X-Files Flashback: ‘Trust No 1’

Dana Scully

Season 9, Episode 6
Director: Tony Wharmby
Writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz

This super soldier mythology ‘The X-Files’ has developed for its ninth season is going to be the end of me. Almost none of it makes sense given the near-complete lack of detail around the program and its ties to Fox Mulder. I suppose that’s to be expected given the nature of the series, but one question that has perplexed me since the season premiere is why did Fox Mulder have to disappear in the first place? The answer to that question has never been fully addressed. They’re simply telling us that the individuals responsible for the super soldier program want Scully’s baby and/or William dead. Or do they? “Trust No 1” is a riddle wrapped inside an enigma of an episode, and it does little to clarify any of the noise around Season Nine. Eventually, I suspect, I’m just not going to care a great deal about the answers.

The prologue features a series of still photographs and videotape showing Mulder and Scully in various states taken from the history of the series. Scully gives a ponderous voice-over narration as writer Chris Carter likes to do.  The real story starts after the opening credits where Scully receives an email in an Internet Cafe (ah, the early 2000s) from “Trust_No1@mail.com,” supposedly Mulder, detailing his longing to return to her and to William. Shaken, Scully responds in agreement. At the same cafe, she meets a mother who appears distraught over her husband and crying baby. Later, this same couple eventually make their way into Scully’s apartment where they tell her the husband works for the NSA who have been trying to contact Mulder through Doggett.

Scully then receives a phone call from the Shadow Man (Emmy-winner Terry O’Quinn, making a second appearance in The X-Files) confirming their story. He tells her that she saw baby William spin a mobile with his mind, and they have been watching her for years. His goal is to speak directly to Mulder, and Scully agrees to go along, eventually embarking on a bizarre Simon Says quest including multiple cars, a change of clothes, and a clandestine meeting in an abandoned area. All of this results in Mulder’s apparent arrival at a train station near midnight that night. However, before Mulder can arrive, the original man who contacted Scully shows up with a gun and tries to shoot the Shadow Man. When the Shadow Man kills the man, Doggett takes several shots at him, causing him to fall in front of the oncoming train. The Shadow Man’s body is nowhere to be found.

In the end, the agents hear of train jumpers near a quarry and investigate. There, Doggett supposedly sees Mulder (it’s very far away and is clearly a Mulder stunt double) running into the woods as Scully encounters the Shadow Man who is clearly a super soldier, having experienced no ill effects of being shot or being run over by a train. When Scully backs into the wall of the quarry, however, the Shadow Man begins to oddly shake and is eventually destroyed by the material within the quarry – the first sign of weakness of the super soldiers.

On the positive side, “Trust No 1” offers a compellingly unsettling view of a post-9/11 America as the NSA has gained powers and abilities far beyond the reach of the Constitution. There’s even a line in the episode referencing that fact, and it provides a window into the justifiably paranoid soul of writer Chris Carter. The omnipresent Big Brother always watching Scully is perhaps the most fearful aspect of the season thus far, and it serves as an effective diversion for the season. Now, the negative… First, the Dana Scully of Season Nine is so clearly not the Dana Scully of any season that aired before. She is constantly nervous, second guessing herself, driven by an abundance of emotion, and acting illogically – something we’ve really never known Scully to do previously. She has always been in search of the truth, but the later episodes present her as losing sight of that goal and following the orders of nearly everyone around her. It’s not that her character couldn’t change as time progressed, but it should be a logical shift in characterization, not an introduction of personality trait that never before existed.

Finally, the super soldier mythology really needs some clarification and fast. The Shadow Man references wanting either Mulder or baby William dead. This makes no sense as an entire team of super soldiers witnessed William’s birth and had every opportunity to kill him but chose not to. And what exactly about Mulder is so dangerous that he needs to go into hiding? Why do they want to kill him so badly? Clearly, the answer is David Duchovny’s absence from the series, but the writers haven’t really given us a compelling reason for his character’s absence from the show. It’s all smoke and mirrors now – noise signifying ultimately nothing.

 

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