I Want to Believe: I don’t think I’m the one who’s changed.


 

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This wasn’t the plan. Within a year of the series finale, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz were brainstorming an idea for the next installment in what everyone assumed would be The X-Files’ continuing feature film franchise. The release would be sometime in 2004. The fandom was out there.

But then, there were delays, and negotiations, and delays, and scheduling issues, and more delays… and a lawsuit. By the end of all that, Carter and Spotnitz were left to work with a small budget, an unsupportive studio, and a dwindling fan base; the cultural zeitgeist of the 90’s had passed and even if it hadn’t, Seasons 8 and 9 had laid waste to much of the public’s interest in The X-Files. Oh, and they lost all their plot notes so they had to scrap their previous ideas and start the script from scratch. Oh, and there was a writer’s strike during filming which meant they couldn’t fix any of the script’s problems.

I Want to Believe was a brainchild born under less than ideal circumstances. It’s little wonder then that it wafts whiffs of the smoke of disappointment. When I squint at it mentally, I see a middle aged man looking nostalgically back on his promising youth and trying to keep hope alive for the future.

But is it good?

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One plan that stayed alive from the beginning was to make this movie an extended Monster of the Week episode, a stand-alone, rather than write it as part of the larger mythology. This way audiences who didn’t know the series could get into it; it could generate general interest and pave the path for more films. As a fan who always leaned more toward the stand-alone episodes, I was and am all for this.

IWTB is an atmospheric, contained, pensive film. That’s what it needed to be, especially on a small budget. Personally, I wasn’t looking for loud explosions or dramatic special effects. I needed a Monster of the Week, not that was bigger and badder, but that was better than what I got in a typical episode.

To that end, the film is shot beautifully. The production went back to Vancouver and the director of photography from the series, Bill Roe, was brought back for this big screen effort so it looks like The X-Files. Someone new to the franchise would get a quick and easy idea of its trademark aesthetic. The setting, the chill, the darkness, it’s all perfect. And for a while, it convinces me I’m back home, imaginatively speaking.

But the difficulty in making this a MOTW is that it creates continuity issues for long time fans. When we last saw Mulder and Scully some six years previously, Mulder was on the run for his life after being given the death penalty by the F.B.I.. After being a part of the plan to help him escape, Scully ran off with him, and I don’t suppose she handed in her resignation either. We left them in a hotel room in New Mexico, hiding from an alien infiltrated government and on their way to Canada, ready to give everything in order to prevent alien colonization before D-Day 12/22/12.

In order for this to be a proper MOTW and still fit into the framework of the mythology, I assumed they would still be on the run or in hiding, but would somehow stumble upon an X-File, an outbreak of platonic paranormal activity or some such. I was sort of right about their being in hiding. Mulder’s hiding out in his home office while Scully lives openly, not under an assumed name, and works in a private Catholic hospital. There’s no underlying sense of urgency. (I’m sorry… when did the Super Soldiers stop posing a threat? I don’t need a mythology rundown, just a wee bit of context, please.)

After all that build up Season 9 about the government being out to kill Mulder, after Carter painted these two characters into the ultimate corner where they have no choice but to leave everything and everyone behind to take on the world by themselves, the threat is magically gone, just like Scully’s cancer, just like Mulder’s brain disease, and just like William. It’s safe for Mulder to walk into F.B.I. headquarters now. There are no Super Soldiers hiding in plain sight there. And the government doesn’t care about him one way or the other. “Just do us this favor and we’ll pretend none of it ever happened, Mulder.” Well, I’m going to do this plot a favor and pretend this issue was resolved in a much more satisfactory fashion.

In the grand scheme of things, how they get to this point is not a big deal. All that matters to me is that Mulder and Scully have an X-File to solve again. Mulder and Scully. Mulder and Scully.

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Is it too much to ask to see Mulder and Scully solve an interesting case… together? That’s all I want. That’s what I tuned into The X-Files to see every week. Instead we have Scully at first urging Mulder back into the land of the living only to retreat herself just as things get interesting. If IWTB is anything, it’s a character study, but not of Mulder, of Scully.

For first time viewers, it no doubt doesn’t matter. But for obsessive Philes, we know that Scully has a long history of being a paying passenger on Mulder’s crazy train. She’s briefly fantasized about normalcy in episodes like “Emily” (5×7) and “Dreamland” (6×4). And she’s questioned her life choices a few times in episodes like “Never Again” (4×13) and “all things” (7×17). But as in the ending of “all things”, she has reaffirmed her decision to continue tilting at windmills with Mulder over and over again. She did it, for example, in “Quagmire” (3×22), “Tooms” (1×20), “Paper Clip” (3×2), “Memento Mori” (4×15), Fight the Future, etc. etc. Scully wasn’t dragged into this quest and she hasn’t been dragged along. She’s invested in the journey.

Heck, she even reconfirmed her commitment in “The Field Where I Died” (4×5). It’s a strange day indeed when I have to use TFWID as evidence of anything good and true…

Anyway, the last time we saw Scully in “The Truth” (9×19/20) she was doing what she does best after debunking Mulder’s theories and that’s keeping him in the fight, like she did in “Little Green Men” (2×1), “One Son” (6×12), and “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4), to mention a few episodes of note. Scully is the official Keeper of Mulder’s Faith. And that’s why reading between the lines of the script, I believe ITWB was designed to turn the tables, that it’s meant to show us a weary Scully who now has to be urged back into battle herself by Mulder and by God.

This is potentially a very interesting and welcome moment of personal evolution for her character. Characters, like real people (and Scully is real), evolve and change. But if Scully’s going to jump from “Let’s fight the darkness, Mulder” to “I don’t wanna fight the darkness, Mulder” then we need some kind of context as to how and why.

I remember in the script stage talking a lot about what Scully could say and couldn’t say to [Mulder], that it couldn’t be selfish, her refusal to join him and wanting him to stop. She had to have legitimate reasons about where she was in her life. – Spotnitz, Blu-ray Commentary

Did going on the lam test her faith and her patience? Did she miss her family? Is that why she and Mulder settled down and she took a regular job again? Scully says that she and Mulder have a home and that she doesn’t want the darkness to creep back into that home. Is it that she and Mulder have finally found happiness and she doesn’t want to lose it? Or is it the relative peace that she values? ‘Cause they don’t exactly look like they’re living in non-marital bliss…

Is it that she’s rediscovered her calling as a physician? Are we supposed to understand she’s found fulfillment elsewhere now that she and Mulder aren’t chasing monsters anymore and that her work helping others has replaced the necessity of her work on the X-Files? Maybe it’s her relationship with young Christian, who is not so subtly named “Christian” and comes to represent both her lost son and the Christian faith she questions as she thinks on both her own losses and this young boy’s suffering.

If all that is the case, then I’m sad to say it doesn’t prove particularly effective as character motivation. The fate of the wide world rests on Mulder and Scully’s shoulders, but having Mulder out of the house for this case is too much for her to take? So she threatens to leave the only person who understands everything she’s been through? The person who she’s saved and who has saved her more times than she can count? Really? Well just roll me into a ball of confusion.

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When did Scully become that chick? When did she become the clingy girlfriend or the stereotypical cop’s wife for whom no emergency is worth her husband missing dinner? The woman who from the outside male perspective doesn’t appear logical, but purely hormonal? Scully’s suddenly the type to emotionally manipulate Mulder into doing what she wants by holding their relationship over his head?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have a very low tolerance for onscreen relationship drama. Breakup or don’t. I have things to do.

I think the tension between Mulder and Scully would have worked much better if it had stayed centered around the case. We’re used to seeing Mulder and Scully at odds. The tension between them comes from their different perspectives, which actually work in a sort of harmony to drive the plot forward. There’s no need to force feed us marital drama. If there’s tension between them, let it be about the work itself, not their personal romance.

After all, as ever, they’re ultimately after the same thing. Scully is trying to save a life and so is Mulder. Not only is she after the same thing, she’s going after it in the same way – by exploring extreme possibilities. Even if Scully is wrapped up in what she’s doing at the hospital, there’s no legitimate emotional reason given for why she wants Mulder to give up trying to save these women and come back home and be a good househusband. (Oh, are you losing Mulder’s attention? I am so sorry.)

But that’s enough of my sarcasm because this isn’t a horrible movie. In fact, it starts off really well. There’s a creepy murder. Mulder and Scully are on a new mission – the team is back together. Mark Snow’s music is as effective as ever. It’s dark, it’s atmospheric, Mulder’s spouting mumbo jumbo nobody cares about and Scully looks worried about him. All is well in my world.

