X-Files Flashback: ‘This Is Not Happening’

Season 8, Episode 14
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz

After resolving all of those pesky contract issues, David Duchovny returns to The X-Files in “This is Not Happening,” an episode in which Fox heavily promoted that fact through multiple ad and print campaigns. It must have been extremely frustrating at the time to have Fox Mulder only appear at the end of the episode (aside from the alien experimental truth / Scully nightmare scene that has become Duchovny’s trademark for Season Eight). It also made for a great cliffhanger to have Mulder appear dead. Despite a few nits here and there, “This is Not Happening” is another unexpectedly good Season Eight episode that, despite its reputation, is proving far from the chore to sit through that I anticipated it would be.

The episode begins with Richie Szalay chasing a UFO across the Montana skyline. In search of a friend who was abducted just before Mulder, Richie searches heavily for signs of returned victims. He spots a dark figure running through a field and calls out to it, only to have it run away before he can reach them. He then discovers the barely alive body of Theresa Hoese, a woman abducted at the same time as Mulder. Scully is pulled into the case by A.D. Skinner and Doggett with the hopes that Mulder either has been or will be shortly returned. Hoese, however, is in bad shape, a result of the numerous experiments performed on her by her supposed alien hosts. Later, a shapeshifting alien impersonates Hoese’s doctor and has her transferred to a remote camp where he heals her. The man turns out to be healer Jeremiah Smith, an old X-Files character not seen since “Talitha Cumi.”

After involving another FBI agent (Monica Reyes, played by Annabeth Gish) who specializes in religious cult investigation, Scully and team eventually track Smith down to his camp where they discover a completely healed Hoese. It’s not until later they witness the shape-shifting Smith (shifting on camera for no apparent reason other than to speed up a plot point) on a videotape that the team revisits the camp. Scully eventually finds Smith, and he asks for her protection as he is the only man who can save the returned abductees. Before she can interrogate him further, Scully is pulled by Skinner and Doggett because Mulder’s body has been discovered in the nearby woods, apparently dead. Scully rushes back to the camp to grab Smith, but a UFO apparently takes him from the scene, dashing Scully’s last hope of saving Mulder.

I used to hate mythology episodes back in the height of the colonization mythology. Ironically, now that what can be called mythology episodes are removed from the overall colonization story line, they’re far more engaging and interesting. There’s still little rationale as to why the aliens are still abducting humans, but that one we’ll just have to swallow. It seems, after eight seasons, Chris Carter and team have finally figured out how to tell a mythology-based episode without jerking themselves off. They’ve made “This is Not Happening” an entertainment first and foremost. It does dabble in series mythological aspects, but they’re in service of the overall story, not there for X-Files obsessives’ edification. As with the best mythology episodes, “Happening” focuses on the human aspects of the story – namely, Scully’s obsessive attempts at recovering Mulder. Gillian Anderson is asked to carry a great deal of material here, and she does so spectacularly.

Many have complained about the introduction of Annabeth Gish as Agent Monica Reyes, citing her uselessness in the overall story. Her presence really didn’t bother me, honestly, and I find her more genial, light-hearted air a welcome addition to the often dour series. She’s far more appealing to me than Agent Doggett who, after a few good turns, is becoming rapidly tiring at best and an distractingly annoying presence at worst. Both characters were introduced to carry the series forward pending the likely departure of Anderson and Duchovny. Gish becomes a series regular in Season Nine, and, as evidenced by those on the Internet, that’s where the shit really goes down.

My only nit with the episode is really the cheesy repetition of the “This is not happening!” refrain. Once at the beginning was enough as the character of “Richie” seemed a little off anyway. Yet, repeating it at the end of the episode with Scully falling dramatically to her knees screaming “THIS IS NOT HAPPENING” at the top of her lungs was far more than overkill. It left a slight bad taste when the episode had previously been so appealing and consumable. I suppose it’s difficult for Carter and team to deliver a completely successful mythology episode that doesn’t feature at least one annoyance. Still, given what has transpired before, I’ll take a few cheesy refrains any day.

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