After a short adventure in monster-of-the-month territory, Season 10 returns to the mythology with #8: “Being for the Benefit of Mr. X“, a single-issue arc, following up on “Believers“. This is also artist Michael Walsh’s last issue — which is a shame. On the menu: more nostalgia, more cameos for past loved characters, and more complications of Joe Harris’ new mythology.
Major spoilers ensue!
The issue unfolds with backs and forths between 1987 and present day:
- 1987: X at a school shooting (a long 7-page teaser)
- Present: Mulder & Scully at FBI HQ; visit Mulder’s old apartment
- 1987: Syndicate meeting with CSM, X and Deep Throat
- Present: Mulder & Scully in front of Mulder’s old apartment
- 1987: X and Deep Throat in front of the Washington Post
- Present: Mulder at the XF office; Scully at Quantico; Mulder traces the call from X
The 1987 flashbacks: Purity Control and Watergate
Joe Harris has certainly gone back to watch the mythology episodes and is very much doing what lots of fans were asking to happen during the series: see how it happened, how the fifty years of backstory of the mythology unfolded! The mythology of the X-Files was a very convoluted story in which our agents jumped right in the middle of, and although we got certain hints and scenes the producers never allowed themselves to spend too much time away from the present day: the closer we got was the meeting of Mulder and the Lone Gunmen and X in 1989 (5X01: Unusual Suspects), and certain flashbacks to the foundation of the Syndicate in 1973 (6X11: Two Fathers / 6X12: One Son, from which many scenes were shot but ultimately cut).
Here, we not only have the return of Mr. X (shot dead in front of Mulder’s apartment in 4X01: Herrenvolk) but also see something we always suspected happened but never actually saw or even hear referenced: the circumstances that led Deep Throat and X to agree to secretly plan against the Syndicate by becoming Mulder’s informants.
Once more, Harris is delivering what a fan wants, and mixes it with his own new and developing mythology — clever writing, although laden with fan service. At this point, readers who haven’t watched the series must be very confused!
In the first episode, Deep Throat says: “In 1987, a group of children from a southern state were given what their parents thought was a routine inoculation. What they were injected with was a clone DNA from the contents of that package you’re holding as a test.” The package was the alien fetus Scully had stolen, for which the project password was “Purity Control”.
The second episode essentially took that line and made an episode out of it, with a similar experiment set in the present day (well, 1995!) for Mulder and Scully to investigate. The southern state was Wisconsin; the injected children behaved violently and had hallucinations of nature coming alive, of animals and insects crawling up their skin.
In Season 10 #8, in 1987 we get to see the original experiment Deep Throat had referred to. The southern state is Mississippi, the injected children have hallucinations (“It was like something crawled under my skin“) and become that violent that the experiment results in an all-out school shooting (for which the USA is world famous for), with the last one standing graphically committing suicide.
We get echoes of 4X07: Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man in the next flashback: gathered around a table, the CSM and his associates decide the fate of the world, in this instance the presidential primaries for the 1988 elections (the vice president in question is future president George HW Bush; and the Democrats had trouble choosing a clear winner; Iowa and New Hampshire however were in February 1988).
The still unnamed X starts having second thoughts about the Syndicate’s activity. He goes to the offices of the Washington Post, ready to spill the beans to a journalist, like a second Deep Throat informant who gave information to Washington Post journalists on the Watergate scandal in 1973. Deep Throat stops X, him being his usual violent self, suggesting a more long-term gradual and indirect approach — namely, via informing Mulder (“There’s a young man I’ve been hearing a lot about over at Quantico“). Echoes of 5X01: Unusual Suspects, where X prevented whistle-blower Susanne Modeski to contact a newspaper in 1989! And Deep Throat, standing there, gets the idea for his future nickname!
We even get a cameo from Marita Covarrubias, in a photo in Mulder’s office.
The Present Day: Vials and apparitions
As I expected, the reinstatement of Mulder & Scully in the FBI is still a continuing matter, Scully reminds Mulder that they have to attend their courses and physical exercises, and Mulder is bored enough already to stick pencils up the ceiling. That and the dialogue captures the characters to perfection — however this issue and large parts of previous ones abound with a feeling of nostalgia, hesitating between lingering on what we would like them to see doing once more and having them explore new paths.
