After nine years of constant twists and turns, where even a feature film in mid-stream feels like little more than a drop in the bucket, it’s hard to imagine that even a two-hour series finale would be able to satisfy anyone’s expectations. Of course, that’s not taking into account the steady downward slide in writing quality and coherence since the aforementioned film, nor the generally poor reception of the ninth and final season.
The plot is very simple, actually. The episode begins with Mulder breaking into Mount Weather, the facility where the “shadow government” is now running in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on the United States. Hidden within this shadow government, of course, is the conspiracy that Mulder has been tracking down for the last nine years or so. Using a keycard and password access, he opens a file that details the final stage of the “alien invasion” plans. The date that was set so long ago, it seems, is still on track: 12/22/2012.
Mulder is discovered by Knowle Rohrer, Doggett’s old friend and recent nemesis, and in the ensuing attempt to get out of the facility alive, Mulder tosses Knowle onto some conveniently placed power lines. Despite the fact that we know Knowle isn’t dead, those with an interest in eliminating Mulder use the supposed death as an excuse for placing Mulder under trial…one of the new “military tribunal” courts that can effectively do whatever the hell they want.
There is some argument already as to how this little courtroom drama could have even existed. We have to remember that this is not supposed to be a legal or even faux-legal court. It’s nothing more than a show, a way for the conspiracy to create some kind of illusory justification for the elimination of a private citizen who has been more trouble than he is worth. At the same time, it is the perfect way to force Mulder’s allies into identifying themselves, because this is their very last chance.
Despite the fact that Mulder is no longer a member of the Bureau, Deputy Director Kersh is made responsible for dealing with the Marines, who I suppose are involved since Knowle and the other first-generation “super soldiers” were recruited out of the Corps. Why the FBI has any responsibility in this matter is never fully explained, but given that the “replicants” within the FBI were the ones charged with dealing with Mulder and his allies, there is some justification for it. The conspiracy would want Kersh involved to see if he would go along with the farce, or expose himself as a “double agent”.
Perhaps the least sensible aspect of the “trial” is the notion that the agents wouldn’t recognize the fact that the verdict was pre-determined. Nothing would change that. Regardless, Mulder asks Skinner to defend him before the court. Perhaps he believes that Skinner is going to wind up paying for his support of Mulder one way or another, given that the Assistant Director is chock full of nanocytes and is only being kept around so he can keep the agents assigned to the X-Files under control until the time is right to eliminate them. With Mulder returned, that time has just about come, unless Skinner and the others can find a way to save Mulder and justify their own continued existence.
With Kersh and several others sitting in a bare room on a Marine Corps detainment base, looking very much like the OPR and Senate Inquiry panels of old, Skinner begins bringing in witnesses to help prove that Mulder was on the base legitimately investigating a conspiracy within the government to conceal collaboration with a systematic invasion by aliens. While this premise has been scoffed at in the past by government officials, never has it been this hopeless.
At first Skinner calls up Scully to explain her point of view, but the lack of actual evidence comes up very quickly. Jeffrey Spender is also brought in, and he explains his side of the conspiracy. This part of the episode amounts to a rehashing of the entire mythology up through about the sixth season. Skinner knows that it’s not enough, so he seeks Marita Covarubias to back up Mulder’s story.
Throughout his experience, Mulder has been having odd visions of those long since dead. Krycek, of all people, “helps” him during his escape within the Mount Weather facility. “X” appears to Mulder in his cell, and gives him Marita’s location. What’s odd is that “X” appears to actually be material and present, which adds an interesting twist to the visions. Marita winds up telling her side of the story, but as with the others, her testimony has no evidence to back it up.
Aware of Mulder’s situation, Gibson Praise (who has supposedly been harboring Mulder during the past year) secrets himself to Washington and contacts Doggett and Reyes, who have been trying to track down Knowle’s “body”, so they can prove that the murder charge is a smokescreen. They bring Gibson to the trial, to Mulder’s dismay, and he promptly identifies one of the judges as a replicant. This doesn’t go over well, leaving Mulder’s case teetering on the edge of failure. Trying their best to help, Doggett and Reyes serve as witnesses, even though they are aware that it will only add their names to the list of those to be dealt with by the conspiracy. Ultimately, the results are no different, and the rehashing of the mythology elements of seasons seven through nine does very little to illuminate any more than we already knew.
Faced with nothing more to say, Skinner is about ready to put Mulder on the stand, trying to convince him to reveal whatever truth he is protecting. It seems that during his time with Gibson, he learned something that he cannot share, some damning final truth. Before he can be compelled to reveal it, Scully arrives with the autopsy information from Knowle’s supposed corpse, which Doggett finally managed to secure. It wasn’t Knowle, but it is far too late for that. As all parties expected, the evidence doesn’t matter.
