“You’ve always said that you want to believe. But believe in what, Mulder? If this is the truth that you’ve been looking for then what is left to believe in?” — Dana Scully
“I want to believe the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us as part of something greater than us — greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen to what’s speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves.” — Fox Mulder
Mulder returns, a courtroom drama ensues and somewhere in the middle of it all, the truth is still out there.
Radhika: Oh boy. Here we are, about two years after starting this blog, at the series finale of The X-Files. It feels like something of a bittersweet step, considering how gung-ho we were about the bulk of the show until we got to the last couple of seasons. As far as series finales are concerned, this one was something of a mixed bag for most people when it aired — not particularly great, though at least saved by the fact that we got to see Mulder and Scully together again. And I still have mixed feelings revisiting it now, years after the show ended, having had time to reabsorb the series’ various threads and knowing that a six-episode TV revival is on its way. In retrospect, the finale is a little boring, even with some exciting elements thrown in there. It also makes a little more sense than I thought it did in the old days. It’s not quite the bang that I would have wanted this show to go out on, but let’s face it: Most series finales aren’t particularly satisfying.
A quick recap, as always, before we delve into the finale’s various themes, as well as what worked and didn’t work: The plot is fairly straightforward here, with Mulder showing gaining access to some classified documents at a military base. He’s intercepted by our favorite super soldier, Knowle Rohrer, and after an altercation, Rohrer is seemingly killed, resulting in Mulder’s arrest. A trial ensues, with everyone from Scully, Doggett and Reyes to Jeffrey Spender and Marita Covarrubias testifying. And despite eventual evidence that Rohrer isn’t dead, Mulder is sentenced to death.
Aided by their friends, and even Deputy Director Kersh, Mulder and Scully set out to escape to Canada — except Mulder decides they need to go south first. (Meanwhile, the X-Files’ office has been cleared out, indicating that Doggett and Reyes might be on the verge of reassignment very soon). Mulder and Scully find the Cigarette Smoking Man, hiding inside Anasazi ruins, as he waits for colonization on December 22, 2012. Outside, Doggett and Reyes confront the still-alive Knowle Rohrer who ends up destroyed by the magnetite in the Anasazi ruins where the Smoking Man’s been hiding out. And black helicopters arrive, destroying the cliff dwellings, thinking that Mulder is still inside. But our heroes manage to get away, while the CSM goes up in smoke.
Max: Aside from that tidbit about the date of colonization that we’ve been told for many seasons has been set, there isn’t exactly a lot here regarding the series’ long-running mythology that we didn’t know coming into the episode. Of course this makes sense, given that a series finale shouldn’t offer some earth shattering new information. Rather, what the final pieces of this puzzle do is allow us to see the big picture, the final product of years of worldbuilding by the writers in crafting a narrative of para-governmental organizations colluding with alien beings intent on repopulating the planet with their race, and how the arrogance of this group of men led to their downfall. Like Radhika said, it is surprising how well the pieces hold together, a result of a confluence of on and off-screen events over nine years of production. What does flummox me though is the grave importance of the date that Mulder is so afraid to speak of it to Scully or at his trial. It is obvious that plans in motion are going to culminate in colonization, so why make unnecessary drama out of it?
Radhika: Yes, the mythology weirdly makes sense here, but the so-called drama is definitely weird, considering it’s not even particularly earth shattering to begin with. What I ultimately take issue with is the presentation of the mythology here, even though it helps you realize that somewhere along the way, despite all the weird twists and turns, the writers actually maintained a decent grasp on that aspect of the show. The recap/clip-show elements brought to us by numerous characters testifying at Mulder’s trial becomes a little tiresome after a while, almost reading like a Wikipedia entry today. And even though it’s a connect-the-dots technique, it ultimately makes the mythology feel very boring and anticlimactic in an episode that should be anything but — I suppose trying to make the date of colonization sound like some grand mystery was the writers’ attempt to inject some intensity back into the plot, but I think this could have all been laid out a little better for us.
Radhika: The reunion of Mulder and Scully is one of the brighter sides of this episode, which is otherwise somewhat bogged down by courtroom procedures and elements of a clip show. While it can be argued that much of “The Truth” becomes “The Mulder Show” in a season that unfortunately saw Scully on the sidelines for the most part, it is always a joy to see the two characters together. Yes, we have the kiss and the general displays of affection for the shippers’ benefit — but there is also that sense of camaraderie and the “us against the world” feeling that has been such a huge part of the show from day one. Despite some lack of resolution in this episode, seeing them on the run together at the end feels completely right. Yes, they have to hide. Yes, the world kind of sucks and no one can be trusted. But they’ve got each other and there’s a sense that everything will ultimately be ok in the end.
