The very so-so Season Three finale gets a very so-so conclusion in Herrenvolk. It’s a good title (“Master Race”), but once you contextualise it, it’s rather too derivative. After all, what do these blonde, blue-eyed not-human boys (okay, not the girls) wandering about a rural aviary evoke if not John Wyndham’s Village of the Damned (The Midwich Cukoos), with its bunch of superior juniors?
John Carpenter’s half-arsed remake had debuted eighteen months earlier, so it’s highly plausible it fed into Carter’s mechanical mix somewhere along the line. The deadly bees bit might be the best part of Herrenvolk, but there are slim pickings on that score generally. What we have is Mulder acting entirely irrationally and cluelessly throughout, with only Roy Thinnes’ natural gravitas as Jeremiah Smith, “a traitor to the project”, lending the proceedings any degree of legitimacy. Irksomely, this will be Jeremiah’s last appearance until Season Eight, a sure indicator of Carter’s tendency to double down on elements that don’t really deserve it (CSM, the alien bounty hunter) and pay short shrift to those that could have benefited from further development.
Of which, I was never especially convinced Steven Williams’ X was a worthy replacement for Deep Throat. But having gone there, throwing him away in yet another sloppy, unearned death of a series semi-regular is extremely tiresome (and of course he writes a message in his own blood!) Elsewhere, there’s a sloppy, unearned resurrection, as bounty hunting Brian brings back Mrs Scully from the brink. This underlines the Alien Bounty Hunter rather as a fallen angel, Nephilim type. One who can give life but mostly brings death (in contrast to Jeremiah’s legit good fairy).
However, it’s a facile move generally, cheapening the series’ treatment of mortality every bit as much as the casually “impactful” disposal of recurring characters (Scully’s sister, William Mulder, X, Deep Throat). And the reason given is utter gibberish, with the Bounty Hunter operating at the behest of CSM. Now, maybe CSM’s secretly giving the order because he has the lingering hots for Teena – that’s certainly Rob Shearman’s take – but what he says is, besides the usual thing about the dangers of a vengeful directed good guy (Fox), “And you know how important Agent Mulder is to the equation”. Er, no. And I still don’t. Enlighten me, pray.
Jeremiah: She’s not your sister.
Mulder: Well, then. Who is she?
Mulder acts the prat throughout, inevitably. Early on, he seems to score a palpable hit, as he heroically sticks the Alien Bounty Hunter in the back of the neck… but then he fails to make sure he’s dead. Which means Brian Thompson’s sub-Terminator routine is complete, as ABH gives hot pursuit, occasionally covered in bees, for the rest of the episode, entirely failing to stay down. Worse, when Mulder allows himself to be dissuaded from dragging Jeremiah to his mother’s bedside – rightly so, since it’s a trap, but the wool-brained klutz doesn’t do it for logical reasons – he shows himself to be desperately slow on the uptake regarding the identity of his Samantha clone.
Jeremiah: They’re part of an agrarian workforce.
He’s told outright by Jeremiah “They’re drones”, yet even when he comprehends she’s a clone, he’s still trying to talk to her like she’s his sister and wants to take her with them. He’s an inconceivable dullard, basically.
Still, there’s some reasonably solid thematic material. The colony of bees reflects the colony that is the workforce. What is wanted is a hive mind, one averse to individual thought (they can’t speak). This is the transhumanist way forward: “You’re looking at the future, Mr Mulder”. Indeed, fundamental to this future is the eradication of the family unit (“Parenting is unnecessary. A needless division of energy”). It’s just a shame the surrounding proceedings are so feeble. Particularly since the episode feels quite fresh visually at this point, emerging from the series’ sodden woods and into open skies and farming land.
If Mulder is an inveterate idiot in Herrenvolk, Scully isn’t for a change, aside from attempting to dissuade the Alien Bounty Hunter to cease and desist. She presents her case to her superiors regarding the use of the small pox eradication programme, arguing that it is a means for the population to be catalogued, tagged and inventoried, each and every one having a genetic marker inserted into their system. Would that were all such topically blanket programmes were in the real world, where outright eradication is the name of the game.
X’s dying scrawl points to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and the first appearance of Laurie Holden’s Maria Covarrubias, a character who continued through the mythology arc for a good few seasons, yet succeeded in leaving very little impression. Ironically, the series was going from strength to strength in the ratings at this point, but looking back at the arc in the cold light of day, you’d be forgiven for thinking Carter et al had entirely blown it. Everything Dies? The X-Files was tempting fate there.