The X-Files

Season 5 Episode 14

The Red and the Black (2)

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Mar 08, 1998 on FOX
out of 10
User Rating
272 votes

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Episode Summary

After the gathering at the abduction site where everyone is killed by the rebel bounty hunters, Cassandra Spender disappears and Mulder is blamed by her son, Jeffrey, who is an up-and-coming FBI agent and opposed to Mulder's work. Meanwhile, the Syndicate are continuing their tests to create a vaccine for the Black Cancer and Marita Covarrubias becomes an unwilling test subject.moreless

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  • Dear son, I suck at being a father.... big time.

    Not sure how I feel about the hypnotic treatment, I think that doctor gets off on the moaning sounds of his patients to be honest but regardless there was more to like here. I'm fascinated by the dealings going on with the men of power and these aliens and the twist ending better helps enforce this idea that even the men behind it all have real interests as we see that the cancer man himself was directly involved much like Fox in alien abductions, two new friends now? Lots of stuff is coming to light now instead of being hidden in darkness.

    Again like before the best parts though were with Mulder and Scully trying to grasp everything dramatic thats taken place over the recent years.moreless
  • The Red and the Black

    The Red and the Black was a perfect follow up to the previous episode of The X-Files and I really enjoyed watching. The story was awesome and I liked watching the rest of the mystery unravel a little more as the shadowy syndicate realize there are alien rebels, Scully recall's what happened and the Cigarette Smoking Man is still alive! I liked the action, suspense, drama and intrigue. The ending was great and definitely made a statement. I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!!!moreless
  • Part 2

    Finally, we get the return of the Mulder we've come to know and love, the Mulder who's willing to put everything on the line simply to reveal the truth or at least get a little closer to finding it. We get more conspiracies, more government interaction, more Krycek, but for the most part, the best parts of the episode came from Mulder and Scully.

    Scully survives the atrocities of last episode's cliffhanger, but she has memory issues. As a result, she goes under hypnosis and realizes that she was attacked by faceless men, men who began setting all of the former abductees on fire. She also learns she has many more implants in her, a scary thing to hear indeed. Meanwhile, Mulder finds it harder and harder to turn a blind eye to the whole conspiracy, especially after Krycek shows up and tells Mulder that the faceless men are aliens who are part of a rebel group.

    It's a bit difficult to explain the episode to somebody who hasn't watched all of the myth arc episodes that come before. I somewhat understand what's going on, but even then, it's hard to say. I know that there is a government group, I believe a "syndicate" of sorts, who are experimenting with alien/human DNA, as if they're preparing for colonization. Meanwhile, there are alien shapeshifters that appear who seem to want to kill these faceless men, who are also aliens. Honestly, it gives me a headache just thinking about the whole thing. It's a bit absurd, but it does make the show that much more interesting, especially if the writers can pull off explaining to us how it all works.

    By the time the episode ends, we get another twist, something that simply adds on to the level of ridiculousness that plagued this myth-arc two-parter. It turns out that Jeffrey Spender's father appears to be the Cigarette Smoking Man. If this is true, and Spender is still getting letters from his father, then does that mean the C.S.M is still alive? IF he is, then this season got even weirder.moreless
  • Overall, this episode is a satisfying enough resolution to the first half of the story, but the ending leaves much to be desired.

    Much like the first half of this mythology two-part story, the effectiveness of the story is hampered by the need to extend an arc in its final days beyond its intended life span. In this case, the story revolves strongly around the nature of the Faceless Rebels, the true identity of Jeffrey Spender, and the truth about what happened at Ruskin Dam. None of these items are particularly meaningful in terms of the mythology as envisioned during the third season and developed for “Fight the Future”, however, and as it would turn out, there was little conception as to how they would be used during the rest of the series’ run.

    As with most of the mythology episodes, previous interpretations regarding the goals and policies of the conspiracy and Cancer Man pertain directly to the interpretation of the current episode. Therefore, the speculation and interpretation outlined in previous reviews are assumed to be familiar to the reader. In particular, the summary of the mythology given in the review for “Herrenvolk”, as well as the review for “Patient X”, is critical to the analysis of this episode.

    Cancer Man’s letter in the teaser is clearly meant to suggest that he wants something of his son. Equally clear is the implication that the audience should assume the son in question is Mulder. The fact that it is Spender places the experiences of Jeffrey and Cassandra in a very different light, because once that connection is recognized, it’s clear that Jeffrey and Cassandra are remembering real experiences of abductions and tests, filtered through erasure of memory and “insertion” of false memories.

