The X Files Revisited: 9.01, 9,02 Nothing Important Happened Today
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The X Files ran for nine seasons between 1993 and 2002, spanned two movies and then came back from the dead in 2016 for a revival series of 6 episodes. In many ways, the show is as much a cultural phenomenon as it ever was and The Digital Fix has been looking back at key episodes across the show’s run starting with the pilot episode, reviewing numerous classic stories and the first movie The X Files: Fight The Future. Now we're in the final stretch of our revisited as we cover the last season of the original run, the second movie and look back at 'season 10' a year on. Kicking off the last phase of our The X Files Revisited is the season nine opener Nothing Important Happened Today.
"It just doesn't make any sense. Mulder leaving you here all alone, just walking out on you, not telling you where and why."
"It makes sense in its own way. That's all I can tell you."
Those two lines of dialogue pretty much sum up the season nine opener of The X Files. Don't be fooled by the flashy new title sequence that abandons the iconic style with glossy shots of Scully, Doggett, Reyes and Skinner (Mitch Pileggi finally get his name in the title sequence), this is not The X Files: The Next generation we were promised in the season eight finale. Doggett and Reyes are not allowed to investigate the strange an supernatural on their own. Mulder and Scully are allowed just 48 hours after that kiss before he abandons the love of his life and his newborn child. This is not the happy ending; it's the dull, frustrating, nonsensical nightmare that followed.
Am I being a bit harsh? Perhaps, but Nothing Important Happened Today's sole purpose seems to be about undoing all the good work of season eight. The super soldier threat, which seemed so fresh and exciting last year already feels tired and convoluted. The two-part episode is centered on latest super soldier Shannon McMahon (guest starring Lucy Lawless) taking down two government officials threatening to expose a conspiracy to pollute the water with chloramine as part of the latest stage of the alien mythology. Sounds riveting, doesn't it?
It's actually a solid mystery in parts, intertwined with Doggett's own investigation into Deputy Director Kersh and the FBI, but compared to what The X Files has done before - even in season eight - it isn't exactly exciting. It is also overshadowed by Mulder's departure; feeling like a parody of last season's opener Within / Without, which saw the search for an abducted Mulder revitalize the show. This time his disappearance makes no sense and adds a plot thread that overshadows the spluttering attempt to start the Doggett / Reyes era. David Duchovny didn't sign on for season nine, but Gillian Anderson was held to her contract even when her story had ended too (it was all down to having to fight for an equal pay rise too, which was ridiculous). Rather than let her go gracefully into the sunset with Mulder, Scully hangs around, the shell of what made her a great character.
It's kind of embarrassing to watch. Anderson tries her best with the story and dialogue given, but her hostile divisiveness of Doggett overrides the great relationship built last year. She spends half of the first episode refusing to engage Doggett in his investigation into the super soldier threat and then when William starts moving his crib mobile with his mind, she flips to angry, concerned parent, putting herself in danger in the final act of part two as she desperately searches for answers. Last season suggested that William might not actually be special; this season does a 180 and makes him the center of the alien mythology once again. It's all rather frustrating to watch and the involvement of Scully and William will unfortunately continue to derail the season.
Talking of flip flopping, that wonderful scene at the end of Essence / Existence where Doggett and Reyes tell Kersh he and the FBI are under investigation is also undone. Skinner is back to covering his ass, telling Doggett to drop the investigation, while the security cameras that showed the thrilling car chase with Knowle Rohrer and Agent Crane - and Krycek's murder - are replaced with doctored, replacement tapes that show nothing happened that night.
The brilliant John Doggett is systematically reduced to a Mulder clone over these two episodes - which is startling considering that wasn't who he was when he turned up as Scully's new partner last season. Kersh's golden boy has now become the black sheep of the FBI, raging about conspiracies and breaking the rules in his search for the truth. This change in character should be the moment that Doggett cemented himself as the central hero on the show - after all, there was no sign of Mulder ever coming back at this stage - but it ruins the foundation of his character. Like Anderson, Robert Patrick tries to do his best with the material he is given, but - like Scully - it leaves him an unlikable shadow of the agent we saw in season eight.
