Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The X-Files, Episode 9.19 - "The Truth"

I never watched The X-Files as it was originally airing. That’s probably for the best – I don’t think I would have liked it as a kid. Would I have latched on to Mulder and Scully’s platonic relationship, or would I have spent the whole time annoyedly waiting for them to get together? Would I have endured the ‘freak of the week’ episodes that make up a majority of the series? Would the Syndicate and the alien conspiracy have held my attention? It’s hard to say. I did really love Lois & Clark, and would probably have made a comparison between the two shows. They’re similar shows on some levels, but The X-Files is unquestionably the better show. That said, it didn’t have Superman in it, so I probably wouldn’t have been quite as into it.

I’m glad I came to The X-Files when I did. As an adult I think I’m better equipped to handle the “slow burn” pace of the series, to tease out answers and clues from sentences half-spoken by cigarette-smoking men, to enjoy the silly one-off episodes and the heavier mytharc stories, and to appreciate the depth of the relationship between Mulder and Scully. The series was always about Mulder’s search for the truth, but over the course of nine years it became just as much Dana’s search, though she remained the more sensible one about it (what else would you expect from a scientist?).

The truth is over there, where they’re looking.

And so we have the series finale to The X-Files, the end of nine years of weekly monsters, shadowy figures, and Mulder’s quest for The Truth. A finale that, hopefully, wraps up the threads of those nine years and gives the characters – and the viewers – a satisfying sense of closure. It was a long trip for me to get here – not nine years long thanks to the wonders of home video, but long nonetheless – and I was looking forward to the end, even though I’d heard enough about it already not to expect everything to be wrapped up neatly.

And boy, what a mess it still was at the end.

This oversized episode is comprised mainly of two parts – Mulder’s trial for the murder of Knowle Rohrer (not at all how I thought his name should be spelled), and Mulder and Scully’s adventures after he escapes from military custody. The first part was enjoyable, in a ‘Fox Mulder, this is your life!’ kind of way. It reminded me of the series finale of Seinfeld, where they trotted out characters from previous episodes (“Look, it’s Andrea from The Walking Dead!”) and reminded you of how great the show once was. We even get to see some long-dead characters in the form of random Mulder hallucinations. Mulder’s plan was to use the trial to expose the Syndicate and the alien conspiracy. Needless to say, he failed, but it was a fun trip down memory lane.

The second part was kind of a mess, with Scully, Skinner, Doggett, Reyes, and AD Kirsch helping Mulder escape, and then Mulder and Scully taking off for New Mexico rather than bee-lining it to the border like any escaped felon would do. The others go to work the next day like nothing’s happened only to discover that stuff did indeed still happen and the bad guys know where Mulder and Scully are going and are on their way to kill them, thus giving Doggett and Reyes something to do for the rest of the episode. In the desert (you can’t remember your name), Mulder and Scully find the Cigarette Smoking Man hiding out in some old Pueblo ruins, and he confirms what Mulder and the quick-reading audience discovered in the first scene of the episode – that an alien invasion is scheduled for December 22nd, 2012 (so, two weeks ago this Friday). Then they leave, some military helicopters blow up the ruins and kill CSM, and that’s pretty much the end. Doggett and Reyes show up for a few minutes, too, but they really don’t serve much of a purpose.

”We’ll just stand over here and stay out of the way.”

Honestly, it’s more than a bit underwhelming. There’s very little to be satisfied about here. Things happen very fast, but at the same time nothing really happens at all. There’s no resolution to anything. Alan Dale is still a super-soldier and still a high-ranking government official. There’s no indication given of how our heroes might stop the impending alien invasion, just that they’re not going to give up. We get a return visit from Gibson Praise, a young mind reader who has been in hiding since the end of season 5, and we are told that his life could be in danger, but there’s never any threat made against him. Mulder has the aforementioned random visits from the ghosts of Krycek, the Lone Gunmen, and Mr. X, but it’s never explored why he would be hallucinating. Overall there’s absolutely no sense of urgency to what could and rightfully should have been an epic series finale.

That was really a problem for the whole ninth season, actually. The second-to-last episode of the series – what you would expect to be a direct lead-in to the finale, building towards some sort of a climax – was a standalone episode about a man who could make his house look like the one from The Brady Bunch. It was a very enjoyable episode, but at the same time, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Is that it? Shouldn’t you be doing something?’ I never felt like season nine was going anywhere. It’s unfortunate that the finale basically proved that feeling right.

Did you remember that Cary Elwes was on the show? Neither did I and I just watched it.

I will miss these characters, Mulder and Scully and Skinner and even Doggett and Reyes, who really grew on me once they started to be more fleshed-out. I understand that Chris Carter’s plan was to use the finale as a jumping-off point for a series of movies that have, thus far, never come to fruition. With the date of the alien invasion having passed, I would be interested to see what has become of our heroes. I’m still disappointed in how the series itself ended, though, not with a bang but with an unresolved whimper.