“Alone” makes me want to cry and not for sentimental reasons.
It was lovingly crafted as a nostalgic look back at the Mulder and Scully era and as a tribute to the fans by the Godfather of The X-Files, Frank Spotnitz, who both wrote and directed it. It’s dotted with tender little nods toward some of the show’s most memorable moments, a “Dreamland II” (6×5) reference in particular being especially appreciated by me.
But… and I feel like an ingrate and a heel when I say this… I don’t like it.
This episode marks Scully’s departure from the X-Files, Mulder having said goodbye to the basement office last episode. This is the very last Monster of the Week episode of Season 8 and the very last Monster of the Week episode before Mulder’s official departure from the series. Yes, that means that for both Mulder and Scully this is their last chance to solve an X-File together. This is our last chance to see them solve an X-File together, only they don’t.
That’s Doggett’s job now and Doggett’s job “Alone.” So Mulder and Scully are splitting precious screen time with Doggett as he investigates an X-File that was never designed to hold our interest in and of itself.
*whines* Why do they have to share??
I say Doggett’s alone in his new job, but he’s been temporarily assigned a rather green partner. Don’t worry, she won’t last but an episode. Her name is Leyla Harrison which, in a very sweet and genuine tribute, is the name of a fan of The X-Files who passed away from cancer. Her name and this character come to represent all the X-Philes out there and the mutual love between them, the characters and the creators of this amazing, amazing show. I’m not overstating my own emotions when I say I personally consider The X-Files a gift from God.
That’s why I feel horrible when every time I see the Leyla Harrison character onscreen I instinctively resent her and recoil. She’s an annoyance and a distraction. She’s also too literal a representation. I wasn’t too insightful back in the day as a teenager watching this show, but even my dense self realized the wide-eyed Agent Harrison was a stand-in for The X-Files’ legion of fans. 1013… are we really a bunch of silly, awkward little groupies to you? I know I’m slavishly devoted and I squeal a lot, but really. This is insulting.
The above are the complaints of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad person. If you’re Frank Spotnitz, I know you were expressing love and I’m sorry. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
Moving on to a less sensitive subject, by Frank Spotnitz’s own admission in the DVD commentary, the monster is the least interesting part of this episode by design. The plot merely gives us an excuse and a way to say a bittersweet goodbye to what The X-Files was with Mulder and Scully and to look ahead toward an unknown but promising future with Doggett. It strikes me on this rewatch that the same can be said for every single episode of Season 8 after Mulder’s return.
Did it need to be done? Well, it is and was complicated.
From what I know of Season 8, and please someone correct me where I’m mistaken, the status of the show was in limbo very much like it had been in Season 7. All the way through the writing and filming of the season finale, it remained unknown whether the show would be back for Season 9. What was known was that whether it came back or not, David Duchovny had made it clear that he wouldn’t be back. That means that the Mulder and Scully era would officially end with the Season 8 finale regardless of whether or not Gillian Anderson, whose contract was also up at the end of Season 8, signed up for Season 9. Heck, even Chris Carter was in the midst of contract negotiations with Fox and wasn’t certain to be coming back. He actually swore he wouldn’t do a season without David Duchovny.
I know that’s hard to keep track of, but what it all means is that the latter half of Season 8 needed to serve as both a goodbye to Mulder and Scully and still pave the way for a Season 9 with a new team, just in case there was a Season 9. So instead of a clear and focused goodbye, we’re also getting a rushed and anxious hello, anxious to make sure we love Doggett and Reyes enough to stick around and watch them.
Which brings us to “Alone” and a less than successful attempt to make us as the audience willing to pass the baton on to Doggett as easily as Mulder and Scully appear to be willing to. Doggett’s a good guy and I like him, but all his scenes with Agent Leyla Harrison make me feel is impatient that they’re taking up my time when I could be watching Mulder and Scully. If Mulder and Scully weren’t here at all it might be different, but teasing me with their legendary chemistry in a few brief scenes and then giving me Clint Eastwood and Goldie Hawn is a recipe for discontent.
What I was hoping to see was Mulder and Scully solve an X-File one last time. What I now know is that the last time I would ever see them hunt a traditional monster or villain together in a stand-alone episode was way back in “Brand X” (7×19). Surprise! You never knew it was over.
One thing I would like to be over is this hemming and hawing over whether or not Mulder and Scully are a couple. Take the scene where Mulder picks Scully up for Lamaze class:
Now, at this point, we still had not revealed the paternity of Scully’s baby, although Mulder and Scully presumably knew whether they had consummated their relationship. And so this scene is meant as a tease: Did they or didn’t they? You know, it could well be that Mulder’s just a good, close friend helping her go to Lamaze or it could be more. – Frank Spotnitz
I always thought Scully’s “Thank you for doing this with me” line felt off. Why would she thank the father of her child for participating in the pregnancy and birth? Now I know it wasn’t me, it was 1013.
Trust me, fellas. I was already watching to the bitter end. There was no need to bait me.
I was actually quite emotional by this point in the show’s run knowing that I was about to lose Mulder and Scully. I still get emotional here towards the end of Season 8. You know it’s coming and you know it has to come, but it hurts, dang it. Maybe that’s why I’m so grouchy.
Doggett certainly doesn’t deserve my attitude. It’s not his fault he got stuck with the superfan.
Uncle Frank doesn’t deserve my attitude either, since this is a heartfelt and polished looking effort from the first time director.
No, it’s all sweet but it’s a little too direct.
The best part of the episode has to be Mulder and Scully arguing about how they got back from Antarctica in Fight the Future. That was still a little meta for me, but it was cute. Mulder and Scully can’t help but be cute.
Ugh. I’m gonna miss these two. My poor heart.
I believe this was our last Mulder phone ditch. *sniff* *sniffle* *sob*
“Sunshine Days” (9×19), which will end up being not only the penultimate episode of its season but of the series, will give us another take on fans, fandom and nostalgia.
They let Leyla solve the mystery. So there’s that.
Mulder and Doggett have to work together and take a huge risk to defeat the monster, so there’s that too.
What was it the old man told his son to take care of in the teaser?
Mulder’s attitude during he and Scully’s last autopsy together is priceless. It’s not, “I’m gonna miss this, Scully.” It’s, “We’ve got better things to do, Scully.”
Scully: How do you know all these things, Mulder?
Mulder: I’m unemployed. I have a lot of time on my hands. Oprah. I watch a lot of Oprah.
Harrison: Agent Doggett. What happened?
Doggett: I lost my grip… with a little help from the man upstairs.