X-Files mythology, TenThirteen Interviews Database, and more

S11#5: The Lowdown

After an introduction (“Cantus“) and a monster-of-the-week sequel (“Home Again“), Season 11 segues into #5, “My Name Is Gibson“, a single-issue transition to the three-part season ender “Endgames“. Flashbacks, old foes, build-up to the finale and spoilers after the jump.

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On the menu:

  • 1991, Philippines (Clark Air Base and Bureau of Immigration): Gibson and his mother flee the eruption of Mount Pinatubo; Gibson is contacted by aliens
  • North Platte Regional Airport, Nebraska: Scully and Morales board arrested Mulder on a plane bound for Washington DC; Scully receives a warning from Gibson
  • Mid-air: An undercover Faceless Rebel intervenes; Gibson telepathically stops him, and deviates the flight from its original destination

The story flows uninterrupted from issue to issue, giving to the whole season a dramatic tension and speed that was absent from Season 10 — something that is likely more a result of the accelerated schedule of Season 11 to accommodate the live X-Files revival in January-February, rather than something that was intended from the outset. Indeed, we could have easily imagined the status quo of Mulder on the run and Scully at the FBI running for quite a few more issues before Mulder’s arrest and the upcoming denouement.

And so after being pulled apart at the end of Season 10, Scully and Mulder are together again, although this happens not in the best of circumstances and they are again separated within this issue. Their reunion does seem more…frigid, or rather perplexed, compared to their passionate farewell in S10#25. Incidentally, the airport where Mulder is boarded on the plane is in North Platte, Nebraska — this is where 5X11: Kill Switch ended, where the trailer park is where the A.I. settled in after the events of the episode. This gives a whole new meaning to Scully’s comment in this issue “We’ve been here before, Mulder“!

Gibson’s background

Throughout the issue, Gibson narrates his experiences and feelings going back as far as 1991 when he was beginning to understand how special he was; at that time he must have been around 5 years old.

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In 1991, Gibson was living in the Clark Air Base in the Philippines — shown in Schindler’s List-like flashbacks, black-and-white and little Gibson in red. Established after the US-Philippines war of 1899-1902, the military base was built during the US occupation of the Philippines and played an important role in World War II and the Vietnam War as a basis of operations. The end of the Cold War more or less coincided with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, accelerating an already planned withdrawal and closure of the base. The eruption of June 15 1991 among the most important worldwide in the twentieth century, covering a wide area around the volcano with ash (as seen in the issue), displacing tens of thousands of people and dropping global temperatures by half a degree (Celsius).

Joe Harris has tapped well into Gibson’s past to inform the flashbacks. Introduced in 5X20: The End, in 1998 Gibson was mentioned as living in the Philippines with his parents. He was then taken by the Syndicate and experimented on (6X01: The Beginning), exactly what Gibson’s mother was trying to prevent by immigrating into the Philippines as we see in this issue. He then escaped and blended in with other children in a school for the deaf (8X01/02: Within/Without) before becoming a ward of the state; and for a year he gave shelter to Mulder fleeing from alien forces (9X19/20: The Truth, S10#22).

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The series never revealed much about Gibson’s parents, we never saw them and they were only mentioned in The End. Gibson was presented as a child that Scully and Mulder had to take care of, a kind of substitute for their own child that they did not (yet) have; in that sense he could be seen as a thematic precursor to William, their real child, whose destiny is also intertwined with abnormal abilities of alien origin. As such, it made sense to omit discussing Gibson’s real parents much, making him an orphan that had to be taken care of.

This issue expands on Gibson’s past and parents in an interesting way but that still opens some other questions. Gibson says “I spent my early childhood in the Philippines, protected by a mother who worried about me constantly, after being abandoned by a father who simply feared what I would become“. Gibson’s father, or mother, or both, were working in the US military and were stationed at the US military Air Base Clark, in the Philippines. Both his parents saw that something was peculiar with Gibson; his father left, and his mother feared that Gibson would become an object of research and experiments were they to return to the USA, and so attempted to seek refuge in the Philippines: “I don’t trust the American armed forces anymore“. Gibson’s mother is later shown dead (?) in their home, and Gibson is taken in by personnel evacuating the area, more likely by Filipino forces, rather than US military, who were completely abandoning the base.

Mount Pinatubo eruption as seen from Clark Air Base

Mount Pinatubo eruption as seen from Clark Air Base

Seven years later, in The End, Gibson is still with his parents (“Your parents are going to pick you up on Friday, Gibson, to take you back home“). Perhaps after the Pinatubo eruption and Clark evacuation Gibson was considered an orphan and was adopted by a Filipino family.

