Previously, on "The X-Files"...
Mulder and Scully, once upon a time, were FBI agents solving paranormal crimes. They also had a baby together. To protect said baby, they gave him up for adoption 13 or so years ago, and they also stopped investigating paranormal crimes for a while... Until, that is, conspiracy talk show host Tad O'Malley roped them back into the game with stories about alien abductions and the takeover of America. Now, Mulder and Scully have been investigating the weird for the last several weeks, just like old times, until...
This Week's Dossier
After an intro narrated by Scully covering the history of the X-Files, the conspiracies it uncovered, and all the terrible things that happened to her along the way (an intro which ends with Scully's head morphing into an alien head, because subtlety), Scully arrives at the FBI basement office to find Mulder missing. Not only that, but a call from Tad O'Malley brings her to Mulder's place, which has been trashed. Scully sets out to look for him with the help of Agents Miller and Einstein (from last week's episode), but she's also concerned about the presence of anomalous DNA in everyone's genome and a general increase in illnesses — which she realizes could be the beginnings of a global contagion.
A call from Monica Reyes (who joined the X-Files team back in Seasons 8 and 9, but has not been heard from since) reveals that Reyes is now, under duress, working for Cigarette Smoking Man, who survived being "very badly burned" that time he got blown up by a bunch of rockets in the Season 9 finale and is now planning to "remake the world in his image" via said global contagion, which has escalated dramatically in a matter of hours — to the point of shutting down the whole planet.
Meanwhile, Mulder shows up at Cigarette Smoking Man's house in South Carolina (he's been driving there this whole time), but is increasingly sick and eventually collapses while yelling at the old man. Fortunately, Agent Miller did something relatively obvious and used a phone-tracking app to find Mulder, and pulls the super-sick agent away while Cancer Man watches. Scully and Einstein work together to figure out a cure for the disease, and once they do so Scully runs off to meet Miller and Mulder so that she can cure them, too. Finding them in the midst of a congested bridge is maybe a miracle, but when Scully sees Mulder's really terrible condition she realizes that the real miracle he needs is within their son (who, as a reminder, was given up for adoption over a decade ago and thus his whereabouts are unknown). Moments after that realization... Well, that's when the UFO swoops in, lighting up Scully and Miller and Mulder with its alien light...
...and end of show.
Wait, Explain It to Me Like I'm Five?
If there's no Season 11, this show's legacy is fucked.
Confession: We've been living in something like a state of fear regarding this episode ever since Fox updated the press site with new photos and not a single one of them featured Mulder and Scully together. Hell, Mulder didn't even appear once. (Given his condition from his very first appearance, that's understandable.)
And...look. We admitted last week that maybe we were idiots, to even dare to dream. But even as the clock counted down to 9pm, as Scully rushed to Mulder's side, that hope persisted.
No one ever said we were particularly sensible, especially when it comes to "The X-Files."
For anyone who is feeling sad, who has come to this section of the review for some comfort and commiseration, here is a GIF.
Some Deep and Relevant Thoughts About Hair
We come to the end of our time with the wig and... Yeah, it worked okay. For the record, at this stage, we're prepared to declare that the revival did not change one basic fact: Scully's hair looked its best during the Season 5-6 years. As long as there is Netflix and DVDs, we'll always have Seasons 5 and 6.
There was an awful lot of Cigarette-Smoking Man this week, which was enjoyable on its own level. His particular brand of preening and evil glowering often helped give "The X-Files" some weirdly charismatic edge.
That said, there was something flat about it, perhaps because it seemed to strip CSM of the emotional complexity that he occasionally demonstrated during the original series. Between Davis' performance and Carter's writing and directing, his appearance this week shoved him firmly into the category of cartoon villain, which was a disappointment.
But It's Not 1993 Anymore
Anthrax, anthrax, anthrax! And the cell phones sure are fancier. Though it'd be nice to think that Mulder and Scully have figured out how texting can enable quick, efficient communication in chaotic times. Even our parents have figured out texting at this point, you guys. Get it together. Oh, and also, Mulder left his phone GPS on? Seriously, Mulder? That is easily the most grandpa move this proclaimed conspiracy freak has pulled so far.
