The X Files Revisited: 7.22 Requiem
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 the season finale and David Duchovny's final regular appearance on the show for some time...
As I worked my wav through season seven of The X Files, two things became very apparent. First, the show had become a little tired, particularly when it came to any mythology loose ends and secondly it felt like the show's swansong. The mystery of Samantha Mulder's abduction was solved. The Cigarette Smoking Man was dying - and with him the last strands of the conspiracy, stars William B Davis, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny had all had their hand in writing episodes, each dealing with the legacy of their characters. We had a number of experimental episodes and most significantly...there wasn't much on-going story left to tell.
That's a theme that is more apparent than ever in season seven finale Requiem. It literally begins with Mulder and Scully being audited for their expenses, being questioned about what exactly they are still looking for. their reports account for the death of the conspiracy of men, the resolution of Samantha's fate; as the episode progresses it is something Mulder (and to a respect Duchovny) comes to realise...what else is there to discover? There is a bittersweet quality to the season finale that feels very much like it could have been the show's actual finale. It might leave the audience with some questions, but had this been the last we had seen of Mulder and Scully - at least on TV - would it have worked? Absolutely.
That theme of legacy is no more apparent than in returning to Oregon and the events of the pilot episode - Mulder and Scully's first investigation together. Detective Miles (the Sheriff back in the pilot) returns, encountering the fires of a crashed UFO in the Oregon woods and a missing deputy replaced with an alien impostor dripping green acid blood. His son (and former teenage abductee) Billy Miles contacts Mulder and Scully and like a blast from the past, they are back to where it all began.
There is a certain wave of nostalgia, that sense of things coming full circle. The red cross Mulder painted in the road in the pilot is still there. Seeing a grown up Billy adds an odd sense of familiarity and fellow abductee Theresa is in the town of Bellefleur too, now married to the missing deputy (another repeat alien abductee). But there are also familiar alien tropes added since the pilot aired, from the green acid alien blood to the return of the alien shapeshifter, replacing Detective Miles and then returning to kidnap Theresa in a shocking and brutal scene in her home, while her baby lies screaming in his cot.
Multiple abductees, colonisation, the mystery of a UFO colliding with an aircraft (seen in episodes such as Fallen Angel and Tempus Fugit, and Brian Thompson's bounty hunter who debued in season two's Colony / End Game; all these elements collide here with the foundation of the pilot to deliver an effective, legacy-driven finale.
Legacy is also a strong theme in the return of recurring characters the Cigarette Smoking Man, Marita Covarrubias and Alex Krycek. Ever since the destruction of the syndicate in season six's Two Fathers / One Son, the show's mythology has existed in a limbo state, seemingly unsure of where to progress next, if indeed it should. Stories like The Sixth Extinction and Sein und Zeit / Closure have felt like convulted, dull messes and the much stronger Cigarette Smoking Man-centric En Ami was an interesting concept that seemed more concerned with looking back than resolving anything.
Requiem finds the show's central villain now at death's door; gone are the big conspiracies and global master plans and he has been reduced to being cared for by one single nurse and two very grey allies called back into action. It doesn't really feel like a natural progression for this once powerful man, but it is a tragic one and he sees the crash of the UFO in Oregon as another Roswell, an attempt to restart the alien / human conspiracy. Krycek, we learn has been imprisoned in Tunisia for trying to sell the Cigarette Smoking Man's secrets, but this has all happened entirely off screen this season - perhaps a Krycek-focused story between The Sixth Extinction and Requiem may have provided the shot in the arm the often tired season seven needed? Marita too seems to have fully recovered from her ordeal, infected by the alien virus and has now become the Cigarette Smoking Man's only remaining lieutenant.
The real sad thing about the whole affair is that none of these characters actually contribute most of the episode, lurking in the shadows like spectres of the past. Krycek hunts for the UFO in Oregon, observing Mulder and Scully do the same, but never makes a move. Fortunately the final act afford some great moments as they interact with almost every recurring cast member - but I'll come to that in a bit.
Back in Oregon, Scully begins to fall ill; there is the suggestion (though never spoken) that this could be the return of her illness or her proximity as an abductee and the story plays this double bluff right up to the very end - and very well. There is an incredibly intimate scene between Mulder and Scully as he holds her in bed, trying to keep her warm, kissing her cheek. This season has served to bring them closer than ever before and this tender moment is made all the more tragic by what is to come. It is interesting that Mulder is willing to send her away, considering himself that his time on the X Files is done. After all, he has most of the answers he has been looking for and most of that has brought huge pain and suffering to both of them. It truly is a 'requiem' for Mulder and David Duchovny's time on The X Files.
When Billy is abducted (and Brian Thompson makes his reveal), the agents are left with no answers and missing bodies. But when they return to DC, things really come to a head; the throwback to the pilot episode is a nice touch for the finale, but it is the events that transpire next that really make this feel like it could be the end of the show. Skinner and Mulder lament the X Files before Krycek, and Marita make their surprise entrance. The end game is clear. The Cigarette Smoking Man wants to reignite the conspiracy but the alien bounty hunter is removing all evidence, rounding up abductees - including Billy, Theresa and her husband - before this can begin.
The scene in Skinner's office is a fantastic moment in The X Files history as Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Krycek, Marita and the Lone Gunmen plan their next move. Seeing all those relationships, tensions and characters that had never interacted was so much fund to watch. If this had been the end of the show, this finale would have felt satisfying for this moment alone.
And then Mulder and Scully share their final scene together; Scully is a former abductee and he won't allow her to risk returning to Oregon and be taken. With one last embrace she sends him off with Skinner. But that's when the episode delivers its final stunning blow. Scully and the Lone Gunmen study the medical records of Billy and Theresa and learn that they experienced the same erratic brain activity as Mulder did in the season opener. The twist that he is the one at risk adds a thrilling momentum to the final scenes. As Mulder and Skinner study the crash site, Mulder enters a stasis field, becoming invisible to Skinner and encounters the other abductees. The alien bounty hunter appears, there is a white glow from the UFO above...and he is gone.
It is the final secret Mulder has been searching for - an encounter with alien life and the finale certainly delivers that. Mulder almost comes across as serene as he enters the stasis field, as if he wants to be abducted. It is a great finale moment for Mulder and while he would be back, it also served to be the perfect ending should this have been the last we saw of David Duchovny on the show.
Things wrap up elsewhere too. Marita and Krycek finally turn on their master and the weak, wheelchair-bound Cigarette Smoking Man is thrown to his death down a flight of steps. It should have been the end this great villain...unfortunately it wasn't to be. Skinner meanwhile experiences the proof of alien life Mulder has been telling him for years as he sees the UFO carrying Mulder soar up across the sky above him. For Scully it is a true bittersweet moment. The loss of Mulder runs deep but she is also pregnant. And if that had been her end, after all the trauma she had experienced, it would have delivered the happy ending she so greatly deserved. Again, in hindsight, it should have been.
Requiem is a perfect title for this surprisingly great season finale, the best certainly since Anasazi or Gethsemane. The full circle moment of returning to the characters and events of the pilot episode and that sense of mortality and legacy running throughout make it a great end to era of Mulder and Scully. Because until 2016, this was it; we would not get these two agents working together, investigating cases for the FBI in this capacity for almost 16 years. It also washes away the last of the mythology with the death of the Cigarette Smoking Man and the return of old recurring characters truly make this feel like the culmination of years of storytelling.
It would have worked as the end of The X Files; it might have left us with questions over the fate of Mulder but it does give him that final encounter he was looking for. But as a season finale, it also marks a huge turning point in the show and things were certainly going to get interesting as the show entered its eighth season...