I think I know how David Duchovny felt while filming season 7 of “The X-Files.” I’m full of good memories and bear the show no ill will. At the same time, I’m exhausted and I don’t think I want to be here anymore. Though not, perhaps, for the same reasons as Duchovny. The best compliment and worst condemnation I can think of to describe Season 7 is that it feels like it should have come earlier. The dramatic episodes are meaningful and fulfilling, the one-offs pleasant and amusing. Mulder and Scully bond and banter in new and delightful ways. Most of the episodes could have been seamlessly integrated anywhere in Season 3, 4, or 5.
In most ways, this is a very good thing. The episodes are well plotted, well shot, and by and large really enjoyable. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but yearn for more from the last real season of the show I’ve loved so well. It’s possible that no season of television could be climactic and fulfilling enough to put to rest the desires of thousands of rabid X-philes, but that doesn’t keep me from wishing for a bit more pizzazz. I watched all of Season 7 with a pall hanging over me because of the disappointment I knew was coming. It’s hard to lose yourself in a show when you know the end is both disappointing and nigh.
So, like Duchovny, I find I don’t want to be here writing about the conclusion of Season 7. I watched only parts of 8 and 9 when they first aired in an attempt to gain some emotional distance. I’m not particularly looking forward to watching them now. However, I’ll try not to be maudlin about it – yet. I really enjoyed a good deal about Season 7, so I might as well celebrate it while I have the chance.
To begin with, I think it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. I will say unequivocally that I believe Mulder and Scully’s relationship definitely become romantic rather than fraternal by no later then “Millennium.” I mean hell, in “Requiem,” they spoon. I’ve got very close and intimate friends for whom I would give my life, but we aren’t in the habit of crawling under the covers and lying nestled together. All through Season 7, when I saw moments of particular tender or cuddly moments, my 12-year-old’s brain kept screaming, “Oh, they are so totally doing it!” I don’t care if Chris Carter testifies before the Supreme Court that he never intended their relationship to be read that way. I don’t care if half the plot of “I Want to Believe” concerns the characters having an alleged “first kiss.” I know what I’ve seen.
Outside of the nearly innumerable instances of affectionate touching and loaded eye contact in Season 7, the biggest tip off is the way the sexual tension just kind of evaporates. It gets replaced with a sort of relaxed tenderness most commonly seen in people who have just gotten laid. Also, while Mulder and Scully have always been concerned for the other person’s well being to the point of obsession, by the second half of Season 7, they take it to a whole other level. Combine that with the cuddling and easygoing intimacy in episodes like “Hollywood A.D.,” “Je Souhaite,” and “X-Cops” and I think the conclusion seems obvious.
Another high point of the season comes from the Cigarette Smoking Man finally getting his just desserts. We found out in “En Ami,” the episode when CSM uses Scully to retrieve a computer disk containing information on the cure for all human disease, that CSM is dying as a result of the earlier surgery to transplant Mulder’s hybrid DNA into his brain. While it’s nice to see him sicken and suffer, I’d have been disappointed if so evil a guy died from puny human illness instead of violent revenge. In the season finale “Requiem,” CSM sends Marita Covarrubias to spring Krycek from a prison in Tunisia. A UFO collided with a military plane in Bellefleur, Oregon and CSM thinks if they can retrieve the craft, they can restart the cloning project.
Rather than go along with CSM’s wishes, Krycek and Marita alert Mulder to the existence of the craft. They return to the ailing CSM and proceed to push his wheelchair down a flight of stairs with absolutely no ceremony. I wasn’t sure whether Krycek knew the UFO would take Mulder and intended to get some vengeance on him as well. But I do know that Krycek being the one to give CSM what he deserved seemed oddly fitting. Although I resent his continual rodent-y thwarting of our heroes, I came into a strange appreciation of the selfish clarity of his motives. I liked it that the character with the most straightforward motivations would kill the character with the cloudiest ones.
Ultimately, how are we to judge CSM? He honestly believes the only hope for humanity is hybridization and will go to any lengths to achieve it. It’s a shit fate, but quite possibly preferable to annihilation. If he’s correct, it basically justifies all of his actions. However, I find it hard not to judge him for his unwillingness to consider the alternative: siding with the rebels and the vaccine. There’s no way to know if that would work, and maybe it’s the American in me, but I think I’d choose to go down fighting rather than hybridize and submit.
CSM is only willing to fight if he’s assured of victory. He tells Marita there is no God, only the aliens, but he has a rather Old Testament belief in the extent of their destructive power. Without a measure of faith in either total cooperation (like the Fat Man Syndicate member) or the possibility of rebellion (like the Well Manicured Man) he won’t risk anything. CSM betrays the human race in an attempt to (sort of) save it (not to mention his own ass), and I just can’t get behind either his goals or his methods.
As for the second half of season 7 as a whole, some episodes are very nice. I loved “X-Cops” and was surprised to see the jokes about “Cops” still work even though the show doesn’t have as much cultural weight as it once did. Scully’s sarcastic attitude toward the cameramen and Mulder’s evolution into a camera whore really tickled me. The season’s other comedy episode, “Hollywood A.D.,” was almost as funny. The visual gag of a split screen between Mulder, Scully, and Skinner all on the phone in bubble baths still kills. However, I thought the mystery that vaguely motivates the comedy (a “Lazarus bowl” inscribed with the words of Jesus that can bring the dead back to life) was actually quite cool. It’s a shame it wasn’t given its own serious episode.
Other standouts include creepy voodoo vengeance ep “Theef” (featuring James Morrison, who’d later play Bill Buchanan on “24″) and “All Things,” the episode where Scully goes on a spiritual odyssey and gains context for her life and her choices. Considering how much we’ve seen her agonize about the life she left behind when she chose to join Mulder on his quest, it was nice to see her finally obtain some peace about the person she has become.
A wide swath of episodes falls under the "solid but not outstanding" rubric. I’d classify “Brand X” (about bad guys at Morley Tobacco), “Fight Club” (where Guest Who Later Got Big, pre-plastic surgery Kathy Griffin, plays her own doppelganger) and “Je Souhaite” (wherein Kevin Weisman, a.k.a. Marshall from “Alias” and Steve Balfour from “Moonlight” gets three wishes from a sarcastic lady genie) this way. Only “First Person Shooter” stands out for totally sucking. Written by author William Gibson, who penned “Kill Switch” two years earlier, it’s a total stinker. The effects are dumb, the story is dumb, and the whole thing is such a late-’90s, “Computers are awesome!” pile of crap it made me alternately shudder and snort with derision.
All in all, I think Season 7 is funny and touching, but even Mulder getting taken by the aliens for his hybridized goodness and Scully ending up pregnant weren’t big enough revelations to make the season as a whole feel dynamic. With that in mind, the only question is, should the show have ended after Season 7? I’m torn. Knowing as I do what seasons 8 and 9 hold, a big part of me wishes we never had to live through them and that all my memories of “The X-Files” were of it still feeling like itself. But at the same time, I also know how livid I would have been if the show had concluded on the stinging, slap-in-the-face cliffhanger of Mulder away in a spaceship and Scully mysteriously knocked up. That’s the kind of betrayal that might have made me declare the show dead to me. I guess when it comes to a choice between disappointment and betrayal, I just have to cop out and admit I don’t know which to prefer.