Radhika: Season 11 of The X-Files has come to a close and overall, I have to say that this season of the revival ended up being much stronger than the last one, with a good chunk of the episodes actually exciting a number of Philes or at least reminding us why we enjoyed the show the first time around. The biggest disappointments for me were the season premiere and finale, though, which could play a large part in future storylines, should the show continue — or could simply end up serving as yet another lukewarm conclusion to Mulder and Scully’s story, much like the original series finale and second movie did.
Overall, I’d say this season was a success despite those episodes, because it accomplished much of what a revival typically sets out to do. While the mythology has become stale for me over time, I really enjoyed the Monster of the Week episodes here (as well as some of the combo MOTW/myth episodes), because while they didn’t necessarily break new ground, they still remained enjoyable to watch while retaining the initial spirit of the show. That served as a reminder that yes, we like spooky stories and we like it when Mulder and Scully are there to investigate them. And that’s what a revival should be able to accomplish.
But now, the mythology is done for me. I’ve pointed out before that many of the plot points (pregnancy, experimentation, deaths of characters, etc.) are plots we’ve seen pop up over and over again. In the first five or so years of the show, they worked well. They began to get a little sluggish toward the later half of the original run, and they haven’t necessarily improved in the revival seasons, even when the newer episodes tried to reset a couple of ideas — largely because resetting the plot is also something The X-Files has done plenty of times before. The mythology no longer shocks me and character deaths don’t even upset me. I also know that I am tired of a mythology that involves abusing the show’s heroine who, as the finale confirmed, has been medically raped by shadowy figures and emotionally and physically battered far too many times. (I have to think that this does play a part in why Gillian Anderson is happy to put those Scully blazers and high heels away once and for all). Hell, even Mulder’s been through the ringer a few too many times. I want these characters to be happy, and I want to imagine that future for them without someone coming back to change their story again and again.
But I don’t really know what will happen. There are suddenly interviews out there with Chris Carter saying that The X-Files will live on in some form or the other without Gillian Anderson, which seems bizarre to me. If there’s a spinoff or a new generation of characters, I probably won’t be back. I never kept up with the comics consistently enough though I don’t mind the idea of those continuing. If they do manage to bring both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson back, I’d probably watch begrudgingly, but mostly because I’m a sucker who can’t completely give those two up.
I’ve made no secret that I hope that season 11 marks the end of The X-Files. It’s been fun revisiting the characters and while there’s a high chance you’ll see me here again if another season’s announced, I think the story has been told. The series never got the crazy good ending it deserved but I can at least live with season 11 being the end, whereas season 10 would have been an awful way for it to go out. I ’m still a diehard fan and an alarming amount of my mental real estate is still devoted to knowing episode titles, but if Chris Carter restrains himself and doesn’t push for more of this show, I’ll be OK. I’m glad we got to see some good stories this time around.
Max: It is hard to stay positive about the good and great episodes of this season because of what an unmitigated disaster “My Struggle IV” was, because as the days since the airing have come and gone, the bad taste in my mouth still lingers from the many things that have come out before and after the finale. That Chris Carter still has hopes for a 12th season with David AND Gillian. That Chris Carter has certain thoughts about what transpired on the docks of the sugar factory. And the rotted cherry on top of all of it that he allegedly kept the final four pages of the script from David and Gillian until the day of the shoot, in what has to be the coldest and most brutal move in tricks you play to elicit a performance from actors. Essentially what Carter did was sideswipe both of them to get to something “raw” but what was actually confusion. And if you want to be cynical about it, he probably didn’t know how the hell he would end it until like the day before, because despite his protestations there is ample evidence that his planning of the mytharc — at this stage — amounted to nothing more than however he saw the wind blowing that day.
Now you guys know by now I have defended the mythology in the past, even as recently as the beginning of this season when the course correction that was the premiere seemed to have the ingredients in play to make everything — season 10 included — worth it. But, with the way things turned out, his decisions were probably the worst to make. They betray a colossal misunderstanding of the characters and universe, and it is another piece of evidence in the growing argument that Carter has leaned hard into the same antics that George Lucas pulled prior to him handing Lucasfilm over to Disney. Retrospectively, the biggest factor appears to be the fact that Frank Spotnitz was not involved in either season of the revival. He was a guy — based on the production history of the original run — who could check Carter’s worst creative impulses. There are rumors that the two had a falling out, which makes things even sadder.
William was massively important to the story because of the track the mythology ran on in terms of the character development of our heroes. It is said that The Beatles started out as John’s band and ended as Paul’s, and in a way this is echoed on The X-Files. It began as a story of Fox Mulder and his pursuit of the truths he so desperately searched for, primarily what happened to his sister. Scully was brought in by higher-ups to get the ammunition to discredit him and shut the X-Files down forever. It was through her association with him that she suffered losses in kind and in step with those Mulder experienced. But it was through her miracle pregnancy and later the return of Mulder post-abduction that there was a way out, a light at the end of the tunnel. A son and the prospect of a somewhat stable family life would have meant that every traumatic event did not amount to only emotional and physical scars. Scully letting him go and convincing Mulder to do the same was a slap in the face.
But I did enjoy the many wonderful MotW episodes that we did get. “Familiar” was weird gory fun, “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” was Darin Morgan working his god-given talents in weaving together the hilarious and the profound in a way only he can, and “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” was a delightful comedy of errors turned to nightmare proportions that worked well despite other contemporary series treading on similar ground. There was banter, there were thrills, there was the WTF and the OMG. And while Nothing Lasts Forever, we did get This, a season of mostly quality that both redeemed the mediocrity of last season while also at times reinforcing its worst elements.
So, in concord with my most esteemed writing partner, I sincerely hope that this season marks the end of The X-Files on television or feature films. We implore you Mr. Carter not to risk marring the legacy of the show with further adventures in an attempt to shore things up. We’ve been on The X-Files journey for a quarter of a century. Now is the time to let it go into the history books, into that good night, where Flukemen and killer trees lurk. And where Radhika and I will be, still talking about a program that defined a huge part of our lives.