"One Son"
by Michelle Erica Green

And a Holy Ghost

"One Son" Plot Summary:

As the 1973 photo of CGB Spender and Bill Mulder burns, Fox Mulder speaks of a planned armageddon, a struggle between Heaven and Earth. In a flashback we see a much younger CGB (henceforth CSM as usual) giving a folded American flag to a group of aliens. In the present, a group in environmental suits breaks down the door to Mulder's apartment while he wavers about whether to shoot Cassandra Spender. As Mulder repeatedly demands, "Who are you?", Diana Fowley's voice informs him that they are from the Center for Disease Control and have come to quarantine them.

Mulder and Scully shower in a quarantine facility, then are scanned as Mulder quips that he signed up for aromatherapy. Scully guesses that they are at Fort Marlene, a high-risk decontamination and quarantine facility. Fowley apologizes for the treatment of Mulder and his neighbors but insists that Cassandra was the only survivor of a deadly outbreak which killed several doctors; when Mulder questions her and Scully points out that no one in the civilian hospital where Cassandra was taken was infected with anything, Fowley says that Geoffrey Spender called her in. Cassandra herself is in isolation, and Fowley uses Scully's recent suspension from the F.B.I. as an excuse not to let the M.D. examine Cassandra.

Mulder is puzzled as to why Cassandra wanted to die, but Scully surmises that she wanted the experiments to stop. Mulder realizes that Cassandra knows what she is, and that it's dangerous for her to be alive. Elsewhere, Krycek explains to the cabal that Cassandra is now aware of her role as the culmination of 25 years or work, which is why the rebel aliens saved her. Some of the cabal still want to work with the rebels, but CSM insists that they must turn Cassandra over to the aliens who wish to colonize Earth; he points out that Bill Mulder sacrificed his daughter for colonization, realizing that it was the only way for them to save themselves and their families.

Wandering around the decontamination facility at Ft. Marlene, Mulder discovers Marita Covarrubias hidden away. She insists that if she is seen with Mulder, CSM will kill her. But when he questions her, she tells him that she was not part of the same program as Cassandra Spender; Cassandra was the result of 25 years of research on how to create a hybrid, while Covarrubias was infected with the black oil as part of an experiment to create a vaccine to use against the aliens. She warns Mulder that the experiments on Cassandra were not supposed to be successful and that once the aliens learn of Cassandra's existence, colonization of the planet will begin.

Geoffrey Spender visits his mother, telling her that he will keep her safe from his father, but Cassandra insists that he still does not understand what is at stake: she must die, or everyone will die. Fowley arrives and summons the younger Spender. Mulder arrives at the Lone Gunmen's lair, having been summoned by Scully, who has done some research on the mysterious Diana Fowley; the group has tracked her buried F.B.I. credentials and travel records to and from Tunisia, many of which have been purged, but have managed to ascertain that she was visiting and tracking female abductees. Mulder refuses to believe that Fowley could be working for the conspiracy based on such flimsy evidence. Raging that her partner who will trust no one has chosen to trust the woman keeping them from Cassandra Spender and the truth, Scully tells Mulder that she can't help him anymore; there's no reason for her to continue.

Mulder attempts to visit Fowley and picks her lock when he can't find her at home, but though he finds no clues in her underwear drawer, he does get an unexpected visitor: CSM. Pulling a gun, the agent tells CGB Spender what he has learned about him, but CSM says he only came to find his son, who has betrayed him for the wrong side. Mulder scoffs at the idea that CSM could be on the right side while creating alien hybrids, leading CSM to recall that Mulder's father was against that course of action as well. Yet ultimately, Mulder's father gave up Samantha, just as each of the conspirators gave up a family member to the aliens as part of the agreement which they hoped would allow others to survive. In return, they were given an alien fetus in order to produce an alien-human hybrid - a means of working with the aliens instead of being conquered and killed by them. Mulder shouts that CSM only postponed the invasion so that he and his ilk could survive.

