The X Files Revisited: 5.20 The End
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 best and most significant episodes of the first 100 episodes in the season's run, from the pilot episode all the way through to the 100th episode Unusual Suspects. Now we're going to continue that run, picking key episodes from the second half of the show - and two movies – and we conclude season five with the dramatic finale The End...
The End is the end of many things on The X Files; the end of production being based in Vancouver, the end of of the original run before the first movie, the end of The X Files for a time and for many the end of the classic run. That last point I'd argue heavily. Season six for me is the last great season of the show and one I'm looking forward to reviewing shortly. But it is still a key turning point in the show. The core mythology would be wrapped up soon and the events started in Patient X / The Red And The Black continue here with the return of Jeffrey Spender and the Cigarette Smoking Man to the fold.
The episode also introduces other key characters; child chess prodigy Gibson Praise (Jeff Gulka) and Mimi Rogers as Agent Diana Fowley. She is introduced as a key ally of Mulder when he buts heads with Agent Spender over his investigation into the assassination of a Russian chess champion. While Spender, eager to gain favour in the FBI goes down one route, it is Mulder who assesses that it was the victim's opponent, Gibson Praise, who had precognitive abilities that allowed him to avoid being shot. The distrust between Mulder and Scully with Spender over the 'alien' abduction of his mother Vanessa in The Red And The Black laid the foundation for their tense relationship here and the episode cleverly teases whether Spender is a villain or just a pawn in a larger game, especially when Skinner reveals that someone with higher authority gave Spender this case.
What quickly transpires is that Gibson Praise - with his abilities to read minds - is the key to everything in the X Files, the holy grail of Mulder's investigations. With his belief in aliens seemingly restored he is ready to believe that this boy is the product of human and alien DNA which has been teased throughout the colonisation, government conspiracy and extraterrestrial story arcs that have run throughout the five seasons. It feels a bit of a leap at times but it adds a sense of momentum to the season finale; it really is the end of his quest in many ways. And this time, Scully is ready to believe too.
As is Diana Fowley. Mimi Rogers makes a very understated debut and there is a real sense of mystery about her. She would never be a strongly popular character, perhaps because she was the romantic foil to any Mulder-Scully relationship but I rather like her here. She is the woman who was with Mulder when he discovered the X Files, the predecessor to Scully but a believer too. It is interesting that she asks Mulder what he sees in Scully as a partner, asking why he puts up with her questions. I liked that Mulder smiles at how Scully keeps him grounded, makes him work to prove what his searching for and indeed that sums up their entire relationship. Fowley suggests that she would have followed him more readily had she been part of the X Files and while that might have made a very different show, it would also have been far less interesting.
What I didn't really buy was Scully's overt jealousy at Fowley. While there has been an increased closeness between Mulder and Scully this season, there has never been the open suggestion of romance that many shippers were hoping for at the time. Scully in this episode is irrational, out of character and comes across a little crazy; Gillian Anderson tries her best but she can't help but play Scully as a woman scorned in favour of another sexual partner and it doesn't ring true at this stage in the show.
But there is so much in this episode that does work I can just about get past that. Gulka plays Gibson Praise with a mix of childlike wonder and wisdom; his scene reading the minds of the panel is amusing to watch and his keen insight into the mind of adults is equally engaging. But even when faced with mortal danger, kidnapped by the Cigarette Smoking Man and brought to the Well Manicured Man and the rest of the Consortium, he doesn't break. With his ability to read minds - and the secrets of the enemy - he is as much a threat to them as they are to him.
The return of William B. Davis' Cigarette Smoking Man is a triumphant one - the polar opposite of his hammy return in the recent 'season 10'. He takes out the men sent to kill him, turns Krycek to his side for a time, holds his own against the other members of the consortium, threatening John Neville's Well Manicured Man and then pulls the strings at the FBI to get Spender the high profile case he feels he deserves. Their final confrontation in the hallway, telling him he is his father is a great moment, topped off by his destruction of the X Files.
There really is a sense of things coming to an end in The End. The post-credits scene starts with Skinner looking around Mulder's office, examining newspaper clippings of his cases and the big moments like Duane Barry and ends with the Cigarette Smoking Man in the same office, taking Samantha Mulder's X Files - his daughter's X File - and setting the room alight. The infamous 'I want to believe poster' and the cabinets filled with years of X Files in flames is a tragic, shocking moment and you can feel Mulder's grief as he stands in the smoking ruins of the office, holding Scully. His life work has been destroyed, Gibson Praise has been taken, and with it the answers he was so desperately searching for. Even his previous love interest Diana Fowley is shot and nearly killed. And most significantly, the X Files is shut down a second time. It is a bold and dramatic cliffhanger to end on, not as perilous as the tease of Mulder's death in season two's Anasazi and season four's Gethsemane but equally as heartbreaking.
However, as strong as the finale is, there feels like little effort to connect with the movie that was filmed before the season even began. Aside from shutting down the X Files, Diana Fowley, Gibson Praise and Jeffrey Spender are all absent from the big screen proceedings, only returning in the continuing season six opener. This disconnect - when the film is so mythology heavy - feels like a misstep in the continuing story arc.
But as a season finale, it is another strong one. It puts Mulder and Scully within arms reach of the evidence they have been searching for and then snatches it all away, destroying the X Files in the process. It would take a while for the show to return to the norm, though season six would find interesting ways to play with the revised premise in the first half. But it would only return to normal when much of the mythology story had been resolved. And in that sense, this really was the end of the show as we knew it.