This explanation of Gibson’s Filipino background certainly makes sense: a child of American citizens working in military or diplomatic outposts abroad. It does undermine, though, a pet theory of mine — granted, a very fragile one already, and not pursued by Harris — that Gibson’s special alien traits are linked to his Filipino ancestry, and that Gibson, the Tunguska vaccine, the natural immunity of the Native American Huichol and alien cultural traits passed down to the Native American Anasazi and Navajo all have a common Asian/Siberian origin (in the X-Files mythos, that is!). See 5X20: The End and 8X16: Vienen, mainly, for more on this “Siberian connection”. For all we know, Gibson’s father could be Filipino, and had an affair with Mrs. Praise, an American woman working at Clark Air Base.

It’s the Rebels again!

The aliens seem to have identified Gibson as a special being as early as 1991 and kept an eye on him ever since. Gibson first saw them in 1991, they told him “you’ll see us soon“, and “not a day has passed since […] that I haven’t looked forward to it“. Gibson might have dedicated his entire efforts ever since to see them again, to make contact with them again — this could be his entire plan altogether, to contact the eluding aliens.

Are we to understand that Gibson’s mother was killed by the alien keeping a watch on Gibson? If the purpose of the alien Gibson meets was to keep an eye on him and keep him hidden from US forces and the Syndicate, then why not let Gibson’s mother go ahead with her plan of settling in the Philippines for good, why kill her?

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In the present day, the Rebels seem to be infiltrating the US government — one of them posing as a Department of Justice Federal Marshall — in the same way that Gibson’s company, Cantus, is trying to gain influence and control of the government and its tentacles. On the flight taking Mulder to a DoJ hearing in Washington DC, Gibson intervenes and by taking control or killing everyone else on board, he neutralizes the Rebel and steers the plane to a different direction. Gibson has made sure that Mulder’s transfer was kept secret (“There’s no record of this prisoner transport with the Justice Department“), thus it was Gibson’s plan all along to kidnap Mulder and prevent the Rebel from taking him, whereas the Rebels might have their own agenda trying to infiltrate the power spheres in the DoJ and elsewhere. The fact that Rebels infiltrated his operation forced Gibson to act more quickly (“outside factors have sped up my plans“).

In the series, we last saw the Rebels in season 6, where it looked like they could be taking the upper hand from the Purity aliens (a.k.a. the Black Oil, or the Colonists) (6X11: Two Fathers / 6X12: One Son). A whole alternative reading of the mythology (e.g. Sara Martin’s Spanish book) would have the whole of the mythology post-season 6 — the Alien Bounty Hunter clones of 7X22: Requiem / 8X02: Without, the replicants and Supersoldiers of seasons 8 and 9 — be actually instigated by a new colonization effort by the Rebels, once the Purity aliens were defeated!

In a surprising turn of events, we see the Rebels again in the comics, in S10#15, in which it looked like they were on a planet-wide search-and-destroy mission to eradicate the Purity aliens. At the time we wondered whether the Black Oil entity of the Pilgrims arc (#11-15) was a separate entity or Black Oil in general. This issue seems to reinforce the theory that the Rebels have indeed taken over and are winning the war with Purity, even subverting Purity’s technology for their own use (how else could the season 3 Krycek have resurfaced in Pilgrims?).

This issue then establishes the Rebels’ presence on Earth as early as 1991, whereas the series seemed to depict their aggressive war on Purity around 1998-1999 as something new (at least to the Syndicate; see 5X13: Patient X / 5X14: The Red and the Black). Perhaps they were preparing the ground earlier sending infiltrated agents, using their abilities to shape-shift to better prepare the ground for a future invasion — this is similar to our discovery of Supersoldiers existing as early as 1991, retroactively rewriting history in season 9 (teaser to 9X11: Providence).

One thing that cannot be reconciled with the rest of the X-Files mythology, however, is killing a Rebel with a simple gunshot wound to the neck. That ambiguity has plagued the XF myth for a long time, with notably 8X02: Without showing an ABH dying this way while the alien stiletto had been presented as a significant plot point in earlier episodes. The alien stiletto was also seen in the Joe Harris comics (S10#3, #18), so we will have to read the following issues to see whether this really extends the ambiguity or incoherence of the series, or if the Rebel was barely overpowered, not kill, for the time necessary for Gibson to take over control of the plane.

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Of note, a cameo by none other than Joe Harris as the Rebel-killing passenger of the plane! This is certainly not Matthew Dow Smith’s first meta wink, and I wonder with so many people drawn queuing in airports in this issue whether there are more cameos in there?

Different alien races, different allegiances, groups manipulating groups, it all is still unclear — as the best of the X-Files mythology was — and the resolution could still head to a different direction. But it looks like making contact with the aliens, or bringing them to a point where they take notice of him and talk with him instead of being bent on destruction and burning, would be Gibson’s long-awaited defining moment.

Next up is the Season 11 X-mas Special, focused on the Lone Gunmen — which might or might not be more directly linked to the Season 11 main storyline — before issue #6 kicking off Season 11’s final story arc “Endgames” barely a few days before the premiere of the X-Files revival in January!

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