Mulder is sentenced to death by lethal injection. Before matters can get that far, Doggett and Skinner break Mulder out of his cell, and with Kersh’s help, they manage to get him off the base. With Knowle close behind, Mulder and Scully race into the night towards New Mexico, where the final truth is apparently hidden. It’s suggested that Gibson was aware of this possibility, and told this to Mulder.
Doggett and Reyes take hold of Gibson, and go to the basement office to purge his files before shipping him to safety. But when they arrive at the office, it has been gutted. They run into Skinner, who tells them that the department has been shut down without explanation, probably as punishment for their suspected aid in Mulder’s escape. Sure enough, the identified alien on the judging panel is waiting for Skinner in Kersh’s office. Perhaps sacrificing himself for the others, Skinner enters the office to face the music.
But Gibson “reads” the alien’s mind, and tells Doggett and Reyes that the conspiracy knows where Mulder and Scully are going. Mulder and Scully arrive in New Mexico at an excavation site dating to the time of the Anasazi. Here, Mulder tells Scully, there is supposed to be a wise man who “knows the final truth”. Perhaps not all surprisingly, it turns out to be the Cancer Man.
As Doggett and Reyes arrive just ahead of Knowle, Cancer Man explains to Mulder that he was the one who sent Mulder the keycard and information about the secrets held in Mount Weather. The final truth, it seems, is the knowledge that the date of colonization is still set, and nothing they do can change it. Cancer Man claims to have been keeping Mulder alive to see this moment, when he would know that all of his efforts were for nothing. It sounds more like rationalization, of course.
But there is a slight attempt to tie the old mythology to the new elements. Cancer Man claims that the black oil aliens themselves are vulnerable to the magnetite, and the Anasazi chose that particular place to make their last stand because the hills were thick with the special kind of magnetite contained within a meteor nearby. It was this magnetite, apparently, that caused the crash at Roswell, which started the whole conspiracy.
Of course, this is really only important in the sense that this is where the final showdown between Knowle and Doggett takes place, so Knowle doesn’t stand a chance while surrounded by magnetite. He’s quickly dispatched, but as Mulder and Scully emerge, Doggett warns them that they need to leave immediately. As Doggett and Reyes drive off to their own fate, Mulder and Scully drive towards Roswell. Soon black unmarked helicoptors arrive to destroy the Anasazi ruins, engulfing the Cancer Man in the flames.
And so Mulder and Scully take refuge as fugitives in Roswell, neatly tying the beginning of the conspiracy to save mankind to its end. What the Syndicate used to attempt resistance has been wholly subverted by the replicants into a means of domination. Thus, the X-Files are gone forever, and with them any chance of using the department to expose the truth.
But what Mulder realizes, with Scully’s help, is that even if his work on the X-Files was ultimately for nothing, it does not mean that he can do nothing to fight the future. Mulder, Scully, Doggett, Reyes, Skinner…they all know the truth now, even if they disagree on the exact nature of the conspiracy. They can still hope that they might find some way to resist and save humanity. As Mulder says, they have been shown that there could be a “greater power in the universe” that might yet prevail.
"Hey, Mulder...wanna go out with a bang?"
When the first discussions regarding a series finale began forming in mid-eighth season, post-“Requiem”, Frank Spotnitz said that he thought it would be useful to air an hour-long synopsis of the series mythology prior to the finale. In essence, that’s exactly what we received. The first hour of this episode, and half of the second hour, is little more than a convenient device for laying out the mythology in its most simple and inelegant form.
Unfortunately, the first hour is spent repeating much of the same version of the mythology we’ve been hearing since the film. Sure, there were some slight alterations, where items were linked together with more speculation from Scully or Jeffrey Spender, but in the end it’s nothing new. We still have no better conception of where the “bounty hunters” fit into the picture, nor any explanation for why the Rebels disfigured themselves when the black oil doesn’t need to enter through a facial orifice. We still don’t know how the clones ultimately fit into the picture, or why there is an alien fetus, if the reproductive process utilizes human bodies for gestation. And there’s not one word on the meaning of the uncovered spacecraft with the religious and scientific etchings, or the supposed prophecy related to Mulder and William.
The big revelation of an actual date…something that makes me laugh, since we’re not given an explanation as to why this date has special significance…is no revelation at all. The date has been set since season two, and that information has been reinforced several times since. Yes, there is the explanation regarding the magnetite and the crash at Roswell, but is that also supposed to explain the other crashes throughout the series? I doubt it.
Nothing new is explained, and when we get to the end, there is a feeling of disappointment that comes out of that. But there is resolution, to be sure. I already mentioned how this episode completes the long transition from a Syndicate attempting to subvert alien invasion to a conspiracy fostering its eventuality. But at the same time, it resolves the threat from the very beginning that the X-Files were only allowed to function so long as they held a purpose for the conspiracy. Now that time has come, so the series built on the X-Files themselves must end.
