THE X-FILES 10X06 Season Finale Debriefing: You reap what you sow

Courtesy Fox

Ain’t no party like an apocalypse party, y’all.

Spoiler alert: It turns out that colonization threat that made Mulder go on the lam days after his son was born 15 years ago was real, only planet Earth was off by a few years. (Darn calendar mix-ups!)

The stuff’s about to hit the fan — or the UFO — and it’s up to Scully to save the world, as per usual, thanks to a little help from some friends and foes from her past.

Villains, viruses and vehicles, oh my!

Remember when Tad O’Malley came swinging into our fearful hearts and promised the planet’s destruction thanks to our alien overlords? Apparently he wasn’t all wrong: the gist of this latest epidemic is that Americans was injected with alien DNA when they got the smallpox vaccine as children. This now weakens their immune systems and makes them susceptible to the common cold (or anthrax), in the extraterrestrials’ bid for world domination. Or something. I may not have caught the intricacies of the evil plot, but I do know it’s bad news for Mulder, because guess who’s one of the contagion’s earliest victims? That’s right, he’s going down for the count, and it’s up to his beloved to find a cure before it’s too late.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

What I really enjoyed about this story is that it delivered on some of the series’ biggest cards, not only in the conspiracy laid out by O’Malley in the premiere, but going right back to The X-Files’ earliest episodes. The government messing around with smallpox inoculation? Check! The big invasion arriving not with a bang, but by the whimper of a virus? Ding! Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) being a smarmy puppet master? Tick!

Scully running through the streets and bringing people to their knees? YES PLEASE.

Though in the past, I generally preferred the show’s standalone stories, I always admired when the writers went for these “go big or go home” outings, especially when Mulder and Scully had a personal stake in the cause. What’s more personal than fighting for each other when the world is about to end?

Like many high-stakes finales of the past, Mulder and Scully spend most of “My Struggle II” apart, though physically (thankfully) more so than emotionally. Yet now, their separation ends up coming down to what they hold most sacred — their family. William has loomed large for these six chapters of The New X-Files, and it turns out he’s not just the key to mending their broken hearts, but their failing bodies as well. To quote one of the show’s most memorable criminals, the boy has something they all need.

As is his custom, Mulder sets off on his own when the scope of the threat is revealed, heading to South Carolina to confront his old adversary — dadversary? (sorry I had to) —  to find out what the heck is going on. He knows he’s in bad shape, and that the human race as they know it is doomed, but also per tradition, Old Smokey (Mulder’s beautiful words, not mine) takes the opportunity to rub salt in the wound and antagonize the snot out of our G-man.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

As much as I was so over Cancer Man’s antics by the end of season 9 and relished in watching him get his allegedly final comeuppance, I admit I’ve kind of loved seeing him up to his old tricks this year. He was the perfect foil here, appropriately psychopathic to the last second. He’s tried repeatedly over the years to turn Mulder over to the dark side, more earnest at times than others, but in this episode, he was self-serving to the core. When Mulder refused his offer, he left the man — who let’s not forget, is technically his son — to die on his cabin floor, with nothing more than his own version of “toodles!” as a parting shot.

So here’s the deal: while most people are done like dinner, a certain chosen few, Scully among them, now have natural immunity to the impending colonization. For you see, amidst the slew of medical experiments and other violations she endured against her will or knowledge, her captors back in 1994 also protected her from the inevitable epidemic thanks to the aforementioned alien DNA implantation. (Smokey apparently is a club member, too.)

The science makes my brain hurt, so I’m not touching it, but all we need to know is that she’s healthy, and that is supposedly a little gift from our chain-smoking friend. She’s still strong enough to yell at strangers and drive her car over sidewalks while the rest of DC is acting like they’re extras in a Walking Dead episode, including Agents Miller and Einstein along with Mulder, and it’s now up to her to save mankind from extinction. First on a macro level by using the antibodies in her blood to help create a vaccine to help people like Einstein, but eventually getting ready to take on the world with her expertise.

However, the driving force behind her zeal, right to the closing seconds of this season (?) finale, is not her quest to save Earth from itself — at least not primarily — but rather to rescue those she cherishes most. It isn’t the threat of impending attack on their country that makes her run through gridlock in a race against the clock, it’s her partner. She might be his beloved Scully, but he is her Mulder, and no alien, or arch-nemesis, is going to take him away from her that easily. Even when it looks like he’s much worse off than any vaccine can fix.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Which is when the good doctor realizes that there is only one cure for his condition — compatible stem cells from someone else with natural-born immunity. If you guessed “William!” then you get a free dinner at the Waffle House! Finally — finally — the X-Files revival hits its stride, just as it’s about to leave us.

