Case Profile

Closure tagline: "Believe To Understand"

A case of a girl that vanished in mysterious circumstances brings Mulder memories of his sister Samantha. Mulder's mother, heavy with grief, commits suicide. The Cigarette-Smoking Man appears sick. The case brings Mulder and Scully to a child serial killer. But on top of this case Mulder discovers the actions of the Walk-ins, souls that take the bodies of children that come under heavy suffering and transport their spirits to starlight. With the help of psychic Harold Piller, Mulder finds that after her abduction Samantha lived in an Air Force Base with the Cigarette-Smoking Man before being taken by the Walk-ins. Fox reunites with Samantha's spirit and his quest ends.

Field Report

"End of the road." Season 7 approaches its conclusion and storylines are closed, aiming at ending the series with the season. These two episodes, written by the indefatigable duo Carter & Spotnitz, offer an elegant though expeditious ending to the whole Samantha arc that has been following Mulder since the Pilot itself. A bit like the Scully-centric 5X05: Christmas Carol led to the mytharc 5X07: Emily, so does Sein und Zeit follows what looks like an independent criminal investigation with a paranormal twist leads up to major mytharc revelations. A very personal journey for Mulder, faithfully sided by Scully. The turn of post-Syndicate mythology to the ethereal and the spiritual reaches a climax here (to be tied with 7X17: all things for Scully).

Samantha Mulder, Jan-04-1964 - Oct-23-1979

6X12: One Son definitely established that Samantha Mulder, age 8, was abducted by aliens in her home in Chilmark, Massachussets, on Novermber 17, 1973, before her brother Fox, age 12. This was done in accord with the Syndicate, of which Samantha's father Bill Mulder and CGB Spender (the Cigarette-Smoking Man) were members. The Syndicate knew why the abduction took place and knew where she was after the abduction, but to satisfy the official channels an investigation was opened into her disappearance. Agent Schoninger: "
There was an extraordinary amount of effort put into finding his sister. Even the Treasury Department got involved. His father worked at a high level in the government."

Indeed, the 'unexplained' abduction of a high level government official must have caused quite a stir.
The investigation was probably led by the FBI, but other federal agencies might have been involved (such as the CIA or the NSA) -- all of which are funded and supervised by the Department of Treasury. The Department of Treasury documents that "ordered an end to the search" are signed CGB Spender. This places Cancer Man within the Department of Treasury in 1973-1974, which isn't surprising: government officials are known to hop from department to department in their carreers. The CSM must have started his carreer in the State Department (2X25: Anasazi, 3X16: Apocrypha, 6X12: One Son), then hopping to the Treasury Department, and possibly staying there until the present date (given his frequent strolls in the halls of the FBI). Of course, "they found nothing" because finding nothing was the desired outcome.

After her abduction by the alien Colonists (and her intial 'tagging' as a VIP abductee), Samantha was returned to the Syndicate elders. The CSM took her in his fold and raised her as a child of his own: "
After her abduction, she was returned to him and he raised her at the military base along with his son, Jeffrey Spender". Samantha was returned to the Syndicate, but the Syndicate did not return Samantha to her (real) parents; CGB Spender kept her as a means of pressure, a means to keep a leash on Bill Mulder, who was against the collaboration agreement with the Colonists from the beginning. CGB Spender lived with his family, Cassandra Spender and their son Jeffrey, in April Air Force Base, in California, in a suburban-style home dedicated to base personnel -- in a typical 50s Americana fashion, the patriotic husband and his faithful housewife. Jeffrey and Samantha grew up together during those years. But all the while, the abductions and the tests continued. Cassandra and Samantha suffered horribly at the hands of the Syndicate doctors: "They did more tests today, but not the horrible kind. I was awake and they made me lay still while they shined lights in my eyes. They asked me questions, but I always lie now and tell them what they want to hear, just to make them stop. I hate them and I hate the way they treat me, like I'm an old suitcase they can just drag around and open up whenever they want to. They know I hate them, but they don't even care."

Unlike later, with eg Duane Barry or Scully, the Syndicate didn't have many test subjects to work on and the work was concentrated continuously on a few individuals; also, the science and technology was more crude, leading to more suffering. A cut scene had Mulder and Harold Piller discover rail tracks in April Base, for the train box cars to pick up their tests subjects (as seen in 3X09: Nisei or 6X11: Two Fathers), in a chilly scene that must have been reminiscent of Nazi trains taking Jews and prisoners to labour and death camps. Cassandra and Samantha were also taken multiple times by the aliens as well.
Samantha's pre-abduction memories were nearly completely erased ("Sometimes I think my memories were taken by the doctors but not all of them"), using a technology already seen in 1X01: Deep Throat, as were the memories of the alien abductions. But the memories of the tests were painfully present.