I especially like how the movie keeps us guessing as to the current status of Mulder and Scully’s relationship. Is it just that she knows how to find him for the F.B.I. or that they’re in regular contact? Are they in regular contact or is she at home in that house? Even at the end of the movie, is Scully moving out and saying goodbye or is she leaving for another day at work? See how things don’t have to be out in the open to stay interesting?

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Unfortunately, though, the movie hops over the boredom line at about the halfway mark. As the relationship drama ramps up, the mystery itself winds down. Instead of taking time to develop the villain or up the stakes of the plot, IWTB focuses on Mulder and Scully’s adventures with the peodophile priest. Father Joe is played convincingly and even sympathetically by Billy Connolly. But the overall plot is sacrificed to the themes of persistence and redemption that Father Joe represents. I love those themes, but isn’t there still supposed to be a mystery here worth solving?

Father Joe is here more than anything to be the voice of God for Scully, to convince her not to give up on young Christian or her faith. But, Scully’s like the prophet Jonah. Some people she’d rather not see God forgive. There can’t be a more unregenerate soul than a priest turned pedophile, right? If so, then the theme that absolutely anyone can be redeemed and anyone who presents themselves available can be used by God comes through loud and clear. By the end, Scully seems to have accepted the message on behalf of us all. 

As ever in The X-Files, God, Providence is at work behind the events. These are themes Chris Carter keeps coming back to, no doubt because they’re a part of him.

Verdict:

It’s not great, it’s not horrible. It’s just okay. But “okay” isn’t a satisfying comeback after six years. And “okay” doesn’t get you a third movie.

I remember seeing this in the theater for my 25th birthday. One of my best friends had come down to help me celebrate my quarter life crisis and what perfect timing! Mulder and Scully were back. After the way Season 9 ended and the amount of time that had passed, I had assumed all momentum was gone and that there would be no movie franchise forthcoming. Imagine the thrill when I found out we were getting a new movie, and a MOTW at that!

I was duly giddy with excitement, but I couldn’t help noting that we were about the only ones in the theater. And while the movie started out great, even as I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was happy to be seeing Mulder and Scully onscreen even when I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying myself, I knew even then that this wasn’t the kind of movie that spawned yet another movie. Mulder and Scully waved to me and I waved back to them (shamelessly) with the sad knowledge that this likely really was the end this time.

And then it wasn’t…

“I think we always had the desire that we would potentially do a third feature. I think we all felt that the second one that we did wasn’t necessarily the right way for us to end.” – Gillian Anderson

“I feel like we didn’t end on the right note before.“ – Gillian Anderson

I so agree. And I’m so, so grateful that it didn’t end here. If this had been a mediocre episode of the series, I could’ve shrugged off some of its failings much easier. When I thought it was The X-Files’ last gasp, it was a more painful thought. I’ve gone through ups and downs in my feelings about IWTB, but I think I’ve finally learned to accept it for what it is.  IWTB sounds like an instrument tuning back up. But you don’t listen to the orchestra tune up without then sitting through the concert. This was The X-Files getting a feel for itself again. This was the actors connecting with the characters again. This wasn’t a fully satisfying outing that left you feeling like Mulder and Scully’s journey was complete.

In the end, I’m glad IWTB wasn’t sufficient to launch another movie. In the end, the only satisfying way to finish out this series is to finish it out as a series. A couple of hours of screen time isn’t going to cut it to resolve everything that needs to be resolved. We don’t know where this new miniseries will lead, if it will lead to other miniseries. But if I can see the old team solving cases together one more time, it’ll all be worth it.

C+

Misplaced Bush Jokes:

“This stubbornness of yours… it’s why I fell in love with you.” I HATE this line. It’s the low point of the movie and one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the entire franchise. And no, I’m not surrendering my shipper card.

Enough with the free ads for Google. Google’s doing just fine on its own.

Realistically, this stood no chance being released during The Dark Knight’s massive reign.

A gay man kills innocent people to harvest limbs for transplant for his lover as part of a Russian medical conspiracy. They really thought that would work as a plot, huh?

Amanda Peet and Xzibit don’t feel like X-Files characters.

Speaking of which, what was the point of Agent Whitney’s toothless Mulder crush? I mean, other than kinda grossing me and Scully out?

Scully’s abilities as a doctor were always suspect given her resume. But when did she find time while on the run from the government to undergo training in pediatrics? And now the pathologist is poking around in the brains of the living? Scully does a quick Google search then wheels the boy into the OR for an experimental procedure the same day?

And, really? We’re going to bring Scully back to Seasons 1 & 3 with the “Samantha is Mulder’s only motivation” schtick?

THE BEARD, THO.

I can’t believe the Russians would successfully do those surgeries in those kind of unsanitary conditions.

“Write it down. Put it in a book.” – HUH???

William left me with an emptiness that couldn’t be filled either. Let’s see what happens now…

Dear Revival – As you can see, we’ve already been there, done that with the breakup idea.

Movin’ On Up:

The Skinner Hug. Squeal me.

I remember the actress who plays the missing agent from “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6). TPMP – My eternal debt to Chris Carter.

Between this and TPMP, it’s clear Chris Carter has a Frankenstein fetish.

Father Joe can’t have visions with Scully in the room. Echoes of the Stupendous Yappi in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” (3×4).

The hospital asks Scully to let go of her case, Scully asks Mulder to let go of his.

I love the effortless elegance of Scully’s hair.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: If it were me, I’d be on the guy 24/7, I’d be in bed with him kissing his holy ass.

Whitney: Father Joe’s a convicted pedophile.

Mulder: …Maybe I’d stay out of bed with him.

——————–

Scully: What is this?

Whitney: Dorms for habitual sex offenders.

Scully: Dorms?

Whitney: They manage the complex and police themselves. Father Joe lives here voluntarily with his roommate.

Mulder: Just avoid the activities room.

——————–

Scully: What are you doing?

Mulder: [Walks off] I’m trying to ignore you. {Editor’s Note: ME TOO.}

——————–

Skinner: I know Mulder. He’d get to a phone and call first. He wouldn’t do anything crazy.

Scully: [Looks at him]

Skinner: Not overly crazy.

 

Season 9 Wrap Up – There’s a lot of crap to cut through.


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Unbreak my heart.

“Working on a demanding show like The X-Files can take its physical toll on a person. I kept at it pretty regularly for the entire nine seasons,” Chris continues. “All I can say is on the last season of the show, I was writing or re-writing a lot and I would take a nap every day. As the season went on, it became two naps a day. Those nine years caught up with me pretty fast.” – LAX-Files, pg. 220

I would love to officially close out this rewatch of Season 9 and say that it was wonderful, tragically underestimated and that it exceeded my expectations. I would love to be able to conclude that our two new leads stole the show in every sense of the expression, that in the history of The X-Files, Season 9 was a new creation; old things had passed away, all things had become new.

But I can’t. I’d be lying. A new creation was what we needed, but it’s not what we got.

I don’t want this to turn into a diatribe on Season 9, and I also don’t want to expend any more mental energy on Season 9 than I have to for the sake of completion. So we’ll focus on a few main things that I think might have made the season better.

We needed a new mythology.

Because, no. Tacking on the Super Soldiers to the old mythology did not suffice.

I listed a series of questions in the review for “One Son” (6×12) that the Syndicate mythology still had left to answer when it ostensibly ended. But as of Season 6, the mythology had already grown way past anything the 1013 staff had originally hoped for and lasted well past what they had originally envisioned. It had grown large and unwieldy and Chris Carter decided to scrap it and do something new rather than dig a deeper hole and make it even more confusing. Um, that was the goal, anyway.

He did something “new” in “Biogenesis” (6×22) with alien gods, but it was still directly related to the mythology we were already familiar with. Then, with Mulder bowing out in Season 8, the Super Soldiers were introduced so that the new team, Doggett and Reyes, would have something fresh and scary to go up against. But the mystery of the Super Soldiers was tied to the mystery of the alien gods – was tied to the mystery of the Syndicate – was tied to the era of Mulder and Scully. We don’t have to play a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with it, either. The Super Soldiers went directly after Mulder and Scully’s baby and are working for the alien colonists that Mulder and Scully are working against. You can’t think of the Super Soldiers without thinking of the history of Mulder and Scully.