But CSM calmly insists that they all did it so their children could survive - Fox and Geoffrey and even Samantha - they gave up their children to the aliens so that they could get them back again. "Your father was too late to understand...we needed the alien genome to make an alien hybrid who could survive the holocaust." Ignoring Mulder's charge that the conspirators treated their wives and children as objects to be bartered, the smoking man says that their plan succeeded in spite of themselves - the plan was to stall the creation of the hybrid until the fulfillment of Mulder's father's contribution, the development of a vaccine for the alien virus. "But it's too late. Colonization will begin." CSM explains that a state of emergency will be declared as the virus spreads; they have no choice but to hand over Cassandra. Mulder tells CSM to stop it or he will, yet CSM says that the real choice for Mulder is whether to live to see his sister returned or to die in vain like the rest of the world. He hands Mulder a piece of paper and says, "Save yourself."

In New York, Spender arrives at the former headquarters of the conspiracy, but only Krycek is there, telling the younger man that his father is gone for good. The cabal has gone to West Virginia to await the aliens...all except Spender's father, who has gone to retrieve his mother. At Ft. Marlene, doctors wheel Cassandra while she screams protests. When CSM enters, she calmly identifies him as "the biggest bastard of all" and calls him a coward. CSM tells her he won't defend himself, though his experiments were to save her and their son; Cassandra weeps that he stole the past from her, and he will never save their son, who now knows what his father has done to his mother. "There's only one way to save me," she adds. "I must die or they all die." But CSM says he can't do it and walks away.

Coming into her apartment, Fowley is startled to find Mulder already inside. He says he went there looking for evidence of her disloyalty, but instead he was found by fate, in the form of the father of the man who has now taken up the futile cause which was once Mulder's, who told him that the ones they love will only survive if they give up. He reveals the paper CSM gave him, directing him to El Rico Air Force Base. Fowley kisses him. At Ft. Marlene, Spender discovers his mother already gone. He is accosted by Covarrubias, who bargains for his help in escaping the facility by telling him she knows where they have taken Cassandra.

Elsewhere in the facility at Ft. Marlene, a doctor in an environmental suit lifts the alien fetus out of frozen storage. Someone enters the room; when the doctor attacks the intruder, the other man's face peels off, revealing a rebel alien. Leaving the doctor dead, the rebel replicates his face and takes his place. Mulder calls Scully to say he and Fowley are going to pick her up, but she says she's going to Potomac Yards, where Cassandra has been taken - Geoffrey Spender told her so. Mulder tells Fowley he's going to send her on ahead, since this may be his last chance to stop the aliens. He and Scully park their car on the tracks and shoot at the train, but it drives right through. They summon Skinner to give them a ride to El Rico, where the conspirators and their families have gathered in a hangar. A military ambulance unloads Cassandra Spender. CSM is puzzled, however: "Where is Alex Krycek?"

The man in question is at Ft. Marlene in something of a panic; he has discovered the fetus missing, and realized the doctor has been replaced by a rebel alien. Spender sees Krycek and asks for help with Covarrubias, who wants to expose the conspirators, but Krycek can't believe Spender doesn't realize what's going on: "It's all going to hell! The rebels are going to win. They took it!" At El Rico, a bright light appears outside the hangar. While the cabal looks puzzled, Fowley pushes CSM towards her car. The panicked cabal try to protect their families as the vehicle flees, but faceless aliens surround them all while the rebel alien masquerading as a doctor stands protectively over Cassandra Spender's gurney.

At the F.B.I., AD Kirsch studies photos of horribly burned bodies and tells Agent Spender he cannot imagine how it felt to lose his mother like that. Spender announces his own culpability in the deaths and advises Kirsch that Mulder and Scully can explain. With Skinner looking on, Spender recommends that the two agents be reinstated to the X-Files, and adds that unless Kirsch does listen to the suspended pair, far worse can happen, and will. After Spender leaves to pack his office, Kirsch demands to know why Mulder never told them he had answers; a wry Mulder notes that he had answers for years, but no one would listen to his story about a group of men who thought they could sleep with the enemy until they woke another enemy. Looking to Scully for an explanation, Kirsch is told only, "I wouldn't bet against him, sir."

Spender arrives at his office only to find his father in his chair, looking at the 1973 photo of himself and Bill Mulder. "He was a good friend who betrayed me in the end," CSM notes, but Spender wants no explanations: "I've learned enough about you to hate you." Sadly, CSM pulls a gun, saying he hoped his son would honor him like Bill Mulder's son honored his father. A gunshot rings out in the hallway just before CSM exits the office.


