X-Files Flashback: ‘Provenance’

Season 9, Episode 9
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz

I suspect that “Provenance” was intended to be an attempt for The X-Files to course correct the ninth season. To do this, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz have included fan-favorite aspects of earlier seasons into a 2-part mythology story line. There’s the vibrating piece of an alien spacecraft, and there’s the rubbings of a UFO that contain unexpected text. Toss in the Lone Gunmen, and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed winner, right? Eh, not so much.

The episode opens with border police patrolling the hot-button border between the U.S. and Canada. When a motorcyclist evading arrest crashes and seemingly dies, the police back away, and the FBI enters the picture to investigate. The rider, revealed to be an undercover FBI agent, was carrying rubbings of a recently discovered UFO. The rubbings are similar to the ones Scully investigated in Africa in late Season Six / early Season Seven. The motorcyclist is later seen with a fragment of the UFO, which begins to heal him. The FBI asks Scully if she’s aware of the engravings, but she play ignorant. She confides in Reyes that the original space craft contained not only a periodic table but also passages from the Bible, calling into question the core of Scully’s faith. Now, she wants to investigate the new spacecraft because she’s convinced it has a connection to her son, William.

After scenes of mythology episode filler and the standard “Doggett doesn’t believe in anything” dialogue, Scully and her baby are attacked by the undercover FBI agent. Scully manages to shoot him just before the agent attempts to suffocate William with a pillow. Before the ambulance takes him away, he tells Scully her baby has to die. Skinner and higher-ups at the FBI tell Scully that a UFO obsessive cult found the second UFO, and the rouge agent was supposed to infiltrating them. Also, there is some kind of threat on Mulder’s life, but that’s beside the point. Phased by the attack, Scully witnesses William levitate and spin a piece of the alien spacecraft she recovered from the attacking agent. Eventually, it all culminates in a member of the UFO cult running Doggett over and holding the Lone Gunmen, Scully’s babysitters of choice, at gunpoint. To be continued…

Even though “Providence” is the first of two parts, it still feels undercooked and rather pointless. The juxtaposition of the alien mythology with Scully’s baby has to be one of the more frustrating developments in the series. Is this a super soldier baby? Is he an alien? The show seems to have neither a clear idea of where it’s taking this storyline nor a real answer to the question. At this point, Scully and her baby have become nothing but a plot device, forward momentum for a stagnated series. I’ve grown incredibly tired of Scully’s quest for answers, particularly since her questions make no sense. Ultimately, Scully has been reduced to running through scene after scene, histrionic and screaming. It would have been far more revolutionary if she had, instead, been as calm and poised as she was within the first eight seasons of the series. In the end, this new Scully sends an awful message about mothers. Yes, mothers will always protect their children, but do they have to abandon all reason and logic?

Overall, “Providence” tries to jumpstart the series by calling back to earlier successes. Funny thing is that they’re calling back to a confused mythology that, while was more interesting than this season, wasn’t really all that great to begin with. Much like “Hellbound” before it, “Providence” continues the trend of The X-Files playing with grand ideas and huge gestures without fully exploring them. It isn’t enough to just tease the connection between The X-Files and the early astronaut theory – you have to go deeper, go further than simply scratching the surface. Chris Carter wants to have a dialogue about religion, conspiracies, and (of course) aliens. That’s fine. Let’s have one. “Providence” isn’t a dialogue. It’s a prologue to a story we’ll likely never see.

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