On first viewing, watching the "One Son" video, these were knockout episodes and automatically got 10 out of 10. On repeated viewings though, I started to waver ... but I still think they deserve top marks. The reason I was wavering was because I kept thinking of more and more questions that the episodes didn't provide answers for. That's not to denegrate this episode (or the previous "Two Fathers" episode) -- but it certainly does not give full disclosure as all the hype would have you believe.
The "Two Fathers" episode is well crafted with the Cigarette Smoking Man's disclosure of the truth about his 50 year "career" to (for most of the ep) an unknown listener, providing the backbone for the story. The opening flashback sequence is well done; followed by another intiguing train-car medical scene; a great Skinner/Spender meeting then the Scully/Mulder gym scene which is typically humourous (although slightly out-of-place) with Mulder's interest in his J.O.B. piqued by Scully's investigations into Cancer Man and Cassandra Spender's return. It's good to see Mulder with renewed interest but it is Scully who is (finally) evolving into a true believer in the quest for the truth. Her use of The Lone Gunmen (in "One Son"), seemingly more and more, to ferret out the truth is taking over a role formerly the domain of Mulder and she's directing their investigative energies. If she didn't dig up the box-full of information on Cancer Man, Mulder wouldn't have done anything but play basketball.
Cassandra Spender is a tragic figure in this episode and so is her son Jeff Spender who slowly learns the truth about his old man, thanks to a very manipulative Alex Krycek. Just who is he working for? He's got his own agenda, that's for sure.
The faceless aliens trouble me ... why does "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" protect them from the black oil when in The X-Files Movie: Fight The Future Stevie was infected through his feet? Are their motives totally benevelont, I wonder?
"One Son" sees Jeffrey Spender almost become Mulder in his quest for the truth and his hatred of Cancer Man. Diana Fowley re-enters the picture but Mulder still trusts her despite evidence Scully and The Lone Gunment dig up. What gives there? Is there more to their past relationship than we've been told? Does the wedding ring Mulder wore in the two flashback episodes "Unusual Suspects" and "Travelers" have anything to do with it? The use of Skinner as support for Mulder and Scully is a nice touch, ending any thoughts of questionable motives that may have surfaced in the past.
The episode is well made and quite different from "Two Fathers". Mulder's voiceover at the start and the use of flashbacks to 1973 is well done and the pace becomes more frenetic as the episode builds to it's climax. The pivotal meeting between Cancer Man and Mulder over Fowley's lingerei is brilliant -- Mulder can see the results of all those years searching but can do nothing about it while Cancer Man wishes Mulder was his son. The ending is a shock as Spender stands up for Mulder and Scully and begs Kirsh to give the X-Files back to them and is then killed for his efforts.
All in all, a great mythology double episode that stands up against any others from the previous five seasons.
Mulder: (opening voiceover) Two men, young, idealistic -- the fine product of a generation hardened by world war. Two fathers whose paths would converge in a new battle -- an invisible war between a silent enemy and a sleeping giant on a scale to dwarf all historical conflicts. A 50-years war, its killing fields lying in wait for the inevitable global holocaust.
Mulder: There must be some kind of mistake. I signed up for the aromatherapy treatment.
Scully: Mulder, this stinks, and not just because I think that woman is a ... well, I think you know what I think that woman is. Mulder: (sarcastic) No. Actually, you hide your feelings very well.
Scully: (To Mulder, about Diana Fowley) I mean, you ... you ask me to trust no one and yet you trust her on simple faith.
Scully: Because it is personal, Mulder. Because, without the FBI, personal interest is all that I have. And if you take that away then there is no reason for me to continue.
Mulder: (To Cancer Man) You feeling smug, C.G.B.? Yeah, I know your name. I know your game and I got nothing to lose.
Cigarette Smoking Man (with a laugh): Oh, you're wrong, Agent Mulder. I can't tell you how wrong you are.
Where Have I Seen That Face Before?
Al Ruscio (3rd Elder) has appeared in movies such as "The Godfather III", "The Phantom", "Showgirls", "I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore" --the terrible Jason Alexander movie -- and "Any Which Way You Can" with Clint Eastwood.
The Pain Factor:
Mulder and Scully get blasted by the CDC team's hose spraying who-knows-what but nothing too bad happens. Hey, they're having a good year!
The original title of this episode was "Weary Men"