I officially feel foolish for dreading Season 8 of the X-Files so much. Not every episode hits it out of the park, but taken as a whole, I think like 8 more than 7. The monsters of the week don’t excite as much, but it has a decidedly old-school feeling of momentum and purpose. Hell, I’ve even decided I am – Dare I say it? – a fan of John Doggett. I don’t get him, I don’t necessarily understand what makes him tick, but I dig him. Robert Patrick has a knack for contrasting gravitas with explosive badass-ness that gets me in a good way.
I finished the first half of Season 8 seriously pondering how Doggett would rationalize being brought back from the dead via Native American shaman cannibalism in “The Gift.” I haven’t decided whether Doggett basically ignoring the whole thing evidences a plot hole the writers just didn’t deal with or if it’s a part of Doggett’s complicated and multi-hued personality. Mostly, I just decided not to care.
The writers endeared Doggett to me by giving an explanation for his extreme skepticism. In Empedocles” we learn that Doggett’s son was kidnapped and killed. Reyes was in charge of the investigation and felt some typically woo-woo vibrations about the case that he rejected. Doggett admits to her that he can’t let himself believe in paranormal activity now because it would mean that by rejecting it at the time of his son’s death, he might have rejected a means of saving him. The writers also make a point of showing the fiercely loyal devotion Doggett develops to both Scully and the X-Files. He doesn’t need to whole-heartedly believe or understand in order to trust, and that earns him some serious points.
Of course, Doggett isn’t the only one who rises from the dead in Season 8. In case all the earlier Christ symbolism with Mulder strapped to a cross-shaped table wearing a thorny metal crown wasn’t enough for you, in Season 8 he dies and gets resurrected. I had utterly forgotten that this happened. Even now, when I think about it too hard, I feel a kind of incredulous about the whole business, but I was so goldarned glad to see Mulder again, I don’t want to overanalyze it. Even if I have decided Doggett rocks, nothing beats that Mulder/Scully spark.
As Christ symbolism goes, Season 8 does one better than just having the hero rise from the dead. That’s just part of the new myth evolution in the second half of Season 8. Later, Scully gives birth to what just might be a new savior. First you have to make it through “Medusa,” an episode about a skin-eating sea creature living in Boston subways, remarkable only for the inclusion of Guest Who Later Got Big Ken Jenkins (a.k.a. Bob Kelso from “Scrubs”). The real story starts in “Per Manum” when a man contacts Scully and Doggett claiming that some evil doctors impregnated his wife with an alien baby, stole it, and killed her.
Until this point, Scully kept her pregnancy secret from Doggett and the FBI, fearing they would use it to remove her from the X-Files and the search for Mulder. “Per Manum” establishes that a bunch of shady characters (some of whom have connections to the government and FBI) would seriously prefer that Scully’s pregnancy doesn’t come to term. It also features flashbacks showing that Scully attempted to conceive using in vitro fertilization with Mulder as the father. That attempt didn’t prove successful, but it does raise questions about the provenance of Scully’s current pregnancy.
As Scully looks into the woman’s death in “Per Manum,” she becomes increasingly concerned about her baby. Everyone from doctors and geneticists to Doggett’s friend and Department of Defense source Knowle Rohrer tries to manipulate her. Some want her to think she has an alien fetus, while others insist she’s just paranoid. In the end, we learn it was a complicated set-up by agents of a not-yet-named conspiracy to manipulate Scully and prevent the birth of her son. The baddies aren’t successful in “Per Manum,” but it’s by no means the last time they’ll try.
In “This Is Not Happening,” abductees taken around the same time as Mulder start returning. A UFO cult leader named Absalom and his pal, a friendly alien with healing powers named Jeremiah Smith, rescue some of them. Doggett contacts Monica Reyes, a specialist in ritualistic crime. Scully’s pretty peeved at Doggett’s insistence that Mulder’s disappearance must be due to anything other than aliens, but Reyes does prove useful by helping to lead them to Absalom and, in turn, Mulder himself.
At Absalom’s cult headquarters, they find a whole flock of abductees healed by Jeremiah Smith. Scully questions Smith while he insists she’s going to expose him and put all the abductees in danger. Skinner rushes in to tell her that they’ve found Mulder. Scully sees that he’s already dead but runs to get Jeremiah. Before he can heal Mulder, a huge UFO hovers over the building and takes Smith – and Scully’s last hope to save her partner along with him.
