CTP Episode of the Day - 06.29.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Closure (7x11)
Original Air Date: February 13, 2000
Written By: Chris Carter & Frank Spotnitz
Directed By: Kim Manners

Mulder continues to search for the truth behind the disappearance of his sister, Samantha, with the aid of a psychic. Scully discovers the true involvement of the Cigarette Smoking Man and Mulder finally finds the secret that sets him free.

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(Thanks to chrisnu for today's episode pics.)

"I have this powerful feeling, and I can't explain it, that this is the end of the road. That I've been brought here to learn the truth." Some "Closure" Tidbits & Musings:

-- The episode's title is self-explanatory, but also comes from Scully's line, "Mulder deserves closure, just like anyone."

-- The tag line change on this episode was "Believe to Understand," perhaps a reference to Mulder's line in the Carterlogue teaser about wanting to believe in and have faith in a higher power that brings comfort and solace; belief will provide understanding.

-- The disappearance of Samantha Mulder and Fox Mulder's constant search for her was a major component of the emotional backbone of The X-Files since its inception. And so, when it was decided that "Closure" would resolve the question of Samantha's final fate, the reaction around the production office was inevitably mixed.

-- "I think David grew tired of playing the man who is missing his sister," Frank Spotnitz said. "So when it came time to shoot 'Closure,' I told him, 'This is going to be the last time you're going to have to play that.'"

-- On the Season 7 DVD commentary, Spotnitz said: "What we wanted to do was finally deal with the story of Samantha and give people an answer to that, and we didn't want it to be an easy answer. So we thought the more emotionally honest thing to do without damaging what Chris had in mind for the end of the series, was to give the answer then and there that Samantha was indeed dead, and also to make it cathartic and kind of a moving release for Mulder -- this guy who has suffered under the weight of her disappearance the entire time we've known him."

-- Paul Rabwin remarked that after seven years, he didn't feel anyone who worked on the show would miss Samantha Mulder. "That device and motivation were very strong in the early years of the show, but as the years have gone by, the speculation kind of melted away."

-- The script, coauthored by Carter and Spotnitz, made a smooth transition from the horror of the Santa Claus serial killer in "Sein Und Zeit" into the realm of the supernatural. "Emotionally it was heavy stuff for everybody, but necessarily so," Carter said. "These episodes involved two very personal cases, the search for a serial killer and the search for Mulder's sister."

-- A tiny bit of continuity perhaps? Mulder's video regression tape (bad hair and all) is dated June 16, 1989, which means it happened a month after the events depicted in "Unusual Suspects" where Mulder got some "alien imagery" thanks to the gas he inhaled. (But how come Scully didn't find the videotape 7 years earlier when she listened to the audio tapes?)

-- Stanley Anderson (Agent Lewis Schoniger, who consults with Scully while viewing Mulder's regression tape) had a recurring role on The Drew Carey Show playing Drew's father.

-- Agent Schoniger is named for the next door neighbor of Chris Carter's grandparents.

-- Ooopsie! Samantha's missing person file says she was abducted on November 27, 1973, at the age of *14*.

-- Planet of the Apes references have been used many times in The X-Files and again in this episode as Mulder is watching the film when Pillar comes to his motel room. Since Scully's not there to warn Mulder "you might not like what you find," Dr. Zaius has to do it for her.

-- The original script included a scene between Scully, Skinner, and Agent Schoniger discussing the fact that the Treasury Department was not happy that the records regarding Samantha's abduction were being pursued. The Official Site even ran the script crawl from this scene which was not in the final episode.

-- Since Scully had always worn minimal jewelry, it was quite unusual to see a big old ring on her right hand when she answered the phone. (Oh how shippers longed to see a big old ring on her *left* hand!)

-- How fitting that one of the streets that Mulder and Harold passed as they broke into April Base was "Albatross Street," since Samantha was most certainly the albatross around Mulder's neck for 27 years. The "albatross around your neck" cliche comes from the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." In the poem, the ancient mariner kills the albatross, a bird considered to be lucky by the mariner's shipmates. After the bird is killed, the ship falls on hard times, and as a sign of placing all the guilt for their misfortune on the ancient mariner, his shipmates hang the bird around his neck. The phrase, "water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink" (paraphrased) comes from the same poem.

