The X Files Revisited: 7.17 All Things
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 reach All Things, the episode written and directed by Gillian Anderson...
As I have approached each season in my long-running 'The X Files Revisited', I've included the big mythology stories, those memorable favourites from my earlier viewings and consulted some best and worst episode lists on the web. When it came to season seven, I noticed that All Things appeared at the bottom of some and the top of others. It was an episode I did not remember well - in fact I felt largely like a first time viewer when watching it - but I was intrigued that this episode, written and directed by Gillian Anderson herself, could cause such polarizing viewpoints.
Having now re-watched All Things I can now see why. It is certainly not your traditional episode of The X Files, but there is a beauty to it. After six and a half years of playing Scully, Anderson wrote this episode to explore her past, what shaped her into the woman she is now and it was a beautiful, compelling piece of drama to behold. It wasn't without some faults, but I was pleasantly surprised (as I have been by many of the season seven episodes I have re-watched). Is it the best episode of The X Files season seven? No, but it is certainly one of the most interesting.
It begins rather intriguing with Scully getting dressed in Mulder's apartment while he lies asleep in bed. It's the episode where most fans assume William was conceived and while the episode ends with her falling asleep on his sofa, there is enough room there for it to be true. Cutting back, we see the world through her eyes, first weary as Mulder does a presentation on crop circles and then frustrated as he jets off to England in search of the truth. But it is picking up the autopsy results from a previous case that sets her on a path to encountering her old lover and mentor Doctor Daniel Waterson.
Anderson adds some real depth to her character, exploring a facet of Scully that has rarely been seen before. Her scenes with the dying Waterson and his bitter wife Maggie allow for some well-paced heartfelt drama that we rarely saw outside dying family members and the moments Mulder and Scully looked set to lose each other. It is interesting to consider that she could ever have been 'the other woman' but Anderson and the guest starring Nicolas Surovy deliver real depth in their performances, conveying this massive shared history in just a few scenes.
What these scenes do is show Scully at a point in her life - post promising career, abduction, cancer and Melissa's death - a woman who has gone through so much with Mulder that she is no longer the woman she was back in the pilot. Waterson allows her to see that after he tries to reconnect with her and is that realisation that leads her to that scene with Mulder...and possibly the beginnings of William too.
Where 'The X File' comes in, is Scully's encounter with physicist-turned spiritualist Colleen, who opens her up to alternative medicine, which Scully eventually uses to try and save Waterson after a 'vision' in a Buddhist temple. The visions of the woman in the cap who saves her from a potential horrific car accident and leads her to the temple opens many questions, but the spiritual nature of these encounters mean that nothing is really explained - in true The X Files fashion. I found it amusing that Mulder scoffs that he leaves for a couple of days and she has a huge revelation.
The other thing that is really interesting is how Anderson directs the episode. It feels very 'arty' in nature; lots of slow motion and Moby's The Sky is Broken and My Weakness (the second time Moby gets used this season) and the actual vision with flashes to Scully's past is a little weird. It does feel a little off putting at time but there is no denying that Anderson brings a certain flair to All Things.
Where the episode is successful is in how it gets to the roots of Scully's character and explores that. No one knows this character better than the woman who played her and this is very evident here. It's not something that would have worked every week, but as a one off, it showed that The X Files could still offer something different after seven years...