In another sense, we see the resolution, or at least the culmination, of the spiritual elements of the series. This side of the mythology has been developed as the basis of the “new mythology”, but as we have seen countless times over the past several seasons, it is not entirely clear what it is supposed to mean. Mulder’s thoughts at the end of the episode, particularly about hoping that the dead may be able to speak to us and show us that there is a higher power out there, able to defeat the alien invasion, give us some idea of where that might have been going.
That ties in nicely with the similar concepts mentioned in “Essence” last season, and for that matter, the idea of some kind of spiritual intervention for Samantha as revealed in “Closure”. It also would have been an interesting counterpoint to the idea of a powerful, pervasive “evil” spiritual force that was sometimes tied with John Doggett and Monica Reyes. Those opposing aspects of spiritual intervention never really came into any kind of final conflict, even as it seemed to be brewing in “Providence”. It could be fodder for future films, but I imagine that it is unlikely now.
In terms of character, I think that we see a final evolution of Fox Mulder in this episode. The Mulder that we met almost a decade ago was able to believe in the material aspects of alien invasion, but concepts of faith and spirituality were beyond his ability to accept. Now he has come full circle, having come to the realization that no matter how far one might go in exposing the actions of other governments, he knows that in the end, it’s all a matter of faith. Faith that so long as hope remains alive, there might be a way to survive.
It was a little disappointing to think that Mulder was sitting around in the middle of New Mexico for a year, hiding with Gibson Praise. It doesn’t explain how it is that he could have contacted Scully regularly, or how he would have learned about the effects of magnetite on the “super soldiers”. It also very disappointing to find that Mulder had nothing to do with William’s adoption, especially since the only way that episode made sense was as part of a larger plan.
Scully herself gets very little to do here, as she has been reduced to Mulder’s love interest. In a way, this is the final dismantling of her character as she was by the end of season six. Her character’s actions during her pregnancy and then while caring for William left much to be desired, and were often highly contradictory. Here she is the doting love interest, with little fire behind her eyes. That old strength doesn’t show itself until the end, when she provides Mulder with the understanding that he hasn’t really failed.
As someone who was originally adverse to any kind of overt relationship between Mulder and Scully, I have to say that William’s unnecessary addition to the cast did force me to accept that it had become a real part of the story. In that sense, this episode also provides resolution, because now they have nothing else but each other. It’s always possible that they could rejoin with Doggett, Reyes, or Skinner in the future, and I hope that they do. But now the adventures turn towards their joint effort to fight the future, as a couple. I hope that it is everything that those devoted to their relationship might have wanted.
Contrary to my fears last episode, Skinner actually sees a worthy resolution to his character arc. By having him represent and defend Mulder’s beliefs, his journey from disbelieving pawn of the Syndicate to champion of the truth is completed. It’s hard to imagine that he would survive that meeting with DD Kersh, especially since one would expect that Kersh himself is not going to be long for this world, having exposed his true loyalties (hinted in “Nothing Important Happened Today II”). But given that Skinner and Kersh were more or less joined in the effort to protect the agents and Mulder from the growing power of the conspiracy, it is perhaps appropriate that they meet their fate together.
I thought that Doggett had been given his final statements for the series in “Release” and “Sunshine Days”, but his character was given more than a few moments to shine. That’s a welcome surprise, because it shows that David Duchovny (who was involved in developing the story) understood Doggett’s place in the series, and didn’t let him get completely sidelined. Mulder and Doggett respect each other in this episode, sometimes silently, and it shows. Just as it fit Doggett’s character, in the wake of coming to his own terms with the unknown, to defend and accept Mulder’s point of view, even if he didn’t subscribe to it himself.
As much as Reyes was a wasted opportunity, her character was brought back to its core concept in this episode. She is a believer, to be sure, but she is more than willing to dispute a claim that doesn’t have the support of the evidence at hand. Her character didn’t quite stay with that conception during this season, careening wildly between faux-Mulder and outright lunatic. But one thing that remained was her defiance, and she was given a chance to display it to the enemy in spades.
As a final thought, I wanted to mention just how much this felt like two episodes jumbled together, and I don’t mean in terms of two episodes shown back to back. The first 15 minutes of the first hour could have easily been followed by the final 45 minutes of the second hour, and you wouldn’t have missed a thing. The entire court scene was a plot device to allow for a piecemeal dispensing of the whole mythology. As I’ve said before, the entire “trial” only works if seen as a last desperate attempt to save everyone’s life, not as an actual court proceeding…and if it was meant otherwise, it was very sloppy writing. But given that it was said clearly that there would be no record of the trial, it seemed reasonable that it was meant for some ulterior purpose.
