The X-Files

Season 6 Episode 11

Two Fathers (1)

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Feb 07, 1999 on FOX

Episode Fan Reviews (9)

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  • Two Fathers

    Two Fathers was a perfect and extremely entertaining episode of The X-Files. I really enjoyed watching because the story was awesome and we learned more about the Cigarette Smoking Man, the Alien Agendas, and how it all comes together with Cassandra. There was a lot of character and plot development, action, intrigue and sci fi goodness. I liked how the story has played out so far and the ending with Cassandra begging Mulder to shoot her was a suspenseful and thrilling cliffhanger. I look forward to watching how the story plays out in the next episode!!!!!!!!!
  • We get back into the myth-arc as Cassandra Spender returns to the show.

    Whether or not you like this new installment into the mythology of the show will completely rely on whether a.) you like the dynamic of the Cigarette Smoking Man and his son, Spender, the new guy in charge of the X-Files and b.) whether you can remember who Cassandra Spender is. Yes, we get a return visit from Cassandra Spender from Season 5's episode "Patient X," and for me, somebody who slowly makes his way through the show, it was a little confusing to have a character who's only been on the show once be referenced so frequently. Even more confusing was how we had the Cigarette Smoking Man narrating a very complicated and ridiculous summary of what's going on in the myth-arc, and hearing it said out loud made me think, "What in the heck have I been watching?"

    Right now, I make the episode sound bad, but it was actually very good in terms of how intense everything was, the twists that came up and the actual reveals that we got. We learn a lot, especially that aliens do exist, that there is a conspiracy and that Cassandra Spender is the key piece of evidence preventing an alien invasion of Earth. However, for something that is so huge, why does it feel so lackluster?

    It mostly has to do because the actors are so lackluster in their delivery. There was a time when Mulder seemed so desperate to find the truth that I actually believed him. But he's been screwed around with more than anybody I know, so it's easy to feel somewhat unaffected when we learn that there is a group of aliens out there ready to invade the world as soon as the Syndicate a.k.a group of old people figure out a way to create an alien/human hybrid. Oh, and those faceless creeps are aliens who are trying to prevent an alien invasion. What the heck is going on here? How did the show get so complicated. I miss the mysterious days of "Deep Throat" and "X." Now we have a random Krycek showing up for no reason, a Cigarette Smoking Man who seems to know everything (and somehow is not dead of cancer) and Mulder never getting what he wants.

    Part 2 may be better, but if it's anything like this episode, I'll be a bit disappointed. This one was interesting as a piece to a larger puzzle, but unless the next piece is strong, I'll be worried about the show's myth-arc.
  • Mulder Has Game

    Midway through Season Six and we finally get a Myth arc two-parter. Is is too little too late?

    My take is that Father/Son is a fine two-parter but it comes too late to save the series, which has damaged itself with too many joke and gimmick episodes. The Myth arc has seemingly become a mere afterthought with too little creative energy invested in its extension. The Myth additions that we do get seem illogical and a bit half-baked.

    There is a curious lack of energy in both episodes of the Father/Son two-parter. A weary sense of tiredness, as though all involved have grown bored with the series and are simply going through the motions. A lot of this has to do with the excessive use of CSM's monologue, which is a rather dull way to spoonfeed the Myth elements to the viewer. The episode as a whole is a bit wordy, which seems to be a a common fault of the episodes written by Chris Carter.

    Mulder is in burnt-out mode again and seems strangely disinterested when Cassandra reappears. Scully shrilly tries her best to rekindle his interest. Spender whines and sulks his way through the episode like a petulant child. It is a bit of a stretch that CSM sends Spender to assassinate the rebel posing as a syndicate member. Why not simply send Krycek in the first place? It's also strange that the episode treats the connection between CSM and Mulder's father as some kind of revelation. Hasn't Mulder known of this connection for a long time already? Why is it supposed to be such a surprise when Scully shows Mulder yet another photograph of CSM with Mulder's father?
  • The first of a two parter....

    This episode starts of with Mulder playing a game of basketball to try and distract himself from being out of the X-files mainstream.

