It’s now been almost a month since the latest (and probably last) season of The X-Files ended. I’ve had a month to think over and reflect on the latest season, what it means to the overall legacy of the show, and whether or not I even want another season (if it ever even happens, of which I’m doubtful).
Anyway, The X-Files returned a couple years ago with a six-episode run. The show had been off the air since May of 2002, with a single movie released in 2008 (a movie I’ve not seen, but have not heard good things about). Season 10 had only one good episode, and that was written by Darin Morgan, who wrote or co-wrote some classic X-Files episodes (including “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space“. (For those keeping track, I’m speaking of the episode “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”. That episode was great.)
Season 10 began and ended with two atrocious episodes (“My Struggle” and “My Struggle II”), both written solely by series creator Chris Carter. The episodes continued the series’ core mythos arc, but 14 years later, was anyone still remembering where the show left off after those last several seasons? These two episodes are examples of what not to do with a show. There was excessive meddling with the mythos arc, taking it in crazy new directions that made no sense, and repeatedly changing direction. The editing and pacing was way too fast paced and hectic. There was also plenty of misogynism. The episodes made me no longer care about the mythos arc.
Season 11 had 10 episodes. It also began and ended with Carter-penned “My Struggle” episodes, the creatively-titled “My Struggle III” and “My Struggle IV”. The first episode again changed direction with the mythos arc but I’d given up caring. Apparently season 10 was just a vision Scully had or something like that, it doesn’t really matter. Carter had some original idea way back when, but his writing has gone insane.
Episode 11.02 carried on the story of the Lone Gunmen. I remember, in the months leading up to season 10, reading the comic book continuation of the show, the I guess officially unofficial season 10 (muddled a bit because the comic books had support from Chris Carter). One element of the comic books was that the Lone Gunmen, all three, were still alive and were now working for the government in a base hidden underneath Arlington Cemetery. Of course, the Lone Gunmen died in the original X-Files, so having them return would ruin that episode. Season 10 had a cameo by the Gunmen (or at least from Langly) in a sequence that probably didn’t really happen. There’s a scene in this episode (called “This”, by the way) where Mulder and Scully are tracking clues from Langly that lead them to Arlington Cemetery, to a specific tombstone. My first thought was that Carter was actually following the story of the comics and would bring back the Gunmen. However, that wasn’t the case. This episode shut the book on whether the Gunmen were still alive. They are all dead. They’re not returning. Glad that at least Langly had a final episode, though.
Next memorable episode is 11.04, “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat”. I remember the promos playing this up as a humorous episode, which it was. This was a great episode. Introducing a character who has supposedly been part of the main character cast all along but we just have never seen him (or we remember a false history), this episode plays a lot with the Mandela Effect (or the Mengele Effect, as our mystery character, Reg, puts it). There’s a lot of playing around with false memories, and a lot of hilarious scenes. Stuart Margolin is great as Dr. They, in some well acted and well shot scenes with Duchovny. This is a great parody of the show itself, and the scene at the end with Skinner is just great. Already this season is better than season 10.
11.05 is one of those Major Episodes, finally introducing us to William. He turns out to have a superpower of manipulating how people see him, because of course he does. Best thing I can say about this episode is that at least it wasn’t written by Carter (it was written by James Wong, who wrote/co-wrote such classics as “Squeeze”, “Tooms”, “Home”, and “The Field Where I Died”). Of course the episode ends with Mulder and Scully just missing William, encountering him without knowing they encountered him, and William runs away. We’ve still got four more episodes followed by one more mythos episode.
11.06 is probably going to go down as the best episode of this season. It’s a Skinner-focused episode (I think only the second episode to be such). Mitch Pileggi is fantastic in this episode, and it’s great that he gets an entire episode about his character. Anything more I say will ruin the surprises of this episode. Give it a watch, I think you’ll enjoy it.
11.07 is a letdown, overall. It has some great ideas. Doing an episode with minimal dialog is a great approach, and is done well here. That it all leads up to a pretty bad joke is a disappointment. It has some great moments, such as Mulder wondering why Scully has a better house than him. There’s a great underlying message about how we, as a society, have become so focused on our phones, though.
11.08 is a classic in the creepy ghost and supernatural vein. There are so many different styles of a classic X-Files episode, ranging from UFOs/aliens to monsters to ghosts to the unexplained. This is the creepy ghost variety.
11.09 is pretty forgettable, but it was in the classic vein of those episodes that are just really morbid and grotesque.
And that brings us to the finale, 11.10, “My Struggle IV”. If you go into something expecting to be disappointed, you’re rarely surprised. This is Carter’s finale to the series. I’m wondering if he wrote this expecting to do another series or not. Gillian Anderson has said in recent interviews that she’s done playing Scully, so that puts to rest any real possibility of a new season. (Also, Skinner is apparently killed in this episode, so that’s a disappointment) Mulder and Scully both finally and officially meet William and he’s supposedly killed but the final shot of the episode proves that he is in fact still alive (does that surprise anyone?). Cigarette-Smoking Man is also shot and falls into a river but does anyone expect that to really be his end? The guy survived missiles launched from helicopters to the face. This isn’t gonna hurt him. Frantic pacing and editing plague this episode. Also, Carter has an obsession with car chases. Seriously. Also, Scully is pregnant again.
And that ends The X-Files. Season 11 had some great episodes, among the series’ best, but the mythos is such a mess that I don’t see how anyone can care anymore. It’s sad that the series ended on such a bad note, but at least “My Struggle IV” offered some sort of closure, unlike “My Struggle II”. The let-down of that is enough to make me rather the series had not come back, but I’m glad that this last season gave us some new classic episodes. It was like reuniting with an old friend and realizing you’ve both gone separate ways enough that a brief meeting is enough. Society has changed. The world is different. The X-Files belongs to a different, past era. Let’s close the book and move on.