-- Since her spirit provided the "April Base" clue, it appeared that Teena knew all along where Samantha was, and that made me sad, as she might have saved her remaining child from so much suffering for so many years. Though she *might* have been ignorant as to what actually happened to Samantha, the fact that she knew where she was seemed to point to her duplicity with CSM.

-- From a visual perspective, "Closure" offered abrupt camera angles and alternating shades of light and dark provided a surreal, diffused visual tableau over which the powerful tale unfolded. On the Season 7 DVD commentary, Chris Carter said: "We needed someone to bring a visual style to an episode that was dealing with ethereal beings in a kind of literal way. We had to see these things, so it had to be done very deftly and carefully, and it could have been corny or hokey, but Kim [Manners] always has very good ideas about how to put these things on film. Kim gave it a visual style that I think turned out to really help the deep emotion, and I think the music helped as well, to tell the story of Mulder coming to terms with what had happened to his sister."

-- I give big kudos to the effects department for their work on this episode, particularly for the effects at the end and during the sťance scene. I absolutely loved the effects of the souls from different eras surrounding the trio as their sťance began. I also loved the fact that from Scully's point of view, her hand remains suspended in mid-air, as if Mulder's hand never left hers when he's led off to find the diary.

-- DD and GA do a great job with the diary reading scene. It was filmed many different ways with DD interpreting the words with many different emotions; so if you ever get a chance to see these takes, it's quite interesting.

-- The final diary page Mulder opens to but doesn't read aloud says: "No more. No more tests. No more questions. I'm getting out of here and not turning back. Tonight. Tonight I'm going to run far away. I can't let them catch me. They'll kill me if they do. Running for my life, for the rest of my life."

-- The hospital where Samantha appeared when she escaped is named for St. Dominic Savio, who is the patron saint of children and the falsely accused.

-- Patience Cleveland (Arbutus Ray) did a great job in the small role of the nurse who remembered the little girl who vanished without a trace many years ago; her chilling account makes us believe that CSM was the only possible person who could be smoking a cigarette in 1979. Cleveland was a steadily working character actress in TV and films. She appeared on many popular TV shows including Everybody Loves Raymond, ER, and Angel in addition to The X-Files. She passed away in May 2004.

-- Performances were uniformly first-rate. Duchovny, as the emotionally distraught Mulder, favored controlled pathos and anguish over obvious histrionics. I loved his honest admission to Scully early in the episode that he hoped to find Samantha dead so that his search could be over. Regarding the Mulder/Samantha reunion at the end of the episode, Kim Manners' commentary on the Season 7 DVDs explained: "David Duchovny taught me a great lesson when we shot 'Closure.' There's a moment when the little boy leads David to children playing around a tree, and Mulder sees his sister for the first time since she was abducted. He realizes that she's dead and he sees her spirit, and the little girl runs to him. The script called for David to hold the little girl, and to get down on his knees with her and break down and cry. And I said 'David, this is what we're gonna do,' and he said, 'Kim I want to talk to you.' He said 'I think we shouldn't do that.' I said, 'But David, this has been the quest, to find your sister.' He said, 'I've got an idea and I just want you to look at it.' I said okay. The little girl ran into his arms, and at first he didn't want to touch her. She put her arms around him, and he had a moment where he put his arms around her, and he stroked her hair, and he just kind of stared off into space. And she took her head off his chest and looked up at him, and she had the thinnest smile on her face. And she put her head back on his chest, and he had the most peaceful look on his face. There were no tears. It was such a simple moment, and I said, 'Cut it.' And I went to David and I said, 'That's powerful. That's powerful.'"

-- Gillian Anderson gave an equally understated performance, providing believable strength and support for her suffering partner. Anthony Heald, as the emotionally damaged psychic Harold Pillar, also turned in a potent guest star turn, bringing a dimension to the role that justified both Mulder and Scully's reactions to his character. Heald also appeared in the films Silence of the Lambs, Deep Rising, and The Client (as we learned in our Pollynomial the other day!) and played Vice Principal Scott Gruber on the FOX series Boston Public.

-- While the script's main intent was to lay the long-standing question of Samantha's disappearance to rest, "Closure" was also very much of a CSM episode. It was a somewhat foreshadowed yet nonetheless effective revelation that CSM was deeply involved in Samantha's disappearance. The episode also revealed that CSM was ill, a storyline that would take center stage later in the season.

-- The haunting background music was "My Weakness" by the techno musician Moby from his album "Play."