    Scully offers him a chance to get back into it, but he only slowly & reluctantly gets involved. We see the return of Cassandra Spender who has been abducted by aliens. The main part of the episode sees cigarette smoking man narrate the whole conspiracy theory to an unknown person. Loads of questions are answered but more are asked. CSM's son is brought up to date as to why he has to assassinate one of the alien enemies. But for me, he is to weedy to do the job.
  • As far as myth arc episodes go, this was one mediocre at best.

    The episode starts with a sad portrait of a broken and hurting Mulder. He hides it as best he can through his casual jokes and playing hoops, but it's clear that the FBI's strategy of wearing him down in hopes he'll quit is taking its toll on him. His acts of rebellion are now reduced to playing hooky during work, hiding from the boring mind-numbing background check detail they've got him on. Not only is he being worn down, but his psyche has taken a blow as well. When Scully comes bearing news of an X-File and Cassandra Spender's return, Mulder doesn't leap at the opportunity. Instead, he turns it down and rubs Spender's face in it. It's quite telling that Mulder only pursues the case once Scully pleads him, bringing in her own quest for answers about her own abduction. Mulder decides to pursue the case despite his own rivalry with Spender.

    The rivalry with Spender, which, by the way, has no real heat to it. Spender is no match for Mulder. It's clearly ridiculous, pitting the two of them against each other. Compared to Mulder, Spender is a mere boy struggling to make his daddy proud. And when he whines to his father about not getting what he wants, he gets slapped silly and shut down. Not until Krycek's admission that Spender is being used by CSM does Spender seem to grow a pair, but even then it still looks like a child storming out after a temper tantrum. We know that if Mulder had been in that position, he never would have blindly followed orders from such a shady character. Questioning authority, seeking out the truth, unafraid of retaliation - Spender is not any of these things. It's clear that Krycek too, along with the CSM, thinks Spender "pales to Fox Mulder." Meanwhile, we learned all about the Rebels and the colonization, and Cassandra Spender's own sad revelation that she needs to be killed. This episode was touted as one that held "all the answers" and certainly, there are answers. But as always, new questions galore. They make a very good attempt at having a cliffhanger, but all X-Philes know that Mulder will not shoot an innocent (unless he's possessed by a ghost, under some toxic influence, or having psychotic episodes) so it doesn't really work. All in all a very good episode, but there were a few questions remaining in my mind. How did Spender know to pull the face off the Rebel alien? He hadn't had any dealings with them, but it seemed like his very first instinct was to go for the face and to scratch it off. You would think a normal response would be a struggle for the weapon. Why didn't the green blood hurt either Spender or Krycek after they'd stabbed the Rebel? How DID Cassandra find her way to Mulder's apartment? I mean, the writers did have them acknowledge that question but that doesn't really satisfactorily resolve the plothole, does it? Why would the CDC knock for so long before breaking down the door? Why wouldn't they identify themselves right away? For the creation of tension, I suppose. Ah well :)
  • Overall, this episode is another attempt to mesh the elements of the mythology inserted in the fifth season into the explanations provided in the feature film.

    As many X-Philes might remember, the sweeps period of February 1999 was an important moment in the history of the series. For weeks, the network and producers had been hitting the airwaves and magazine stands with promises of “Full Disclosure”. The mid-point of the sixth season would, according to the promotional materials, explain the mythology and make sense of it all.

    Even then, the promise seemed unnecessary, the pomp and circumstance overwrought. After all, that was the supposed function of “Fight the Future”: putting Mulder and the conspiracy into the proper context. Unfortunately, there were other matters left to consider, mostly from the fifth season. Because “Fight the Future” had been written when the series was slated to end with the fifth season, long before the fifth season was actually made, the subsequent decision to continue the series meant that the mythology needed to be further complicated to keep the overall series moving forward.

    So elements like the Rebels and the Spenders were completely outside of the context of the mythology as planned at the beginning of the third season. That story culminated in “Fight the Future”. This episode, and the second half that followed, was designed to incorporate the new elements into the mythology while remaining consistent with the film and that original concept. Of course, in the process of laying everything out and trying to tell a story on top of that, the writers exposed most of the holes in their own internal understanding of the mythology they had generated.

    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 provided and given in the review for “Fight the Future” factors into the interpretation of this episode.

