Investigating The X-Files: Season 9, Part 2

In the past nine weeks, I’ve watched 153.5 hours (or almost six and a half days) of “The X-Files.” Between episode notes and published pieces, I’ve written over 70,000 words. Now that I’m approaching the end of this odyssey, I feel like I ought to produce some kind of exciting and dramatic gesture. Something like a champagne fountain, a Dixieland band, and a Busby Berkley-style line of chorus girls dressed as grays. Alas, everyone I’ve presented the idea to assures me these things are patently impossible in blog form; no doubt they suffer from profound failures of imagination.

After I finished watching, I needed a few days to process before I would have anything to say. Now that I’ve had some distance, I can say that most of what I enjoyed about the second half of Season 9 and most of what drove me nuts came from the same source. I’ve read that Fox wouldn’t just tell Chris Carter whether or not they wanted a tenth season, so he made Season 9 to have some closure. I really appreciate this instinct. As someone with a tragic history of falling in love with TV shows that promptly get canceled, I know the pain of becoming invested in characters and a story and never getting any payoff.
That said, the second half of Season 9 feels both a bit unnecessarily depressing and rushed, and I think those things are related to each other.

Minus the two-part finale, Chris Carter only had eight episodes to attempt a satisfactory wrap-up of every character and storyline. As a result, the information rushes by so fast it blows back the skin on your face. Many of the stories aren’t necessarily bad, just rushed. They would have been more effective if there’d been more time to ground them in the fabric of the show.

The episode that suffers the most was "Release." In 43 minutes, it
tries to cram in Doggett’s relationship with his ex-wife, Assistant
Director Brad Follmer’s history and downfall, and Doggett getting
closure about his son’s death through the intervention of a
schizophrenic young agent who’s connected to the dead. As a result, all
those elements, while interesting, feel massively shortchanged. Rudolph
Hayes, the FBI cadet with strange insights into Doggett’s son’s death,
was a fascinating character, but the time constraints make him little
more than a plot device.

As for Follmer, I always had the sense that they
intended to do more with him but never got around to it. The casting of
Cary Elwes and the drama with which he’s introduced at the beginning of Season 9 made me assume he’d be very important. Practically, you could
have cut him from Season 9 entirely and I probably wouldn’t have
noticed. "Release" tells us more about his former relationship with
Reyes. Apparently, she saw him take a bribe from a mob guy in New York;
that’s why she broke up with him and transferred to New Orleans with no
explanation.

We then learn that Follmer’s been dirty for years and that a bad guy he
took money from in exchange for protection was partially responsible
for Doggett’s son’s death. That might have been a cool and unexpected
twist if it had unfolded slowly. Instead, it just seems too easy. When
Follmer shoots the baddie (as revenge, I guess) and is thus presumably
carted off to jail never to be heard from again, it’s suspiciously
convenient.

And then there’s "Audrey Pauley," an episode with an interesting
premise that gets torpedoed by the inclusion of utterly ungrounded and
totally unbelievable aura of romance between Doggett and Reyes. There’d
been a hint or two that they might make Doggett and Reyes more than
partners, but I’d hoped it wouldn’t happen. I have rarely seen two
actors with less sexual chemistry than Robert Patrick and Annabeth
Gish. They have all the spark of two damp towels rubbing together.

Reyes gets in a car accident and ends up in a
coma. Motivated by his sudden and apparently illogically powerful love
for her, Doggett won’t accept it when the doctors tell him she’s brain
dead. As a result, he discovers a doctor who kills his patients for
kicks and the titular character, a strange woman who unintentionally
holds the souls of the comatose victims in a dollhouse version of the
hospital.

It’s a cool, creepy premise for an episode, and the actress playing
Audrey (Tracey Ellis, who also appeared in the episode "Oubliette") has
a great otherworldly quality. The fact that it gets tied to Doggett
frantically rushing around trying to save the woman he cannot bring
himself to admit he loves ruins it.

Given the lack of inherent
chemistry between Doggett and Reyes, I doubt I ever would have bought a
romance between them. The fact that those feelings spring fully formed
with hardly anything resembling set up makes it almost ludicrous.
Since there wasn’t much time, I get the impression that Carter thought
the most effective way to conclude many of the dangling issues in the
series was to just make them literally disappear. It seems forced with
somebody like Brad Follmer, but for characters that we’ve really come
to care about, it’s an enormous bummer.

