The X Files Revisited: 7.01 The Sixth Extinction, 7.02 The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati
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The X Files ran for nine seasons and two movies, charting the efforts of Agents Mulder and Scully in their search for the unexplained. And then in 2016, it returned for six new episodes, a mix of mythology and case of the week stories that brought Mulder and Scully back the FBI. From the brilliant Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster to the frantic mythology cliff-hanger in My Struggle II, it was largely viewed as a success and there are hopes that season 10 is just the first of more. In the lead up to the revival, The Digital Fix reviewed the pilot episode and then carried on throughout the series, covering the best and most significant episodes of the show including the first movie The X Files: Fight The Future. Now we pick up with the seventh season and the start of Mulder and Scully's last full year in the show's original run...
Season six wrapped up the majority of the on-going mythology arc, resulting in a finale that struggled to find the show's identity moving forward. With the colonization of Earth seemingly ended for now, The X Files went down the path of humanity seeded from alien life, with the discovery on a UFO on the ivory coast and markings taken from the ship that sent Mulder into a psychotic state. The ideas were strong, but the execution felt a little tired and even the return of old characters like Albert Hosteen felt contrived.
Picking up shortly after, The Sixth Extinction is a stronger episode, following Scully as she studies the UFO on the Ivory Coast in West Africa, trying desperately to find a cure for Mulder while he lies comatose in hospital. In many ways, this serves as a precursor to next season, which will see Scully take an active role in search of the truth while Mulder is abducted. Gillian Anderson continues to deliver a strong performance, balancing Scully's scientific study with passion and desperation.
The most interesting part of the two-part season opener are those events that take place on the Ivory Coast. The signs and portents of the 'sixth extinction' of mankind are tense and a great use of The X Files's trademark horror. Scully's tent filled with a plague of locusts, a man boiling in the sea, blood in the water around the UFO and Scully's vision of the tribal man watching her; even with the wide ocean before her, there is a sense of claustrophobia at play. Michael Ensign's Dr Barnes appearance in Africa is a little more random though. He was a bit player in the season six finale, killing the scientist who brought a part of the UFO to Africa and stealing it for himself. He appears at the coast, wide-eyed and crazy and it is all too obvious that he poses a threat to Scully and her new ally Dr. Ngebe. His death at the hands of the man he slaughters with a machete, hacked to death himself by his zombified victim, is a chilling denouement to the first part, but makes little sense other than to be mysterious and potentious.
Talking of random, we also have the return of John Finn's Michael Kritschgau who told Mulder aliens were fake and helped him break into a government facility in the season four /five Redux trilogy. In a moment of lucidity, Mulder gives Skinner Kritschgau's name, believing he can help him uncover the truth. The reason that he is a skeptic and Scully is absent seems like a leap of logic and Kritschgau's return feels like a plot device to test Mulder's sudden psychic abilities. Despite the best efforts of Finn his involvement comes across as contrived. Like the sudden return of Albert Hosteen (Floyd Red Crow Westerman) from years earlier, Kritschgau's sudden return to The X Files mythology is confusing and lacks a narrative purpose.
The psychic scene is cool though and the best part of the episodes alongside the apocalyptic portents in Africa (Mulder's Ghostbusters reference by Mulder is certainly the highlight). But it is mixed up in a bag of really interesting ideas that are poorly executed. Passages from the Bible, the Koran and a map of human genetics, all written in Navaho on an alien spaceship? That's a bold and intriguing premise that sadly results in a slow-paced and often dull story. If anything, the two-part conclusion to Biogenesis could have been streamlined into a taut single-episode conclusion.
If the the first part has strong ideas, then the concluding The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati undoes it all. It is filled with annoying characters making annoying decisions. Rebecca Toolan makes one of her last appearances as Mulder's mother Teena but there is little sympathy in her performance as she hands Mulder over to the Cigarette Smoking Man. Diana Fowley is now rooted firmly as an unlikeable character, blocking Skinner's access to Mulder in the first episode and then firmly allying herself with the show's primary villain in part two. What's worse, the second episode reasserts the idea that Mulder is the son of CG Spender / Cigarette Smoking Man, contradicting previous notions that his sister Samantha was the offspring of his mother's affair with the Spender.