    In trying to make sense of this episode (especially in the context of everything that would follow), certain basic truths about “X-Files” should be kept firmly in mind. In short, everyone lies. Motivations are obscured, sources and origins are hidden, and people make assumptions based on limited and manipulated information. Just because Cancer Man sits in a chair and gives a basic explanation for the Syndicate and the Project does not, by any means, lend credibility to what he claims.

    Instead, his claims should be measured against his motivations. Cancer Man wants to bring about the apparent savior of mankind through genetic selection. He used the Syndicate plans to help find the right women to accomplish that goal, and two “brothers” emerged: Fox Mulder and Jeffrey Spender. Mulder had the right genetic markers; Spender did not (hence, “paling to Fox Mulder”). Mulder was thus the child to protect, and ultimately, the one funneled towards the woman who might supply the remaining pieces of the genetic puzzle: Dana Scully.

    Cancer Man does all of this out of an incomplete knowledge of events to take place in 2012. Essentially, a malevolent non-corporeal intelligence called Purity would use an artificially-evolved humanity to subsume the species and thus spread. Purity sought to ensure its rise and success by manipulating past events, fostering the conspiracy within and beyond the Syndicate operations.

    The Rebels are a competing power from the same time period. They believe that the genetic alterations sponsored by Purity are to the benefit of humanity. They are driven by a cult-like desire to use the “hybrid” process to transform humanity, but prevent the subsequent “colonization” by Purity. So while the “Colonists” and the Rebels are at war, both intend for humanity to be transformed into a new, genetically engineered species.

    In this episode, an important step in the process is achieved. Phase I of the Project (1947-1973) focused on artificial augmentation of the species through radiation experiments and physical alteration. This is when the basic technology of the nanotech-controlled super-soldiers emerged, as seen in the later seasons of the series. During this time, genetic information was collected to facilitate Phase II.

    Phase II began in 1973 and ran right through the end of the series in 2002. Essentially, two goals were at play. The first goal was to replicate a biological analogue to the nanotech used to create the first super-soldiers. (This would eventually lead to the creation of the Rebels and the “hunters”.) The second goal, contingent on the first, was to modify the human population to give birth to children with the biological modifications “hard-wired” into their genetic code. (Emily, for example, was a failed version of this experiment.)

    All of this is important because it explains why Cassandra Spender was so important in the mythology. For Purity, creating a “hybrid” (really an attempt to create an analogue to the “future savior” sought by Cancer Man) was all about preparing humanity for the next step. Studying that “hybrid” would allow the genetic engineers to work towards a child with the same properties. For the Rebels, that “hybrid” would fulfill a similar goal as the prototype for the new and stronger humanity they religiously desire. Control over the “hybrid” is important to both sides of the equation, even if the information ultimately gets to both side regardless of Cassandra’s fate.

    If all of this is accepted, then where does Cancer Man fall into the equation? Why is Cassandra important to his goals? He doesn’t need the “hybrid” for his own purposes; keeping Mulder and Scully under his thumb gives him what he needs in terms of the future. But he does want to control and limit the successes of Purity and the Rebels, especially since he wants the vaccine to be developed in the meantime.

    This is one of the subtle points of the mythology that is never fully addressed. Cancer Man is played as someone willing to conduct horrible tests and take immoral action to achieve his goals, but the goals are supposedly for the greater good. Why, then, would he fail to support Bill Mulder’s desire to focus on a vaccine? It makes far more sense to consider that he wanted the vaccine hidden, shielded behind the ridiculous efforts of the Syndicate and their fosterage of Purity’s conspiracy.

    Much of what Cancer Man gives as an explanation for the Project in this episode is the complex and utterly false tale he has been using to control the Syndicate from the very beginning. In essence, he has used the idea of “colonizing aliens from the distant past” as a means of directing efforts, allowing them to create programs and fund aspects of the Project necessary for him to achieve his own agenda. Most of the time, when Cancer Man was encountering problems, it was related to his struggles to see the Syndicate through the most critical part of his plan.

    In terms of this episode, about six months after “Fight the Future”, his plans to control information flow using Jeffrey Spender and Diana Fowley have been entirely successful. Mulder has been sidelined far enough that he could be manipulated more than ever before, and Scully has been pushed into the realization that she is committed to Mulder’s cause. The success with Cassandra Spender, for Cancer Man, now requires the careful manipulation of information to move the pieces into position.