    So why does Cancer Man want to restore his relationship with Spender now? The answer is likely related to the reports he has heard regarding Mulder. Cancer Man had staged Mulder in the position to be his main operative, the advocate of his plans. Mulder refused to play along, and so Cancer Man has to work through other channels. Spender is something of a “safety valve”; Cancer Man needs to position Spender to implement the tasks, one way or another, that Mulder will not.

    Of course, the situation is somewhat more complex. Mulder has a role to play, and as seen in “Fight the Future”, that role is manipulated by Cancer Man through indirect means. That being the case, one must wonder why Spender is so important at this stage of the game. It comes down to manipulation of the Syndicate. Cancer Man had convinced the Syndicate that Mulder was useful as a source of easy disinformation; now, that’s no longer the case.

    Mulder is useful, so long as his beliefs are not revived. There was little reason to get in Mulder’s way once he was no longer trying to fight his crusade. He was a non-entity as far as the Syndicate was concerned. Now, of course, that is changing again. With the Syndicate feeling threatened by the appearance of the Rebels, they cannot afford interference from Mulder and his investigation of the X-Files. Therefore, Mulder is most useful to Cancer Man outside of the scope of the X-Files. Spender is more useful in Mulder’s old role than Mulder, in terms of Cancer Man’s plans.

    All of this is completely outside of the scope of the episode itself, which is why this episode’s explanations sound good until one begins to consider how it’s all supposed to fit together. Motivations that are assigned to characters and groups in this episode are somewhat vague and unsatisfying. Like so many mythology episodes, this is a chronicle of a journey through pieces of a much larger, far more complicated whole. Information is revealed through revelation of assumption.

    The aftermath of Ruskin Dam is one of the strongest moments of the fifth season. The use of one of the more powerful musical themes created for the “Fight the Future” score, previewed in this episode as a subtle connective thread, is a masterstroke. No matter what else might be happening between them, Mulder needs Scully and the possibility of her death is almost unthinkable, especially on the heels of “Redux II”.

    As already noted in “Patient X”, the Syndicate’s version of the vaccine against Purity is seen as ineffective. One could question why Marita is left comatose while Dmitri was not, but Marita’s situation is actually closer to the established continuity. Purity in “Tunguska”, from the same source, was not strong enough to do anything more than leave its host in a comatose state.

    It’s rather interesting to see Spender coming after Mulder for his mother’s latest abduction. Whatever Mulder’s reputation, he’s already made it clear that he’s not involved and that he wanted nothing to do with Cassandra’s case. Spender goes from someone with a legitimate concern in the previous episode to a complete jerk here. But that kind of whiplash character “development” is in step with what the writers did with Mulder, so perhaps it’s all part of the same problem.

    The conversation between the Well-Manicured Man and Krycek is a great example of a dialogue rife with assumption and hidden agendas. Krycek didn’t infect Dmitri to ensure that others would be infected. He did it because Cancer Man wanted the Syndicate to know that the Russian vaccine was effective and that required a test subject. Marita was an unfortunate victim of her own personal agenda. Since it all placed the Syndicate in the same position, it was worth it for Krycek to let the Well-Manicured Man continue to believe in his own assumptions.

    As with so many scenes with crashing UFOs, it doesn’t make much sense. What would cause the UFO to crash? One could assume that it’s a by-product of the “war in heaven”, but that may not be the case. What if the Rebels, coming from some point about 20 years in the future, have not perfected the technology allowing it? Loss of control of the UFO could simply be part of the process, which only an augmented human like the “shifters” could survive. As it is, it’s a deadly prospect, and as of this episode, the conspiracy has its hands on Rebel technology. (That’s important in terms of how the conspiracy advances its own UFO tech.)

    Mulder is correct in believing that the control chip in Scully’s neck is central to the overall conspiracy. Not only was it key to the conspiracy’s plan to prepare the populace for migration to “lighthouses” in 2012, but it was also key to the completion of Phase II (direct biological reproduction of “shifter” drones). The control chip is just a nanotech analogue of the organ in the back of the neck of every “shifter”.

    But Scully now has reason to believe that her memories are the only source of reliable information, even if those memories are suspect. Mulder is right to question his own memories, since his own inability to pinpoint the events of his sister’s abduction strongly suggests memory implantation. But Scully is right to believe that her own recollection, if it can be found past the barriers of her own filters and the control chip’s influence, could give them both a sense of direction.

    Taking a step back to the “bad assumption” topic, there’s the Syndicate meeting, during which many viewers were probably under the impression that a ton of information was finally revealed. But that’s simply not the case; only the assumptions of the Syndicate were revealed. They assume that the “facial scarring” is self-protection, but they overlook the fact that “shifters” wouldn’t need to do something so primitive, and that Purity can get through a containment suit, never mind rough stitching.