Such is the case with Scully
giving her son up for adoption in "William" and the Lone Gunmen dying
in "Jump the Shark." There’s nothing wrong with sad or bittersweet
conclusions, not by a long shot. I don’t mean to imply that all I want
is perfect fairytale endings wrapped up with a big bow. It’s just that
I tend to think a moving yet believable happy ending is harder to
write, but often more fulfilling, than a believable sad one. In "Jump
the Shark," the Lone Gunmen are broke, sad, and demoralized in their
quest. The episode brings back characters from "The Lone Gunmen" show
and introduces a poorly explained virus. The Gunmen have to sacrifice
themselves to prevent the virus from infecting the population.
Essentially, it’s "And then they died a hero’s death and everyone was
very moved. The End." Its fine, I guess, but not quite the final act
those characters deserved.

Even worse was "William," wherein Scully decides she’ll never be able
to keep her son safe from the super soldiers and thus gives him up for
adoption. Jeffery Spender, who we last saw when his father Cigarette
Smoking Man shot him for insubordination, comes back. He’s horribly
disfigured because CSM performed botched super soldier experiments on
him. Spender claims to have seen Mulder, but is really just trying to
get close to William. He injects the baby with magnetite, the metal
that we’ve seen destroy super soldiers in the past. This cures the boy
of his alien tendencies, but Scully believes the super soldiers will
never believe it and never leave him alone.  So she sends him to live with a loving but
childless couple in the country.

Even though Gillian Anderson does a
beautiful job with her character’s anguish and fragility, I just didn’t
buy it. Our Scully, she’s tenacious as all get out and wanted that baby
more than anything in the world. I simply didn’t think it was true to
her character to simply accept fate and not fight for her child until
her last breath. The fact that it was so bloody sad, not true to
character, and an excessively clean and final wrap-up for a very
complicated issue rubbed me the wrong way.
For both William and the Lone Gunmen, it seems like a cop out to have
them die or go away forever so that there are no lingering
consequences.

That said, I guess I’d rather have unsatisfactory
conclusions then none at all. Hell, it’s not like I have brilliant
ideas for how Chris Carter could have done it better. It all comes back
to the lack of time. Perhaps this is just the best you can do when you
have to put some many final acts in so few episodes.
As for the ending of the show as a whole, I’m actually pretty satisfied
with it. I mentioned before that I didn’t watch much of Seasons 8 or 9
when they first aired. Fear of the unknown motivated the anxiety I felt
about digging into them now. In retrospect, I think watching under
these circumstances provided the only way I could get any pleasure from
them. Circa 2001, I had a pretty huge emotional investment in "The
X-Files." The sometimes quite nice, often "meh," and occasionally awful
nature of those seasons would have hit me like an A-bomb of
disappointment, possibly rendering the show radioactive and unwatchable
forever.
A few years of distance, nostalgic hindsight, and the opportunity to
see the later seasons in the context of the entire series very quickly
let me almost enjoy the experience.

Like basically every episode after
"Hollywood A.D.," I approached "The Truth: Parts 1 and 2" with distinct
foreboding, but I ended up being very happy with the eps. Maybe it’s
just further evidence that I’m little more than an easily satisfied
fangirl, but any episode that shows Mulder and Scully kissing for what
seemed like five solid minutes and then has Cigarette Smoking Man get
killed by a rocket is basically enough for me.

It begins when Mulder breaks into a military
facility and learns that the alien invasion date is set for December
22, 2012. Knowle Roher, super soldier extraordinaire, comes and chases
him. Mulder throws Knowle into an array of electrical equipment and
Knowle is presumably electrocuted. The military guys catch and imprison
Mulder, attempt to brainwash him, and put him on trial for Knowle’s
Murder. Since Mulder knows the whole thing is an unwinnable show, he
wants to use it as a way to get out information about the current
conspiracy.
Skinner defends him, and everyone from Scully and Doggett to Marita
Covarrubias, Jeffery Spender, and Gibson Praise comes to testify on his
behalf about what they know. During this time, Mulder also has helpful
visions of the Lone Gunmen, Krycek, and other people who have died
along the way. I had wondered before whether the super soldiers were
the product of the alien colonists or the government. In "The Truth," I
learned that they’re built by colonists who have insinuated themselves
into the government. They wield enough power that, of course, Mulder
gets convicted and sentenced to death.