We knew that the show had to be building to something around the teen all season, because it couldn’t have had his spectre permeate every nook and cranny of these six episodes without making good on his reappearance. Now, we understand why: he is the key to nipping this colonization in the bud by saving his father, and his mother in the process. Even if he’s not here yet, he’s already an integral member of season 11, whenever it may hit the airwaves.

If you think about it, this is delivering on many of the threads woven in the original series, particularly in the later seasons. For instance, Mulder’s fantasy on the beach in the season 7 premiere found the agent reflecting on the nature of family, dreaming of a young boy growing up before his eyes. I’m not saying the William arc all these years later is a callback to that necessarily, but even before he was born, the progeny was heralded as some sort of savior for mankind. (After all, isn’t that why Scully had to give birth in a barn in the middle of nowhere with then-friend Monica Reyes there for help?)

Scully made the harrowing decision to give him up precisely because she wanted him to grow up anonymously, away from the horrors she was convinced would follow him were he to stay with them, but maybe the real point of it all is that you can’t outrun life. Eventually, you’re going to face tribulations, whether it’s losing a loved one, questioning a career — or in this case, fulfilling your apparent destiny as the beacon of hope for the human race against an alien invasion.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

On one hand, I’m really pumped that the show is choosing to incorporate William into the colonization plot, since it’s been a long time coming. When “The Truth,” the original series finale, aired in 2002, it predicted an apocalypse by the end of 2012, it being the supposed reason for Mulder’s disappearance, and eventual stint as a fugitive with Scully.

The subsequent movie (I Want To Believe) did not to revisit that, and perhaps we were to believe that those plans had been put on ice. Instead, they were merely pushed back a few years, in a seemingly innocuous start to world domination. The journey has always been about Mulder and Scully fighting the good fight together, so it’s only fitting that the secret to defeating their ultimate enemy will be their son.

On the other hand, it makes me sad for the couple, especially for Scully, because it seems to indicate that all of her not-so-best laid plans 15 years ago were for naught. This is precisely the scenario she was trying to avoid by giving him up, but she will now be forced to draw him into this battle in order to save Mulder’s life. I suppose that William could have been in even more danger had he stayed with his parents, but who could have better protected — or prepared — him for the invasion than our agents?

The difference now is that his life will be completely upended by these now-strangers, undoubtedly dumping another layer of guilt onto Scully that we know she’s been struggling with for years. Given how much the writers have actually addressed her remorse in these six episodes, I wouldn’t be surprised if they touched upon it whenever the show does come back for another “limited series event,” but regardless of the outcome, I’m intrigued at how the dynamics will play out now that they’ve pulled the trigger on the story.

Mom checking their homework? / Courtesy Fox

Mom checking their homework? / Courtesy Fox

That being said, I only wish that we’d finally get a glimpse at the boy in this finale, with Scully’s revelation. Though I enjoyed some of the standalone episodes very much (like “Founder’s Mutation” and “Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster”), it felt, to me, that this particular story should have happened earlier in the season, delivering on the panic induced in the premiere.

I completely understand why Chris Carter chose to end this season with Scully dropping the William bomb on Agent Miller, only to be caught up in some sort of UFO tractor beam to close the hour; it’s definitely buzz-worthy, and is sure to spout many a conspiracy theory during this hiatus. However, I can’t help but feel that this would have had more impact had they decided on going after William and his miracle stem cells earlier in the episode — if not in the season — and then finding him only to be faced with the new threat. For all the talk in these six chapters, I personally would have rather seen a little more action on that front. (Which I may have already mentioned.)

This finale wasn’t perfect, but like with the problematic premiere, I have to say that I wholeheartedly enjoyed the tone of the episode. It was fast-paced, and it had a lot of heart: after all, when it comes down to it, Mulder and Scully are there to save each other, time and time again. The pacing reminded me of Fight The Future, and that’s a very good thing in my books. The dialogue was still awkward at times in this effort, and I can’t help but feel that condensing some of the lines would be beneficial to the story as a whole. (Maybe I’m just being too picky, because characters repeating lines to each other like a game of “Telephone” is one of my pet peeves, and The X-Files does that a lot.) For instance, when Miller (Robbie Amell) asks whose stem cells could save Mulder’s, I think Scully replying, “Our son’s” would have packed way more of a punch, and respected the audience’s knowledge of their history, instead of Scully’s slightly long-winded explanation of William’s genesis. I mean, they are in the middle of a new apocalypse, here, so it’s best to keep it short and sweet, guys.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Similarly, Scully and Monica Reyes’ (Annabeth Gish) conversation on the Robson Square park bench also suffered from such talking in circles, as did the hospital scenes when Scully and Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) were brainstorming on containing this outbreak. Little things like this are thankfully not enough to detract from the overall mood, which was perfectly conspiratorial and tense in all the right ways, but it does make it seem, to me, like the production as a whole may have been a tad rushed — especially due to the momentous nature of the invasion plot, which has loomed over the series since its inception.