And then we have Annabeth Gish as FBI Agent Monica Reyes. She fits in well, even if the character doesn't have anything really exciting going for her. She is given a former love interest in smarmy new Assistant Director Brad Follmer, played by Cary Elwes but he comes across as a shadow of former recurring villains. If he really is a villain; he seems focused on bringing Doggett down but his bad side is rather bland and he doesn't quite pack the punch that James Pickens Jr's Alvin Kersh does. Reyes's banter with Follmer doesn't quite have the spark that the writers were hoping for. Instriscintly linking him to Reyes ultimately serves to dampen any enthusiasm for her character.
Gish does try though and she does have some good material, working with the Lone Gunmen for the first time as she delves into the super soldier threat on her own. Her tenacity in solving the mystery behind the killings, her desire to help Scully and dedication to Doggett even as he is ostracized make her an essential member of the team.
The first episodes ends with Doggett hiding from Follmer and his unit as he tracks the FBI agent to the water reclamation plant where the two informants worked. It isn't as tense and dramatic as it tries to be, though the cliffhanger is a good one as Doggett hides in the water and is suddenly dragged down to the murky depths by Shannon McMahon. There's never any sense that Doggett will die - the show has already lost its main star, seemingly for good - but it does bring Doggett closer to the super soldier conspiracy than ever before.
The concluding episode sees McMahon save his life and begin to reveal her secrets to Doggett, Reyes and Scully. The two informants were killed (by her) after trying to warn about chloramine being used to contaminate the US populace's water supply and make them susceptible to a change in their genetic make up, allowing for the breeding of a new generation of Super Soldiers. It should be an exciting mystery, The X Files stepping up its latest arc to the next level, but without Mulder and Scully virtually a bit player, it doesn't feels as exciting as it should be.
The most interesting part of the second episode is the return of Adam Baldwin's Knowle Rohrer, who infiltrates a mysterious warship containing a secret genetics lab. The captain has brought the ship to port, hoping to share the vessel's insidious secrets with the now dead informants. Rohrer is now a fully-fledged villain, resurrected after his fiery car crash in the season eight finale and Baldwin plays the quiet menace well. It's actually a shame he wouldn't appear again until the final episode of season nine; I would have liked more of that duplicitous relationship between him and Doggett but he remains a great throughline on the super soldier story arc.
The final showdown on the ship is the highlight on a rather tiresome story. Doggett comes face face with his former friend and is almost killed before McMahon arrives to slice off Rohrer's head Billy-Miles style. But the shocks don't there; a headless Rohrer rams his fist through her heart, seemingly killing her. Meanwhile Scully and Reyes race through the ship, discovering the corpse of the beheaded captain and the secret laboratory while Doggett uncovers the bomb.
The ticking clock adds a sense of urgency but it also does sees the episode fall into that old The X Files cliche of dangling clues before the agents and then ripping them away. Scully desperately searches for signs of her own catalogued DNA - and the secrets to William - and is then dragged away by Reyes and Doggett, escaping the exploding vessel just in time. Mulder and Scully uncovering secret files on the general populace way back in season three's Paper Clip was a thrilling moment in the show. Six years later, finding another lab with more evidence of Scully's abduction feels utterly uninspired.
And that's the crux of the issues with this two-parter. It becomes all about Mulder's mysterious disappearance, Doggett being forced into his role and Scully and William at the heart of the mystery. It should have been a fresh start - Doggett and Reyes on the X Files out on their own. Sadly, Reyes struggles to keep her head afloat while Doggett is out of character, Scully is even worse, mysterious and dismissive and seemingly far removed in her relationship from Doggett that was so carefully built up last season.Some of the plot points don't even make sense. Doggett's investigation into the FBI - an exciting plot development for season nine ends like a damp squib and Kersh goers from villain to unlikeable good guy of sorts, suggesting he convinced Mulder to go...or Scully did...I don't know. Apparently there are reasons which aren't clear enough to make any coherent sense.
Nothing Important Happened Today is a very apt title, but not in the way it was intended, a play on a historical event (the declaration of independence being dismissed by King George the Third). Kersh suggests that something big is happening and it is being swept under the carpet. But on reflection I struggle to see what. Nothing really did happen in this episode, just a tired run of cliches, repetition and dull new characters. Things will get a bit better when the show is allowed to have Doggett and Reyes investigating the supernatural but even then the spectre of Scully - hanging onto the show by a thread - and an absent Mulder will undermine it all. And who would have thought those two iconic agents would be the problem here?