Because I’ve enjoyed not hating Doggett, I tried to keep an open mind toward Reyes, but had less success. Her hippie-dippy insistence that she feels cosmic energies and has visions isn’t explained enough to make any sense. Sometimes I honestly couldn’t tell if they were playing her for laughs or if Reyes just struck me as funny because her behavior was so poorly motivated by the story.
Luckily, she goes away for a while. The next ep, “Deadalive” takes place a few months after Mulder’s death and burial. The spiritual symbolism really kicks into overdrive here and we get some hints about the bad guys from “Per Manum.” Frequent abductee Billy Miles gets pulled out of the ocean by a fishing vessel. He appears to have been dead for some time, right down to the necrotizing flesh, but has slight vital signs. Skinner thinks there’s a chance that Mulder could similarly be less than dead. An exhumation proves Skinner’s theory, but Mulder is still very sick.
Billy Miles wakes up and sheds his gross skin to reveal the healthy body beneath it. The strange affliction is an alien virus that destroys the human body and replaces it with an identical but indestructible alien one. Krycek offers Skinner a vaccine to save Mulder if he’ll kill Scully’s baby. Instead, Scully stabilizes Mulder and treats him with anti-virals before the infection runs its course.
“Three Words” exposes even more about the new conspiracy. A guy with a disk labeled “Fight the Future” gets shot on the White House lawn. Fate throws Mulder and Doggett together to discover that the disk contained a list of citizens targeted for replacement by evil alien replicants like Billy Miles.
In “Vienen,” Mulder and Doggett reluctantly team up again to investigate deaths onboard an oil rig. The oilmen are all aliens working to access a huge reserve of infected black oil for infection and colonization. Once again, Doggett tries to resist the truth even when it stares him in the face, but his resistance seriously starts to slip. Kersh flips his shit because of how the investigation was handled and fires Mulder from the FBI.
“Vienen” ends with Mulder basically knighting Doggett as Sir Truths-a-lot, defender of the X-Files. The actors have great energy and chemistry, so I was sort of disappointed we didn’t see more of them together. Pervert Alert: On a couple of occasions during “Vienen,” the thought that Mulder and Doggett ought to make out drifted through my mind, but that probably says as much about me as it does about the episode.
After the funny one-off and love letter to fans “Alone,” wherein Doggett gets paired up with a Mulder-and-Scully fangirl, the season concludes with the seriously intense combo of “Essence” and “Existence.” Misinformation from Krycek and Roher (an alien himself) abounds, but eventually Mulder teases out that the alien Super Soldier replacements are the ones after Scully’s baby. They’re the key to the new post-Syndicate colonization plans. They think Scully’s baby could be a threat to their plans, and evil Billy Miles leads the charge to destroy it.
Scully and Reyes escape to rural Georgia to let Scully give birth without alien interference. It looks like they just might get away with it when a whole fucking swarm of baddies (including GWLGB Dale Dickey, later Patty the daytime hooker on “My Name is Earl”) show up. You have to assume they’re going to unleash infanticidal doom. Instead, they get a look at the baby, decide for unknowable alien reasons that he isn’t a threat, and leave. Mulder follows the bright light in the sky (there’s a smidge more Christ symbolism for ya) and finds Scully in time to get her and the baby to a hospital. Hints and allegations galore still suggest there’s something special, something crucial and potentially humanity-saving about the baby, but they don’t delve into it very much.
The season ends with Reyes and Doggett telling Kersh his office is under investigation because he’s been colluding with aliens. Mulder and Scully have a pants-wettingly touching moment with their baby William and a long awaited sexy-times smooch. Then there’s fireworks and rainbows and they live happily ever after off screen, hopefully figuring out a way to prevent the alien invasion in 2012. Or that’s what should have happened. Instead, Fox insisted on a ninth season and everything went all to hell.
But for now, at the conclusion of Season 8, I’m happy. I asked myself if everything should have ended after 7 before things got weird. I’ll say now with conviction that it shouldn’t have. Things do get weird in Season 8, but mostly in a good way. There are many worse ways to end “The X-Files” than with Scully and Mulder as parents, happy and in love, the X-Files under the supervision of a capable and dedicated investigator, and the hope that the mysteries still on the horizon can eventually be solved.