Flowery prose and monologues have been an X-Files trademark since the beginning, which I would hate to see disappear completely, but the effect in this set of episodes, and in “My Struggle II” in particular, was that the conversations felt stilted, and weren’t giving us enough new information to move onto the next hurdle. Which is a shame, because as I said, the feeling of each of these scenes was pitch-perfect to me: I definitely believed in the emotion and intensity of all the characters, and in what their moments on-screen were trying to accomplish. I just hope that next time, the dialogue can be tightened up a little to give us more time to see Mulder and Scully kick some conspiracy-laden butt.

Speaking of Monica for a second, I was also disappointed to learn that in the time since we last saw her, not only have she and Scully become estranged, but that she’s been working with Cigarette Smoking Man in the interim. The former point is perhaps a little more understandable — it’s hard to keep in touch when your friends are on the run from the federal government and you helped break them out — but I was dismayed that Scully greeted her as an acquaintance, which I felt ignored their history. (As I said, this was the woman who delivered her child in front of an alien-worshipping cult while singing whale songs to her, and was basically her only friend in the last two seasons. That warrants a little more than an “Agent Reyes.”)

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

Monica’s deal with the devil was harder to swallow; I get that she felt she was doing the only thing she could, but it also felt like a bit of a betrayal of her character, as I would have thought she’d fight tooth and nail before agreeing to be Smokey’s confidante, which ended up reminding me of Diana Fowley’s arc. It’s definitely not the Monica I remember, and I’d like to think there was more to her partnership than meets the eye. I hope she returns in season 11, and gets a little redemption arc of her own as she helps her old friends save the world.

I was surprised to see Miller and Einstein back for this finale, and again was pleased by their contributions to the story. Miller’s earnestness in rescuing Mulder made me smile — because he’s in way over his head, but he sure as heck is going to go down swinging. There’s a bit of a Boy Scout in him, and I’d love to see Mulder taking the man under his wing in all things X if there is to be a next generation. Einstein’s demeanor made me chuckle a lot, because her dubious retorts to Scully’s theories on the contagion wouldn’t have been out of place coming about of our alien-savior’s mouth 20 years ago, yet once she realized Scully’s speculation may have merit, she rolled with it, because ultimately saving people was more important than her own dogma. I hope we get to see more of her when the show comes back, because I think she could learn a lot, too. (Though I admit that I was sure she’d be a goner, so I am glad she’s still here now.)

Despite some minor grievances over the last six weeks, season 10 of The X-Files, to me, was a captivating stroll down memory lane, but one which ends looking towards the future. In an era overflowing with revivals and reboots, I wasn’t sure how the ‘90s most iconic cult hit would translate in the 21st century. Would the elements that made it revolutionary at the time feel archaic? Would its problems grow exponentially in a more diversified television landscape?

The answer is yes and no at the same time. Sure, some issues are still glaring, notably the treatment (and lack) of minorities, and the writing absolutely has to grow to reflect that. And the show has to straddle the line between an engaging story (as in here), and the mythology spiraling out of control (as in the original run).

But in the end, the show is, and has always been, about Mulder and Scully — two people thrown together by circumstance, and wanting to change the world for the better because they’re inherently good. They may have begun their partnership searching for The Truth, but what they really found was love, as cheesy as that sounds. Yet it’s true: Mulder ultimately rebuilt part of the family he lost as a child, and Scully found someone who respected her intelligence and her drive. And this new season shined a light on that dynamic, getting back to the basics of what made this show grab viewers in 1993, and why it’s still doing so now.

Sure, Mulder and Scully might have smart phones and new suits, and they might have a few more lines around the eyes and gray around the temples (or not), but their essence remains the same. This revival’s greatest strength has been returning to that core, because even when these two are supposedly on the outs, they’re always on each other’s side. Revisiting their old haunts let them rediscover parts of themselves they’d locked away for years, and re-ignited the flame — and the fun — that they find in each other.

Courtesy Fox

Courtesy Fox

So, I’m grateful we had this time in 2016 together. It’s like rekindling an old friendship, only this time — we hope — we really will stay in touch. I can’t wait to see where these unraveling threads lead us. I can’t wait to see William save his dad with his DNA, and his mom with his heart. I can’t wait to see Scully save the world, with Mulder by her side, because there’s no one else who’d be there. I can’t wait to see the alien invasion start to seriously mess things up, and see our merry band of crime-fighters do their best to rescue everyone else. So Fox, you better get on that renewal pronto, before a UFO abducts the rest of your viewers.

And until season 11 comes back — whenever that may be — we’ll be catching you all on the other side of that alien tractor beam, wondering what’s next for our heroes.

How did you guys like The X-Files’ season finale? Any thoughts about what is in store next time?


All images courtesy FoxFlash

 

Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

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