Max: The conversation Mulder and Scully have in that Roswell motel room — an echo of a moment the two shared in a similar motel room in Oregon — is awfully touching and poignant. The beautiful character work on display is something I wish the show did better this season, but then again, no one can beat the chemistry that these two had over the years, something Doggett and Reyes couldn’t even begin to live up to. In that way, the most recent occupants of the basement office took their place here as a support team, doing the work of defending Mulder and then spiriting him and Scully away from the brig and into hiding. Their showdown with Rohrer is a nice way to go out. Going back to our original dynamic duo, it is a relief that even when the general quality of the series has wavered, the enormous personalities of the characters given an iconic and indelible stamp by Duchovny and Anderson continue to thrive, which makes me very optimistic to see them back on my television in January.
CONSPIRATORS AND ALLIES
Max: It’s funny that “The Truth” ends up taking nearly the same tack that Seinfeld did only four years earlier, putting the leads on trial as a way to give the supporting cast a curtain call. Almost Everyone gets into the act, even those who have shuffled off this mortal coil. It is interesting that the episode uses Alex Krycek, X, and The Lone Gunmen in this way, as Mulder could have wound up like any of them had he made different choices or taken a different path. The format of a trial unfortunately doesn’t give the living characters much to do, but Gibson Praise does shine a bit when he threatens to expose the Toothpick Man for what he really is. And then we have the other side of this coin, personified by the omnipresent evil that is the Cigarette Smoking Man. Yeah it stretches credulity that he has survived not one but two attempts on his life, but as the man-behind-the-Pueblo-curtain, it works. And again, his presence only reinforces how weak the super solider narrative has been in comparison to the glory days of The Syndicate.
Radhika: Indeed, the return of numerous characters — even in the form of ghost-like figures who show up to offer nuggets of wisdom to Mulder — hints at “the good old days.” It’s almost a little sad that after insisting that Doggett and Reyes were the future, the writers decided to just go back to the old days and focus on side characters that have been around longer than these newer main characters. In my opinion, despite it being kind of fun to see some characters return, there are some elements of bloat as well — sure, Gibson has one of the few truly dramatic moments during the trial, but I don’t know if I really needed to see him again. But I will say it was actually kind of fun to see Kersh — the antagonist for so long — team up with the gang to help Mulder get out of his perilous situation. The devil has a conscience after all!
THE TRUTH IS STILL OUT THERE
Radhika: Ultimately, this finale is a little bizarre — we recap a lot of what happened on this show, we get partial resolutions by killing off characters like the Cigarette Smoking Man and then ultimately we have an actual date for colonization and the closure (again) of the X-Files, with Mulder and Scully on the run. There are answers and there are no answers, which can be maddening after nine seasons of a TV show, though perhaps this is fitting for The X-Files. The viewers definitely don’t have all the answers in the end and we don’t even really know what happens to the characters, which can be a little disconcerting. But The X-Files has always been about a quest and knowing that the quest — as much as it has changed as the years go by — isn’t completely gone, is weirdly comforting. This is especially in light of the fact that our heroes are going to return (something we didn’t know when we started this blog) at least one more time when Fox brings The X-Files back to TV for a bit. Even though I know I shouldn’t count on the revival episodes to be particularly amazing after the show’s final mediocre season and second sloppy movie, I have hope that the Mulder and Scully story could actually go out with a bang after all.
Max: I think what Radhika said about the quest being the thing that powered The X-Files is true, especially when the mythology and the show suffered from a lack of urgency that the quest gave our heroes. Mulder infamously said back in season one’s “Fallen Angel” that no one person or entity has jurisdiction over the truth, a sentiment Scully was receptive to with her background in science and medicine. At the end of the day, their beliefs energized investigations into the weird, the outre, and the apparently unclassifiable. That section of a Bureau filing cabinet in the 1950s grew into a legitimate if poorly regarded division that took the notion of the truth as gospel, shining those trademark flashlights into the shadows. Less than 200 days until the show comes back, I’m excited as hell to see what the cast and crew have in store for us.