The “other” episode involves the usual apparent plot contrivances and gaping holes. Even if Mulder had a means of entrance into the Mount Weather facility, he is wanted by the conspiracy. They want to find him, draw him out, and kill him. So wouldn’t someone in the main facility for the “shadow government” recognize him before he even managed to access anything?
It is equally unbelievable that Doggett and Skinner could have gotten Mulder out of Marine Corps detainment so easily. I’ve had my issues with how easily Mulder and Scully manage to sneak onto military installations in the past, because the idea that there is so little security involved in a worldwide black project is simply laughable.
But if we attach more forethought to the planning of the conspirators, that they would want to draw out Mulder’s allies by holding him under some charge (breaking into the facility would have worked fine!), passing him off as an unidentified terrorist, then perhaps it makes a kind of sense. In the same way, they could have allowed Mulder to escape so easily in order to provide a reason for “disappearing” the other agents. Otherwise, they have no basis to act against them.
This is in keeping with the hints in “Providence” that it was just a matter of time before everyone involved with the X-Files that could possibly be a threat to the conspiracy would be eliminated. This was reiterated in “William” when Scully’s role as “William’s convenient caretaker” was revealed. They wanted William alive and Mulder dead. The best way to do that was to use Scully, Doggett, Reyes, and Skinner towards that end. As soon as William was out of the picture and Mulder was caught, all bets were off.
Note that the very next morning, the X-Files office had already been cleared. The decision had already been made. And since it wasn’t after-hours in the Hoover Building, they couldn’t kill them in plain sight of the non-replicant agents. They were obviously tracking Mulder and Scully as soon as they left the base, so they would lead the conspiracy to whomever had sent Mulder to retrieve the critical information.
Given that they only sent Knowle to dispatch the agents, and they simply went about destroying the Anasazi site, that was the immediate objective. Without the support of some government agency, Mulder and the others are on their own. To make matters worse, if the conspirators weren’t more than happy to let them live until they could be killed in a nice, out of the way area…say, wherever William is…they could put out an alert for a terrorist and those who aided in his escape from federal custody.
So that is the end of the X-Files, both literally and figuratively. There is always the chance for future films…at least until 2012, after which it would be a bit of a moot point, wouldn’t it? As someone who has always been a fan of this series for the mythology and the characters, the past few years have been a wild if ultimately frustrating ride. As much as I love the character of John Doggett, it was more than obvious that Chris Carter and the rest of the writers with 1013 had no idea how to extend the mythology beyond its loose five-year conception, ending with the film.
But when I think back on the series as a whole, I can’t help but be happy with what we were given. It’s been inspiring at its best and at its worst, and in the end, I will always enjoy it for what it was. In time, I think that all nine seasons will be seen as worthwhile, when time and distance allow new eyes to view the series sans the baggage of the past few years. And it will always be one of my favorite additions to the genre.
Some other thoughts:
- I thought the opening credits were very appropriate, even if they were more or less mandated by SAG rules. Ah, but to dream of what could have been…
- “I smelled you coming, Clarice…”
- So, shippers, how did you like that 30-second liplock? I was waiting for Skinner to tell them to get a room!
- “Come ‘ere, you sweet bald, beautiful man!”
- Did anyone else catch that little nod of respect between Mulder and Doggett? Very well done.
- “We can’t win…we can only hope to go down fighting…”
- “Hard to keep these aliens straight without a scorecard…”
- The comment by the prosecutor was such a nice way to show how bringing the MSR into the series completely destroyed Scully’s ability to defend Mulder…you pay for what you get.
- Am I hearing things, or did Spender tell the judges that Samantha died in 1987? What the hell? Doesn’t anyone pay attention to dates on this show anymore? They even explicitly state that she was 8 years old when she was abducted, and given how many times they reinforced that she was 14 when she disappeared for good…1979, idiots!
- “Then let’s shove it up their ass!”
- I loved Mulder’s final statements…if only because they meshed with the final scene so well.
- Of all the people to save the “I Want To Believe” poster left on the office floor…who would have guessed it would be Doggett!
- So you know that there is this young boy that apparently was placed in state protection by Jim Morrison, and he’s in danger of being killed yet again. The people who want him dead are running the FBI. So where do you take him? The Hoover Building! And even better, straight to the Deputy Director’s office!
- “Wanna come sit on my lap?”
- I’d say this is definitely a more fitting ending for Cancer Man than a fall down the stairs.
Overall, I can’t say that this episode gave me answers. I can’t say that this episode wrapped up all of the plot threads. I certainly can’t say that this episode was the best episode of the series. But I can say that after watching this episode, I am glad that the series is over. Anything more would have strained the dignity of the series even more than nine years already had. It ended with lots of mytharc goodness, a dark and somewhat ominous future, and plenty of potential going into the film franchise. I really couldn’t have expected more.
I give it a 7/10.
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