X-Files Flashback: ‘Apocrypha’


Season 3, Episode 16
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Frank Spotnitz, Chris Carter

The conclusion of the most recent (recent to me anyway) X-Files 2-parter is called “Apocrypha,” which is a reference to a famous Biblical conspiracy of sorts about a section of the Bible that existed between the Old and New Testaments. Writer Chris Carter refers back to these excluded pages in this episode because, according to the episode’s Wikipedia page, the “Apocrypha” stands for “the episode’s thematic concerns – hidden documents and truths not brought to light.” I call bullshit on this one. The only hidden documents within the episode are contained on the mysterious digital tape they’ve been chasing around for a few episodes now, and even that’s not the focus of “Apocrypha.” At any rate, badly titled or not, the episode nicely wraps up the 2-part arc, giving us a tiny amount of additional information about the infamous Black Oil.

The major events of “Apocrypha” are mostly related to the hunt for Alex Krycek and the digital tape he supposedly controls. The prologue gives us the last bit of backstory on the Black Oil as the last surviving member of the original expedition to retrieve a downed UFO tells his version of the events on that submarine. He tells of the Black Oil leaving their commanding officer and floating into the sea below. We see the substance flow from a body into the drain, and we’ll see that repeated at the end of the episode. In the present day, Mulder and the possessed Krycek leave the airport but are sideswiped by two men with whom Krycek quickly dispenses. Mulder survives the car accident, but Krycek has gone missing, having sought out the Smoking Man to exchange the digital tape for the location of a dormant UFO. In the hospital, Mulder finds out that Skinner has been shot, but he will live. Scully has also determined that Luis Cardinal, the man who shot Skinner, is also the man who shot and killed her sister. Cardinal attempts to break into the ambulance transporting Skinner but finds Scully inside. After arresting him (only to find out later he was killed in prison), Scully and Mulder fly to North Dakota to follow Krycek but are quickly apprehended by the Smoking Man’s men. Inside a bunker in North Dakota, Krycek vomits the Black Oil, and it oozes into the dormant UFO, leaving Krycek trapped inside the bunker with the UFO.

So, this episode is heavy on the things I generally don’t like about The X-Files mythology episodes – the Syndicate, the Lone Gunmen (who only exist to run random errands when Carter can’t figure out a logical path of resolution), and a general avoidance of any answers at all. Maybe I’m getting worn down by them, but I’ve begun to just surrender to the overall mythology and accept the presence of persistent conspiracies and double-double crossing. It’s becoming fun to see just how deeply the series can go into tying itself into a knot that it can never cleanly unravel. The Black Oil is a neat concept, and I particularly like watching it possess and later evacuate people (although I’m still wondering what happened to poor Gauthier’s wife when she woke up unpossessed in Hong Kong of all places).

Carter may claim the theme of the episode is “hidden documents,” but that’s not a theme – that’s a plot point. I’m not sure that there ever really was an overall theme or underlying message to the episode. And that’s really OK. The writers are far more interested in spooking us with clandestine missions and top-secret government agencies than in actually conveying a message with their writing. Some of the episodes do it. Some don’t. It doesn’t make the ones who don’t any worse. They’re just less interesting to me without something extra on the side to consider.

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