By the time we get to Season 9, not only are we more confused than ever by the connections between the conspiracies, but Doggett and Reyes aren’t on their own turf, they’re still effectively playing in Mulder and Scully’s sandbox. They’ve inherited a through-line so convoluted that:

“I looked at what many people had written about the mythology,” Spotnitz said, “and I was alarmed at how many people who are extremely knowledgeable about the show and had followed it religiously had drawn false conclusions and false connections between things… It was an amazingly complicated, sometimes convoluted conspiracy. I’m just astonished people stuck with it for as long as they did.”

But when I say that we needed a new mythology, I don’t just mean a plot that was brand new for Doggett and Reyes and for the audience. I mean we needed a new mythology because this one’s plot was a complete failure. The most interesting thing about it was how hard it bombed.

Please, no more alien gods. No more alien babies. No more god-like alien baby messiahs. And for the love of all that is Scully, if you’re going to write in a miracle child, don’t erase him like you wrote him on a whiteboard. No takesies backsies!

We needed the leads to star in their own show.

I think the plan to attach the fans to Doggett and Reyes by bonding them to Mulder and Scully, while it may have been the only plan available in Season 8, backfired. They became in effect, sidekicks; the less interesting sequel to a massive summer blockbuster.

I do believe they could have stood on their own as characters and that they had their own chemistry as a partnership. Yes, they started off as a reheated rehash of the Skeptic-Believer dynamic, which as I explain in the review for “Daemonicus” (9×3), probably should have stayed unique to Mulder and Scully. But they did prove in episodes like “4-D” (9×5), “John Doe” (9×7), and  “Audrey Pauley” (9×13) that they could hold their own and had the potential to build a unique dynamic. They needed cases that were suited to their strengths as a partnership rather than Mulder and Scully’s strengths. They needed to be free of Scully as the third wheel and free from the shadow of MSR. And they needed a quest all their own.

With Mulder and Scully, they had their marching orders from the Pilot (1×79). We knew why they were here and what they were doing. And while they were waylaid by Monster of the Week pitstops, we knew they were searching for something bigger in the X-Files and that these cases were merely detours or the chance to pick up small pieces of a larger puzzle. And both agents had not only a larger truth to prove or disprove, but they had personal reasons for being invested in their work; Mulder because of his sister and Scully because of her science.

Doggett and Reyes are never given their own mission or personal impetus to investigate the X-Files – No, Doggett’s crush on Scully doesn’t count as a personal impetus, nor does Reyes’ interest in Doggett.

Their fight against the Super Soldiers is an inherited fight. The closest thing Doggett has to a connection with the conspiracy is that an old, somewhat distant friend turned out to be a Super Soldier. Reyes? That her boss and former lover is nebulously aware of a conspiracy that he’s not directly a part of. If we’re being honest, the only reason they’re here is because they’ve become friends with Mulder and Scully. Considering what’s on the line, I don’t think that’s enough.

It was touched on in “Empedolces” (8×17), the idea that Doggett might be here because he wants to prove that there was nothing in the X-Files that could have helped his son. Unfortunately, this was never fully developed as a concept. Reyes’ reasons for investigating are even less developed. She gets “feelings” about cases and has a background in Religion. That makes the X-Files her dream assignment.

A genuine quest all their own, and motivations that carried real emotional weight – those two things could have made a world of difference.

We didn’t need Scully.

We didn’t need Scully or the little uber Scully. They should have run off with Mulder.

Not only did her presence force episodes to take precious time away from developing Doggett and Reyes as characters, her presence also inevitably invited comparison, conscious or not, to the time when Mulder and Scully used to investigate the X-Files. That inevitable comparison inevitably came out in Mulder and Scully’s favor, to the detriment of Doggett and Reyes’ budding partnership.

In fact, episodes like “Trust No 1” (9×8) and “Providence” (9×11) downright turned Doggett and Reyes into Scully’s sidekicks. They became supporting players in the continuing saga of Mulder and Scully instead of leads in their own, less melodramatic drama.

And even when the story had nothing to do with Scully, the script had to make room for her, whether she was useful to the plot or not. Most of the time, she wasn’t.

She spends the majority of the season doe eyes tearily wet with thoughts of Mulder. Either that or she’s crying out, “My baby! My baby!” O Scully, Scully. Wherefore art thou, Scully? What happened to the feisty redhead I once knew? The enigmatic doctor? The lofty example of female intelligence?

Just like that, the legacy of television’s favorite duo is cheapened into a tale of star crossed lovers and their accursed love child.

There has to be an end, Scully.

“If you ask me, we should have ended it two years ago,” Anderson said when the news was announced. “They couldn’t have found two better actors than Robert and Annabeth to take over, but the show was about Mulder and Scully.”

It was about Mulder and Scully and, unfortunately, it never stopped being about Mulder and Scully even when Mulder and Scully were gone. “The Truth” (9×19/20) only confirmed that fact. I second Gillian’s feelings – Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish did an excellent job. The failure of the show wasn’t Doggett and Reyes’ fault. The failure had everything to do with business, the logistics of network television, and most of all, the writing.

In order for Season 9 to have worked, we needed a clean break with the past. We needed two new heroes on a new quest with new perspectives, new dynamics and new enemies. Instead, we got Doggett, Reyes, Skinner, Follmer, Frohike, Langly and Byers playing the dwarves to Scully’s Snow White. (I would have included Kersh, but that’s not seven anymore, is it?)

What we needed, really, was a spinoff. Now, I know very well that wouldn’t have happened, but in an ideal world and all that.

It was just a shame to see this iconic, legendary show that provided so much joy over the years end its run on a low note. Then again… without a proper death, resurrection means nothing. I’m so glad I can look back and say this wasn’t really the end.

On that note of hope, here are the final set of awards for the series proper:

Give it Another Shot

Sunshine Days

Gave it Another Shot

Improbable

No More Shots

Provenance

Best Shot

Audrey Pauley

Long Shot

Underneath

Shoot Me

Jump the Shark

Shoot the TV

William

20 X-Files Episodes That Should Be on Your Top 10 List, but Probably Aren’t.


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Don’t worry. “Shadows” (1×5) is most assuredly not one of them.

This post is at its heart an exercise in hypocrisy since not only have I not been able to narrow down my favorites to a Top 10 yet, I haven’t worked out a Top 20. But if you do have a Top 10, or a Top 20, or a nebulous cloud of episodes that you can watch over and over without getting bored, then I humbly submit the following for consideration for inclusion into that elite group.

These aren’t the obvious darlings like “Beyond the Sea” (1×12) or “The Post-Modern Prometheus” (5×6), these are the hidden jewels of The X-Files. And I present them in no particular order… because I can’t decide even when I’m making decisions.

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1. “Drive” (6×2) – One of several episodes that inadvertently serve as a prelude to Breaking Bad, this episode was written by Vince Gilligan and guest stars an incredibly ornery Bryan Cranston. Along with several episodes on this list, it serves as solid evidence that Season 6 wasn’t the shark jumping problem child it’s often accused of being.

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2. “Elegy” (4×22) – An honest look at death and dying and the stages of grief that the dying and their loved ones go through before death even occurs. For the first time, Scully and Mulder emotionally confront the reality of her cancer and a poignant episode is born.

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3. “The Pine Bluff Variant” (5×18) – This is as close as The X-Files ever came to being 24. If they had extended it by another hour, it could have been a movie. One of my favorite scenes of Fox Mulder ever is hidden in this episode.

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4. “Roadrunners” (8×5) – If you bailed after Season 7, this is the best episode of The X-Files you’ve never seen. Written by Vince Gilligan (yes, again), it features a feisty Scully and a peripheral, but clever Doggett. And it’s the only A+ I found it in my heart to give after Season 6.

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5. “Anasazi“(2×25) – As are several on this list, this is one of my favorite Scully episodes. And also as are several others on this list, this is another episode where Mulder goes crazy. He lives at the edge of sanity anyway, I know. But it’s still fun to watch. This is also when mythology really starts ramping up and branching out.

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6. “Monday” (6×15) – You really can’t trust that day. But if you dare to try, you’ll find an episode that’s equal parts mysterious, moving and funny. This is one of Mulder’s best episodes, in my humble opinion.

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7. “Milagro” (6×18) – Sadly, this favorite of writer Frank Spotnitz’s is largely misunderstood. But it’s a special one for the writing staff and if you give it another chance, I think you might understand why. Hint: It’s all about Scully as a character taking on autonomy and breaking out of the mold her writer put her in.

