X-Files Flashback: ‘William’


Season 9, Episode 16
Director: David Duchovny
Writer: Chris Carter

The big revelation in “William” is that David Duchovny returns to The X-Files. However, it’s behind the camera, not in front of it. Duchovny toyed with direction a handful of times within the series to, in my opinion, wildly varying degrees of success. However, with “William” he seems to have learned a great deal about handling delicate subject matter. Duchovny’s innate sensibilities typically blend the given material with an off-kilter sense of humor (“The Unnatural” being the nadir of his behind-the-camera reign). Yet, Chris Carter’s script kept Duchovny grounded, and he was able to deliver a sensitive ending to some fairly tough material. “William” is still bogged down by the molasses-slow exposition, but none of that can be attributed to Duchovny.

“William” begins as a childless couple anticipates the delivery of a child they’ve agreed to adopt. When the baby arrives, it is William. The episode then flashes back a week as Scully is stalked by an unseen man. The same man attacks Doggett in the FBI but is then arrested. Here’s where the episode asks the audience to make a huge leap of faith. Rather than incarcerating the individual, Scully and team take him to Quantico for analysis – his face is horribly disfigured. When the man gives a false name, Scully decides to take him back to her apartment to view a series of files for which he claims to have been looking. Over the next 20 or so minutes, DNA testing reveals that the man is possibly Fox Mulder, but Scully doesn’t believe it. Neither do we, honestly, because the man sounds nothing like David Duchovny nor does he even slightly resemble him – burned or not.

The agents give the mystery man some sedatives. They fail, of course, to ensure he actually takes them. The man then creeps into the baby’s room and gives him an injection in the back of the head. When William begins to scream, Scully races in and finds the blood. He checks out alright, but the mystery man’s true intentions have become apparent. Scully confronts him, rightly guessing that the mystery man is Jeffrey Spender, last seen being shot in the face by his father – The Smoking Man. Spender says he injected the baby with magnetite to remove the supernatural components within him. Apparently, William is a key component in the alien conspiracy to populate the Earth, an event ushered forward by The Smoking Man. This desperate action, completely aided by the agents’ stupidity, was a last-ditch effort to destroy his father’s work. Even though her son is now completely normal, Scully knows “they” will never leave them be. So, she gives him up for adoption. He is last seen with his new family, unable to make his new mobile spin.

This episode has a lot of problems. To believe the series of events, you would have to imagine that Agents Scully, Reyes, and Doggett completely abandoned all of their FBI training and allowed an unknown assailant to stay unguarded in Scully’s apartment. With her baby in the next room. I don’t care if they thought it was Mulder. It’s an illogical action, crafted by Chris Carter as a matter of convenience. Additionally, these scenes just drag on and on when it’s completely obvious that this man isn’t Mulder. Yet, we spend nearly half the episode dedicated to the identity of Jeffrey Spender.

On the flip side, Scully’s decision to give her hard-fought child up for adoption is the first good decision she’s made all season. It generates the potential for a series of well crafted sequences where she effectively says goodbye to him. It’s touching and heartbreaking and exemplifying of what you wouldn’t typically expect from The X-Files. Nor is it something you would typically expect coming from the directorial hands of David Duchovny. In the end, “William” is a decent episode because it resolves that storyline. We, as the audience, are now confident that it won’t remain a dangling plot point when the series ends. It doesn’t answer all questions, though…

How in the hell did Jeffrey Spender manage to survive a gunshot to the face?

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