Mulder has been getting phonecalls with Morse code which seem to be coming from a dead man — like in 5X05: Christmas Carol, in which Scully received voice messages from her dead sister Melissa. We visit Apartment 42, Mulder’s, now occupied by a lesbian couple with kids (finally, some action in that cursed apartment!), and once more see the iconic “X” taped on the window, which Mulder started doing with 2X08: One Breath. Is that the same couch?
We are led to understand that X, or a being like X, tried to contact Mulder, and left a message and an item at his old apartment.
Is the vial left at Mulder’s the exact same vial as in 1987? It would be a stretch to think so, although they have the same appearance; in 1987, the Syndicate hadn’t developed anything mature enough, be it in terms of injection for hybridization (the point of the experiment at the school), of delivery method for the alien virus Purity (which became the bees), or of vaccine against it (eventually developed by the Russians). It’s more likely a modern-day vial left by “X” to inform Mulder of the existence of such a substance. Scully analyzes it as blood bonded with things that look “awfully familiar”: “Purity […] molecuarly bonded to a genetic base. Like it was designed and tailored for a specific carrier“. For whom? “Nothing in the FBI database.” X then? We know the Purity virus, but haven’t seen it designed and tailored for a particular person yet; this is a new form or use for this virus. The microscope views on Scully’s screen are the same as in 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask, though.
Mulder confronts this “X”. Like the “CSM” did in previous issues, this X talks by quoting lines he used in the past. Here it’s from 3X24: Talitha Cumi: “They will kill you for it, Agent Mulder. That’s a fact. They’ll stop at nothing for it, nothing, even if they have to martyr you and risk turning your work into a crusade.” “X” appears very unstable, and totally dissolves into a puddle of green goo — which we do not know whether it’s the same green goo as the many hybrids we have seen in the past (or in the ambulance carrying the Deacon’s blood samples in #2).
And so we can say with certainty that neither X nor CSM are still alive. Whatever these beings are, they are not the original. They appear to have been created, perhaps engineered hybrids using genetic material from the deceased (using the blood and tissue samples that we know was being collected on everyone for example), and possibly somehow “channeling” their souls or whatever is the reason for them to have some knowledge of their true life and for them to use the same sentences. It must not be the first time that these recreations dissolve into green goo, X didn’t seem particularly worried that this was the end of him, and so these beings must be recreated again and again; like zombies they might not have a will fully of their own.
All this must be controlled by the Glasses-Wearing Man we saw at the end of #5. It might be that they are working for themselves or against the alien colonization — the “Believers” arc seemed to indicate so, and here we have “X” giving information and material to Mulder and Scully as well. The objective of the Glasses-Wearing Man in this can be to learn what these people knew when they were alive and gain power through this knowledge (the interrogation of the CSM in #5), or to use them and their well-known appearance among their previous associates (here Mulder, but also government or Syndicate executives) in order to infiltrate the spheres of power.
One of the best lines that are a kind of meta-atonement for the overdose of nostalgia: “And lo, the 21st century offers little in the way of daylight when it comes to toiling in the X-Files division“!
And so Harris is continuing to build his mythology, mixing a lot of the old but setting up the new with his own mysteries and references across comics issues and more questions. He has managed to recreate the same feeling as when we watched the series for the first time: questions, then more questions, leading to theories and, eventually, snips of answers. The short format of the monthly comics issues is still a frustration but this Season 10 has to be seen considered on the long haul.
This is artist Michael Walsh‘s last issue before takes over with #11. I will really miss him — he captures the likenesses of the characters like no other, also his art in this issue is the best so far, and with the exceptional work by colorist Jordie Bellaire here this is one of the best issues so far.
PS: This month marks also the start of “The X-Files: Conspiracy“, the spin-off/mega-cross-over of the Lone Gunmen with other pop culture franchises, which will run over 3 months; I might cover that at a later date when it is collected.