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8. “E.B.E.” (1×16) – A pre-mythology alien conspiracy episode written by Morgan & Wong that marks the memorable introduction of the Lone Gunmen. It’s also a turning point in Mulder and Scully’s partnership as Mulder comes to realize he and Scully are in this together and she’s the only one he can trust.

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9. “Field Trip” (6×21) – This is a trip in more ways than one, so expect the surreal. But if you want a brilliantly condensed version of what Mulder and Scully’s partnership is and why it works, this is the episode you turn to.

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10. “Aubrey” (2×12) – Written by one of the few female writers ever on staff, this episode features, well, a woman. A woman in a man’s world who can’t seem to escape the men in her life, to memorable results.

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11. “Tithonus” (6×9) – My husband, Vince Gilligan, wrote this one as well and it is great. It’s one of the rare cases that Scully investigates without Mulder, which creates for some humorous jealousy on Mulder’s end and some fun telephone conversations. But mostly, this episode shows off Scully to her best advantage and asks some profound questions.

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12. “Eve” (1×10)- We all know the Season 1 classics that turned The X-Files into a phenomenon, like “Ice” (1×7). But “Eve” marks the best in a long tradition of Creepy Kids. This one’s double the pleasure, double the fun. This is also one of the few times Mulder is ever completely wrong about a case.

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13. “Unruhe” (4×2) – By now you’re wondering how many Vince Gilligan episodes I plan to insert in this list. The answer is: not enough. Here’s another episode from the master that actually makes you think that one of our leads is in real danger… even though you know very well Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny signed contracts and won’t be going anywhere.

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14. “Ascension” (2×6) – The follow-up “One Breath” (2×8) gets more attention, I think because of its emotionality. This episode, though, features lots of action and Mulder gone for a ride on the cray cray train now that Scully’s missing and he feels responsible. It’s also Mulder’s first encounter with Maggie Scully whose scenes with him have more impact than those with his own mother.

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15. “Kill Switch” (5×11) – Fun, fun, fun (‘til her daddy takes the T-Bird away). I love this romp of a ride and all the shenanigans it entails. Again, this is a mini movie and it stars a sarcastic Scully, who I’ve been missing since Season 1.

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16. “F. Emasculata” (2×22) – This is neck and neck with “Roadrunners” for the grossest episode in the series, but boy is it fun. This is less of a traditional X-File and more of a thriller a la Outbreak or U.S. Marshalls.

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17. “Trevor” (6×17) – Another silent gem from Season 6 that I want to hear make some noise. “Trevor” feels like a Season 3 case, but now with banter bumped up. It’s classic, but particularly cinematic thanks to director Rob Bowman’s trademark touch.

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18. “Folie à Deux” (5×19) – Giant Telemarketing Grasshoppers? Yes, please! Yet another entry from Vince Gilligan that isn’t nearly as light and silly as it sounds. Here he shows just how well he understood these two characters and the depths of their shared madness.

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19. “Wetwired” (3×23) – For once, Mulder isn’t the paranoid one. If you want to see some high drama from Scully that doesn’t involve wailing for her baby, then this is the episode for you. It also features a great guest spot by the Lone Gunmen and one of Maggie Scully’s best moments in the series.

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20. “Demons” (4×23) – Season 4 was the season of angst and this episode is Mulder in full 90’s emo mode. But don’t let that scare you off – Scully is fierce this episode. And even though it’s not technically connected to the season finale “Gethsemene” (4×24), it serves as the perfect emotional bridge to it. 

The Truth 9×19/20: Maybe there’s hope.


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I’m here to regale you with yet another trip back into the memory of an X-Phile. Because what is “The Truth” if not a long exercise in nostalgia? Well, so is this.

I remember the buildup of anticipation for this episode, because it’s not really one episode, but two. Two episodes of The X-Files back to back? That’s as good as a movie! And with David Duchovny officially returning, surely the series was going to go out with a bang.

Well, it went out with lots of bangs. Some bangs, some disappointments, some head-scratchers, and lots of emotional flailings. And it all starts where it began – with Mulder.

Listen, kids, you have no idea what seeing David Duchovny’s face fill the screen after all that time did to a girl back in the day. If you binge watched your way to this point, not counting flashbacks and eyeball cameos because they don’t count, then you waited approximately 774 minutes. I waited approximately 8,760 hours. Yes, I counted. Season 9: The struggle had been real.

2016 still found me flipping out with relief. I may or may not have repeatedly called out Mulder’s name like I had spent years stranded alone in the television wilderness. Because I had.

And true to form, no sooner is Mulder back than he’s already sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong. I’m frustrated. I’m yelling at him. I’m thrilled to be doing so. Still, I wonder… how did he manage all this funky poaching without the Lone Gunmen? Top secret military facilities don’t do headcounts? No one noticed Mulder is the only one who hopped off the helicopter without a briefcase?

Guard: What are you thinking?

Mulder: About my son… about his mother.

Guard: Wrong answer!

No, right answer. Right. Answer.

Side Note: Am I the only one who watches these brainwashing scenes and has flashbacks to Star Trek: The Next Generation? “There… are… four lights!”

Anywho, by the time the torture is all over we’re not sure, or we’re not supposed to be sure, whether or not Mulder has finally lost his marbles. He sees dead people… and he’s a guilty man. He’s failed in every respect. He deserves the harshest punishment for his crimes.

Scully isn’t sure either which is what creates the delicious tension in their initial reunion. But she should have known because Mulder keeps calling Scully “Dana” and Skinner “Walter.” Which is code for, “They’re watching.” This also serves as further proof that the emails in “Trust No 1” (9×8) were either forgeries or carefully encrypted messages. I want to believe.

Because you see, when you believe, mountains move, seas part, and Mulder grabs Scully and kisses her like the world’s about to end… because it actually is.

I consider this moment my personal reward for making it to the finish line of Season 9. You can consider it whatever you like, but they did that for me. And the best part, the BEST part of the whole thing is watching Skinner’s awkward bald head squirm in the background.

Oh, the squeals. The flails. The sweet agony. I don’t know what it is, but these two people do deep things to me.

So go ahead. Write me off as a cheap shipper. ‘Cause Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care.

Mulder ‘n Scully 4EVA!

Mulder: Come here you big, bald, beautiful man.

And now back to our regularly scheduled adulthood…

Scully: Mulder …

Mulder: They can’t try me without exposing themselves. I know what I’m doing. {Editor’s Note: No, you don’t.}

That scene, beautiful as it is, transitions awkwardly and unconvincingly into the next.

Scully: Mulder, it’s me. {Editor’s Note: The last one! *sobs*}

Mulder: Is it time to go?

Scully: No. That’s why I’m here. Mulder, I need you to talk to me, confide in me, or we’ll lose.

Mulder: We can’t win, Scully. We can only hope to go down fighting.

Scully: You’re scaring me! Mulder, I’m so scared that I’ve just got you back and now I’m going to lose you again!

Mulder: I know what I’m doing. {Editor’s Note: No, you don’t! Stop saying that!}

Scully: Well, whatever you’re doing… you have no idea how much has already been lost… What I’ve had to do.

Mulder: I do know. Skinner told me.

Scully: [Crying] Our son, Mulder! I gave him up! [Mulder embraces her] Our son! I was so afraid you could never forgive me.

Mulder: I know you had no choice. {Editor’s Note: Bullcrap.} I just missed both of you so much.

Scully: God, where have you been? Where have you been hiding?

Mulder: In New Mexico. [Buries his face in her shoulder]

Scully: Doing what?

Mulder: Looking for the truth.

[They both chuckle… because he sounds as ridiculous as ever]

Scully: You found something, didn’t you? Huh? What did you find?

Mulder: I can’t tell you.

Scully: You found something in that facility? That’s what you were doing, right? Mulder, what did you find out there?

Mulder: Scully, I can’t tell you.

Scully: That doesn’t make sense! {Editor’s Note: No, it doesn’t!}

Mulder: You’ve got to trust me, Scully. I know things it’s better you don’t.

First of all, I’m not sure what to do with the sudden surfeit of Mulder and Scully interaction. It’s like eating Thanksgiving Dinner after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. People have overdosed on less.

Second of all, so that’s it for William huh? That’s the emotional resolution we’ve been waiting for? Look! I can ignore the elephant in the room too. Watch.   

………

Can we just talk about the way they look at each other? Can we? I always lose it when Mulder buries his head in Scully’s shoulder.