The UFO in Africa storyline is completed abandoned as Scully is visited by Kritschgau and Hosteen (the latter as a coma-induced projection), both cryptically telling her she has to save Mulder for the sake of everyone. It's all high drama without any real sense of grounding in reality and you find yourself asking 'why?' time and time again. Apparently it has to do something with Mulder getting infected with the black oil alien virus in season four's Terma and the rubbing from the alien spacecraft activating his psychic abilities.
Suddenly Mulder isn't on a quest to find the truth; he is the alien / human hybrid and the key to the upcoming alien viral apocalypse. It is a huge leap of logic and a repeat of the Cassandra Spender storyline from season six's One Son, only far less interesting. What's more, rather than having the conviction to take the series mythology in an interesting new direction, it repeats the past but overriding it making you wonder what it was all for.
Mulder's dream vision comes at the hand of David Duchovny himself, who co-wrote the script with Chris Carter. The episode tries to suspend logic by having the Cigarette Smoking Man drive Mulder to a new life in suburbia, where he lives two doors down from the villain, where Deep Throat is alive and inviting him to dinner (he apparently faked his death in season one finale The Erlenmeyer Flask). Fowley turns up in a sexy nightie to seduce him and his sister Samantha is alive and well with a family of his own. It tries to suggest that this is what Mulder wants, but it doesn't connect to what we've seen of him as a character over the last six years. And again, making Fowley as the love of his life feels forced and contrived.
So of course it is all a hallucination in Mulder's head as he lies prostrate on a crucifix table (the Jesus imagery laid on rather thickly here), while the Cigarette Smoking Man experiments on him. Fowley finally leaves, unable to stand by and see him harmed any more and is then killed off screen for her betrayal. The trouble is, it is hard to feel for her as we never got enough of her connection to Mulder (her debut in season five finale The End is the only time she comes across in a good light) and we never get a satisfactory explanation for joining the Cigarette Smoking Man. Her ending is as mediocre as her character, even her final showdown with Scully is a bit of a damp squib. It is a shame, because Mimi Rogers does her very best with a rather uninspiring role and yet is remembered for playing a character most fans hate.
The dream sequence shows Mulder and Fowley marrying, having children and growing old, ending on a rather OTT sequence where an ageless Cigarette Smoking Man watches over Mulder on his deathbed while an alien apocalypse rages outside. There is no subtlety here and proof that Chris Carter was wise enough never to go full Independence Day in the conclusion to the mytharc (though it is arguable with the revival that he still hasn't managed to get close to wrapping up the ongoing story). It should still have ended with season six in my opinion.
And so after an episode of Scully failing to do anything, she is covertly given details of the facility Mulder is being held at (at the hands of Fowley) and rescues him. Had the episode shown Fowley's action and subsequent murder it would have delivered a more dramatic conclusion. Kritschgau gets offed by Krycek, who has now been reduced to the Cigarette Smoking Man's lackey again and Mulder's alien / human hybrid genetic material is stolen, allowing him to return to normality (and investigating X Files week after week - at least for the rest of the season). And Albert Hosteen dies off screen, proving that he was better left back in season three.
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny continue to knock it out of the park (as they have always done) and it is the relationship between Scully and Mulder that drives this story. But there is no denying that, like the season six finale, the premise feels tired and directionless. There are fantastic ideas at play with the markings on the UFO and the apocalyptic visions and it is doubly frustrating that this whole storyline drops off in part two. The whole story begun in Biogenesis falls apart as Chris Carter struggles to find where to take the show next and the conclusion is baffling. Even Fowley deserved better the ending she got. There was still some life in The X Files, but this season opener proved that the show's best days were firmly behind it...