We waited nine years for this?
May 20, 2002
The end of The X-Files. Let’s say that again. The end of The X-Files. Phew, okay. I had to remind myself that this was the series finale, because it sure didn’t feel like no series finale. Series finales of great shows are exciting, heart-wrenching, touching, and make the longtime fan feel good about her time with the departing show. How does this play out? Like a boring courtroom drama.
Oh wait, it was a boring courtroom drama, starring Mulder. Fox breaks into the “shadow government’s” facility to gain information on the coming alien invasion, and promptly gets into big trouble: chased by the military and other flunkies, he gets into a mano-a-mano with Noel Rohr, Supersoldier, and Rohr supposedly dies. Mulder’s arrested for his murder and put on trial, with Kersh and other officials as his um, impartial judge and jury. Although Mulder clings to The Truth, and thinks the authorities will not be able to prosecute, they can and will. Mulder asks Skinner to defend him at his trial.
The trial takes place in a small concrete room, under military tribunal. For the first hour of this spectacular, we sit through a series of “witnesses,” re-telling all of the major X-Files themes. First Scully, then Spender, then Covarrubias, then Gibson Praise…well, you get the picture. All this is accomplished by sitting the character in a chair, at which point he/she recaps the character’s history and role in the larger mythology. This is done through the hoary, hackneyed TV device known as “the clip show,” as we watch the former glorious moments of a show we once loved so much.
I didn’t feel much of anything until X (Steven Williams) showed up in Mulder’s cell and gave him a good talkin’ to. He’s also visited in this episode by Krycek (Nicholas Lea) and the Lone Gunmen. All I can say about this is, “He sees dead people?” Huh? This is a clue, though, to the return of the ultimate dead man the show resurrects later in the episode.
The episode get a minor bit of frisson when they put Doggett and Reyes on the stand. Doggett’s scene is exemplary; he’s interrogated about his beliefs concerning the super soldiers, and his role as the skeptic. In fact, he’s completely discredited as a witness by the government prosecutor on this basis. Finally, this trial device works, simply because the cross-examine is based not on a narrated series of clips, but on character. Of course, this small step forward in the episode is immediately undermined when Reyes sits in the hot seat, and the episode resumes its clip show advance. But at least Reyes is given a chance to go off on Kersh, calling him out and dressing him down. Way to go, Reyes.
After all this recap, the “body” of Noel Rohr turns up and of course is revealed to be another dead man, burned beyond recognition. Scully IDs the body but she and the evidence are thrown out, and Mulder is found guilty, sentenced to die by lethal injection. This comes as no surprise whatsoever.
The episode finally takes off when the agents help break out Mulder (um, shouldn’t they have done this earlier, like before the trial even started?). In a little bit of a surprise, Kersh helps Mulder escape, but of course, the next day Doggett and Reyes find their office ransacked and emptied.
There are a few scant moments to enjoy in “The Truth,” starting with a roll-on-the-floor Silence of the Lambs reference and a passionate kiss between Mulder and Scully. Gillian Anderson is acting up a storm, of course. (At least she’ll have a career after all this is over, and not just in X-Files movies.) David Duchovny is collecting a paycheck. My favorite line in the show was this: “Agent Scully, isn’t it true that you and Mulder were lovers and you got pregnant and had his love child?” If only the whole episode held gems like this.
In the end, we do get some sort of answer. It’s not an earth-shattering answer, or “truth,” though Chris Carter probably thinks it is. It’s a long trip for a whole lotta nothing. In the end, we get Mulder and Scully, in a hotel room, sheltered from a rainstorm, like so many years ago. Carter is so hamfisted that he can’t even let us enjoy this little re-creation of a pivotal scene from the pilot without having Mulder say “look, just like we were nine years ago, when we first met.”
In the end, there are more questions than any truth learned. What will happen to Skinner? He’s last seen taking a meeting with someone Gibson Praise identified as inhuman. What’s to become of Doggett and Reyes? They’re last seen driving away from the explosive finale, but they have no files to return to. And what’s to become of us? The human race, according to some ancient seers, and CSM himself, has a scant 10 years before the alien invasion.
In the end, Mulder wants to believe, and Scully with him. I still believed. I watched The X-Files, on that first night nine years ago, because it looked funky and alien scifi-ey. I watched even though Fox was a fledgling network and despite fears that the show would be canceled in less than a season. I was delighted to discover a great show, one that became a favorite of mine (and will remain so forever). But I expected more from the series finale. It left me disappointed and unaffected. I expected to be left a crying mess at the thought of no more Mulder, Scully, Doggett, Reyes, Lone Gunmen, or Skinner ever again in my TV viewing future. Instead I was just scratching my head and wondering what will become of my Sunday evenings now. Well, there’s always fanfic.