I was premature about that whole adulthood thing.

The main point of this conversation is that Mulder’s holding powerful information back from Scully. Whatever it is he read in the Matrix, he’s keeping it to himself at the risk of his own life.

Now, at this point, between the action, the emotion, and the dearly missed Mulderisms, things have been going pretty well. Then here we go with the secret F.B.I. tribunal. A kangaroo court of a kangaroo court. It’s like television time suddenly slows to a crawl.

Mulder: What’s really on trial here is the truth!

I roll my eyes so hard I think I strained the right one. I watch the rest of the episode with an eye patch. I am the Dread Pirate Ship-Hurts.

This trial is ridiculous. Boring and ridiculous. I can’t even pretend to swallow the premise.

Kallenbrunner: All these ETs running around. It’s hard to keep these aliens straight without a scorecard.

I understand why they did it, certainly. There were 9 years worth of mysteries that needed clearing up. And a good part of the audience for “The Truth” would be casual fans and former fans who hadn’t necessarily kept up with the mythology. Oh, who are we kidding? Committed viewers hadn’t kept up with the mythology.

Everyone has to be able to follow along. What’s more, the information is needed and appreciated. It’s been a long, fun, confusing ride.

At the same time, this is exposition hell.

Kersh: Is this all leading anywhere?

Mulder: Yeah. The destruction of mankind.

Isn’t it always?

A few points of interest on the way to Armageddon:

  • Mulder sparing Marita at his own expense is so him.
  • Jeffrey Spender’s an ally now? The enemy of my enemy is my friend?
  • I still don’t understand the logic. Why would the Syndicate, if they did discover a vaccine, only choose to save themselves? They can still be killed even if their bodies aren’t taken over. Wouldn’t humans be more likely to survive in large numbers?
  • After all these years, we have confirmation that the Bounty Hunters were of a different alien race with the Colonists. And, newsflash for me, they were infected with the Black Oil all along.

By now I’m sure you’ve noticed that all mention of cosmic prophecy, tales of William as the new messiah, all history of Mulder’s alien brain adventures, the aliens as “God”, hints at divine intervention… all of it has been conveniently forgotten. Let’s be real – it’s been scrapped.

Well, except for that last part. Chris Carter will pick that up again in the last scene. Suffice it to say, “Provenance” (9×10) and “Providence” (9×11) have been all but rendered irrelevant. Which is no doubt for the best.

Kallenbrunner: She gave up the miracle child? The proof of everything that she and Mulder claim that they’ve risked their lives for over the last nine years – she just sent it off to some strangers?

Oh, this bothers you too??

Reyes: You don’t care what these people have sacrificed over the last nine years, what’s been lost to their cause. You make a mockery of it, gladdened it proves your point.

Kersh: Agent Reyes, that’s enough!

Reyes: What is the point of all of this? To destroy a man who seeks the truth or to destroy the truth so no man can seek it?

No one speaks like this, Chris. Stop it.

Kersh: You’re out of order and in contempt of court, Agent Scully.

Scully: You’re in contempt!

What is this? “And Justice for All…”? If it is then you’re all out of order.

Mulder: A bullet between the eyes would have been preferable to this charade.

Agreed.

Mulder: If I am a guilty man, my crime is in daring to believe that the truth will out and that no one lie can live forever. I believe it still. Much as you try to bury it, the truth is out there. Greater than your lies, the truth wants to be known. You will know it. It’ll come to you, as it’s come to me faster than the speed of light.

Seriously, though. What in the Shakespearean, heck?

Other than confirming that the Super Soldiers are a part of the updated plan for colonization, all this exposition and we still aren’t given an explanation as to why. Why the Super Soldiers and not the Bounty Hunters? Why do human governments need prepping when the aliens have the method and the means to wipe out the human race without human assistance? Why not continue to use the Black Oil to create human pawns? Because Super Soldiers are more durable?

Kallenbrunner: We’re trying a man for murder, not taking a trip down memory lane.

I’m sorry. Maybe no one told you why we’re here.

That’s basically all this was – a trip down memory lane. The clips were pleasant reminders of the past, but I didn’t tune in to watch a clip show. From what I hear, one of the options under consideration had the show ended in Season 8 was to air a one hour television special summarizing the mythology before the finale. I think I would’ve liked that better.

Kallenbrunner: …you describe Mulder as “arrogant,” “difficult,” “a control freak widely disliked by his peers”… This report calls him “unstable prone to violent outbursts.”

Yes… yes. Mmmhmm. Yep. All true.

He can be the most aggravating man. And I love him.

Scully: You say this is greater than us, and maybe it is. But this is us fighting this fight, Mulder, not you! It’s you and me. That’s what I’m fighting for, Mulder: You and me.

PREACH, Scully!

That’s the only solid truth we find out here. That this was only ever really about the journey of discovery made by two people, their spiritual evolutions as individuals and their coming together in an unbreakable bond.

That’s why as frustrating as the lack of either any real development or resolution to the mythology is, in the end, it almost doesn’t matter. Almost.

The action picks up again… finally… when there’s a jailbreak. It’s an awfully easy jailbreak, but I’ll take it. Then we have one last blessed reunion of souls, possibly the last time we’ll see Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Doggett, Reyes… and Gibson… and Kersh?… altogether, before Mulder and Scully take the long road to freedom.

Oh, I’m sorry. I meant, “Mulder and Scully take the long road to Grandpa’s house.”

There’s a cute moment, before the audience realizes Mulder’s about to do what he does best and ignore Kersh’s advice to get out of the country immédiatement, when Gibson gives a slight shake of his head there by the side of the road. He’s read Mulder’s mind and knows Mulder’s about to zig when he’s supposed to zag, that they’re not really headed to Canada, they’re headed to New Mexico to see a man about the truth.

Like I said, Grandpa’s house.

Mulder’s real father, Cigarette-Smoking Man is still alive, not because it makes any sense, but because a finale without him would somehow be soulless and incomplete. And I’m okay with that.

I wondered initially how Mulder managed to infiltrate the Mount Weather facility without the Lone Gunmen to help him. It turns out that CSM was helping him all along. He was the one who tipped Mulder off to the information hidden there and he’s the one who gave Mulder the tools he needed to get in. Is this because, deep down, he has real affection for his son? Affection that the series has hinted he might have for a long time? No. It’s because he doesn’t just want Mulder dead, he wants to see him broken and in the fetal position.

And what is the truth that will finally break Mulder after he’s already lost his sister, his father, his mother, been taken to the brink of death and resurrected by an ancient ritual, been infected by the Black Oil, watched his dearest friend nearly die from cancer because of his quest, suffered a brain malfunction that nearly killed him, had his head cut open and cut into, survived a mysteriously disappearing disease and been tortured by aliens? After he died, was buried and rose again?

Colonization is happening on a schedule.

This? This is the big reveal? The date? You mean I sat through all that talk and the reward for my longsuffering is a date? Unless it’s the date of my marriage to Robert Downey, Jr., I don’t care. What difference does it make if it’s 12/12/22? Everyone already knew colonization was imminent. In fact, I don’t understand why Mulder and Scully haven’t had a fire lit under them from the point the Syndicate was killed.

And how would sharing this information at his mock trial have saved Mulder?

Let me not think too hard about it. There’s no more thinking past this point. Scully hears the truth Mulder tried to keep from her and is as unfazed as I am. Doggett and Reyes abandon Gibson to warn Mulder and Scully that the enemy knows where they are. Knowle Rohrer comes back for one last slow walk of menace before getting destroyed by magnetite for good (because CSM wouldn’t hide out in an unfortified hole). Bombs over Baghdad. CSM dies… but he’s a cockroach so don’t count him out. Doggett and Reyes ride off back to D.C. to put the pieces of their F.B.I. careers back together. Mulder and Scully ride off stay in New Mexico. Why do they stay in New Mexico?

“The Truth” is we get a little action, an emotional reunion, excesses of exposition, a little action, a short reunion, and an excess of explosions.

And then, like we did in “Requiem” (7×21), we get a tenderly formed bookend to what Scully once called “the greatest of journeys”; Mulder and Scully back in a little motel room, back where we first met them, bonding in the dark as the rain falls. Once again, Mulder shares his heart. Once again, Scully sees something in this man that causes her to stay when reason says she shouldn’t.

Only this time, instead of Mulder recruiting Scully into the fray, Scully’s the one encouraging Mulder to fight. She’s the believer here, and he’s the skeptic. And I love that what he’s sown into her he’s now reaping.

