X-Files Flashback: ‘One Son’

One Son

Season 6, Episode 12
Director: Rob Bowman
Writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz

“One Son” feels like an ending to The X-Files vast and six season-spanning mythology. Reportedly in agreement with fan grumbling about the ultimate futility of the film, Chris Carter intended to deliver on some of the promises made by the film’s advertising. Additionally, he believed the show would end in Spring 2000, so he wanted to start working toward that event (little did he know it would last another three seasons). So, given that, the combination of “Two Fathers” and “One Son” feels like the best way to resolve the overall series mythology, which it does in an effective and captivating fashion.

However, a question remains: what the hell are they doing for three more seasons?

“One Son” begins where it left off with Mulder, Scully, and Cassandra in his apartment, Cassandra begging him to kill her to prevent the pending alien invasion. Cassandra is the alien-human hybrid whose successful creation would eventually foretell colonization and complete eradication at the hands of the mysterious aliens. Agent Diana Fowley and team interrupt the proceedings, taking Cassandra and putting Mulder and Scully in a quarantine on the pretense of an infectious alien virus. There are many small moments within the episode, but the rest deals primarily with the relationship between Fox Mulder, the Smoking Man, and his son, the FBI Agent Jeffrey Spender. Mulder learns the origins of the Syndicate and of the events surrounding Cassandra’s first abduction, timed with the abduction of Samantha Mulder. These subjects were to be experimented upon to create humans that would survive colonization.

In the end, everyone convenes at a hanger in West Virginia where the new batch of Syndicate family members await the arrival of the colonizing aliens. When the hanger doors open, however, the faceless rebels appear and kill the entire Syndicate and its family. The Smoking Man and Diana Fowley manage to escape. The episode closes with a dramatic sequence where, grieving from the death of his mother, Jeffrey Spender resigns his post within the X-Files and recommends reinstatement of Mulder and Scully. As he goes to clean out his office, his father greets him and, after dressing him down for not being more like Mulder, shoots him in the head.

I suppose one could complain about “Two Fathers” and “One Son” because they’re extremely plot-driven. That’s fine with me as I have long grown weary of Carter’s penchant for pontification and “speechifying” during mythology episodes. Here, the plot flies with wings, revealing secrets and motivations as seemingly fast as Carter could write them. However, that doesn’t leave much room for the smaller, more intimate character moments that the series often features. That’s not a complaint of mine, mind you, but it is a criticism I can understand. Still, the best moments in the episode, for me, are of the more human-centered variety as Carter was able to sneak a few in here and there. Cassandra’s final moment, accepting her pending death, was a beautiful acknowledgement of inner peace and an expression of her ability to save the human race by preventing colonization.

But the big moment came at the end when the Smoking Man once more told his son that he has been a bitter disappointment. That he will never be half the man that Fox Mulder is. Jeffrey seems to be able to live with that – I’m not sure he really cares about his father anyway – but I doubt he was prepared to be shot in the head. I’d known Jeffrey did not last through to the end of the series, but I was unprepared for this turn of events. We’d always known the Smoking Man was a cold, calculating killer but killing his own son takes the character into a new class of evil. I’m fascinated by his undying admiration and respect for Mulder and of this new level of depravity within the character. I cannot imagine what to expect next from him as the rules seem to have been tossed out the window.

In the end, this landmark 2-part series may be dinged a few points for its extreme focus on answers, answers, answers. But isn’t that what people really wanted? I do feel that the series should have used this as a jumping off point into a graceful series end, rather than limping toward the finish line as it was reported to have done. That’s one of the biggest problems of American television: popular series never know when to say when. I almost wish I could close my eyes and pretend this is The End.

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