by Michelle Erica Green

Believe To Understand

"Closure" Plot Summary:

As decomposed bodies are removed from the field behind Santa's North Bible Village, Mulder reflects on the magnitude of the tragedy, and wonders whether their innocence was taken along with their lives or whether the tragic young are born again. "I want so much to believe in a truth beyond our own," he says, imagining the spirits of children rising from the graves. He wants to believe that anything born never dies but waits for rebirth at God's behest.

At the Sacramento police station, Mulder and Scully talk while tapes of the murdered children play in the background. She reports that Ed Truelove committed his first murder at 19, when he dressed as Santa Claus as a part-time job. In all, he has confessed to 24 murders. However, Amber-Lynn LaPierre was not among the bodies found. Nor was Samantha Mulder. Mulder admits that he was hoping to find her among the dead; he wanted the uncertainty to be over.

A man named Harold Piller summons Mulder and Scully, presenting credentials as a police psychic. He knows Mulder is looking for a little girl and thinks he can help find her. He worked overseas and saw "walk-ins," the spiritual phenomenon which the woman in jail in Idaho had described to Mulder previously - good spirits who turn children to pure energy in order to save them from suffering, so their bodies are never found. Scully begs Mulder not to listen to Piller, but he points out that Amber-Lynn is still missing. "You told me all you wanted was for this to be over," Scully reminds him, telling him that as far as she's concerned, it is. She's going back to Washington.

Piller walks out to the field with Mulder, explaining that he has a vanished son who has never been found. In cases with walk-ins, relatives always had pre-cognitive visions of their children horribly mutilated - the good spirits intervened. But in the case of the bodies in the field, they all died suffering. Piller weeps, but says Amber-Lynn was never there. He does, however, sense a connection to Mulder - the missing sister. "We're going to find them."

Back at the FBI, Scully watches tapes of Mulder under hypnosis in 1989, asking another agent whether he believes the hypnotic state to be genuine. The man does, but he believes it becomes suspicious when Mulder starts talking about aliens - he thinks Mulder's mind concocted that story to cover his guilt and fear from remembering what really happened in 1973. Mulder wants to believe that his sister is still alive, but the FBI files and an independent Treasury Department investigation concluded otherwise. "Let it be," he advises. Scully says that for Mulder the wound has never healed, and that he deserves closure.

Piller wakes Mulder, saying he has had a vision. "Someone's here. It's your mother." Mulder is angry and skeptical, especially when the psychic can't tell him what his mother is trying to say, but afterwards Mulder finds that he has written the words "APRIL BASE" on a hotel note pad. Scully calls him as he travels to the decommissioned Air Force base to tell Mulder that she is in his mother's house and has found a piece of the original Treasury Department document closing the case on Samantha - signed by CGBS, or C.G.B. Spender, or Cancer Man. But Mulder tells her that's a dead end. "I'm pursuing this my own way," he announces, and hangs up on her.

Once at the base, he tells Piller he thinks that's a dead end too, but when a patrol car asks them to leave, he decides to come back and investigate. That night, the agent and the psychic sneak onto the abandoned base, where Piller leads Mulder to a street of military homes. Meanwhile, Cancer Man lights a cigarette and startles Scully in Mulder's mother's home. He looks ill. He tells her he has had an operation, but has come to ask her to stop looking for Samantha, no one is going to find her - she's probably dead. Scully demands to know why he never said so before. He claims that at first he had secrets to protect, and later ignorance gave Fox hope. At the base in front of a house pointed out by Piller, Mulder sees his sister's name and handprints pressed into the hardened concrete - as well as those of Jeffrey Spender, Cancer Man's dead son, right underneath.

Meeting with Scully, Mulder admits, "You were right. She was returned to him." Scully reiterates Cancer Man's belief that Samantha is dead but he refuses to believe it, saying Piller led him right to her. "He led you from the moment he met you," Scully agrees. Soon the two are back with Piller, where they reveal they now know about his history of mental illness and the criminal investigation indicating that he killed his own son. "How am I any different from you?" the man asks Mulder, claiming he just wants his little boy back. The three sneak back onto April Air Force Base that night, where Piller says he will summon the spirits in Samantha's house. Scully makes wry comments about not having been at a seance since high school, and Mulder jokes that afterwards they can play Spin the Bottle, but when Piller begins, a ring of ghosts forms around the trio.