They’re still recognizable as the young idealists they both were, but they’ve been changed and humbled by their experiences – In a good way. And the bond between them that started that night in the Pilot(1×79) has been strengthened exponentially.

Scully: You’ve always said that you want to believe. But believe in what Mulder? If this is the truth that you’ve been looking for then what is left to believe in?

Mulder: I want to believe that the dead are not lost to us. That they speak to us as part of something greater than us, greater than any alien force. And if you and I are powerless now, I want to believe that if we listen to what’s speaking, it can give us the power to save ourselves.

Scully: Then we believe the same thing.

Mulder: [Meaningfully touches Scully’s cross before joining her in bed] …Maybe there’s hope.

So they found the truth about alien life Mulder was looking for, more or less. So what? The truth is not too mysterious, nor is it afar off. In the end, this journey was never about searching for the truth in some extraterrestrial plain. It was about realizing that nobody gets there alone. It was about both of them finding inside themselves hope in something outside of themselves, something greater. And it was about seeing that hope reflected in each other, because love hopes all things.

Verdict:

Wow. And here we are. We’ve come all the way from the Pilot to the end of the series proper.

It’s funny. For all Scully muses hope, after this episode aired I thought for sure hope of a movie was all but gone. Mulder and Scully were on the run, which I thought was both a great way to end it and a possible lead-in to other things. But there wasn’t much here, outside of David and Gillian’s legendary chemistry, to make you care about what those other things were.

But I was gloriously wrong. It wasn’t the first, and may it not be the last time.

It wasn’t the finale I dreamed of, no. Yet, I cried and flailed and talked back to the TV because somehow, this all means something. Which is why I find myself here, writing a reviews about a show deader than Lazarus, deader than Mulder, but that’s miraculously risen from the grave.

In my heart, at least, it’s never died.

B-

Musings of an X-Phile:

Mulder: [Voiceover] I want to believe, so badly, in a truth beyond our own hidden and obscured from all but the most sensitive eyes… in the endless procession of souls, in what cannot and will not be destroyed. I want to believe we are unaware of God’s eternal recompense and sadness. That we cannot see His truth. That that which is born still lives and cannot be buried in the cold earth. – “Closure” (7×11)

The above is to show that Chris Carter has already worked these themes deeply into The X-Files. Doesn’t that sound awfully similar to the speech he gives Scully? Samantha’s abduction and the search for the truth it inspired, Mulder’s search for “God”, was always about making sense of loss, finding purpose, and the redemption of suffering.

It was also about reconnecting with those lost to us and finding they’re not really lost, which Mulder certainly does here. It was a great reunion seeing Krycek, Mr. X, and, of course the Lone Gunmen. Seeing Mulder interact with all of them were the highlights of the episode aside from his scenes with Scully.  

Mulder used to be a single crusader, now he has not only a partner, but several allies. And he knows that he still needs, and has, the help of allies past. And maybe even a Greater Ally? Because no one gets there alone.

Superfluous Observations:

At the beginning of Scully’s testimony, Mulder isn’t even in focus but you can see the pride on his face as Scully recounts how they met. And is that a bit of a smirk I spy on Scully too?

Does Reyes always keep a gun in her jeans when she’s hanging at her boyfriend’s house?

I needed much more Mulder and Krycek. They really are like brothers… Thor and Lokie style.

The say 3 judges were leaning in Mulder’s favor. Why on earth…

Of course Mulder was with Gibson! He can hear trouble coming! That was perfect.

The magnetite was in the meteor that originally destroyed alien life on earth and it’s the same metal that downed the Roswell UFO.

Scully would have known that touching that body would render the evidence unreliable.

Bill Mulder’s influence on the boy he thought was his son echoes the influence Mulder was supposed to have had on William according to the prophecy.

Skinner, Reyes and Doggett are back at the F.B.I. with the Toothpick Man and why does everyone have so much chill?? Gibson already outed him as a Super Soldier.

Speaking of Toothpick Man, I recognize him and the General from various outings, but they were both on XF alumnus Howard Gordon’s 24.

Wait, in “William” (9x), I thought it was the Super Soldiers who subjected Spender to those tests? CSM was behind it?

I’m still ridiculously emotional watching this episode. I can’t actually make it through the final scene it one sitting. There are lots of pauses and rewinds and time outs. And the music! Mark Snow, have mercy.

“It’s what made me follow you… and why I’d do it all over again.” – I’m going to take this, carve it in wood, and spank Scully with it come I Want to Believe.

After a fresh rewatch, I’m more flabbergasted than ever that they’d break these two up. Someone tell everyone involved to go back and watch their own show.

Sunshine Days 9×18: I see it all, man.


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I think I’ll go for a walk outside now.

Here’s the story

Of a girl named Scully

Who was on her way to being an MD

The FBI said won’t you come

To Quantico

The rest is history

 

Here’s the story

Of a boy named Mulder

Who was busy with his bat crazy theories

He was looking for ETs

They took his sister

Now they call him Spook-y

 

Till the one day when the redhead met our fella

And they knew that it was much more than a crush

That this kook must take her from her family

That’s the way that they became The Spooky Bunch!

 

The Spooky Bunch!

The Spooky Bunch!

That’s the way they became The Spooky Bunch!

[Insert Commercial Break]

 

I have a completely different appreciation for “Sunshine Days” now in 2016 than I did back in 2002. Actually, this appreciation first began in 2011, so 2016 really can’t take credit for it. I didn’t know that everyone hated “Sunshine Days” the way that I used to until I started this blog. I even wondered if I would still appreciate it after yet another rewatch or if it would fall back down the esteem ladder like “El Mundo Gira” (4×11).

I do remember how I felt originally. We were one episode before the finale. Scully had just given up her precious messiah of a son the previous episode. And what is this we’re doing? Having a bounce house party? What the heck is Scully smiling about??

Time and distance may not heal all wounds, but they almost always lower expectations.

There’s no emotional resolution to “William” (9×17) in sight, but that’s not this episode’s fault. There was no mention of William in “Release” (9×16) either. Even though that was because the episodes aired out of order, the final result is the final result. With that in mind, I can convince myself that some time has passed between Scully succumbing to a case of the stupids and this episode. Anyway, I’ve no doubt 1013 was holding on to any semblance of emotional resolution until Mulder returned for the finale. Besides, the only possible acceptable resolution in my mind would be Mulder and Scully getting their baby back.

One last scary episode before the finale was what I wanted instead of “Alone” (8×19) in Season 8. But that was back when we had both Mulder and Scully. Having a traditional Monster of the Week would almost be moot now. What we’re getting instead is a personal goodbye to the audience. This episode is one giant “I got you” to the fans from Vince Gilligan.

Everyone knows that Vince Gilligan came to the writing staff of The X-Files in Season 2 as a fan. Talk about a dream job. And his affection for the show and the characters has always been clearly evident in his writing. Heck, even when he writes for his own show he throws in nods to The X-Files!

I love you, Vince.

Anywho… Fans get fans. Fans know why fans watch. They know that good entertainment, entertainment that has touched us somehow, be it TV shows, books, art, whatever, that it lives on in our imaginations long after it’s gone. Once it enters the human heart, entertainment can become something bigger than itself.

Doggett: One big question – Why The Brady Bunch? Seriously, you two are fans. Why are people still watchin’ a thirty year old TV show?

For Oliver/Anthony, The Brady Bunch was his Happy Place. It wasn’t so much the show itself, it was how the show made him feel. It became real to him and he could bring it back to life anytime he wanted to. Of course, it was never really The Brady Bunch as a thing unto itself, it was the experience of watching it.

More importantly, it was the experience of watching it with the person he loved. Because, as ever and as in “Je Souhaite” (7×21), Vince is back to remind us right before the finale that the most important things, while they may be beautifully represented on a TV show, are to be found in real life – in real, imperfect life and real, imperfect relationships.

Doggett: So close, Dana. I’m sorry you don’t get your proof.

Scully: Me too. Well, maybe I’ve had it these past nine years. If not proof of the paranormal, then… of more important things.

I hear you, Scully. That’s what I’ve gotten proof of. Proof that there’s such a thing as fighting the good fight. Proof that some truths are worth dying for. Proof that unconditional love is a truth that resonates in the heart of every human being.

And what’s more, this time I found that proof all over again with all of you.

This was never about The Brady Bunch. It’s about The X-Files… and the X-Philes and all the relationships that lie therein.

