Season 2, Episode 6
Director: Michael Lange
Writer: Paul Brown
As a follow up to the previous laser-focused “Duane Barry,” the latest episode of The X-Files, “Ascension,” is rather sloppy and all over the map. Call it kitchen sink television. Even so, an overstuffed, back-half episode of The X-Files promises to be incredibly amusing and engaging even if it doesn’t come close to matching the quality of its first half.
The episode picks up not long after Scully’s abduction by Duane Barry when Mulder finally hears the event captured on his voicemail. With the FBI investigating the crime scene, Mulder begins to (naturally) obsess over his disappearance, unsure if she is dead or alive. Scully is alive, of course, and is bound and gagged in the back of her car, which is driven by Duane Barry as he races toward the Blue Ridge Mountains to meet the aliens he believes will take her instead of him. Duane Barry is pulled over by a state trooper, and, rather than risk detection, he shoots the trooper and speeds away, unaware that the entire event was recorded on dash cam. The tape ends up in the hands of the FBI, and Mulder figures out where Duane Barry is headed. With Krycek in tow, Mulder forces a gondola operator to allow quick access to the top of the mountain, despite a safety risk with the equipment. In a tense moment, Mulder pushes the speed of the gondola twice as fast as it’s safe to travel but eventually approaches the summit.
Krycek, instructed to stall Mulder as much as possible, kills the gondola operator and stops the ride. Rather than risk Mulder’s life, Krycek restarts the gondola, and Mulder reaches the summit only to find Scully gone and Duane Barry raving about her successful abduction. Later, in custody, Mulder questions Duane Barry, nearly killing him, before Duane Barry actually dies at the hands of Krycek who, as we discovered, is working for the Smoking Man. Mulder stumbles across evidence of Krycek and Smoking Man’s alliance and decides to confront Agent Skinner with the evidence. Faced with the truth and Krycek’s sudden disappearance, Skinner agrees to re-open the X-files, but the victory is small comfort to Mulder who mourns the missing Scully.
So, what’s my beef with “Ascension?” It’s not that I particularly disliked it, per se. It’s a fun episode, I can’t deny that, but it’s not nearly as tightly orchestrated as “Duane Barry.” Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison since “Duane Barry” is essentially a tight-knit hostage drama at heart while “Ascension” aspires to be a beat-the-clock action adventure hour. It’s as if you’d re-imagined North by Northwest as an alien abduction drama. Personally, I appreciated the taut tension of the previous episode over the dramatic action of “Ascension.” That’s all. It’s a fine wrap-up to the arc. It’s just not classic in my opinion. One strange thing about it is a brief scene toward the end of the episode where Scully is shown to be the object of alien experimentation. Aside from this scene, the episode is vaguely non-committal on what actually happened to Scully. The Smoking Man seems to know something as if he orchestrated it, but, assuming the Scully scene is true, then she has been kidnapped by aliens. And there’s something weird going on with Anderson’s pregnant belly.
Are the writers somehow incorporating a pregnancy story into Scully’s character arc? Guess we’ll have to see…