    The allusion to “the weapons and the magic” speaks to the connections between Navaho folklore and the overall mythology itself, but it brings up another interesting point. Cancer Man speaks of “twin brothers” who bring the “weapons and magic” to their father to “eliminate the monsters of the world”. He says this to Spender, in the hopes of reconciliation. But who are the “twin brothers”?

    One is led to believe that it must be Mulder and Spender, but Krycek is the one who fulfills Cancer Man’s bidding more completely in this episode. Mulder also slips into his appointed role. As the series itself would seem to suggest on many occasions, the “twin brothers” could, in fact, be Mulder and Krycek. (This would fit within the theory that Krycek, like Mulder and Spender, are products of Cancer Man’s personal mission to sire humanity’s “future savior”.)

    At any rate, the Syndicate betrays their own ignorance. Even the Well-Manicured Man doesn’t seem to recognize that the Rebels are far from the best ally. Part of that is the simple fact that the Rebels have been hidden from them until now, so the obvious connections between the “clones” used by the Colonists/Purity and the Rebel “shifters” aren’t in mind. But they don’t have a clue about how they have been used. In many respects, in the struggle for control over humanity’s evolution, the Syndicate is powerless.

    The heart of this episode is Scully’s hypnosis session. Beyond being perhaps the most orgasmic experience for Scully on the series until “all things”, it’s also one of the most revealing moments. Mulder is forced to recognize that much of his newfound belief is ephemeral; a lot of his bluster was his own attempt to convince himself.

    But her memories also provide a sense of how the war between Purity and the Rebels has been waged. Purity’s weapons seem designed to set the Rebels on fire, which is the same basic method used to kill those with control chips. This suggests a common weakness. Besides being very cheap relative to other more obvious effects, the lights suggest a very focused burst of some form of energy, probably microwave or magnetic in nature.

    Mulder knows better than to think that this is all “typical abduction lore”, but he’s fighting his own realization that a military conspiracy can’t explain everything that he’s seen and experienced. It simply took Scully’s experience to get him to understand that.

    Within the Syndicate, the decision to cut Cancer Man out of the game is finally leading to a lack of clear leadership. The Well-Manicured Man always wanted to do things his way, but his desire to resist Purity is not shared by those too concerned with their own survival to see the big picture. Regardless, this is another example of the weakness of the Syndicate.

    The conversation between Krycek and Mulder is not unlike the conversation between Krycek and the Well-Manicured Man. It’s about managing beliefs. Cancer Man needs Mulder to believe again, just when the Syndicate can’t afford it, thus making Mulder a more dangerous and effective tool. Krycek therefore frames the truth within the lie that Cancer Man has propagated since the beginning.

    That scene also helps to explain some of the dynamics in “Fight the Future”. The implication is that the Well-Manicured Man wanted help to prevent the loss of the captured Rebel, and so he turned to Mulder. That sets a precedent for the Well-Manicured Man to turn to Mulder when he has disagreement with the Syndicate. Cancer Man, of course, can use that, so it works out for everyone. (This assumes that Krycek is in contact with Cancer Man, but as “The End” would indicate, that was clearly the case.)

    All of this comes together in a scene which threatens to unravel the intelligence of the episode as a whole. The writers had to leave some things open to interpretation, because they weren’t sure how the whole Rebel plot thread would unfold. Unfortunately, they decided to stage the scene so that not one person can possibly figure out what happened. It’s definitely an example of Carter choosing a “cool” moment over clear storytelling.

    Here’s how it seems to be. The Syndicate sent their own “bounty hunter”, the “shifter” working for them in “Talitha Cumi” and “Herrenvolk”, to eliminate the Rebel. That suggests that the Syndicate was aware, to some extent, of the similarity between the “shifters” on both sides. Regardless, Mulder is there to stop this, or so one would assume.

    Things get far more complicated (and needlessly so) when the Rebels arrive themselves to save their cohort. All well and good, except Mulder starts shooting for no apparent reason. Who he’s shooting at is a complete mystery, and no matter how one interprets it, it’s a stupid move. Yet Mulder gets away without a scratch (and certainly no effect from the “shifter” retrovirus) and there’s no sign as to what happened. The implication is that the bounty hunter was killed by the Rebels, but there’s no reason to believe it.

