I’ve been delayed from writing my thoughts on the series finale of The X-Files, so here they are: The episode itself was well done, but I think it came a bit too late. The show really should have gone to movies after the end of Season Seven, when Scully had been revealed pregnant and Mulder abducted. Everything that has transpired since then has felt padded. I envision a scene like this at Ten Thirteen:
CHRIS CARTER: “We’ve gotta come up with two more seasons of stuff. How about, oh, supersoldiers?”
STAFF WRITER: “What are those, Chris?”
CHRIS CARTER: “They’re government-created humans who can’t be killed, which will save us from the aliens when they come. And maybe Scully’s baby is one of them. And since David won’t be around, we’ll need a new agent to pair with Scully. Anybody like the name ‘Doggett’?”
STAFF WRITER: “What about the black oil?”
CHRIS CARTER: “I’m still talking about this guy Doggett. And of course he should have a partner….”
STAFF WRITER: “Wait. Isn’t his partner Scully?”
CHRIS CARTER: “Hmmm. Well, I’m about to make Scully a single mom, so we can’t have her flying off into unknown danger all the time. Responsibilities, you know. So we’ll do what we did six years ago when Gillian was pregnant in real life: we’ll have Scully do a lot of desk-work and autopsies.”
STAFF WRITER: “Well, OK. Not really the best use for an actress of Gillian’s talent, but then, she looks better in scrubs and a lab coat than half the women on ER.”
CHRIS CARTER: “Gillian’s a trooper. I mean, when we did ‘Humbug’ she actually ate a beetle! You can’t buy that….Now, about these Super Soldiers….”
STAFF WRITER: “Hey, is Smoking Man really Mulder’s father? We never really came out and said so.”
CHRIS CARTER: “Hmmmm. Well, if we did come out and say so, it would seem like a rip-off of Star Wars.”
STAFF WRITER: “Say, I have a question. Remember how on Frasier, when Daphne realized she was in love with Niles, someone told her that maybe it was time to stop calling him “Dr. Crane”? Well, Mulder and Scully have a kid now. Should they really call each other by their last names still?”
….and so on.
It took me a long time to really get into The X-Files. I watched it intermittently during its first two seasons, but I didn’t get hooked until the brilliant two-parter “Piper Maru/Apocrypha” from the third season. At its best, The X-Files was a smart and witty blend of paranoia, fin-du-siecle anxiety, and good old fashioned horror storytelling. I even liked the first movie, even though it admittedly was skewed a bit too much toward the show’s already-converted fans. And I still liked some of episodes from the wildly uneven eighth and ninth seasons. It was hard to watch the show peter out as Chris Carter and the folks at Ten Thirteen made a game effort to keep drawing a story out of a franchise that had really given all it had to give, in terms of its overall mytharc, two years before.
As for the finale episode, again, it was well-done. Putting Mulder on trial was a fun idea (although the way it was set up is one of the more contrived plot devices I’ve ever seen). I’m glad Mitch Pileggi got such a chance to shine, and I liked seeing the Cigarette Smoking Man living as some kind of Indian ascetic. The episode’s biggest flaw isn’t even the episode’s fault. The entire series once was clearly leading up to Mulder’s discovery, at long last, of just what happened to his sister. Unfortunately, the series “resolved” that issue a few years back, and not in entirely satisfactory fashion, either. That was really the “Truth” that was out there; for Mulder, everything revolved around that particular quest; I think that is really why everything that came after felt so deflated. When The X-Files was at its best — and it was at its best for quite a long time — it was centered squarely on Mulder, Scully, and the quest for Samantha. The attempt to make it about something else simply didn’t work (although perhaps it could have worked, given the very high quality of the episode in which Agent Doggett learned how his son was murdered).
So, the show limped through its final two seasons, bereft of the story that had been at its heart. Nevertheless, I will miss the show. Maybe sometime soon I’ll watch one of the amazing three-part episodes: Duane Barry/Ascension/One Breath, perhaps; or maybe Gethsemane/Redux/Redux II. And then there will always be the pinnacle of The X-Files: Anasazi/The Blessing Way/Paper Clip. And then some of the almost-as-good two parters: Colony/End Game, Talitha Cumi/Herrenvolk, Tunguska/Terma….and the great standalone episodes like Home, Jose Chung’s From Outer Space, Small Potatoes, Humbug, Squeeze, Tooms….the truth may not be out there anymore, but it’s sure somewhere.
“Is there any way I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?” –Fox Mulder, Tooms.
“Well, I could have done without that Flukeman thing.” –Dana Scully (I don’t recall the episode).