Verdict:

Far from my opinion going back to where it originally was, this time around I may have even teared up the slightest bit right there at the end. I don’t know about you, but this is what I heard:

I know it’s sad that it’s over. Just remember, once something takes hold in your heart, it never really dies.  And The X-Files will never really die, because you can come back here any time you want, any time you need to. You can think about it and it’ll be here. Don’t get stuck here, though. Don’t forget to live. There’s a real world out there waiting. And nothing replaces real love.

Doggett: Well, here’s hopin’ the TV stays off and he learns how to love the real world.

Don’t worry. Keeping up the fantasy was slowly killing Anthony. We won’t make the same mistake. Besides, The X-Files is off the air. All is darkness and smog. The new revival, though…

And may I just say, I loved Doggett and Reyes more this episode than I have all season. Doggett was downright funny. He’s right. It’s a shame he’s losing this job just as he gets the hang of it.

A

Crazy Bread:

They can take a show off the air, but they can’t take away my head cannon.

I wonder how much they had to pay just to be able to whistle The Brady Bunch theme?

I’m sure you recognized David Faustino from Married… with Children.

Unless my memory of “The Truth” (9×19/20) fails me, this was Scully’s last autopsy.

That moment when you think a guy is urinating on the ground and he’s actually toasting his dead buddy.

Can you imagine if we Philes could actually walk into the basement office?

Did Doggett and Reyes just walk off into the hallway sunset?

Oliver didn’t murder those people, he accidentally killed them. Yes, he gets a pass.

Doggett makes logical inferences and comes to an extreme conclusion without being inconsistent as a character and turning from a complete skeptic into a total believer. Dagnabit, where has Vince been??

Scully, too, considers what Mulder’s position would have been without trying to be Mulder or turning into anything other than a curious scientist. (Seriously though. Was he on a break?)

Best Quote:

Doggett: And there’s no end to the harm he could cause if he goes off the deep end, which isn’t too long a walk for this guy, in case you haven’t noticed.

————————

Scully: Oh, so maybe I watched an episode or two.

————————

Doggett: A. Eyewitness places the deceased inside this house just prior to the time of his demise. B. We found a fragment of roofing shingle at the scene of the impact. It would seem it matches the discarded piece you now hold in your hand. C. There’s a hole in the roof, recently patched, this big around. Connect A to B to C.

Reyes: Much in the fashion of, say, Daffy Duck or Wile E. Coyote, the deceased shot straight up through the roof, flew high into the air and landed on his buddy’s car? You’re serious?

Doggett: A to B to C. I gotta tell ya, I think I’m finally gettin’ the hang of this job.

Release 9×16: I wanted to get close to you, Agent Doggett.


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Luke, he is your father.

I’m happy for Doggett. And I’m even happier for myself because I think I’ve finally learned to like this episode. I don’t know how readily I’d pop it in the player to pass the time, but I think this episode reads much better when you’re not impatiently waiting for the show to end and Mulder to return and big explosions and stuff.

The thing that turned me off of it initially, besides great expectations, was the same thing that threatened to turn me off again this time. I realize that Rudolph Hayes is supposed to be annoying. Heck, if Reyes says you’re annoying, you’re annoying. But the actor’s brutal attempts to be weird gnaw at me at moments.

Still, I’m trying to milk the show for all it’s worth this rewatch so I pushed past that and was rewarded. It had to be done, really. Out of our two new leads Doggett has been around longer and has more of a backstory. Consequently, we’re more invested in him as an audience. It would have been a real disappointment if after all the time we’ve spent getting to know and like him, we never found out what happened to his son.

Because as I said way back in “Patience” (8×4), I do really like Doggett. I liked him back when the show first aired too. He’s a very well fleshed out character and from what I’ve read, Robert Patrick genuinely enjoyed playing Doggett and was happy to be a part of The X-Files. I think that shows in his performances.

Also, we needed to wind things up with Follmer as well who we haven’t seen since “Providence” (9×11). I don’t know if I completely buy that he would give up everything, including his career and his precious image, to kill Regali in such an open and indefensible way. But it’s good that he has something genuinely emotional to play. I’m only realizing now that he was never really utilized as a character other than to get in the way of the leads and create tension for them. In other words, he took over Kersh’s role from last season. He’s just slimier while he does it.

And, as usual, the most interesting parts of Reyes are connected to Doggett’s history. We finally find out why she dumped Follmer. It turns out that she caught him in bed with the mob. And one of the mob guys he was connected to was an associate of the man who kidnapped Luke. The mob associate that was paying off Follmer caught the kidnapper abusing Luke, and after being seen by Luke, kills him. That’s quite an interesting set of coincidences, isn’t it? I’ve played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon more convincingly.

Though that’s not nearly as much of a stretch as a mentally unstable man successfully applying for and getting into the F.B.I. Academy under a false identity, past all the interviews, psychological testing and background checks, then contacting Doggett on the down low and managing to finagle a class with Doggett’s good friend and former partner. :::sings::: I smell a contriva-nce!

Okay, the force-fit the puzzle pieces together. But it still works somehow and I think Patrick’s performance has a lot to do with that. Doggett is the believer this episode, yet that sudden turnaround works because you can feel that he wants to believe. He needs closure at all costs and he’s willing to open his mind to get it. The same thing that caused him to be stubborn in the face of extreme possibilities, the death of his son, is now the thing that drives him to consider them.

And Reyes’ about face in the face of his about face I find a welcome change of pace. Again, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. You can tell that what’s driving her is the overwhelming desire to protect Doggett from more pain. She’s a good fit for him. Even Doggett’s ex-wife thinks so.

Which is a little awkward, no? But if they didn’t make it clear that Doggett’s first marriage was peacefully over, it would be impossible to both introduce his ex-wife who he’s been through so much with and push him into Reyes’ arms by the end of the episode. There would be romantic drama when we’re supposed to be focused on finding Luke.

In that regard, I find the last two scenes especially satisfying. Doggett hears what happens to his son’s death directly from the killer. And I really must have been into it this time because by that time I was calmly encouraging Doggett to shoot him. “Go ahead. No court in this land will convict you.” But Follmer takes the decision out of mine and Doggett’s hands.

So see? Everyone’s free. Regali’s freed from his body. Follmer’s free from the psychological noose around his neck. Doggett and the former Mrs. Doggett are free to mourn their son. And Doggett is free to propel himself into Reyes’ arms somewhere on what is clearly the California coast. Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen.

Verdict:

I know it’s too little, too late but I’ll say it again: These cases that are less fantastical are better suited to Doggett and Reyes. There’s nothing truly paranormal happening here. No, we don’t get all the answers as to how Rudolph Hayes made the connections. But it’s entirely possible that his obsessive Schizophrenia allowed him insight that others missed because of his almost inhuman focus. It’s crazy but it’s not that crazy.

The F.B.I. scam really is crazy, though.

Whatever it takes, I guess. Because this is as close to a happy ending for Doggett and Reyes as we’re going to see. I’m only sad that these characters seem to be catching their stride just as we’re about to go.

B+

Notes from the Institution:

The call backs to what we already learned in “Empedolces” (8×17) are appreciated. However, suddenly Luke’s been dead nine years? I thought that sounded off and I checked. Before, we were told he died in 1997.

Doggett pawing in the putty reminds me of “Grotesque” (3×14).

There was, of course, no room to deal with the fact that Scully had just lost her own son. Even if there had been, this episode was actually filmed before “William” (9×17). If it had been filmed before, I’m sure Gillian Anderson would have found a way to work those emotions into her face regardless.

I knew Follmer had a heart. I guess he drew the line at mob guys killing babies.

Doggett’s wife is played by Robert Patrick’s real life wife. You’ve seen her before… or at least, you saw her sleeping form in “John Doe” (9×7).

Doggett wouldn’t have gone to arrest him Rudolph Hayes. He’s too close to the case. If the suspect had been killed or something, he would’ve come under fire.

Unlike Doggett, his ex has made her peace with not knowing what happened and is determined to move on and not dwell on her son’s death. That’s cool. She’s kind of annoying, though. How’s the man supposed to get absolute proof if you don’t help him?

Out of the two of them, you would think she would be more likely to feel guilty, not because it’s her fault, but because she was the one watching Luke at the time. She’s almost too far past the entire event.

Best Quotes:

Doggett: Cadet, you should know there’s a real good chance you’re nuts.

