“Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate”
While the alien mythology keeps on coming in the fourth season, the parts of its myth-arc which really stand out are the emotional and physical changes which Mulder and Scully undergo. Despite being a season rich in revelations it culminates in Mulder losing faith in the existence of aliens and along the way Scully gets the devastating news that she has cancer. In addition to the deepening of Mulder and Scully’s characters we also get some insight into the history of the show’s most enigmatic bad guys – The Cigarette Smoking Man, in an episode that offers up another format in which to explore the X-Files mythology. By the end of the season some important steps have been taken that develop the colonisation storyline and with Mulder’s faith shaken, it would seem to the point of no return, the stage is set for Season 5 and The X-Files: Fight The Future.
Season 4 – What we learn
If the big take-away from Season 3 was that the Earth is going to be colonised by aliens and the date is set, then that of Season 4 should be the way in which it’s going to be done. The first episode begins with a shot of a telephone engineer on top of a pole attacked by a swarm of bees, falling to the ground covered in blisters. The man is the first victim of bees which have been bred by the syndicate at a farm in Canada to be carriers of smallpox, pollinating specially engineered plants which are unlike any other found on Earth. The farm is tended by clones, referred to as agrarian drones as they have no language skills and have been created only for working on the farm. One of the new varieties of clone is a younger version of Samantha Mulder. The other, a blonde boy, is a young version of Kurt Crawford, another clone Mulder will encounter in ‘Memento Mori’.
Later in the series after making a deal with the Cigarette Smoking Man, to ensure Scully doesn’t die of Cancer, Walter Skinner helps to cover up another incident caused by the bees. A postal worker innocently intercepts a damaged package which contains a specimen of the deadly bees but is later killed in a restroom by a swarm of them. A third body is infected with the disease when Skinner takes one of the bees to a Dr Valedespino to be analysed and a similar swarm appears. After sorting out this mess as well, CSM assures the Syndicate that there will be no more setbacks and announces the start of a trial run of the bees, on a school playground.
Although the bee attacks start the ball rolling on the colonisation storyline there are other elements of the alien myth-arc that are developed over the course of the series. This involves the discovery of another form of Black Oil which Mulder is made aware of when Krycek reappears, saved from the silo where we last saw him in ‘Apocrypha‘, and leads him and Scully to a rock which contains the substance. It’s suggested that the rock is part of the Tunguska meteoroid which collided with the Earth, a fact which takes Mulder on a journey to Russia to learn more about its origins. While there he is double-crossed by Krycek and is imprisoned, subjected to tests with the black oil, but survives thanks to the Russian’s successful vaccine. He escapes back to the US while Krycek is revealed to be working for the KGB.
The Black Oil is said to have been developed by the Russians and used by Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, and unlike the US the Russians have developed an inoculation against its effects. It turns out the Rock was stolen from the Russians and on its way to the US so Dr. Charne-Sayre could develop a cure. When the rock goes astray though an ex-KGB agent is contacted by Krycek and proceeds to kill the doctor who was working for the Syndicate.
Aside from the bees and the Black Oil the other major development of Season 4 is the confirmation of Scully’s cancer. It was hinted at back in Season 3 when Mulder and Scully visited the members of the Mufon network who revealed that one of their members, Betsy Hagopian, was dying of terminal cancer and that the same would happen to all of them eventually. One member of that group is still alive when Scully finds out she has the disease. Mulder and Scully both realize that her illness is the result of her abduction but while Scully is in hospital Mulder discovers that the dead Mufon women and the surviving member were all being treated at the same fertility clinic. Further discoveries make it apparent that they all had their ova taken for the purposes of alien/human hybridisation.
Despite her cancer Scully carries on working and the first big alien-related case after her diagnosis is a mysterious plane crash in which Max Fenig is involved. Last seen in ‘Fallen Angel’ Max returns, and is killed off, when he attempts to bring Mulder alien technology he stole which was being used in experimental military aircraft. Max is abducted mid-flight so the aliens can retrieve the technology but the alien spaceship is intercepted and brought down, taking the plane Max was on with it. Although in the grand scheme of the main myth-arc it’s not as important as the other ideas that are introduced and developed, the recovery of the alien technology reminds us that the military has applications of the technology and recalls the early Season One episode ‘Deep Throat‘.
The season concludes with Mulder’s apparent suicide following a series of events where he’s led to believe the whole alien conspiracy has just been an elaborate hoax. A question mark is left hanging over whether Mulder is alive or not.
Season 4 is also the first season with an episode which explores a character’s past, a past before Mulder and Scully teamed up on the X-Files. That character is the Cigarette Smoking Man and we learn that he was born in Batten Rouge on August 20th 1940, that his father (a soviet spy) was executed before he could walk and that his mother died of lung cancer before he could talk. The orphaned young CSM grew up to become a captain in the army, where he served along with a young Bill Mulder. It’s while serving there that he was assigned the mission of assassinating JFK. He is also revealed to be responsible for the assassination of Martin Luther King as well. More recent events show how he and Deep Throat were present at the retrieval mission of a UFO. His comments suggest that he operates without the president knowing about him. While parts of it are potentially apocryphal the more recent events tie-in nicely with what we’ve already been told.
More insight is offered into CSM’s past when Mulder has flashbacks to his childhood in ‘Demons’ thanks to a drastic procedure to help him recover memories of his past. His recovered memories suggest that Samantha Mulder, rather than Fox, is actually the offspring of CSM.