Scully, Skinner, Reyes, Doggett, Kersh and a
partridge in pear tree get together to help him break out of
prison. He and Scully travel to Anasazi pueblos to meet the wise man
who sent Mulder the tip that led him to break into the military base in
the first place. This wise man? Of course, it’s CSM, looking like shit
but not nearly as dead as we’d been led to believe. He wanted Mulder,
his son and tormentor, to find out about the invasion date and learn
that all his work and suffering hadn’t accomplished anything. CSM
wanted to see the look on Mulder’s face when his spirit finally broke.
However, with Scully by his side, Mulder’s stronger than CSM suspected.
They get away just as undead Knowle Roher and military helicopters show
up. Knowle gets sucked into the magnetite rocks and the copters start
bombing the pueblos. We see what we assume is the real, final demise of
the Cigarette Smoking Man.

"The X-Files" ends with Mulder and Scully
alone in a hotel room, discussing everything they’ve learned. Scully
asks Mulder what he believes in now. Mulder tells her he wants to
believe that the dead aren’t lost, that they’re part of something
bigger than humans and bigger than the aliens. He wants to believe in a
higher power that can give humanity the ability to save themselves if
they’ll only listen.
When everything is said and done, Mulder and Scully have each come to
believe in what they previously thought impossible: she in aliens and
he in the immortality of the soul. Chris Carter has said that he
intended "The X-Files" to show a man’s search for God, and in the end,
he accomplished exactly that. Many of the character wrap-ups in Season
9 didn’t have the impact I wanted, but for the main characters with
whom I’d experienced so much, the conclusion seems appropriate.

I’ve always thought the best stories are ones that feel like they
stretch forever in both directions. When we read or watch, we get a
window into one brief period in the character’s lives, but once we’re
gone, they keep going. As unsatisfying as Season 9 sometimes got,
Mulder and Scully got an ending they deserved. I could imagine their
lives going on after the curtain fell, even though I wasn’t there to
see it. Mulder and Scully have each other, they know the truth, and
they have just enough hope to keep fighting for the future. For me,
that was enough. 


Posted in Professional, The X-Files
6 comments on “Investigating The X-Files: Season 9, Part 2
  1. Sarah says:

    Even though Gillian Anderson does a beautiful job with her character’s anguish and fragility, I just didn’t buy it. Our Scully, she’s tenacious as all get out and wanted that baby more than anything in the world. I simply didn’t think it was true to her character to simply accept fate and not fight for her child until her last breath.
    Truer words were never spoken.

  2. Reynard Muldrake says:

    I hope you’ll be reviewing The X-Files: I Want to Believe soon and in the context of these “rewinds” It is worth seeing twice, especially for fans who, like myself, need to get over the 6 years of built up anticipation in order to appreciate the movie.

  3. Jlynn says:

    I agree that Scully giving up William was out of character. And the fact that she does it without even trying to contact Mulder is worse. Then in The Truth we find out that Skinner, not Scully, is the one to tell him that his son is gone. I know it was due to time constraints but that was an important scene that I wanted to see.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You see this is why season 9 failed. Instead of cool investigations of aliens and paranormal phenomena, it’s “Scully giving up William was out of character” and “Skinner, not Scully, is the one to tell him that his son is gone”. For freak’s sake, this is The X-Files, not Dynasty! The new movie, and those who watch it, suffer for the same reason. Chris Carter has completely lost the plot.

  5. sunshowers says:

    What?!!? You thought season 9 gave acceptable closure? You could see Mulder’s and Scully’s lives continuing on? I couldn’t believe they left it like that! Mulder and Scully basically fugitives from the law, with a death sentence hanging over Mulder’s head. Where the hell were they going to hide? Where would they get money to feed and shelter themselves while on the run? I thought it was awful. And I thought the movie’s solution to this was even more awful – Mulder has simply been hiding in a cabin/farmhouse with a bushy beard with no one the wiser?
    Chris Carter is still a God in my eyes, but he totally lost it toward the end. If I ever met him, I’d ask him if he would have ended things totally differently had he been given more time from Fox and from the actors.

  6. Karen says:

    Hi there
    I just finished my x files journey, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had never seen it before, and watched it over a couple of months, and I thought it was quite a marathon, too. I was wondering if you know what is on disks 6 and 7 of season nine, since The Truth was the last episode on disk 5.
    thanks, and I enjoyed reading your post.
    Karen

Leave a Reply