5×20: The End

“There are talks going on right now about reassignment.” — Dana Scully
“For who?” — Fox Mulder
“Both of us. These talks included instructions from the Justice Department to close down the X-Files.” — Dana Scully
“This was all strategized. Every move. I just couldn’t see it. It was all of a plan.”
— Fox Mulder
“Mulder, whatever you may believe, this time they may have won.” — Dana Scully

Everything comes to a head when Mulder and Scully come across the case of Gibson Praise, a telepathic boy who may be the key to all things X-Files.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Radhika: And here we are, at “The End,” a fitting title for everything it represents — the end of filming in Vancouver, the end of everything as Mulder and Scully know it…. or simply, the end of a season. This was apparently going to be the last episode of the series, with hopes of turning The X-Files into a film franchise. We all know that this did not end up being the case, but it’s still a fairly striking episode — even if certain plot points, such as the shutting down of the X-Files had been seen before in season one. (I can now see how this would have made sense in a full-circle manner had this actually ended up being the series finale.)

The episode opens quite spectacularly at a stadium in Vancouver (also named as the location on the show) with an international chess tournament where a grown man and child prodigy Gibson Praise are playing against each other. But the match ends when an assassin planning to strike Gibson — who moves away when he senses the shooter’s presence — kills the grandmaster.

Mulder and Scully get involved once the kid ends up in Maryland, but this time they’re accompanied by another agent, Diana Fowley, who was on assignment in Europe for a while but apparently worked closely with Mulder just as he got involved with the X-Files. (Cue Mulder’s lame introduction to the boy of “This is Dana and Diana.”) Mulder is quickly convinced that Gibson — who hints at a love triangle amongst the agents — can read minds, explaining his so-called acumen for chess. As time goes on, we learn that Gibson displays tremendous brain activity, and the shooter who tried killing him eventually says the kid is a missing link of sorts.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Meanwhile, in the episode’s B plot: The Cigarette Smoking Man is back! After a crazy action sequence, which involves Krycek tracking our favorite smokestack down, the CSM is reunited with his old pals, the Syndicate, who want his help with the Gibson situation.

So what happens? The shooter is killed while in prison. Diana Fowley gets shot while protecting Gibson, who ends up in the hands of the Syndicate. And meanwhile, Mulder and Scully are getting discredited all over the place with talks of the X-Files getting shut down… when blam, they find out their basement office is on fire. (Yes, the Smoking Man was involved in this one too, conveniently informing the FBI’s most irritating agent, Jeffrey Spender, that he happens to be his father while slinking out after performing his dastardly deed.) The end, indeed.

That final shot of Mulder and Scully walking into their burnt down office, the remnants of the iconic “I Want to Believe” poster amongst the few things left, remains one of the most striking images on this show for me. While rewatching this episode, I still found myself getting chills — much like I did while watching it live so many years ago. The final scene involves no dialogue, just Mulder and Scully’s glazed looks of horror before Scully simply reaches for her partner, leans against his chest and holds him. And then we pan out, knowing that this is the last thing we’ll see before watching the feature film. Yes, we’ve seen the X-Files get shut down before, but never with such a sense of finality. The burning of the office makes everything seem futile, and we have no idea how our agents are going to get themselves out of this one.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

This episode is all about Mulder, Scully and the antagonistic forces against them, including that plot device, Diana Fowley. The Fowl One, as some Internet circles began to refer to her, is meant to be a frustrating presence, especially to those shipper fans of the show. Her history with Mulder is supposed to indicate that she’s the only woman — aside from Scully — who really gets what makes him tick. And Scully is genuinely irritated by her presence, even going so far as to ask the Lone Gunmen about her (and we get the confirmation that she was “Mulder’s main chickadee,” which Scully does not have a good reaction to). I guess it was time this extra bit of tension was added to the Mulder-Scully dynamic, but Diana Fowley was never a particularly well-received character.

And meanwhile, Jeffrey Spender also manages to remain a tour-de-force thorn in the side in this episode, glowering through the halls of the FBI with a holier-than-thou attitude. But at least Mulder gets to give him the smackdown when he tells him, “You’re insulting me when you should be taking notes. Somehow, you got the big assignment but just because you’re wearing the suit, doesn’t mean it fits.” Alas, it doesn’t look like this pesky character will be going away anytime soon… we’re dealing with quite a disturbance in the force.