After six years of this horrible lifestyle, Samantha, age 14, goes ahead with her plans to run away to escape the tests. On the night of October 23, 1979 (you can see the date on the hospital report), she escapes April Base. She is taken by the California Highway Patrol officers Patrolman J Poole and Detective J Floyd (report:
"Approximately 14 year old girl picked up on [...]. Runaway claims she was held hostage on base [...] Hospital for exam."). They took her to the Dominic Savio Memorial Hospital, where she was admitted to the E.R. because of the seriousness of the wounds and scars she had (report: "evidence of probable self-inflicted abuse, including small crescent-shaped scars on her knees, wrists and chest", and probably many more) -- the result of the tests done on her. Dominic (Domenico) Savio, by the way, was an Italian boy in the 19th century that studied to become a priest but died of illness aged 14; he was made a saint by the Catholic Church. Samantha was admitted as a Jane Doe, as "the E.R. nurses couldn't get her name out of her, neither could the cops". Samantha was "exhibiting signs of paranoia"; understandably so, she was "scared for her sweet life". Nurse Arbutus Ray was the only one Samantha allowed to touch her. CGB Spender and other men from April Base came to the hospital in search of her that night (Nurse Ray: "I assumed the one was her father but he gave me such a chill when he looked at me when I asked him would he please put out his cigarette"). But Samantha had mysteriously, suddenly disappeared.

Unlike the 1973 abduction, this disappearance was something nobody could explain. Nobody found her again. The CSM, failing to find an answer over the years, came to believe she was dead ("I believe she's dead. No reason to believe otherwise.") -- though he kept hoping this would ultimately be disproved (see 5X20: The End where he takes Samantha's file from the X-Files office). With Samantha gone, and all the more in an unexplained manner, Bill Mulder was outraged. He had stayed on the Syndicate to some extent, probably to develop his project of a vaccine against the Black Oil, but this must have been the last drop that made his separation with the Syndicate final. With Samantha gone, Bill has no reason to work for the Syndicate anymore and he retired. This must have torn the Spender family apart as well, Cassandra and Jeffrey moving on their own and CGB probably returning to Washington (Jeffrey says his father left him and his mother when he was young in 5X14: The Red and the Black). Before parting, CGB must have ordered an extensive memory swipe on Jeffrey in order to prevent any compromising information from seeing the light of day; this would explain why he no longer remembers anything about Samantha later on, and why he doesn't recognise his father (5X20: The End).

Spiritualism and channelling

What really happened to Samantha then? These two episodes explore a realm that was completely alien to an otherwise hard-SF mythology: the presence of spirits and their interaction with the physical world -- something that belonged more to stand-alone episodes (1X12: Beyond the Sea, 2X11: Excelsius Dei, 4X22: Elegy... or even 6X08: How the Ghosts Stole Christmas!).

Here, the mothers of children that disappear write down messages under some kind of influence. Later, Mulder writes something down without realizing it -- something that was dictated by his dead mother. This is known as automatic writing: writing material that does not come from the conscious thought process of the writer. It is not necessarily considered paranormal -- the writing could be a way for the unconscious mind to express itself -- but its particular nature makes it a 'popular' form of channelling among spiritual and New Age movements. Many people have claimed to have written channelled texts (including SF writer Philip K. Dick and a James Padgett, the name of the writer in 6X18: Miagro!). Mulder unconsciously channels a message from his mother ("April Base"). The two mothers in Sein und Zeit channel a note signed "No one shoots at Santa Claus", a note that would normally have been written by serial killer Ed Truelove after he would have abducted their children. This message was most likely channelled through other spirits (the Walk-ins), not directly from Truelove. 
Channelling is a form of contact with the spirit world, in which a medium (or psychic or whichever term you wish to use) is able to communicate this contact to others. Luther Lee Boggs (1X12: Beyond the Sea) was a medium that entered a trance, summoned spirits and was letting himself be possessed by them -- as in Bön buddhism or other shamanistic religions. Here, Harold Piller is a psychic who is sensitive enough to see and hear the spirits that exist around him, in more or less intricate séances. "Séance " is a popular term used in spiritualism and other unofficial circles to describe an attempt to communicate with spirits. Harold is a "police psychic", a psychic using his powers to help law enforcement, a bit like Clyde Bruckman in 3X04: Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose or gifted people from the Millennium Group (Frank Black or Lara Means in the sister series, and 7X05: Millennium). Real-life examples of this are rare but not non-existent -- but surely there is nobody that can claim that he does that in an official, full-time manner!

