Starting From Square One
"The Beginning" Plot Summary:
A Roush Technology carpool in Phoenix drops off Sandy, who looks ill. When he gets inside, he turns the heat up and stares at his hand, which is becoming translucent. In the morning when the carpool arrives, one of the others comes inside and finds Sandy dead on the couch, his chest torn open. As the friend flees, he is attacked by an alien. CSM tells the Shadow Conspirators that unfortunately photos were released of the body, but he blamed a crazy Indian, since the public is always ready to accept such an explanation. The conspirators are worried because this alien appears to have gestated in less than twelve hours, but CSM assures them he can find it.
Mulder tries to piece together burnt fragments from the X-Files, then goes to a meeting with Scully where a panel of directors scoffs at his report of aliens, bees, and viruses, not to mention a huge travel bill to Antarctica. Mulder says Scully has conclusive evidence which will prove the existence of the aliens, but Scully doesn't; what she has is a scientific report about unidentified DNA. Scully insists privately to Mulder that the virus is not alien, and does not necessarily gestate aliens. Mulder scowls that he saw the aliens, and stomps out.
Skinner tells Mulder that he is no longer assigned to the X-Files, but offers to help him and suggests he get a file from his old desk. In that office, Mulder encounters Spender, who tries to throw him out. Spender introduces Mulder to the new person in charge of the X-Files: Diana Fowley. Meanwhile, CSM walks into a surgical procedure and demands to have the patient dressed and released. The patient is Gibson Praise, whose brain is being operated on.
Mulder and Scully go to the house where the alien attack occurred; Mulder thinks there's immediate proof that it's the same aliens who infected Scully in Antarctica, but she needs more evidence. He asks whether she'll believe him if it bites her ass. She takes his hand and reminds him that he called her his conscience, insisting that she can't give up science now, but he says that this time, her science is wrong. Outside, CSM has Praise in a car. The boy says that the alien was at the house but isn't there now, and tells CSM that he should trust him since he's so afraid of him.
At a nearby nuclear power plant, a sleeping tech named Homer is awakened to an elevated reading in one reactor. He goes to look for the cause and is attacked by the alien. When Mulder and Scully arrive on the scene, there are dozens of firefighters and FBI are already there along with NRC officials. Spender and Fowley insist that Mulder and Scully will have to leave, after Spender correctly guesses that Skinner put Mulder on the trail and Fowley says she was called in based on a stolen case file. Scully insists to Mulder that they can't do anything there, but when they return to their car, they find an unconscious Gibson Praise in the back seat.
At a hotel, Scully removes Praise's bandages and warns him that he has an infection. He tells her that his stitches are making her think of Frankenstein, revealing that he snuck away when no one was thinking about him. He can communicate with the alien, and tells Scully that she knows it even if she doesn't want to believe in it. Mulder wants to take the boy at once to track down the alien, but Scully insists that they need to take him to a hospital - the boy's life itself is their first priority, as an X-File as well as ethically. When they leave the hotel, Fowley's car blocks them. She tells Mulder that she took the X-Files assignment to protect his interests and asks him to help her find the creature in the reactor. Mulder appears suspicious of her motives, but tells Scully to take Praise to get help while he goes after the creature with Fowley.
At the hospital, Praise tells Scully he feels like a lab rat and insists that she's thinking more of her own motives than his health. She leaves the room to call Mulder, who has found alien substances within the reactor; Mulder deduces that the creature needs heat, and has probably moved near the core. Scully says that the doctors found evidence of a virus in Praise - the same virus with which the bee infected her. But when she goes back to his room, Praise is gone; a man has kidnapped him and taken him to the reactor to see if he can find the creature.
Praise tracks the creature near the core. Mulder and Fowley see the man with the boy and follow them until a door blocks their way; Mulder bangs on the door demanding that the man open it, but the alien attacks the man, whose blood is spattered all over the window. Mulder and Fowley are surrounded by NRC officials, but no one discovers Gibson, who remains inside the reactor, apparently in communication with the alien which is in the fluid surrounding the reactor core, shedding its skin.
At headquarters, Mulder and Scully are ordered to cease all work on the X-Files and to report to Assistant Director Kirsch. CSM visits Spender, who tells his father that he should not be in the building, but CSM says he just wanted to congratulate Spender on handling Mulder well. Spender inquires as to whether CSM intends to kill Mulder, but CSM suggests not: "You can kill a man, but not what he stands for." He wants to ruin Mulder instead. Elsewhere, Scully goes to see Mulder, holding Fowley's report, which does not mention Praise and which makes it sound like Mulder made up everything about the alien. Mulder insists that Fowley is just protecting him and his evidence, but Scully says Fowley seems to be protecting everyone BUT Mulder. She asks Mulder to trust her and her evidence, then hands over a report on the "virus" found in her body and Gibson's, plus the material retrieved from the alien material in the house in Phoenix. It's all the same DNA fragment which exists in all humans, a dormant gene, but in Gibson it seems to be an active, integral part of his makeup. If Gibson has alien material in his makeup, then they all do.
Although this was a well-constructed episode, pulling together more plot threads from the movie and from last season than I would have thought possible, I have to admit that it was something of a letdown. There was a reasonable amount of suspense, some appropriate gore, an alien, some nice Mulder/Scully bonding and some intense conflict, but none of the emotional intensity of Fight the Future, and a sense that much of the debate was a retread of the same old nonsense - Scully should know better than to start pretending she doesn't believe in the aliens at this point, and Mulder should know better than to start talking like this is his personal crusade and he doesn't care who gets bulldozed as he solves the mysteries. Their arguments seemed contrived, as did Scully's excessive distrust of Fowley and Mulder's defenses of his former partner and her methods.
"The Beginning" also lacked the big picture - the metaphysical horror from the movie of knowing that a small group of men intended to unleash a deadly virus on all of humankind. This chase for one alien felt like small potatoes, and we got no idea what the conspirators have been up to since the end of the film when they apparently had gone to work on a new project with bees and corn. I'm glad to know Skinner's still one of the good guys, but his role is very undefined...and who promoted Spender so fast, even if he does have CSM connections? There are an awful lot of roadblocks being thrown in Mulder and Scully's way. Until there's a good reason to focus on it, I'd rather the writers drop the conspiracy for awhile and do some meaty political episodes which just happen to have a supernatural element, like they used to. The pacing's off on the mytharc; they either need to start wrapping it up or put it aside for awhile.
Good stuff: the nerd humor at the start of the episode, our inability to tell which side Fowley's really on, Mulder declaring that he didn't see Men In Black. Annoyances: once again Scully's left babysitting. Mulder touched black oil alien skin without getting infected, then walked next to a reactor core without a radiation suit - bet he doesn't get cancer, nonetheless - maybe he's immune, after what Krycek and his cronies did to Mulder in Russia a couple of years ago. I'm glad to see Gibson again but I can't believe they just left him in the power plant without trying to figure out what happened to him - even if Mulder thought he'd be safer there than in CSM's custody, did he not send anyone to get the kid OUT? And speaking as only a pseudo-relationshipper, I find it hard to believe M&S are back to sniping about science and not working up to The Talk. C'mon, folks, after six years they have got to move faster than this.
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