If I felt like being allegorical, I might initiate some discussion of the millennial anxiety of The X-Files - how the era of the powerful white guys is over, and illegal aliens are duking it out for control of their nation. But I think I'd rather dissect "One Son" at the mundane level. As with "Two Fathers," the episode was well-scripted and well-filmed, but to be honest, I felt cheated.

The conspiracy may be gone, but virtually all the key players are still alive: CSM, Krycek, Covarrubias, Fowley (let's have a loud 'shipper hiss), Cassandra Spender, all the usual suspects at the FBI and in Congress...everyone but some of the familiar faces from the cabal and poor Geoffrey, who really had to be gotten out of the way so Mulder and Scully could have their old office back.

Thematically, it worked that the carnage was limited to conspirators and family members; the oft-repeated message of last week's episode was that a man should not have to live long enough to see his life's work and his children destroyed. But Geoffrey's too much of a newcomer to Mulder's world for us to feel any deep sense of loss at his death, other than the expected horror that CSM would shoot his own child. I'm not even convinced that CSM doesn't think Mulder might be his son, too...or maybe Krycek. I did wonder what made the latter go back for the alien fetus which CSM could have picked up when he got Cassandra, but maybe that was his assigned role. There seemed to be awfully few conspirators at the end, so I'm wondering whether the guy in Tunisia is still over there, or whether some of them actually did join the rebels?

For all the loose ends which were tied up effectively, there remain rogue threads and holes which threaten the overall fabric of the series. I don't get why the doctors working for CSM permitted the work on Cassandra to be completed if they didn't really want it to be, nor why he'd been willing to let the dead doctor from last week's episode kill her when he couldn't do the job himself. Was that story about delay tactics just a line CSM gave Mulder? We never saw any aliens standing over the doctors asking for progress reports, so it's hard to believe someone accidentally stumbled upon the perfect formula for making a hybrid, thus initiating armageddon. Why didn't they just wait until the vaccine (which looked pretty effective in Fight the Future) was perfected? I'm still puzzled about the role the rebel aliens played in their plans. And where were said rebels when the events of the film were taking place anyway? Now we know why they were blasting people with implants on the bridge in "The Red and the Black," but it makes little sense to kill all the partial experiments, only to spare Cassandra as proof of the conspiracy. I don't know how they want to use humans yet, but it's pretty clearly not a selfless gesture fighting the colonists.

I really do like Cassandra and am glad it appears that she survived, though who knows what the rebels will do with her. Veronica Cartwright gave a superlative performance; she was effective raging at CSM (more so than Mulder) but even more effective weeping quietly as she asked him to kill her. Laurie Holden, too, was stunning as former ice queen Covarrubias, though I was not particularly happy to see another strong woman brought down by the bad boys. Then there's Fowley, whom it is very easy to hate for a plethora of reasons, from 'shipper solidarity to her annoying smugness. But learning that she tracked female abductees for the men in black is much worse than watching her kiss Mulder. This conspiracy is nothing if not misogynistic - most of the experiments have been carried out on women, particularly the conspirators' own wives and daughters, and many of the tests involved horrific violations of their reproductive systems. What is Diana after in all this mess? There was a moment when I thought we were going to find out that she was Samantha, but no such luck. She's still a mystery, and we still don't know exactly where Samantha is.

I want to note - since "One Son" didn't really - that Dana Scully saved the world. CSM reduced the conflict to himself vs. Bill Mulder, Fox Mulder vs. Geoffrey Spender, but he left out the vital piece of the equation. He'd defeated young Mulder; he had his onetime protege ready to drive to El Rico with his ally Fowley, convinced that defeat was the only victory. While he sat around moping, Scully found the truth that was out there and set out to do something about it. Two fathers, one son, wrong focus - the patriarchy's dead. So where do we go from here? Next week, apparently, it's into the ocean and a mystery of the week, then on to some new single-episode freakfests and a few touching possibilities between Mulder and Scully like when they play a married couple (one of the things Chris Carter once swore he'd never do which the series has set by the wayside this season). The aliens are out there, but the world apparently ends with a whimper - or maybe without one.

The X-Files Reviews
Get Critical