The Walk-ins

The X-File here concerns Walk-ins, spirits that intervene "
transforming matter into pure energy", taking bodies into starlight. What is commonly referred to as a walk-in is a person whose original soul, after for example a near-death experience (1X14: Lazarus), leaves the body and the body is then occupied by another wandering soul. Following the spiritualist tradition of the early 20th century, it is a concept that has been rendered popular in the 1970s with the rise of New Age and mediums such as Jane Roberts and Edgar Cayce. Here, Walk-ins refer to the wandering souls themselves, not the physical bodies. Walk-ins are good-intentioned spirits that prevent worldly suffering by taking the person that is suffering or is about to suffer ("a particularly violent fate that wasn't meant to be") away from the physical world, into the spiritual world.

These interventions often occur around children, who are perceived to be the most pure, innocent and unworthy of suffering of all human beings. Harold has travelled the world documenting children's bodies gone missing in "mudslides in Peru, earthquakes in Uzbekistan", in "Kashmir, India, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Khyber Pass" (I didn't manage to find out if the Khyber Pass "train wreck" accident with "seven children" was a real documented case or not).

The three disappearances attributed to the Walk-ins that we follow -- Samantha, the boy of Kathy Lee Tencate, and Amber Lynn LaPierre -- follow the same pattern. First, the parents or the closest adult around has a vision of the child dead. Harold: "
In almost every case the parents had a precognitive image of their child dead. Horrible visions, foretelling their fates", visions of the child dead as it would be if the Walk-ins wouldn't intervene. Nurse Ray channelled no message from the Syndicate concerning Samantha but both Mrs Tencate and Mrs LaPierre channelled messages from the serial killer that would have taken their children. Then, when nobody is checking or by physically isolating the child (Amber Lynn's door slams shut and remains so for the rest of the operation), the Walk-ins come and take the body away. Nurse Ray: "Disappeared out of a locked room. Just vanished."

The bodies of the other 24 children serial killer Ed 'Santa Claus' Truelove murdered are found: they were not taken by the Walk-ins (and what we see in the Closure teaser are the children's spirits or ghosts playing, not the Walk-ins themselves). Indeed one is left to wonder why some are chosen to be taken and others are left to suffer.

Mulder: "These fates seemed too cruel even for God to allow."
Harold: "Why must some suffer and not others?" The Walk-ins' choices are inconsistent and seem random. In fact, the whole modus operandi of the Walk-ins is morally ambiguous! Taking the bodies of the children has disturbing effects afterwards: the parents are left with no consolation and fear the worse, and are even accused that they orchestrated the whole thing -- they might even end up serving prison sentences to that effect! Why these spiritual, in principle noble, beings should choose to do this is weird. But after all, if you can't prevent the world entire from suffering, you might as well try to prevent some of it.

Finally, we never do see the Walk-ins and we do not learn who they are exactly: ancient spirits or forces older than Man? A group of human spirits? Another alien race working on another plane of existence?
The whole 'starlight' theme is probably just there for the poetic image and the symbolism it represents: something ancient, intangible, eternal, immovable. The special effects of semi-translucent semi-physical spirits lit by starlight is beautiful, but to say that "they live in the starlight" is too much to take in the first degree, it's just another symbolic image for the ethereal. The Walk-ins or the action of spirits in general do help to explain many prior events in XF that were left as dangling threads: Nurse Owens in 2X08: One Breath; Melissa Scully in 5X05: Christmas Carol; Albert Hosteen in 7X04: Amor Fati. The Walk-ins were referred to in 2X10: Red Museum; their knowledge of the 2012 date for the colonization, a date that may bring great suffering to mankind, suggests that they might have some still uncovered plans around that as well.

Fox Mulder gets some closure

In 6X22: Biogenesis, the following dialogue reveals that the end of the road is approaching: Scully: "What more could you possibly hope to do or to find?" Mulder: "My sister."

