Scully: Do I detect a hint of negativity?
Mulder: No! Yes. Actually. Yeah. – “Detour” (5×4)
The announcement that The X-Files would be ending at the end of the season came after “John Doe” (9×7) aired, but it also came while “Scary Monsters” was in production. How much of the writing team’s understandable feelings of disappointment, loss and rejection made it into what was probably an already completed script, I can’t say. But whether the timing was purely coincidental or not, “Scary Monsters” gives us insight to some of 1013’s conflicted feelings about the fandom that both loved them and betrayed them by disappearing in droves.
Leyla Harrison: Agent Mulder wasted no time closing that case. I just try to think like him. What would Agents Mulder and Scully do if they were in this situation?
Doggett: Agents Mulder and Scully aren’t in this situation. Agents Doggett and Reyes are.
Gabe Rotter: [Looking at Mulder’s ID badge] So, this is Johnny Fabulous, huh? “Oh, Mulder’s so smart! Mulder’s so dreamy!” That’s all Leyla ever talks about. “Mulder and Scully, Scully and Mulder.” Blah, blah, blah.
Leyla Harrison: I really do have to commend you, Agent Doggett. You solved this case. If it weren’t for you … I don’t even like to think what would have happened. I have to say, it’s clear to me now that you were better equipped for this challenge than even Agent Mulder would have been, absolutely. I mean, your lack of imagination saved our lives.
Doggett: Gee, thanks.
[In the basement office]
Gabe Rotter: So, this is where the magic happens?
Leyla Harrison: It still happens. I’m happy it’s in good hands.
Um…. Fellas, you know I love you, but my nose hasn’t been tickled by pixie dust in a good long while now.
I’m not sure if “Scary Monsters” is a defense of the advent of Doggett and Reyes or a concession that Doggett and Reyes couldn’t quite cut it in the hearts of fans. Judging by the way the episode ends, I’m more inclined to consider it the former, one final argument to say that everyone from the actors to the crew have been doing a great job all along, but we fans, as represented by Leyla Harrison, have been too infatuated with Mulder and the way things used to be to recognize that.
“It’s been a very strange season,” Carter said. “We lost our audience on the first episode. It’s like the audience had gone away, and I didn’t know how to find them. I didn’t want to work to get them back because I believed what we are doing deserved to have them back.”
Let’s consider just this episode for a moment since “Scary Monsters” is technically what we’re here to talk about.
The character of Leyla Harrison is back and she’s brought a friend. I already discussed my conflicted feelings about Leyla in the review for “Alone” (8×19), but suffice it to say, she was created as a representation of the fans and was named after a deceased fan. Despite the sweetness of the concept, she wearies one in her execution.
Even Scully looks awkward to see her.
Yet here she is, making sure to maintain the meta in a final countdown to the series finale that’s already fraught with meta. “Improbable” (9×14) was meta and “Sunshine Days” (9×18) will be meta squared. Still, Leyla is around as both another genuine tribute to the fans that have stuck out Season 9, and as a way of not-so-subtly telling those fans to give it up already and come around to the charms of Doggett and Reyes.
I submit that the fans that are still watching are not the ones who need to hear that message. That’s preaching to the choir.
And if you haven’t had your fill of self-awareness, there’s Tommy. Tommy is your average little boy… with an imagination so vivid and powerful that the people around him buy into the reality of his creations wholeheartedly. Oh, and he goes around saying, “I made this.”
Sounds like a little show I know.
It’s a cute idea. The whole episode is a relatively cute idea and I’m not mad at it. But it’s not particularly anything outside of a self-referential jab to the ribs. I’m neither scared nor moved nor very amused, even though the scenes between Scully and Gabe Rotter are the best parts of the episode.
Gabe Rotter feels more like an over-the-top goofy character off of The Lone Gunmen, which was the same for the character Dr. Rocky Bronzino in “Lord of the Flies” (9×6), also written by Thomas Schnauz who wrote for both shows. “Scary Monsters” is only slightly more sure of its footing than “Lord of the Flies”, but it’s still unconvincing in tone. According to my copy of LAX-Files, Thomas Schnauz admits it was written in “basically panic.” Considering The X-Files’ famous production schedule, I can believe that. The problem is, it shows.
It’s been showing. The ratings must have been a disappointment but the ratings tell the story. If the audience had come back would they have been excited? Satisfied? Thoroughly entertained?
The X-Files used to be great all the time, magic almost all the time, but lately it’s been chronically good to middling. Sometimes it’s downright confusing and aggravating. As sad as it makes me to admit it, I would argue that Season 9 was destined to fail.
There’s a sentimental moment at the end of “Scary Monsters” when Leyla and Gabe come face to face with Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster. We all want to believe, which is why like the characters who get so wrapped up in Tommy’s imagination that it becomes real to them, some of us find ourselves passionately loyal to a television show. We believe in it because we want to.
And we’re still here.
I wasn’t sold on the X-File itself, but I did think the resolution to the case was well done. Mulder would have believed in Tommy’s reality. Doggett succeeds because he couldn’t believe in it. When it comes to solving X-Files cases, there’s more than one way to skin a giant bedbug…
Which is why I’ve been saying since Season 8 that it wasn’t necessary to so exactly repeat the Skeptic/Believer dynamic, but let me hop back off my soapbox.
It’s kinda nice to have one more creepy kid story before we go. Still, I can’t help thinking one good spanking would’ve nipped this all in the bud long ago.
Why wouldn’t Mulder’s ID have been turned in the day he was fired from the F.B.I.?
Cats have imaginations?
Mulder’s fish tank is in Scully’s apartment again.
So that ending… Is that a subtle hint to stop watching so much TV because it’s stifling our imaginations? ‘Cause that’s, sadly, about to be arranged.
Mostly, I’m pretty sure the ending is a homage to “D.P.O.” (3×3), which is also mentioned by Leyla earlier in the episode.