X-Files Flashback: ‘Talitha Cumi’

Season 3, Episode 24
Director: R.W. Goodwin
Writer: Chris Carter (based on a story by David Duchovny and Chris Carter)

Nothing deflates my soul more than an X-Files mythology episode.

I suppose it’s inevitable that Chris Carter feels the need to complete each season with a dramatically inert episode that supposedly deepens the grand conspiracy kicking around his head. Drawing influences from such lofty places as the Bible and The Brothers Karamazov, the pretentious and bloated “Talitha Cumi” – the title alone makes me want to slap someone – is the perfect evidence of a series creator who thinks Big Important Statements make an episode great. Ignoring the incredibly complex yet seemingly effortless outings like “Humbug” and “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” Carter closes a mostly great third season with such a dud of a cliffhanger that 1996 audiences must have been reeling from disappointment.

Granted, the episode does revolve around two things about which I care little: X and the Smoking Man, here referred to as “Cancer Man” because Chris Carter doesn’t ever miss a chance to cater to his fanboys. it begins with a shootout in a fast food restaurant. An unbalanced man draws a gun on an unsuspecting crowd, and a tall, quiet stranger comes up to him and nearly convinces him to relinquish his weapon. Angered when someone tries to escape, the man opens fire but is quickly laid low by a police sniper outside. The good samaritan who tried to intervene then lays the healing hands on the shooter, healing him completely along with other another shooting victim. After the police question him, the samaritan disappears into the crowd.

The incident naturally brings the attention of Mulder and Scully who discover a recording of the man, Jeremiah Smith, appearing to shape-shift into another person. Meanwhile, Mulder’s mother has an unpleasant encounter with the Smoking Man and later suffers a stroke. Mulder becomes determined to find Jeremiah Smith who he wants to use to heal his ailing mother. Informed of his mother’s connection to the Smoking Man by X, Mulder scours her house looking for whatever the Smoking Man may have wanted from her – unable to speak, she has scribbled “PALM” on a sheet of paper for Mulder. In the deserted house, Mulder eventually discovers one of those retractable ice picks that can kill alien clones.

The Smoking Man kidnaps Jeremiah Smith and imprisons him, questioning him in an extended and meaningless exchange. By now, we realize that Jeremiah Smith is most likely an alien/human hybrid similar to those seen in late Season One. In fact, Smith (or a variation of him – it’s never really clear) morphs into Deep Throat and Bill Mulder in front of the Smoking Man. Toss in the psycho alien bounty hunter, and you’ve got a full-on Season One party. In the end, Mulder has attacked both X and the Smoking Man in search of the truth. When Smith approaches the sorely underused Scully, she connects him to Mulder in a vacant lot where the bounty hunter shows up. And we’re To Be Continued…

So, there’s literally nothing remotely interesting about this over-plotted episode, which is fairly standard of the worst mythology episodes. There just isn’t anything here to grab onto despite many falling head over heels for the Smoking Man/Jeremiah Smith interrogation scene, which I found ultimately boring and pointless. “Talitha Cumi” wasn’t even all that visually interesting an episode, showing that Carter focused too much on the intricacies of the plotting rather than making a well-rounded episode of television. In a season that gave us such greatness, closing it with this dud feels like an insult.

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