[XF/M] S3E10 & S6E10: “Borrowed Time” and “Tithonus”

Monday we took in the latest episode of ‘Mad Men’ (a men-vs-women episode featuring ketchup, a swinging couple married 18 years, and Harry being his terrible self) as well as our normal rotation of ‘Millennium’ and ‘The X-Files’.

I. Borrowed Time

Eric Mabius (“Resident Evil”), credited as playing Samiel (aka Samael), who is referenced in a season 1 episode (with Lucy Butler), though there’s no good reason to suspect that this is the same Samiel/Samael here; he is not named during the episode. Here he functions as a sort of ‘Angel of Death’. Various people who almost died are treated as “should have died” and living on borrowed time; among them is Jordan Black, who almost died early in season 1.

The episode employs a few narrative tricks to maintain our interest and misdirect us. We begin with a mysterious yet climactic scene on a train; a figure (Mabius) takes a key and locks four people — two women, a girl, and a man — in a train compartment shortly before the train, heading down the wrong track, crashes into water. Flash back a couple days earlier and bodies start piling up, all due to drowning (away from water). Two women and a man. And then Jordan falls ill, first with a recurrence of her season 1 symptoms and later with water pouring from her body. All those who died had had those near-death, should-have-died, second-chance experiences and are living on borrowed time … and to cut a long story short (too late!) Mabius is at fault and as he explains late in the episode to Frank, those living on borrowed time have to give “it” up now so that others may live.

Reveal? We’re back on the train and then beyond. Mabius drowns, and Jordan lives. He locked those four in the train compartment because it was more or less water-tight and this allowed them to survive (they are now on borrowed time by Mabius’ logic … though with his death, who will take back?).

I’m fixating more on Mabius’ character’s “name” than I should, seeing as it’s not used in the episode as far as I can recall. On the one hand it could be treated merely as a ‘biblical’ name applied to a normal-enough human who sees himself as an ‘Timekeeper / Angel of Death’ figure. Tick-tock. That he seems to be able to be there one instant and gone the next — as Frank asserts when analyzing video footage featuring him and then experienced outside the hospital by Frank –, a more ‘supernatural’ interpretation seems to be required. In terms of directions that could have been taken with this ‘character’, I am reminded that in Judaism (via Wikepedia):

Though some sources identify Gadreel as the angel that seduced Eve, other Hebrew scholars say that it was Samael who tempted Eve in the guise of the Serpent. Samael is also sometimes identified as being the angelic antagonist who wrestled with Jacob, and also the angel who held back the arm of Abraham as he was about to sacrifice his son.

… child sacrifice? Frank Black and his ill daughter? What’s not to love? But none of this is an actual part of the story. Neither are the gnostic or anthroposophic aspects of Samael, at least not in an obvious way, and it’s not that I expect ‘Millennium’ to be obvious, but when you give a character such a name and treat him in an angelic way, I’d conclude that it’s reasonable to expect something … more.

We also get Amanda Tapping as Jordan’s doctor at the hospital; it’s a minor and thankless role, and she was already doing ‘SG-1’ at this point … so the point of her being here isn’t quite clear. Her name is ‘Dr. Cantor’ and given the counting that goes on, I’d love for her name and character to mean more as well.

II. Tithonus

As if in a callback to “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” we get:

  • a counterpart to someone who can see others’ deaths, but instead of knowing how they’ll die, he knows when …
  • in “Clyde Bruckman’s” Bruckman does not see Scully dying; here she almost dies, Fellig takes her place and is taken by death instead, and we are left to wonder, will she now have his fate? Why not …

As for the knowing how and knowing when, Bruckman has empathy and a depth to his ‘seeing’ … he understands people; Fellig lacks empathy and sees only surface … he neither understands nor wants to understand people. The two are rather glaring counterpoints, though it’s never exactly clear where the causality lies.

III. See Also:

Aside: The time and death themes in both episodes provides a nice parallel, making them wonderful companion pieces.

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