-- The concept of the "walk-ins" was definitely a daring move and left many fans, especially those heavily invested in the mytharc, bitterly dissatisfied. After all, we had been told many times before (by the Alien Bounty Hunter, Cassandra Spender, and the Ghost of Bill Mulder, just to name a few), in many different episodes, that Samantha was alive. To many fans, the walk-ins concept was a cop-out. Personally, I didn't really mind the walk-in resolution, as I thought it was kind of a nice idea that someone or something would step in to save children that were about to meet a horrible fate; I'm assuming that the walk-ins effectively "kill" the children by turning them into starlight energy before they actually have to go through the pain and suffering of the death that awaits them. But I don't understand why the "good" spirits who save these children make the parents write incriminating notes that could have disastrous consequences (like jail time, for example). Is that how they get their jollies?

-- Of course, at the time "Closure" aired, many fans were convinced the "Samantha as Starlight" was just another red herring in a long line of 1013 lies and misdirection. After all, there was no physical evidence, no real proof that Samantha was dead; and Mulder's vision could have been the result of his wanting to believe that Samantha was gone. Spotnitz even teased that just because Samantha was taken to starlight, it didn't mean that she was necessarily gone, hinting that there could still be Samantha clones somewhere out there, created from tissue samples taken from the real thing. But even if some of the viewing audience was disappointed with the outcome, CC & Company wisely didn't revisit Samantha's fate again.

-- I loved Kim Manners' comments about the Mulder/Samantha scene on the DVD, because I have to agree with him. I know I'm biased, but I would have handed DD the Emmy for that one defining moment -- the moment of realization that the girl running toward him is Samantha. In that moment, as he says her name, a thousand different emotions play across his face in an instant. Joy. Amazement. Awe. Confusion. Realization. Bewilderment. Surprise. Shock. Understanding. Disappointment. Defeat. Sorrow. Relief. You name it. And in that instant as she embraces him, for just a moment there is Sadness. For just a moment he is frozen in time, realizing only now that Samantha was dead long before he ever started to look for her, and resisting the urge to put his arms around her because he knows that if he does, it will make it all final. Then as Samantha looks into his eyes and touches his face, he realizes he has been granted a special gift: the opportunity to be reunited with his sister one last time. And no matter how bittersweet, he must grasp that moment. So as he embraces her warmly, touches her hair, his face again conveys the wide range of emotions and you can almost see years of pain being lifted away -- Release. Contentment. Comfort. Happiness. Freedom. As Kim Manners said, Peace. And most of all, Closure. Other actors can chew the scenery all they want -- give me this kind of subtlety any day of the week. DD does some of his best work *ever* in this episode, and this moment is a fine example.

-- Talent must run in the family , as the young actress who played Mulder's sister Samantha (Mimi Paley) at age 14 did an equally great job communicating the emotion of the scene -- with no lines at all.

-- As many times as the words "I'm fine" were uttered between Mulder and Scully, I think for the first time Mulder really meant them. And with two words, Mulder tells Scully, and us, that he is finally ready to close this chapter of his life and begin a new one: "I'm free." Finally free of the anguish, the guilt, and the pain of not knowing. Free of the self-imposed responsibility of reconstructing an old family and free to concentrate on building a new one. To me, "Closure" and "all things" were necessary episodes if the main characters were ever going to be allowed to move forward toward a more personal relationship with each other.

-- While many were disappointed with the conclusion of the Samantha Story, I was not. I kind of like the "transformation to starlight" notion and would like to think that perhaps Samantha and others like her were spared the suffering and ultimate fate that would have befallen them. I like the fact that Samantha remains forever young in starlight as she waits to be reborn; and call me an idiot if you will, but many nights when I'm walking under a star-filled sky, I wonder, just like Mulder did, if these are souls, traveling through starlight, looking for homes. And above all, I like what this episode is all about: not walk-ins or starlight, but love. Mulder's love for his sister, Scully's love for Mulder and her fierce desire to protect him from further anguish, and Samantha's love for a brother that she could hardly remember yet, despite everything, could never forget.

-- Even if you don't like the way things turned out for Samantha, I still think there's a lot to like about "Closure."

Please share your first impressions, favorite (or cringe-worthy!) moments, classic lines, favorite fanfic, nagging questions, repeated viewing observations, etc., as today we celebrate "Closure"!

Polly

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(Thanks to gertie for these two pics.)