After so many years, and with the Syndicate virtually dismantled, Mulder is growing tired of his quest. In these episodes, he seems painfully weary of the world, tired and annoyed, just pleading the world for closure (no, that's not just Duchovny's boredom for the series!):
"I just want it to be over". In season 7, the beliefs of Mulder and Scully slowly converge. Before, Mulder was the believer in everything alien but was not particularly attracted to the spiritual or religious realm; Scully, though a firm sceptic, was more open to religious and spiritual cases (1X12: Beyond the Sea, 3X11: Revelations, 5X17: All Souls, 7X07: Orison). The dynamic is changing. If Closure is Mulder's awakening to spirtuality, then Scully's is 7X17: all things. Until now, Mulder has been looking for Samantha alive; now he has gone through so much that he is willing to accept other possibilities, to open up to other ways of closing his quest. Harold says of the spirits that "They will come to you if you're ready to see", and indeed Mulder is receptive. By contrast, Harold, even though he's a more receptive psychic, refuses the possibility that his son is dead, and so can not see him. Mulder: "you have to let him go now, Harold." Harold's son is probably the little boy that guides Mulder, choosing Mulder when his father is not open to him. The tagline to Closure, "Believe To Understand", takes all its meaning here.

Through these 27 years after Samantha's disappearance, Mrs Tena Mulder had to silence many secrets. After a secret relationship with CGB Spender, she had to go through the blackmailing of her husband, the abduction of her daughter (and she was probably kept in the dark as to the reasons why by the two men in her life), her separation with her husband, and the constant investigations and questions of her son (3X01: The Blessing Way, 3X02: Paper Clip, 4X08: Paper Hearts, 4X23: Demons). All this secrecy to her son and frustration that she had not been told everything built up in her. Until, inevitably, it broke out. "She didn't want to live." On top of that, "she was dying of an incurable disease. An untreatable and horribly disfiguring disease called Paget's carcinoma. She knew it." Padget's disease of the vulva is often accompanied by cancer in the vulva or the breasts. Like Bill Mulder at the end of his life, Tena Mulder called her son in an attempt to let it all out; the fact that she couldn't reach Fox at that critical mental state made her even more bitter. The disappearance of Amber Lynn LaPierre reminded her of Samantha. Upset and alone, she burnt everything that reminded her of the scars in her life (pictures and documents) before taking her own life -- probably with the sleeping pills ("diazepam") she was taking. Mulder refuses to see the obvious and, given his family's history, goes for a conspiracy theory: "Maybe she couldn't tell me over the phone because she was afraid that they would do something like this to her." He makes up an entire fictional scenario: "They would have come here and they would have threatened her. She would be upset; they would have to sedate her." His mother would have been murdered because she knew too much and was about to spill the beans. Mulder is almost panicking, erratic, emotionally unstable. He refuses to see the truth, and doesn't see his mother when she comes to him as a spirit, trying to tell him something -- a confession, a goodbye?

Scully: "She was trying to tell you to stop. To stop looking for your sister. She was just trying to take away your pain." His mother visits him in his sleep and tries to appease him before the final run to the end of the road.

It has been a long and winding road for Mulder. After the abduction in 1973, it took 16 years of unconscious ruminations for Mulder to start looking for her actively. After the events in 5X01: Unusual Suspects, Mulder starts investigating the paranormal and goes under regressed hypnosis with Dr Werber in 1989 (audio tape in 1X03: Conduit and video tape here, dated Jun 16, 1989). Agent Schoninger fully explains Mulder's obsession with aliens thanks to conventional psychology: Mulder's case is a standard "compensatory abduction fantasy". "His delusion is playing into his unconscious hope that his sister is still alive [and] has the effect of giving a reason to pursue her." His obsession with aliens and his sister's unsolved abduction feed each other in a circle that strengthens his resolution and his addiction. "There was probably a lot of imagery collecting in his head in those 16 years and then he comes down here and he finds the X-Files." This is all realistically correct and legitimately deducted from Mulder's carreer choices, but Agent Schoninger does not have all the facts.

This basic psychological profile of Fox Mulder is, however, the one many people used for various purposes. Mulder's obsession with his sister has been a means to manipulate him time and again: the Gregors and Samanthas in 2X16: Colony, Bill Mulder in 3X01: The Blessing Way, John Lee Roche in 4X08: Paper Hearts, the CSM in 5X03: Redux II, Cassandra Spender in 6X11: Two Fathers... Notably, the CSM used her as a way to fuel Mulder in his quest for the X-Files, with the double purpose of making a ridicule of believers to the benefit of the Syndicate and also making Mulder go through a trial by fire before joining him in his side. The CSM: "
Allow him his ignorance. It's what gives him hope."

