The X-Files

Season 5 Episode 14

The Red and the Black (2)

1
Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Mar 08, 1998 on FOX
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (6)

8.8
out of 10
Average
260 votes
  • The Red and the Black

    10
    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!!!!!!!!!
  • Part 2

    8.7
    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.
  • Overall, this episode is a satisfying enough resolution to the first half of the story, but the ending leaves much to be desired.

    7.0
    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

    8.8
    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!
  • Mulder's struggle

    8.5
    This was an excellent episode, simply because it continues in the same strain as its previous part. As Scully continues on her journey of belief and growth, Mulder is still struggling with the collapse of his own belief system. He is faced with so many people who seem suddenly bent on convincing him that his beliefs were actually correct, that he digs his heels in even more in an attempt to refute them. The scene between Mulder and Scully in the hospital room is, I believe, the pivotal scene of this episode. Everything that's going on for these two characters is laid bare right there - Scully almost seems to cross an invisible line when she lays down the ultimatum.. If Mulder doesn't know what drives him anymore, then she can't justify following him on his path. And this ultimatum makes him panic because, as we've learned, Mulder has realized he can't live without Scully. It must be confusing to him now, to have his always skeptical partner urging him to open his mind when he's just now learned that all he's believed in has been a farce. Scully's hypnotic regression was revealing and not a little strange. The introduction of this "war" between aliens, the gov't, and now this rebel group doesn't seem to mesh with previous conspiracy arcs. And since the next seasons are all new territory for me, it'll be interesting to see if they continue in this vein or if this was all another "Deus ex Machina" for the use of just one episode. As it is, this episode was interesting and revealing, especially a good reflection on the change being wrought in both Scully and Mulders' views of the world, the continual evolution of what their minds will accept.
  • The one with memory loss

    10
    This episode might possibly be the best of season 5. It has brilliant special effects and acting, plus all the characters and storylines took a new step.

    The episode begins with someone writing a letter and giving it to a little boy to deliver it.

    Meanwhile on the bridge the people are found dead and burned but further on some people are still alive. One of those is Scully who has only some burned marks and is taken to the hospital. But Cassandra isn’t with them, she’s gone. When Scully wakes up she seems to have lost all her memory and doesn’t know who she could have gotten to that place since she doesn’t know it or how to get her. She can’t back Mulder up with anything without her memory, so Mulder decides to do therapy with her.

    Meanwhile Marita is found but she is infected with the black oil. Krycek did something to the kid that would affect anyone who would take him. Now Marita is completely out of it. WMM makes Krycek give him the cure or else he would torture him and they put it in her. But no real results and all the other men back off and are planning in going to war because they can’t protect themselves from the black oil and the vacuum doesn’t seem to be helping.

    The best scene was in therapy when Scully went back in time, Gillian gave a fantastic performance as she saw everything that happened. Those men tried to kill them but were burned by the spaceship. It then took Cassandra with them and left everyone else behind and taking their memory. Scully starts to believe that maybe aliens do exist but Mulder doesn’t believe so. He thinks that it all was put on stage but is now the one who doesn’t believe while Scully and Skinner do.

    When Mulder is in an office he suddenly gets attacked by Krycek. That made for a fantastic scene, Krycek told him what was going on and about the war. Then he kissed Mulder to shock him and show his affection. That turned Mulder back again into believing and he takes Scully to some place. Mulder then leaves behind a truck and enters it. Inside is one of those killers without faces, but the driver turned out to be one of those as well and when they see Mulder time stops. When everything is alright again, the men have disappeared and Mulder is confused and doesn’t remember what happened.

    The episode opened some doors for new storylines. Also Jeffrey Spender turned out to be the possible son of Cancer Man, he received a letter but he send it back to Cancer Man who is somewhere near snow.
    ‘The Red And The Black’ was absolutely fantastic. Possibly one of the show’s best.
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