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S10#12: The Lowdown

In “Pilgrims” part 2, Mulder and Scully’s adventures in Saudi Arabia continue from issue #11 while Joe Harris resurrects old foes and plot points, but also now has enough material at his disposal that he starts making plot references from within Season 10.

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This is also issue #12: Season 10 is now 1 year old! Although story-wise the end of the first “volume” would correspond more to #15, with the end of the current arc, this is a landmark date — and already writer Joe Harris is teasing fans with things on “year 2”!

The issue is composed of:

  • Teaser: continuation of the cliffhanger, Mulder with Krycek are being tracked down, Krycek vanishes
  • Hospital: Scully talks with r Krause, who commits suicide, and Black Oil-infected people can’t reach her on time
  • US Embassy: AD Morales gives a lecture to Mulder; then Mulder and Scully discuss next moves
  • Saudi roadside: Mulder and Scully monitor activity, Scully vanishes; intertwined with:
  • US Embassy: AD Morales is coached by the CSM

KRYCEK!

So Krycek is back! On the one hand, so excited to see this favourite character back in action! On the other hand, Joe Harris knows exactly what he’s doing and giving the fans what they missed the most — too much so perhaps. Krycek joins Skinner, Doggett, Reyes, the Lone Gunmen, the CSM and X as characters from the series that Harris has brought back or resurrected in some way, a list that is already very long and impressive for 12 issues, versus the Deacon (deceased), the Glasses-Wearing Man and AD Morales as new characters. The situation with the Acolytes and the neo-Syndicate and other aspects of the new mythology should make things different from a status quo. However, these fan-sevicing returns would feel less forced if they were more spaced out across more issues or would be more mixed with new recurring characters.

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For the time being, Krycek looks to be — or pretends to be! with RatBoy you never know — just as surprised to be there as we are. “I’m not here willingly.” Has he been resurrected in the same way as the CSM using blood vials (see #10)? “Don’t let them take me again!” and “The cradle is full…” he says, right before vanishing in a blinding light of something that might have been a helicopter. Is he being sent by aliens, or taken by aliens to prevent him from doing something? How is this linked with the Acolytes saying “The cradle is full” (referring to the alien ship and possibly to a human abductee or to William, see #5)? Was he taken by a helicopter, or were the presence the Lone Gunmen were detecting and the blinding flash related to alien/UFO activity associated with time loss? (The Lone Gunmen go by “TLG HQ” on Mulder’s iPhone!)

The return of the compromised AD

AD Morales puts Mulder in line with his behaviour in a foreign country; then she is revealed to be taking orders from the Cigarette-Smoking Man, and doesn’t seem to be too glad about it! This is clearly the situation AD Skinner was in for the classic period of the series, a man who at heart wanted to do good but found himself in the clasp of forces bigger than him. With no big surprise, M&S’s superior is compromised in the conspiracies within the FBI. This particular variation on that theme could be made more interesting by the fact that the CSM himself is now an unstable reconstructed being with unknown superiors and unclear motivations.

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I see Black Oil everywhere

Scully questions Dr. Krause again, who apparently just woke up after being injured, and immediately commits suicide. She was being held apparently as a suspect following the explosion at the Shaybah oil field, and she suspects that it’s because of “him“, because of “what we pulled out of the ground“. She urges Scully to “stop him from leaving the country with it“. Evidently they discovered Black Oil deposits mixed with the crude oil underground, and that’s what being smuggled out of Saudi Arabia. “Shaybah oil field was only part of the search“, so similar extractions are taking place elsewhere. Could “him” be Krycek? Although we saw Krycek as the one responsible for the attack on the oil field, Krause does mention “the man — he blew it up” as a menace in the scene immediately before (#11), so could Krycek actually be working with the Black Oil somehow? Also, it must be Krycek escaping the oil field explosion with somebody in his clasp on the video footage, and this is who “him” is or who “with it” refers to. Who could that person be?

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Throughout the issue we see people everywhere infected and controlled by the Black Oil (with their characteristic black eyes). Is oil, and so Black Oil, so common in Saudi Arabia that everyone has got it? This pervasive menace is a very dangerous environment — but we are in a very different situation compared to, say, 3X15: Piper Maru where encountering the Black Oil was something truly exceptional (and all the more powerful for it), this is more like 8X16: Vienen, where an entire oil platform crew was infected.

We also see Black Oil behaviour we had not seen before: it lays dormant inside somebody until it decides to take control of its host. We see the Saudi soldier and the nurse experiencing that. When the soldier “pushes” the nurse, we do not see physical contact and so no transfer of Black Oil from one body to the other, although that must be what is implied here; and once the soldier is shot dead, we do not see the Black Oil coming out of his body (see 3X16: Apocrypha) so he was no longer infected.

Sightings

Dr. Krause points out that “on the highway toward Al-Ahsa they will make their escape“, which puts Scully and Mulder on one of their quests to track down “unmarked tanker trucks” ((c) FTF) in the middle of nowhere. That scene is so much reminiscent of 1X16: E.B.E., where at dusk they track a truck carrying an alien body across the USA — we even have in the same scene in the issue stopwatches to measure time loss, which Mulder also used in the episode. Alien activity has been associated with nine minutes time loss in the series (see 1X79: Pilot, 1X16: E.B.E., 4X17: Tempus Fugit). And, as with many times in the past as well, Scully disappears.

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And so in this episode we have two instances where Mulder is exposed to a bright light and experiences two minutes time loss, and sees a helicopter and a truck right afterwards. Some alien activity is taking place and it’s not coming from UFOs, it’s coming from hardware being used by the Saudi government and the American oil producers.

Mulder parallels his experience to Scully’s in Yellowstone (#5), where she saw a blinding light, colors, buzzing, and an alien craft that she was made to forget about — funnily enough, this is also the opportunity for an artist to re-draw panels from a different artist! This is the second direct reference to the “Believers” arc after Krycek’s “cradle” reference. Despite many, many situations borrowed directly from the show, Season 10 has become long enough and complex enough for the story and mythology to stand on its own feet and sustain mysteries it has introduced. With art by Matthew Dow Smith that is a perfect fit with the dark atmosphere of the show and the “classic comics” aesthetic that Season 10 has since the beginning, I can’t wait to see where the story takes us next!

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