Max: “The End” packs an enormous amount of material into a single episode, so maybe I should be a little more lenient on its more egregious flaws. Gibson Praise is an interesting plot device, but that is all he is. Granted, not every character on the show can be well-rounded right out of the box (hell, neither were Mulder and Scully), and Spender and Fowley certain have this quality as Radhika mentioned above. I guess my main problem is that Mulder takes so many intuitive leaps as it pertains to Gibson that they strain credibility, even for someone as adept as Mulder.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

In a relatively short period of time, Gibson shifts from a precognitive curiosity to the alleged “key to everything in the X-Files.” There is an awful lot of table setting that needed to be done in this episode, moving all the proverbial chess pieces into place for the film that was going to be released in a month’s time, so I can understand (even if I don’t like) how the timeline of the episode had to be compressed to make this a reality. Even old Smokey meta-textually makes the usual cliche chess references. (It’s all a game, people! Gibson is a pawn!!!)

Maybe I’m picking on the kid too much, but let’s face it, the writers were really laying it on thick with the love triangle business. Fowley is so obviously meant to be nothing more than an obstacle preventing our heroes from expressing their unspoken feelings for each other that no wonder fans (me included) universally loathed the character. It is a shame because I happen to be a big Mimi Rogers fan but this role does her no favors in defending my appreciation of her to fellow X-Philes.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

At least Spender comes out of the proceedings with a little more substance. His clandestine meetings with the man eventually admits to being his father mold the character into a man who is being groomed with the keys to the kingdom that have always eluded Mulder’s grasp due to Mulder’s righteousness and refusal to play into the CSM’s mind games. Spender may not realize the extent to which he is being used as a Syndicate lackey, and his ambition (look at how he tries to own the room while showing the assassination footage) blinds him to the kind of investigative mastery that Mulder was referring to.

Radhika commented on the sense of finality or closure this episode has, and it is perhaps (other than the final sequence) never as apparent as the conversation that Mulder and Skinner have in the basement office that has become our comfortable home. Skinner queries his agent about his long-term prospects and goals, and what he hopes to find and accomplish. Mulder is a bit unsure about specifics, but he knows the answers lie in the file cabinets that line the back wall of the office. This heart to heart reminded me very much of when Skinner related his near-death experience in Vietnam to a shattered Mulder in “One Breath,” our first real signal that the assistant director was more than a bureaucratic obstruction. And here we are now, Skinner leaking intel and giving his charge the heads up on the meeting that he was purposefully excluded from.

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

20th Century Fox via Chrisnu

Tragically, that quality of finality was given its most potent expression in the arson of the X-Files office and the official closure of the division for the second time in the program’s history. Getting the chills for me is a mere shadow, a feeble attempt at describing the heart-wrenching emotions I experience every time I have watched this sequence. As Radhika mentioned, we have absolutely no idea how Mulder and Scully will recover from this, as the nature of a feature film means that all the cards are on the table and the possibilities are endless but intangible.

We spoke about how the themes of the last episode can be applied to the wider dynamic of the show, and this is brutally underscored in the simple act of Scully hugging Mulder, in an inverse of the hug that ended “Memento Mori.” A season and a half ago, Scully was in her darkest hour, having learned definitively of the cancer that would most assuredly destroy her body. Here, she repays Mulder’s kindness in his trying time, with his work in ruins. But the tears Scully sheds are no longer those of mere sympathy. This is just as much her work now as Mulder’s, even though she still hasn’t gotten that desk.

Thinking about it some more, “The End” really plays its operatic tendencies for all they are worth, from the grand set-piece of the chess match to the return of the CSM into the Syndicate fold to the clash of (potential) half-brothers. The X-Files is truly changing, and nothing will be quite the same. We went widescreen this season and amped up the cinematic tendencies, a trend that will most assuredly continue with the program’s move to the showbiz capital of the world. Mulder and Scully have endured crises of faith that threatened to break them for good. But they still have each other.

The X-Files are dead. Long live the X-Files.

THE TAGLINE
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

The tagline here, quite simply, is “The End.” We have spoken at length above how the title (and tagline) have factored into the episode, so instead, let us leave you by expressing our gratitude for sticking with us for five seasons of some of the best television ever produced. Here is to Fight The Future, and to the seasons to come…

YES, IT’S THAT LADY

Mimi Rogers – Known to X-Philes as Diana Fowley, Rogers, who was once briefly married to Tom Cruise, has been in a variety of TV shows and movies, including Hill Street Blues, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Two and a Half Men and Wilfred.

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2 thoughts on “5×20: The End

  1. Pingback: A Tale of Two Cities: The Move from Vancouver to Los Angeles | Apt. 42 Revisited

  2. Pingback: 6×01: The Beginning | Apt. 42 Revisited

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