Now, the Syndicate has been destroyed, many secrets are no longer worth keeping, many motives no longer make sense. Scully: "
If you knew that she was dead why didn't you say something earlier? Why now?" The CSM: "There was so much to protect before. It's all gone now." In his short meeting with Scully here, the CSM is not only weakened by all these losses in his life: he appears sick. "I had an operation." Evidently, the operation with Mulder in 7X04: Amor Fati did not go too well.

The title Sein und Zeit, which is German for 'being and time', refers to the philosophical work by Martin Heidegger; this ontological and existential work investigates questions of being, meaning, becoming, understanding the world through time. These questions would reflect Mulder's, in his long quest for her sister -- a quest that is so important to him that in essence defines his whole being as a person and as a fictional character. With knowledge that his quest is drawing to a close, Mulder can move on to other things in life. Without his sister, without his father and now without his mother, Mulder is an orphan. As the CSM has said in 4X01: Herrenvolk, he has "nothing left to lose". He has nobody to turn to -- but Scully. The two agents are very close; they didn't share motel rooms, but Scully spent the whole night at Mulder's to reconfort him. Their close proximity grows as the season progresses; by 7X17: all things (which also uses Moby music from the same album!) their relationship has become even more intimate. When Fox finally finds Samantha, he accepts the truth calmly and happily. The reunion is simple and silent, bathed in Moby's extremely fitting and spiritual music, "My weakness". The journey is complete. "I'm free."

Surveillance Recodings
Sein und Zeit

Channelled message: "No one shoots at Santa Claus"

[re: Harsh Realm]
Mulder: "What were you watching?"
Mr Lapierre: "I never heard of it before. It was good."

Teena Mulder: "There are so many emotions in me I wouldn't know where to start. So much that I've left unsaid, for reasons I hope one day you'll understand."


Mulder's teaser voice-over: "They said the birds refused to sing and the thermometer fell suddenly, as if God himself had His breath stolen away. No one there dared speak aloud, as much in shame as in sorrow. They uncovered the bodies one by one. The eyes of the dead were closed as if waiting for permission to open them. Were they still dreaming of ice cream and monkey bars? Of birthday cake and no future but the afternoon? Or had their innocence been taken along with their lives, buried in the cold earth so long ago? These fates seemed too cruel even for God to allow. Or are the tragic young born again when the world's not looking? I want to believe so badly in a truth beyond our own, hidden and obscured from all but the most sensitive eyes. In the endless procession of souls. In what cannot and will not be destroyed.

I want to believe we are unaware of God's eternal recompense and sadness. That we cannot see His truth. That that which is born still lives and cannot be buried in the cold earth. But only waits to be born again at God's behest. Where in ancient starlight we lay in repose."

Harold Piller: "These children...all died suffering...pleading innocently for their lives. These beautiful children, so...trusting and pure. I see them. My God, why? Why must some suffer and not others?"

Agent Schoniger: "Word of advice, me to you? Let it be. You know, there's some wounds that are just too painful ever to be reopened."
Scully: "Well, this particular wound has never healed. And Mulder deserves closure, just like anyone."

Cigarette-Smoking Man: "I signed that order because I knew then what I know now: no one's gonna find her."
Scully: "Why not?"
Cigarette-Smoking Man: "Because I believe she's dead. No reason to believe otherwise."
Scully: "You're a liar. If you knew that she was dead why didn't you say something earlier? Why now?"
Cigarette-Smoking Man: "There was so much to protect before. It's all gone now."
Scully: "So you just let Mulder believe that she was alive for all these years."
Cigarette-Smoking Man: "Out of kindness, Agent Scully. Allow him his ignorance. It's what gives him hope."

Mulder (reading from Samantha's diary): "Sometimes I think my memories were taken by the doctors but not all of them. I remember faces. I think I had a brother, with brown hair, who used to tease me. I hope someday he reads this and knows I wish I could see his face for real."

Scully: "Mulder, where did you go?"
Mulder: "End of the road. [to Harold] He's okay. It's okay."
Harold Piller: "My son? You saw my son?"
Mulder: "He's dead. They're all dead, Harold. Your son, Amber Lynn, and my sister."
Harold Piller: "No."
Mulder: "Harold, you see so much, but you refuse to see him. You refuse to let him go. But you have to let him go now, Harold. He's protected, he's in a better place, they're all in a better place. We both have to let go, Harold."
Harold Piller: "You're wrong. I'm going to find him. I don't believe you!" (runs away)
Scully: "Mulder, what happened? Are you sure you're all right?"
Mulder: "I'm fine. I'm free."

E.T.C 2004-2008