    Of course, since the Colonists and Rebels come from a common future, they both know that Cassandra Spender becomes a successful “hybrid” at this particular time period. This also marks the end of the need for the Syndicate, since Purity can now operate its conspiracy independently (and without interruption, apparently, as seen in later episodes). The Rebels want to strike at the conspiracy and eliminate any possible intervention. So Cancer Man knows that this is the end of the Project as it was; he must now take measures to preserve his interests.

    Cancer Man’s monologue to Diana Fowley is not a matter of dispensing truth, or some summary of the mythology to date. It’s about conditioning Diana’s reaction to his requests and interpretations to come. It’s about making sure that she believes what everyone else must believe, if Cancer Man’s gambit is to work. And so Cancer Man must frame Spender’s actions within that perspective. (There’s also an aspect of this monologue that sounds like Chris Carter’s true feelings about the show!)

    Spender’s purpose within Cancer Man’s plan is quickly confirmed: he was placed within that department to ensure that no further information about the conspiracy was discussed within the FBI. This would force Mulder and Scully to expose themselves and lose support. It certainly seems to work. In one of the truly bad scenes of the episode, Mulder is caught playing hooky, spouting off nonsense in some failed attempt at humor. Mulder, it seems, has given up. In fact, even given the chance to work on an X-File again, he wants nothing to do with it.

    Cancer Man’s conversation with Openshaw, like nearly every conversation he has in this episode, is filled with half-truths. Meanwhile, the Rebels continue to eliminate members of the conspiracy able to replicate the process of creating Cassandra. It is a case of gaining weeks or months at best, but it does begin the process of cutting out the Syndicate as a potential threat to future operations. (Keeping in mind, of course, that the Rebels only made overt moves within the 1998-1999 timeframe; this suggests that a few surgical strikes were deemed necessary to preserve their operations in the future.)

    Cassandra’s explanation of events is in complete alignment with Cancer Man’s cover story, so much so that it is quite obvious that he made sure that she “learned” this information during her most recent activity. Taking that into account, it’s no surprise that she saw “Samantha” during that abduction, since Cancer Man was the one who had access to the adult Samantha clone seen in “Redux II”. It was very likely the same clone, used to convince Cassandra of this version of the truth.

    As usual, it’s hard to work out how much Krycek knows about Cancer Man’s true plans, especially at this stage of the game. Certainly his knowledge of the documents from the DAT tape (stolen in “Paper Clip”) would have given him a selective version of the truth, and he displayed some knowledge of the nature of the conflict from episode to episode. Whatever he might or might not know, it’s clearly in his best interests in this case to follow Cancer Man’s agenda and play to the “alien invasion” scenario.

    The Syndicate meeting is particularly interesting because it suggests that Cancer Man knew and expected that the group would be infiltrated. He also didn’t want the Rebels to know about the vaccine, because he wanted it to remain under his control. The vaccine, from his point of view, represented a weapon for the “future savior” to use against those controlled by Purity. So when Krycek mentions the vaccine, Cancer Man quickly stops him and begins making plans to eliminate the Rebel infiltrator.

    The date of Cassandra’s abduction doesn’t quite match with what was previously revealed. In “Patient X”, Cassandra was supposed to have been abducted for more than 30 years, which would trace back to a time before Samantha’s abduction. It also doesn’t match what would be revealed in “One Son”. More surprising is Mulder and Scully’s realization that the Project is still active, considering that they knew it to be true just a few months earlier. And any hint that Mulder might be surprised about his father’s association with Cancer Man is ludicrous.

    Cancer Man uses the need to eliminate the Rebel infiltrator (to protect the “secret” of the vaccine) to test Spender, to determine whether or not he will be useful to his interests following the changes to come. Spender, of course, botches the job and learns, to his great dismay, that there is something to his mother’s claims and Mulder’s crusade. Krycek, of course, is there to ensure that Spender is successful, but also to reinforce that Cancer Man is the one to trust, pressing Spender to believe in Cancer Man’s preferred interpretation of events.

