Baz Greenland reviews the finale of The X Files Revival – did it wrap everything up or end on a frustrating cliffhanger?
There was always the danger that with only six episodes of The X Files revival, some elements would be rushed. And with the season finale (I refuse to believe this is the end), the story rushed through at breakneck speed. Having recently rewatched epic three-part stories like the Anasazi / The Blessing Way, Paper Clip and the latter Gethsemane / Redux two parter, My Struggle II felt like it was a three-part story squashed down into one, with the concluding part missing. Because there was no doubt that Chris Carter failed for the third time in The X Files‘ history to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the epic series that he began all the way back with the Pilot in 1993.
And while it may feel petty to refer back to the all times greats of the series’ mythology, My Struggle II was, with all respect, an attempt by Carter to bring that long-running storyline to a head. The cataloguing of human subjects through Smallpox vaccinations, Scully’s abduction and the testing and creation of alien / human hybrids, the conspiracy of men to work in the shadows towards the pursuit of power – this was it. The apocalypse, alien invasion of whatever you want to call that 2012 date revealed in the season nine finale – it was all about the eradication of the human race through genetic cataloguing and experimentation and the creation of what was essentially a master human race through the manipulation of alien DNA. In the same way that alien technology was was used to create powerful technologies like that seen in the first episode of the revival. It was never about alien ships raining down destruction on Earth Independance Day style; it was about the application of alien materials for world domination.
It is an idea I could really get behind and for the most part makes sense; though you probably wouldn’t have thought that given the ludicrous speed at which the episode progressed. There was no subtlety from the episode when it came to the events that transpired in Carter’s fraught script. Gillian Anderson proved she had the acting chops to carry the trite revelations that the first soldier in the hospital had been infected with anthrax deliberately and then tell a returning Agent Einstein that soon everyone would be infected in a global apocalypse. The jump from one illness to the seemingly national (if not global) pandemic made Scully comes across as a loon and then when it happened on screen it felt like the episode had skipped several key scenes.
And that’s the real crux of the problem with the finale. It felt over the top not necessary because of the events at play – being the culmination of much of the show’s mythology – but because one minute Scully was spouting conspiracy paranoia and the next minute EVERYONE was dying! And was it me or did it all feel like the apocalypse on the budget? There was more Tad O’Malley telling the audience that there was a crisis than Mulder or Scully (and the audience) witnessing it. The only scene that suited the grand scale of Carter’s story was the final scene on the crowded bridge as Scully rushed to save Mulder and then encountered the UFO in what was surely nothing more than a forced cliff-hanger moment to remind the audience that this was a show about aliens.
One of the best things about the revival has been the chance to see Mulder and Scully in action again and yet for the second episode in a row Carter kept them apart. In fact, they didn’t get any screentime together until the last minute when Scully realised with dread that Mulder was too far gone and needed stem cells from the missing son William to survive. Mulder barely got anything to do in this episode – resigned to a flashback where one of the Cigarette Smoking Man’s lackeys tried to kill him and then confronting the villain in his ‘secret lair’. William B Davis was in full on evil mode this time, manipulating the chaos erupting across the US from his home and unmasking his face to show the full horror of his burns – missing nose and all. In the end Agent Miller (a somewhat forgettable Robbie Amell) rescues Mulder from certain death after he refuses to make a deal for immortality.
But hey, at least Gillian Anderson got plenty to do this episode (again making it ludicrous that she was originally offered half of what David Duchovny got to return). Uncovering the conspiracy, searching for a cure with her own human alien DNA resulting from her abduction and starting to turn the tide against the dying populace. And she also reconnected with another key character from late in the show’s run, Annabeth Gish’s Monica Reyes. I always kind of liked her and Doggett together, working the X Files in season nine. So to turn her into some kind of coward-meets Mr X was just inexplicable. A flashback saw her make a deal with the Cigarette Smoking Man, but for what? To protect herself when the outbreak finally happened? At least poor Doggett didn’t get the same treatment (or even a mention for that matter).
So what to make of the finale? Well I thought as an end game, the story was rather great; it was the execution that was just plain bizarre. Too many leaps of faith for the audience to take – one minute Scully is ranting about a secret conspiracy to bring down humanity (without any real explanation of how she knew all this) and the next everyone is dying. It should have at least been a closing two parter. Mulder meanwhile was wasted (as was Skinner for the entire season) and some character motivations like Reyes contradicted everything that had come before. But most frustratingly, knowing that this might be his only chance to wrap everything up, Chris Carter ended season 10 a cliffhanger.
And what about the revival as a whole? Was it worth it? I love The X Files and some episodes I have watched numerous times. Chris Carter made some seminal television but here with season ten he was arguably the weakest element, his three episodes My Struggle, Babylon and this being the three inferior stories. The story we saw in the finale could have easily filled six episodes and in some ways that might have been better.
But on the other side, it was the three standalone cases that were the best The X Files season 10 had to offer. Founder’s Mutation had some truly memorable moments and a twisted tale of human experimentation, Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster had some wonderful comedy moments from writer Darin Morgan and I found that with its horrific monster and the very personal case for Scully, Home Again was pure classic X Files. Having Mulder and Scully back on TV was a real treat and I would love to have more – but is it a case of Chris Carter needing to be reigned in and deliver us an actual ending to The X Files?
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