    The point is that this ending takes all the wonderful intrigue and character work earlier in the episode and nearly derails it with a cheap and unnecessary ending. Sure, there’s the interesting information about Spender and his parentage, and all the implications thereof, but that resolution to the Rebel and his fate is horrible. It’s as if the writers had no idea how to make the scene work, so they just tossed things together.

    More to the point, this problematic ending is linked to elements introduced to the mythology that add nothing to the intended resolution of the arc, which comes with “Fight the Future”. The Rebels are a complication that could and should have been avoided. The writers obviously had no idea what to do with them or how they fit into the big picture. Sticking with the vaccine question and the “lighthouses” would have been better, and while the Rebels were attached to those concepts in this two-part story, there could have been other ways to handle it.

  • Beam Me Up

    More interesting than the first part and a somewhat satifying resolution of this two-parter.

    I still hate the new Jeffrey Spender character and it seems a tad too convenient for CSM to be his father. Did CSM sire everyone in this series? And what's CSM doing up in the snowy mountains and why does he rely on a 12 year old kid to deliver his mail?

    The sequence where Scully gains access to her repressed memories of the alien encounter on the bridge is the selling point of this episode. Well done and very revealing of the alien war being fought.

    Also revealing is Krycek's conversation with Mulder about what is really going on. I had to replay the scene a couple of times to make sure that I had seen Krycek kiss Mulder. WTF was that about? LOL!moreless
Chapelle Jaffe

Chapelle Jaffe

Dr. Patou

Guest Star

Michal Suchanek

Michal Suchanek

Young Jeffrey Spender

Guest Star

Klodyne Rodney

Klodyne Rodney


Guest Star

Mitch Pileggi

Mitch Pileggi

Assistant Director Walter Skinner

Recurring Role

John Moore

John Moore

3rd Elder

Recurring Role

Nicholas Lea

Nicholas Lea

Alex Krycek

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • William B. Davis' screen credit as the "Cigarette Smoking Man" usually appears at the beginning of whatever episode he's in. Since this would spoil the reveal at the end of this episode, his name appears in the closing credits as a special appearance instead.

    • There is no visible injury on Scully's left hand during the first hospital scene but she wears bandages in the next scenes.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Mulder: Krycek, you're a murderer, a liar, and a coward. Just because you stick a gun in my chest means I'm supposed to believe you're my friend?

    • Skinner: Over the past 5 years I've doubted you, only to be persuaded by the power of your belief in extraterrestrial phenomena. And I'm doubting you now not because of that belief but... because extraterrestrial belief is frankly the more plausible explanation.
      Mulder: Then I suggest you put *that* into your report.

    • Krycek: You must be losing it, Mulder. I can beat you with one hand.
      Mulder: Is that how you like to beat yourself?
      (Krycek cocks the gun)
      Mulder: If those were my last words, I can do better.

    • Krycek: Hear this, Agent Mulder... listen very carefully because what I'm telling you is deadly serious. There is a war raging, and unless you pull your head out of the sand, you and I and about five billion other people are going to go the way of the dinosaur. I'm talking planned invasion. The colonization of this planet by an extraterrestrial race.
      Mulder: I thought you were serious.
      Krycek: Kazakhstan, Skyland Mountain, the site in Pennsylvania. They're all alien lighthouses where the colonization will begin, but where now, a battle's being waged. A struggle for heaven and earth. Where there is one law: fight or die. And one rule: resist or serve.
      Mulder: Serve who?
      Krycek: No, not who. What.

    • Scully: What are you doing sitting here in the dark?
      Mulder: Thinkin'.
      Scully: Thinkin' about what?
      Mulder: Oh, the usual. Destiny. Fate. How to throw a curve ball...

  • NOTES (4)

    • The list of Skyland Mountain victims viewed by Scully in her hospital room is made up of the names of X-Files staffers.

    • The altered tagline for this episode "Resist or Serve" is used as the title for the X Files Playstation 2 game released in 2004.

    • Jack Finn, who played Cigarette Smoking Man's young messenger, is the son of Producer Joseph Patrick Finn.

    • Another altered tagline 'Resist Or Serve', spoken by Krycek: "A struggle for heaven and earth. Where there is one law: Fight or Die. And one rule: Resist or Serve".


    • Literary allusion: The Red and the Black

      Possibly relates to Stendahl's novel Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black) which is filled with duplicity. The "hero" is a young cleric whose religious beliefs owe more to career advancement than any real faith. He tries to kill his lover during church service; she survives but he is still found guilty and guillotined for the crime. This episode is certainly filled with duplicity and there are plenty questions concerning faith and beliefs. Mulder also believes Scully was killed along with the other burned abductee victims before he finds out she has survived.