A young boy takes Mulder's hand and leads him into a different room. Scully sees nothing, yet when she follows Mulder, he finds a book in an old closet. "It's a diary. It's your sister's," guesses Piller before Mulder has shown it to him. In a diner, Mulder reads aloud to Scully from the book, describing her horror at the medical tests to which she was subjected. At age 14, she remembered her brother and wondered whether he would ever know. In the end she spoke of wanting to run away, and then the notes stopped. Outside, Mulder looks up at the night sky and reflects that all light from the stars takes millions of years to reach Earth. For all they know, maybe there are spirits looking for homes. Scully gently advises him to get some sleep.

After sunrise, Mulder dozes in the hotel. The spirit of his mother appears and whispers to him. Scully wakes him with a knock - she has found a medical report on a 14-year-old runaway whose description matches that of Samantha, though the girl refused to give a name. The hospital believed she had abused herself but Mulder recognizes the scars as signs of illicit scientific tests. He seeks out the E.R. nurse who signed the girl in, finding her in Victorville, California. Outside the home of Nurse Ray, Mulder has a powerful feeling that he has come to the end of the road. Scully asks whether he's ready for the truth and offers to talk to the nurse for him, so Mulder hangs back while his partner and Harold Piller knock on the door.

When prompted by Piller, Nurse Ray admits that she had a vision of the 14-year-old patient dead, much like the one Amber-Lynn LaPierre's father had the night of his daughter's disappearance. But the girl was merely asleep, and later several men came to pick her up. The one the nurse assumed was her father was very cold and smoking a cigarette. Yet when they reached the girl's locked hospital room, she had vanished.

When Scully turns around, Mulder has vanished as well. He is following the ghostly young boy from his vision the night before. In a field full of ghost children, the boy leads him to Amber-Lynn LaPierre...and Samantha, who embraces Mulder. When he returns to Scully, Mulder says he went to the end of the road. He tells Piller that his son is dead, and that all the children are in a better place, but Piller refuses to believe it. After the other man leaves, Scully asks Mulder what happened, but Mulder says only that he's fine.


Even though I enjoyed much of this episode as it was unfolding, I have to say that it was a monumental failure in every regard. Even the performances were flat, as if the actors couldn't make themselves believe their characters would say the lines they were given. Mulder's opening voice-over sounded like Scully talking after the death of Emily. Maybe there are common elements to all grief narratives, but since when does Mulder wax poetic about gods and angels?

Scully, who of all people should have understood what her partner was going through, chose the same moment to retreat into her coldest, most obnoxious scientific persona. I understood why she didn't want to follow him on his journey of discovery with the psychic, but to leave him alone at that moment was irresponsible as well as cruel. And ultimately she didn't really learn anything, since Mulder uncovered the same information about Samantha and Cancer Man as Scully discovered from the agency and his mother's burned files.

The X-Files used to be interesting because science could be used to prove the paranormal; Scully's very rational methods ultimately backed up many of Mulder's wackiest beliefs. Now, however, the series seems to be arguing that the paranormal should prove science. "Believe to understand," says the screen at the end of the opening credits where it usually says "The truth is out there." What in heck does that mean? On any other show, I could believe a major character being assuaged by a bunch of ghostly gobbledygook after years of dealing with a devastating loss. It's a plausible psychological response to intolerable grief, as the FBI agent with whom Scully consulted seemed to confirm. People will believe just about anything to avoid dealing with the reality of death.

But on this show, the reality of death is that there is no reality. Harold Piller might have been schizophrenic or a murderer or just plain nuts, but his visions were real. The audience shared them along with him. The audience also saw the ghost of Mulder's mother at a time when he couldn't have been sure he was seeing her himself, since he was asleep. So ghosts are real, and kids really do get up from their graves and dance in a better place? Does this mean the FBI should stop pursuing kidnappers, that Santa Claus was doing all those children a favor sending them to the Elysian Fields?

I still have ten million questions. How does Fox know and how do we know that this is the definitive version of Samantha? Why did Cancer Man have her cloned? Did he know about the mute version of her on the bee farm? When did he connect with the Samantha who told Fox that C.G.B. Spender had raised her as a daughter? Why did neither Cassandra nor Jeffrey Spender ever mention that a girl named Samantha at one time lived in their house, given that they both knew Mulder's history? Did Samantha die when she was fourteen, or among the Fight the Future aliens, or were those both additional clones of some ur-Samantha who is still out there somewhere along with the truth?

And forgetting the arc, what happened to Amber-Lynn LaPierre before she became a happy ghost? If she vanished among the spirits, why did her mother write a ransom note? Why did the woman in Idaho write a ransom note? Was it Ed Truelove or the walk-ins or someone else speaking through them, and if the latter, why did they communicate in such a cryptic manner that put innocent adults in prison, even if they did rescue innocent children? I'm more comfortable with Scully's traditional Catholic iconography than this Poltergeist silliness. This doesn't feel like "Closure" at all.

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