X-Files Flashback: ‘Gethsemane’

Gethsemane

Season 4, Episode 24
Director: R.W. Goodwin
Writer: Chris Carter

“Gethsemane” was ranked in the late 90s as one of the best mythology episodes along with its two follow ups “Redux” and “Redux II.” And it’s hard to argue with that given the exciting plot mechanics, the expansive locales, and the (finally) forward momentum in the overall series mythology. While I’m still not sure how the bees are tying in with the aliens on Earth, it certainly gives the audience more to ponder than recent mythology non-starters. If only it hadn’t been horribly marred by an unrealistic cliffhanger that, while still suspenseful, completely falls apart under analysis.

“Gethsemane” begins with Scully being called to Mulder’s apartment to identify a dead body. The agent working the case pulls back a sheet, and Scully blanches, positively identifying the body. Later, appearing before a hearing at the FBI, she dramatically reveals that Fox Mulder shot himself. The events of the episode flash back to the events that lead up to Mulder’s supposed suicide. In Canada, a team of researchers have discovered what appears to be an alien frozen in ice. After taking samples from the location, a Professor Arlinsky (Matthew Walker) brings the samples to Mulder and Scully to prove his case. Scully volunteers to test the samples, refusing to travel to Canada because (unknown to Mulder) her cancer has started to spread through her body. As she begins her analysis, Scully is attacked by Michael Kritschgau (John Finn) a Defense Department employee who steals one of her samples and knocks her down a flight of stairs.

Mulder, meanwhile, journeys back to the snow-capped Canadian mountains to the camp site where the frozen alien resides. There, he and Arlinsky discover that the on-site crew have been murdered save one person, Babcock, who claims to have buried and hidden the alien to save it. The three men smuggle the alien back into the U.S. where Arlinsky and Mulder begin to perform an autopsy on it. Scully contacts Mulder after having captured Kritschgau and tells Mulder he needs to hear Kritschgau’s story. He tells Mulder that everything known about aliens from Samantha’s kidnapping to the recently discovered alien corpse is a lie designed to hide secret military operations. Also, Kritschgau claims that Scully’s illness was given to her to help Mulder believe the overall lie. When he returns to the alien autopsy, the body has been removed, and Arlinsky and Babcock (a double agent) are dead. Mulder returns home, deeply disturbed with the thought that he may have inadvertently caused Scully’s cancer, and cries while watching an old press conference about the exploration for alien life. The narrative then cuts back to Scully’s interrogation as she tells the assembled that Mulder shot himself, and she positively identified the body.

As I have mentioned before, I really don’t mind the mythology episodes when they have a point. “Gethsemane” is designed to blow the lid off the conspiracy and drive doubt into those (like Mulder) who have bought into it completely. Now, how realistic is this lie given what we have seen and been privy to? Very unlikely. Particularly when we’ve seen actual aliens on multiple occasions from even Scully’s perspective. But having the lie out there shakes things up a bit and at least makes for a fun intervention. The real star of the episode is the fantastic set design employed for the ice cave in which the alien’s body resides. I particularly loved the cinematography within the ice cave scenes where the amber hues of the lanterns lighting each tent from within gives the proceedings a true “other worldly” look and feel.

That said, having “Gethsemane” and season end with a thinly veiled Mulder suicide threat was a dumb idea. There was literally no way that Fox Mulder would ever kill himself over this revelation, which he clearly doesn’t believe. Maybe he feels guilt over Scully’s illness, but it’s not in his character to kill himself. Instead, he’s going to spend every waking moment trying to find a cure for Scully’s illness. But that’s how Chris Carter chose to end the season, and that’s how it ended. It’s a shame, too, because it definitely ended an otherwise very strong episode on a false and rather artificial note.

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