The X Files Revisited: 8.19 Alone
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. Ahead of the two-part season eight finale, comes this nostalgic episode that sees Scully leave the X Files and Doggett gain a new partner...
As I continue the latter run of episodes from season eight I am more convinced that this should have been the end of The X Files. Alone is the last monster of the week episode of Duchovny's run - at least until Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster and it is an episode filled with references to past classic episodes, making it feel like a transition into a new era (Doggett running the X Files without Scully) and a greatest hits tour.
It's the episode where Scully ends her time on the X Files. With Mulder fired from the FBI in the previous episode, this is her turn to depart as her doctor orders her to start her maternity leave now. The scene in the basement office is an incredibly bittersweet moment; she rummages through her desk draw and finds the fused coins from season six's Dreamland and Queequeg's collar, which was the only thing left of her dog after his demise in season three's Quagmire.
Then Scully finds the Apollo 11 medallion Mulder gave to her on her birthday in season four's Max. As Scully noted at the time, it is an appreciation that there are extraordinary men and women and extraordinary moments when history leaps forward on the backs of these individuals, that what can be imagined can be achieved. As she leaves the office, she gives Doggett the keychain, the highest admiration she can give, a representation of their teamwork and the fact that she wouldn't have gotten through the last year without him. It really is the end for them as a partnership, when he asks if she is coming back, she smiles but doesn't answer. She would not work on the X Files again in an official capacity for another fifteen years, long after Doggett is gone.
His new partner FBI Agent Leyla Harrison, played by Jolie Jenkins is a fun choice for a one-off X File. She doesn't have the gravitas of the series leads or even the interesting characteristics of the upcoming Reyes but her charm is that she was an accountant with no FBI field experience but an appreciation for all things mysterious. Harrison has been tracking Mulder and Scully's travel expenses for years and is intimately familiar with all their cases. Like Doggett, who spent his first weekend reading up on every case Mulder and Scully ever took, Harrison is an outsider with the knowledge of killer bees and the Flukeman but without the experience.
Tracking a snake-like creature who killed one wheelchair-bound man in the pre-title sequence and taking his adult son Gary, Harrison and Doggett soon find evidence of slime at the crime scene. "You know what? It could be bile." Harrison exclaims with great interest, recalling Mulder and Scully's hunt for Eugene Victor Tooms way back in Squeeze and his demise by escalator in Tooms. “It could be an alien that shed its skin.” she then suggests. “According to Agent Mulder’s case reports they leave behind a mucus-like residue when they…”, a reference to season six's The Beginning. There are some great references and if anything I would have liked more. Named after a dying fan of the show, Harrison is a fan herself and you can feel her gleeful enthusiasm to be finally working on a real-life X File.
What's more interesting in this greatest hits tour of The X Files is that for the first half of the episode Mulder and Scully are largely absent. It's incredibly sweet to see Mulder agreeing to help Scully with her antenatal classes (her watches a lot of Oprah now he's unemployed) and it isn't until Harrison and Doggett are attached by the monster and find themselves trapped in tunnels under a large local house that the two former heroes step back in.
As Skinner leads the manhunt for the two missing agents there is the suggestion again (like Three Words) that Doggett isn't up to the role. Scully shows deep concern for her former partner and steps in to do the autopsy of the original victim Arlen Sacks while Mulder launches his own unofficial investigation. It's a mix of a last hurrah for these two agents and a reflection on the huge transition that is happening to the show. Of course Doggett is up to the challenge (and I find it a little frustrating when there is the suggestion that he isn't in these later episodes) but there is a great ensemble feel as Mulder, Scully, Doggett and Harrison all work together to solve this X File.
When Mulder meets the arrogant owner of the house, Dr. Herman Stites (Zach Grenier) I immediately latched on to the idea that if he wasn't controlling the creature, then he was the creature himself. Mulder uses Kersh's name (he is out of the FBI but still a nuisance to the deputy director) while Scully finds the lizard venom evidence in the autopsy and discover that Stites was a crypto-biologist specialising in reptiles. Within the tunnels, blinded by the creature's venom, Harrison displays Mulder's great leap of logic, while Doggett keeps his cool. The three leads certainly display their very best characteristics on this case.
The creature is a great monster, a slithering snake like body and insect-like head lurking in the tunnels, blinding and then digesting its victims (it's interesting that Doggett uses the term 'it' when hunting the creature, showing the influence the X Files has already had on him). It would probably been more effective had we seen more of it; not Tooms-like, but perhaps on the level of the Flukeman, digesting its victims. Perhaps it is the playful nature of the episode that keeps the horror at bay. And Stites being the monster is fun but a little silly, though again in keeping with the feel of Alone.
Yet again, Doggett proves himself, shooting the creature as it advances while half blind, a trusting Mulder guiding him even at the risk of being shot himself. The fact that Mulder trusts him with his life is a big step forward for these characters and the show. The final scene is wonderful; Doggett suggests Mulder and Scully give Harrison the Apollo 11 keychain, a momento for her work on the X Files both as an observer and now (however briefly) a live agent. She saves the best question for last, asking Mulder and Scully about an event from the movie hotly debated by fans of The X Files...
"When you went to Antarctica to save Agent Scully from being taken by that spaceship, and you ran out of gas in your Snow-Cat, how did you get back?"
It's a great question and seeing Mulder and Scully bicker like a married couple, debating whether it was in fact a spaceship, is a fun moment to end the show on. Doggett watches from amusement, and, like the fans, observes as a huge chapter of The X Files ends. It sums up Alone as a whole; an affectionate back at the show's history, a fun final monster of the week episode for the Duchovny era and another step forward in the show's evolution. Season eight will conclude next with the epic mythology two-parter Essence / Existence , which will change the landscape of The X Files original run forever...