Fun Ultra-Nerd Facts
As fans know, noteworthy episodes have always swapped the show's usual tagline — "The Truth is Out There" — with something new. This week? "This is The End." Of course, Fox is pretty clear that they have no interest in wanting that to be the case, and for God's sake, that ending! But Chris Carter does love his mind games.
Monica Reyes turning quasi-evil, by the way, might be a point of amusement for fans of the series who never really took to the character during the original series (given how she never really made up for the absence of David Duchovny from the later seasons). She was also a pretty silly character, on balance (to quote at least one good friend of ours, "she solved crimes with her feelings"). But, at this point, getting at all emotional about Reyes leaves us feeling defeated.
"I'm not going to ask you if you just said what I think you just said because I know it's what you just said." (Most Awkward Quote)
- Agent Einstein
Narrowing this down was legitimately tough because while it was clear that Chris Carter put some heavy lifting into creating some plausible pseudoscience to support this story, that pseudoscience was delivered in the form of some real clunkers.
It's always nice to see two ladies of science bantering with each other, and pairing up Scully and Einstein went a lot better than last week's efforts to pair up Mulder and Einstein. Plus, if anyone deserves a Mini-Me on this show, it's Scully. But some of this dialogue was rough.
"Dear Diary: Today my heart lept when Agent Scully suggested 'spontaneous human combustion.'" (Best Quote)
- Cigarette-Smoking Man ("Ol' Smokey," if you prefer)
This is Cancer Man reminding Mulder about "his beloved Scully" in admittedly an unproductive way, but hey, this was a good line and well-delivered. There weren't a ton of those tonight.
A Section of This Review Devoted to Unanswered Questions
In the 23 years they were together, why didn't Scully plant a subcutaneous tracking device on Mulder at any point? It would have saved her a lot of trouble in the long run.
Yeah, it's been a decade, but why did Scully not immediately recognize the voice of Monica Reyes, the woman who sang whale songs to her while she went through unmedicated childbirth?
Finally, does Chris Carter have a legit idea of where this all goes? (Answer: We don't think so, but it'll be interesting to see him pretend otherwise.)
Writing this right now, it's not hard to imagine Chris Carter sitting in his very nice house, enjoying a relaxing beverage of some sort as he cackles to himself. Watching the finale in a vacuum, we have no shortage of frustration with the fact that, after being given six hours of network television in which to play, Carter chose to tell a story with no ending. Instead, he chose to pretend it was the '90s and that there were plenty of opportunities left for him to play in this sandbox. Which, when you know even a little bit about how difficult it was to get the very, very busy David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson back to Vancouver to do a new season of television, feels flat-out cruel.
This is, at this point, the third time we've had to contemplate the idea that the ending we've been presented with is the real, true end of "The X-Files." The first time came with what we then called the series finale in 2002. While not a great episode, "The Truth" did end with a lovely scene that alluded to the "X-Files" pilot, but with the added twist of Mulder and Scully united in trying to save the world. The second time, in 2008, was "The X-Files: I Want to Believe," which again, was not exactly satisfying as narrative experiences go, but the film at least had some sort of emotional resolution in its final moments.
This time? "My Struggle II" is so blatantly begging for a follow-up that it feels desperate; the sad sort of desperate that makes you want to look away. Because ultimately, despite what the episode tagline might claim, this isn't an ending. It's a hell of a cliffhanger — the sort of season ender that "The X-Files" used to excel at during the 1990s. But it's not the 1990s anymore. And this, more than anything, proves that Chris Carter is still pretending it is when he really, really shouldn't be.
It's not like we regret watching this season. There have been good scenes and great moments over the last several weeks (especially in the episodes not written and directed by Chris Carter). And we still love this show, for all its flaws, including the way it can still drive us insane. But at this point, the roller coaster is clearly shaking apart. And Season 10, on balance, was a disappointing ride.