X-Files Flashback: ‘Deadalive’

Season 8, Episode 15
Director: Tony Wharmby
Writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz

Agent Fox Mulder finally, officially, 100 percent returns to The X-Files in “Deadalive,” although it takes a full forty minutes before he utters a single word. I know the feeling as I’m personally struggling to find any words left to adequately and (hopefully) intelligently discuss this episode. It’s not that “Deadalive” is a bad episode – far from it. It’s actually engaging and entertaining as far as these things go. No, the problem with it is that there just isn’t much “there” there. There’s little substance, little meat to chew on. It’s a pretty linear, straightforward episode full of exposition. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The episode begins in winter (note the snow on the ground) as Scully and crew bury Agent Mulder having discovered his seemingly dead body in the last episode. Later, another abductee, Billy Miles, is pulled from the ocean and initially thought to be dead but begins to show slight signs of life. This development causes Skinner to exhume Mulder’s body, finding similarly weak signs of life. The remainder of the episode generally follows three perspectives as they race to save Mulder’s life. Skinner is approached by Alex Krycek with a cure for the virus that has infected Mulder but is only available to Skinner at a price – stop Scully from carrying her child to term. Scully has an understandably emotional reaction to Mulder’s condition and tries to work with both Doggett and Skinner to obtain the virus. Doggett refuses to believe any of the alien abduction stories and struggles with a future in the X-Files.

In the end, Skinner opts to pull the plug on Mulder rather than harm Scully’s unborn child. In a rather convenient and ill-explained series of events, the absence of life support dropped his body temperature to a level at which his body started to fight the alien virus. After Scully begins administering a series of anti-virals, Mulder eventually awakens and (jokingly) asks Scully who she is, feigning amnesia. Doggett’s continued participation in Mulder’s case costs him a rare promotion within the FBI, and young Billy Miles fully recovers, apparently to become some sort of super soldier engineered by his alien abductors.

“Deadalive” is an absolutely fine piece of X-Files entertainment overall. It handles a straightforward narrative without getting into too many mythology traps, although it does stretch credibility a few times. I’m particularly thinking of the exhumation and eventual resurrection of Mulder’s apparently not embalmed body. In the modern funereal era, who buries a Christian body in an expensive casket without first performing an autopsy and then embalming it? It’s a huge gaping hole in the narrative, but one that the audience simply has to accept and move on. Otherwise, “Deadalive” moves along at a decent clip, deftly balancing the three central narratives. It will be interesting to see who gets short changed when David Duchovny comes back for a few episodes on a more full-time schedule.

Finally, much has been made of Mulder’s resurrection, equating it to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mulder has been filmed many times within the last two years in Christ-like positions, arms outstretched and body pierced resulting in stigmatic wounds. I don’t disagree that the signs are there, but I’m curious as to what exactly they’re buying the story. Personally, I think it’s a neat aside the creative team wanted to try on, but it doesn’t work in terms of the overall X-Files narrative. If Jesus Christ died for our sins (as the story goes), then what does Fox Mulder die for? Is he saving humanity from the aliens? I suppose it’s TBD on that one, but it doesn’t feel like The X-Files has a good answer in store for that larger question.

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