    This is, of course, all preparation for the whirlwind to come in “One Son”. The final scene of the episode, in light of that, is a somewhat ridiculous attempt to generate a tense cliffhanger. It doesn’t work, and it would have been better to break on the revelation that Cancer Man is speaking to Diana Fowley. They could have easily held the final scene until the beginning of “One Son” without losing much time. As it stands, it makes no sense for someone to be banging on the door that long, giving Mulder time to act.

    Taken without the information revealed in the final seasons, this episode might have been seen as an attempt, however flawed, to mesh the elements added to the mythology in the fifth season with the established explanations from “Fight the Future”. The results, however, don’t quite add up when the later seasons are added to the mix, which is hard to reconcile. How hard would it have been to remain consistent moving forward?

    Whatever the reasons, the later seasons made the mythology a lot more complicated, and made any attempt to take Cancer Man’s explanations in this episode at face value a fool’s bargain. The inevitable result is a more complex interpretation of the episode, one that takes into account Cancer Man’s penchant for lies within lies. Seen from that perspective, this is still an episode that is relatively straightforward, setting the stage for the resolution.
  • Sets the stage for the resolution of the mythology from the beginning of the series.

    For six years, Mulder and Scully had investigated the growing conspiracy behind the Syndicate's alliance with an alien race, bent on colonizing our planet. They had received only bits and pieces of information, and never had any solid evidence to back their claims. And gradually, they lost their hold on the X-Files and were all but shut out of the loop. But here, now, finally, was the conclusion they (and we) were looking for.

    The return of Cassandra Spender, last seen abudcted once again, set the stage for the final showdown, where the Syndicate's plans would be revealed. This episode is bookended by CSM's explanation, to an unknown listener, of the extent of their plans. All the information that Mulder & Scully, and especially the audience, were looking for was finally here, all laid out perfectly. It was the episode that fans were waiting for.

    The first part of this two-parter, arguably the best to date, is slightly weaker, but is still a classic episode. All our favorites return - CSM, Spender, Krycek, Marita (though not until the second half). Mulder and Scully look into Cassandra's return, and soon come to the conclusion that she is the first alien-human hybrid, the thing that the Syndicate has been working on for fifty years. At last, the culmination of everything we've seen throughout the series. As Mulder & Scully rush to put the pieces together - along with a much-needed look into CSM's background, including a name, C.G.B. Spender - Cassandra escapes from her hospital room and makes it to Mulder's apartment, where she demands that he kill her, to save the human race. As his door is nearly broken down, Mulder ponders his choice, and the omnious "To Be Continued" concludes the episode. Oh, and the unknown listener to CSM is revealed, and it's a shocker.

    Obviously, as part of a two-part episode, this episode can not be judged fairly by itself, but it is still a classic episode in its own right. CSM's plans are revealed, as his son is slowly brought into the fold. It's interesting to see Spender and Krycek working together, since they're both antagonists to Mulder, in different ways. The mystery reveals a lot of its pieces, but still leaves the biggest ones for the conclusion. All in all, this is a great mythology episode, one that sets the stage for the gripping conclusion.
  • Cassandra Spender returns from abduction, and her son learns a bit more than he might care to about CSM.

    Soooo good to put the whole "CSM may be Mulder's father" malarky behind us. That would have been such a Star Wars non-surprise, and would have really tainted the show, I feel. And this lends some importance to Spender, who has thus far been an obstacle, sure, but bore no real part in the overall mythology.
    Or have we seems to say that Mulder and CSM aren't related here, but a certain Season 9 episode comes right and says they are. Damn...
  • This 2 part episode should be the movie instead of "Fight the Future".

    When i watched the "fight the future" movie, i loved it because it was like an x file episode, while not understanding the people's critics to the movie. Now when i watched this 2 part episode, i realize that it should have been this one, because reveals everything that has happen in the series until this moment and not only that, but it FINISHES with the conspiracy, leaving a door open for doubts about the future of the series. I really think that this is the point where, if i had to say so, they jumped the shark.
    Anyway. Here you've got everything you need to know about the alien conspiracy. EVERYTHING... and as a little extra value you get Jeffrey Spender out of the picture (a character i never really enjoyed) and reinstate Mulder and Scully in "their real assignment".
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