Scully to warn her that she's almost out of time. She says the science makes no sense to her, but he advises her that she's looking in the wrong place. "There are more worlds than the one you can hold in your hand." He asks her to pray with him, and she falls to her knees. At the lab, CSM is strapped to a table with his head beside Mulder's. Fowley tells him that he's taking genetic material that could kill his son, but he promises to carry on for Mulder, to save the world. Then Fowley realizes that Mulder is awake and knows what they are going to do. She walks out of the lab, pulling off her surgical mask.
In his dream, Mulder is an old man, while CSM looks exactly as he always has. "Rest now," his father advises, telling Mulder that Diana, Samantha, even Scully are all dead. "Scully?" Mulder asks in shock, while CSM again advises that they're all waiting for him if he will just let go. When Mulder turns away, CSM opens the blinds. Outside the world is an inferno, with alien craft everywhere. Cancer Man lights a cigarette.
Kritschgau lies dead on his floor with a bullet wound in the middle of his forehead. Alex Krycek steals his laptop. Scully wakes on her floor to find Hosteen gone and an envelope beside the front door. Inside is a Defense Department key card. Scully uses it to enter the building where Mulder is being held. In his dream, old man Mulder sees lovely young Scully enter. He says he knew she wasn't gone, but she calls him a coward and a deserter. "You're not supposed to die in a comfortable bed with the devil outside!" Mulder explains that his father took care of him, and that there were no aliens. "Have you looked outside, Mulder?" Scully demands. "Get up and fight!" Then she leaves him calling for her.
In the lab, Scully finds an unconscious Mulder with his head bandaged. "Wake up," she begs him, but he wakes in the dream, seeing himself as an old man. "You've got to get up. No one can do it but you, Mulder," she cries, tears falling on his face. This time he wakes in full cognizance of who and what he is, and they embrace.
One week later, Scully goes to Mulder's apartment only to discover that he had gotten up against doctor's orders and was on his way to see her. He tells her that Albert Hosteen is dead. The man was in a coma for two weeks, and could not possibly have visited Scully during Mulder's absence. Scully bursts into tears, saying that she doesn't know what to believe anymore, or who to trust. She has come to tell Mulder that Diana Fowley was murdered. Scully didn't trust her, but she gave her the book and the key to find Mulder. As they hug, Mulder takes her face in his hands and tells her that once he was lost and didn't know who to trust either. Scully was the one constant in his life. She kisses his forehead, as she did when he told her he owed her everything and she owed him nothing. Then she pulls his baseball cap back on and leaves.
Mulder sees himself and the boy finishing the giant spaceship made of sand.
Call me a fan girl, call me a hopeless romantic, but I loved this episode because I loved the last two minutes of this episode, and that's all I really need from this series. It's about time the writers realized it. Throw us a really juicy 'shipper bone, and almost any plot detail becomes irrelevant, even some huge segment of conspiracy arc. Mulder the Christ Figure makes me cringe, but Mulder the doofus in the Yankees cap telling Scully that she's his constant makes me all sniffly.
Okay, let's talk about Mulder the Christ figure, because we have to. CSM, who admitted he was Mulder's father in every version of reality offered to us by this episode, told Mulder he wasn't Christ. But then he had him crucified to a hospital bed with a crown of technological thorns around his head, along with a prophecy that his death would save the human race. Of course, CSM himself stood in for Christ on a couple of occasions, raising the near-dead and offering himself in his son's stead, so maybe we're supposed to take the whole thing as out-and-out parody, but it didn't feel that way.
All this heavy-handed visual symbolism while Mulder was being tempted with an ordinary, mundane, totally icky human life. It is a great credit to Mulder that he did not try to drag Scully in as his wife. Somewhere deep inside he must have known these were visions from the devil, even if Diana wasn't so evil in the end and CSM honestly believed he had the fate of the human race as well as his own craving for glory at heart. Deep Throat told Mulder that he wasn't the hub of the universe, but everything else in "Amor Fati" (including the title, "Love Fate") would suggest otherwise.
The sexual politics of this episode were despicable. I have no idea why Mrs. Mulder chose to trust her former lover, the man who apparently fathered both of her children. I hope she gets what she deserves for it even though she and Cassandra Spender both seem to have been helpless pawns in the hands of powerful men. The same might be said of Diana Fowley, whose only agency was to save the man she loved from the man who apparently owned her, for reasons that may never be clear. I'm still not sure which man was squeezing her hand in the lab at the moment Mulder woke up. The X-Files has portrayed having a wife and kids as a form of hell on many other occasions, most graphically in the recent rerun "Home," so I can't say I was surprised at the vilification of the white-wedding-dress, sweetly pregnant, cuddly mother, beautifully dead Diana. I can't even say that in the context of the show, I rooted for her. I just want to say that I miss the woman from "The End" who had lots of desires in life that did not center around Fox Mulder.
And still I find that my chain can be yanked by Mulder and Scully, together, even though I know they're not even going to get around to kissing for another two episodes, and even though I have no real confidence that the love story arc will be played out with any more forethought or success than the crumbling all-encompassing alien conspiracy. I don't like knowing that I'm such a sap. It makes me question my good taste, and my ideological involvement in the very sort of bad formulaic romance from Mulder's dream sequence. It even forces me to confront the dreadful fact that I would unquestionably fall in love with Voyager again if I thought that series were going to end with Janeway and Chakotay in one another's arms, even if the lead-ins were dreadful and contrived.
Part of this has to do purely with Duchovny and Anderson, who were both in superb form here, each doing what they do best: Duchovny brooding and pensive, Anderson edgy and ultimately tearful. The acting is excellent but the characterizations have almost gotten to be cliches. Still, seven years into The X-Files, I find myself where many 'shippers have been all along. I don't care about the aliens taking over Earth, I don't care where Samantha is, I don't care whose side Krycek is on, and I don't care whether CSM pays for his sins. I am watching to find out whether Mulder and Scully get over all that nonsense and end up together. And that's not too far from the satanic desire to give it all up for domestic bliss, now is it?
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