Let me preface this by saying that I don’t mean this insultingly. But if I had to pick one keyword for Season 7, it would be “Self-Indulgent.”
At this point in the series, the cast and crew of The X-Files have been churning out classic television at an unbelievable clip for the past seven years. Their work schedule was famously insane, averaging almost twenty-two one hour episodes a season. Somehow, despite that, they were able to function at such an impressively creative level that the numbers of the show’s fans keep increasing with time, some thirteen years after it went off the air. Not only was it a pop culture phenomenon in its day, but it remains such a present part of the public’s consciousness that Fox is airing a six episode revival of the series starting in January. If it’s successful, there have been hints of more to come.
I know I’ve just jumped from Season 7 into the future, but my point is that the talents behind The X-Files had earned a little self-indulgence by the time Season 7 rolled around. They had worked hard, they had made the show a success and, what was key, they had no idea if they’d be back for an eighth season. Fox didn’t officially renew the series until almost a week before “Requiem” (7×22) aired, meaning the final episode of Season 7 was written and shot without Chris Carter being sure whether he was ending the season or ending his series. From what I’ve read, the vibe behind the scenes was “This may be it.” And if Season 7 was “it,” then it was their last chance to say what they had to say and try what they wanted to try. I can’t blame them and I don’t.
How does Season 7 indulge itself? Let us count the ways.
- Chris Carter’s Basic Instinct homage in, and frankly all of “First Person Shooter” (7×13)
- Vince Gilligan creates a crossover of two of his favorite shows in “X-Cops” (7×12)
- William B. Davis writes himself real screen time with Scully in “En Ami” (7×15)
- Gillian Anderson cues us to the importance of chakras in “all things” (7×17)
- David Duchovny hosts a block party in “Hollywood A.D.” (7×18)
- Mulder & Scully flirting like they didn’t know how to stop in almost every episode
- A third of the episodes taking place in the production’s home state of California
- The mythology’s loose threads are ignored in favor of the new alien-gods
Deserved? Yes. And some moments are more successful than others. The overall result, though, is that the season feels largely unfocused. It’s like a free for all. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we get canceled.
I think part of the lack of focus and direction is due in part to the mythology not serving as the series’ backbone any longer. The X-Files is wobbling around without an alien conspiracy to hold it together. Not that there weren’t still unanswered questions about the conspiracy that the fan’s wanted addressed, but they weren’t vital questions and the series seemed content to move forward without answering them. But if “Requiem” proves anything it’s that there was still life left in the pre-Season 7 mythology.
Season 7 doesn’t act like it, but the human race is on the verge of complete annihilation. The threat of alien takeover is still there, it’s just not being addressed. Why isn’t there a fire lit under our heroes? ‘Cause Mulder and Scully certainly aren’t acting like they have anything to be concerned about. They’re flaunting their flirtation at the Bureau’s policy against male and female agents consorting in the same motel room while on assignment. But, they’re together now, as the not-so-subtle jabs to the audience’s ribs often remind us.
And I’m glad of their togetherness, don’t get me wrong. It was well-earned and well-timed. Stringing the fans on too long becomes palpably artificial past a certain point. Season 7 was that point. Stringing Mulder and Scully themselves along would have felt disingenuous too. They had reached a catharsis in their relationship and that’s good. You don’t have to keep ribbing me about it. That’s bad. The end result is that Season 7’s main legacy is the ongoing debate over when Mulder and Scully started having sex. That’s really bad.
So, the mythology is largely resolved. Mulder and Scully are at peace. Samantha’s dead. What are we here for? The Monster of the Week episodes? Most of those have been lackluster and weak. There’s no driving force behind the season, no push or pull, no sense of urgency or adventure. When The X-Files first started, Mulder and Scully were on a quest. Now there is no quest, just a rag-tag mix of episodes. The result is that Season 7 feels like a coda to Season 1-6’s main piece. Mulder and Scully have done all they came here to do and things are winding down.
It may just be the natural progression of things. Everything has a beginning, middle and end. The story and relationship arcs The X-Files started off with have inevitably run their course.
I can’t help but wonder inf 1013 Productions had known early on that there was going to be a Season 8, if they could have planned ahead and plotted out the show’s trajectory for Seasons 7 and 8 the way they did for the mythology of Seasons 4, 5 and 6… I wonder what the show would have been like.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda territory, I know….
We have what we have, and what we have is a stagnant series. Season 7 is standing still instead of heading somewhere. It’s not going backward towards the show’s roots or forward into a new battle for Mulder and Scully. It’s just kind of biding its time, spinning in circles until the show ends.
What I’m seeing on my screen is a show that’s suffering from chronic self-awareness, that’s bored with itself, and that reads a little too much like childish fanfic: “What would I make Mulder and Scully do if I could make them do anything?”
Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the Season 7 Year Itch. When it first aired, there were five episodes I actively resented, and seven more I passively disliked. Twelve out of twenty-two ain’t good. The rest I found middling with a few bright spots dispersed here and there.
I came to a sober realization this rewatch – most of Season 7 I will never watch again.
On that sad note, here are the awards for the season…
Missed Opportunity for Backstory