——————–

Follmer: Is it me or, uh, is this becoming an odd conversation?

William 9×17: You say it as if you have a choice.


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Stop, the love you save may be your own.

Reportedly, the idea for Scully to give William up for adoption was mandated by Carter and Spotnitz. Duchovny, Anderson, and executive producer John Shiban were not happy with this turn of events, due to them being parents and feeling that the action was not realistic, but “grudgingly consented”. – Wikipedia (William)

We have reached the high point of my Season 9 frustration, or the low point of my fandom, however you choose to look at it. I warn you now this will be long.

For all intents and purposes, baby William is gone, Carter said. After all, you can’t have Scully and Mulder chasing aliens in a future movie with a toddler tagging along.

“It was a problem we knew existed, and we couldn’t figure out how we were going to handle it,” he said. “This seemed like the best way.”

“A problem”? And whose fault was that?

There was some debate about what to do and what the best thing to do was. That idea (giving William up for adoption) was from Chris and Frank. It’s a safe place for the baby. I don’t think anybody wanted to continue playing jeopardy for the baby any longer. It started to become for all of us painful. – John Shiban

YES.

“We knew that the fans would be asking why we had Scully go through the pregnancy arc to begin with if she was just going to give the baby up for adoption,” said executive producer Frank Spotnitz.

YES.

“And it was a legitimate question.”

YES.

“I had a lot of reservations about that storyline and about her giving up the baby, and was not at all sure that it was the right thing to do. But in the end, I think it was the right thing to do, because it becomes unsavory. And I think everybody — David and Chris, especially — felt that the baby was going to be an obstacle to us in any future movies.”

Again, whose fault was that?

“The decision was very difficult,” added Spotnitz. “But realistically, in no small way, it made it easier to one day do another movie.

Here’s the thing everyone seems to be missing: It doesn’t matter how well you write the movie if no one wants to see it.

We have to follow you to the theater, remember?

And as painful, unsavory, frustrating and problematic as the storylines surrounding William have been, nothing is worse than after all that taking him suddenly away with a flimsy excuse. This is the kind of story choice that turns people off. All this buildup about William as the second coming and then, boom. He’s gone.

The job the latter half of Season 9 was burdened with was wrapping up emotional loose ends. That’s fine as far as it goes. But if a movie franchise was a goal, then the stories should actually be ramping up towards something epic.

Instead this has a note of finality and there’s no presented reason to wait and see what happens to the budding Mulder brood. Don’t put a period where there should be a comma. If you are going to get rid of William, make it temporary. Give your audience hope, somehow, of a reunion. Or, how about we just let William be a normal baby? He’d be older by the movies anyway! Let him go to grandma’s if he needs a place to hide out.

Like so many unpleasant surprises this season, I had no idea what was coming when “William” first aired. But just like with “Jump the Shark” (9×15), as soon as we hit the end of the teaser, I knew. Last time, I freaked out. This time, I freaked out… and threw my hands over my head in both contempt and surrender. Why shouldn’t one more thing go horribly wrong?

I think it’s safe to say I was too upset to look at the episode objectively, but this time I gave it the old college try. And you know what? Other than the end result being such a source of frustration, the episode is otherwise a pretty good one. It’s quiet with a lot of exposition, but it manages to be surprisingly emotional.

David Duchovny’s back directing and I think he makes some great choices here. Gillian Anderson and Jeffrey Owens also do an impressive job acting, especially Gillian as a thoroughly confused and conflicted Scully. And I’m happy to find out what became of Spender. That, at least, is a welcome surprise here right before the end.

The scene where Scully examines Spender/Miller/Mulder is easily the best in the episode. It’s shot very intimately, intimately enough to let us know that despite her protests, Scully wonders if this might be Mulder too. I try to remind Scully that the network wouldn’t waste David Duchovny’s face like that, but I’m not sure she hears me.

Eventually, grand scheme working according to plan, Spender worms his way to William and injects him some magical form of magnetite. Et voilà! No more Super Baby, no more messiah.

And why does he do it? To save the world? To condemn the world? No, to stick it to his dead(?) dad. And, of course, to get rid of the prophecy plot because even 1013 doesn’t know what to do with it anymore.

The deus ex machina nature of these machinations is frustrating enough, but I could deal and would even be relieved to see the cosmic child plot go no matter how it went. But then… the adoption. Scully lets Spender get into her head and makes a permanent, life-altering decision because of it. 

Scully’s baby has been under threat for a long time now. If anything, she’s recently found out that the Super Soldiers don’t actually want to harm her baby, though they do want him for their own purposes. Why would she suddenly decide to give William up based on the word of Spender who is a confirmed liar like his father before him?

And let’s say danger will rear its seven heads from time to time. We’re supposed to believe the Super Soldiers are everywhere and they are legion. They can’t find a baby on a farm? They found a pregnant Scully out in the middle of nowhere before in “Existence” (8×21). They will eventually find William in Wyoming too. You’re really telling me Mulder and Scully aren’t better equipped to protect him than Farmer John?

“God has His reasons and His ways.”

So does Chris Carter, but it’s much harder to submit to his.

Verdict:

If you’ll allow me, I’d like to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in the book of 2 Kings, lived a woman we only know as the Shunamite woman. She was a barren woman, but she had long ago made her peace with that. She was also a good woman, a god-fearing woman, a pleasant woman. And she was married to a man older than Sean Connery.

One day she asked Sean Connery saying, “Honey, you know the prophet has to travel through our area quite often. Wouldn’t it be nice to add a guest room he could stay in? We’ve been talking about fixing the house up anyway.”

So Sean Connery agreed because, like all wise wives, she allowed him to think it was his idea. The addition was built and the prophet Elisha stayed in it and found it quite a bit more comfortable than the Holiday Inn. Grateful for her unsolicited generosity, the prophet asked the Shunamite woman if there was anything he could do for her, any way he could help her. After all, she’d been such a blessing to him. But the Shunamite woman said no, she had everything she needed, thanks ever so.

Then the prophet’s servant spilled the beans: Not only was the Shunamite woman barren, her husband was older than Sean Connery. Surely a child, a child would bless her.

The prophet then goes back to the Shunamite woman and tells her that he will pray to God and God will give her a son. But the Shunamite woman protests. After all, she’d made her peace with being childless long ago. She couldn’t stand to get her hopes up for nothing. But sure enough, soon she had a baby boy.

Sean Jr. grew up healthy and strong, but one day when he was still a young boy, he got a headache, and he sat on his mother’s lap all day. And in the evening, he died. The Shunamite woman took him and laid him on his bed and locked the door behind her. Then, instead of the minivan, she asked her husband for the keys to the Mustang. She had a quick errand, she said, nothing to worry about. 

The Shunamite woman gunned that engine and drove straight to the prophet. After speeding through many a stop sign, she barged into his office unannounced. “You gave me this child. I didn’t ask for him,” she said. “You gave him to me and you give him back.”

The prophet, of course, complied.

My point is simple. William was not our idea. We didn’t ask for him. We were fine without him. But you, Dear 1013, brought him into this. You brought him into this and I’d like him back… please.

B

Snippets:

The above is the Salome Paraphrase Version of the Bible. Not available for purchase.

I was in denial for a while after this. I really thought Mulder and Scully would search for ways to get their baby back, or that his adopted parents would be killed by the Super Soldiers and there would be a rescue mission.

Chris Owens got the worst makeup jobs on this show.

Even after having watched and knowing what Spender is really up to, it’s hard to see someone do things they shouldn’t to a baby.

The Mulderisms that Spender makes are an especially nice touch.

It actually would have been more compelling if William were taken and Mulder and Scully had to get him back.

See what happens when you make a baby, Chris? All subsequent decisions have to be filtered through the lens of parenthood. That includes parent writers.

And then she sang “Joy to the World” just to torment us all.

What verification do we have that the injection worked? ‘Cause no, a still mobile doesn’t count.

The decision doesn’t make instinctive sense. A mother would sooner go into hiding with her baby than give him up.

I watched Independence Day, however much Mulder may have desecrated the poster. It is possible to have youngins running around and still have an epic alien battle.

We now have DNA evidence that Mulder isn’t Bill Mulder’s son, but Cigarette-Smoking Man’s.

I do like hearing “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” at the end. That’s a sweet, sentimental touch. Ergo, it must’ve been David Duchovny’s.

If Spender’s telling the truth, and William was the one thing the aliens needed to effect colonization, then we can all pack it up and go home.