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“Nothing Lasts Forever” — Josh Reviews the Final Episodes (For Now?) of The X-Files

June 7th, 2018

Although I was not that taken by the 2016 six-episode relaunch of The X-Files, I found myself quite enjoying this year’s new batch of episodes.  Click here for my review of the first three episodes of this new 10-episode season, and click here for my review of episodes 4-6.  After a strong run of episodes, how did this season’s concluding installments turn out?  Read on…!

Rm9sbG93ZXJz — This is yet another strong stand-alone installment, as this new season continues to fire on all cylinders.  In this nearly dialogue-free episode, a mishap at an automated sushi restaurant leads to increasing peril for Mulder and Scully.  This is the X-Files’ version of a Black Mirror episode, a very plausible vision of a world right around the corner from our current reality, in which the increasing computerization and atomization in all of our lives, combined with our reliance on our phones and all of the technology in our homes, cars, offices, etc., might lead to negative, unintended consequences.  This is a very different style of X-Files episode, but I love this type of experimentation and I was delighted by this sort of alternate-universe X-Files episode (where the computerization of Mulder and Scully’s lives is just a few steps ahead of what we see today, thus giving us a frightening look at where all of our lives might be heading in the very near future).

Admittedly, this sort of stand-alone experiment would be even more delightful if we were actually getting ten new episodes of The X-Files annually for the foreseeable future, rather than these ten episodes quite possibly being the final episodes we will ever see.  I have commented repeatedly in my reviews of the 2016 season and this new season that Chris Carter and co. took the curious approach of these new episodes being a relaunch of the show, rather than the conclusion.  Whether we ever do actually get future seasons will determine whether or not we look back on this approach as a mistake and a huge missed opportunity for the closure the show never got at the end of its original run.  More on this later.

Meanwhile, this episode was filled with a number of lovely moments, from Scully’s security password (Queequeg!!) to Mulder’s (attempted) enjoyment of an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man.  I was intrigued to see Scully’s very nice apartment!  Though saddened that, despite the events of “Plus One” from earlier in the season, Mulder and Scully still live apart.  (Was their dinner together at the start of the episode a romantic date?  Or just friendly colleagues together at the end of a long work day?  The episode does not shed much light on this.)  (Also: Mulder’s line “why is your home so much nicer than mine?” is funny, but weird — doesn’t Mulder know what Scully’s house looks like??)

Familiar — Yet another strong stand-alone episode, and I am really digging this season at this point.  While the previous episode was creepy, it also had a slightly silly vibe.  (Particularly the opening, with Mulder and Scully’s near-silent meal in the automated sushi restaurant, was very funny.)  But this episode shifts into dark horror, as Mulder and Scully investigate a murder that Mulder believes to be connected to witchcraft.  This is an incredibly disturbing episode that features the murder of two children.

I was impressed that the show was able to execute this type of grim installment as skillfully as it did this season’s sillier installments such as “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat.”  This episode featured some classic X-Files elements (A creepy doll!  Scary dark woods!) and yet it wove those together into a story that felt new and that kept me guessing up until the end.  (There are some skillfully executed red herrings in this one.)  I wasn’t expecting the story to take us into a courtroom late in the episode, but considering the story’s suggestion of aspects of the Salem Witch Trials and The Crucible, it made perfect sense.  I loved the opening sequence’s homage to Stephen King’s It (with a doomed boy in a yellow raincoat that immediately suggested poor Georgie), and the design of “Mr. Chuckleteeth” was magnificent.

Programming note: I was intrigued to see “The Truth is Out There” return at the end of the opening credits for, I believe, the first time (and also the last time) this season!  I have enjoyed this season’s playfulness with the text at the end of the opening credits.

Nothing Lasts Forever — After the pretty terrible opening episode, this season has been eight-for-eight with the episodes that followed.  I am impressed!  At this point I have been enjoying this revival season way more than I ever expected to, and I am very sad it will all be over after the next episode.  In this stand-alone episode, Mulder and Scully’s investigation of organ theft leads them to a coven of people consuming human organs and blood in an attempt to reverse the aging process, and also the young woman using Buffy the Vampire Slayer-like tactics in an attempt to destroy them and rescue her sister.  The X-Files has taken on vampires before (such as in the very mediocre second-season episode “3”), but this is a much darker, more interesting take.  Like the previous episode, “Familiar,” this is The X-Files in scary, dark horror mode, and I was impressed by how intense and grim this episode wound up being.  And gross!  This episode gave us some of the most stomach-churning gore we’re seen this side of “Home.”  As I have commented before in my season 11 reviews, I am impressed at how well this old show is able to succeed at pulling off all of these wildly different tones, from the goofy humor of “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” to the Black Mirror-style “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” and now to this dark horror episode.

I love the way this episode used the theme of aging as both a connection to the villains (who will use heinous methods in an attempt to live forever) as well as to Mulder and Scully’s lives.  I was so happy when Mulder was forced to don glasses (just as Captain Kirk did so memorably in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)!  I am glad that these final stories aren’t ignoring the fact that Mulder and Scully aren’t exactly spring chickens any longer, and of course this episode’s theme of aging is also a welcome meta commentary on this entire X-Files revival effort.  This show, like these characters, cannot last forever.  (Though Scully does dodge certain death yet again in this episode, when she survives being tossed down an impossibly long shaft, and I am again reminded of Clyde Bruckman’s prediction that Scully will never die.  It was a clever tease on the writers’ part to remind us of that prediction from season three, even in this episode that is about accepting the mortality of oneself and the things one loves.)

I was so happy to see Angie Tribecas Jere Burns in the role of the “scientist” involved with the vampire cult!  He was great!

This episode gives us several wonderful Mulder and Scully moments.  The two share a fantastic and fascinating conversation in church, early in the episode, in which they discuss faith and hope.  But it’s their riveting final scene, again in church while lighting candles, that is the truly momentous one that makes this episode, and that provides a wonderful capstone to this revival season and to The X-Files as a whole.  I was extremely taken by Mulder’s use of the transitive property to describe reason and faith in harmony, as beautiful a summation of his and Scully’s relationship as I have ever heard.  Scully’s “Are we together?” reply took me aback as it did Mulder, but it was an honest assessment of how vague the show has been about the state of their romantic relationship or lack thereof.  Mulder’s heartfelt declaration of his wish that Scully had fled his basement office long ago, so she could have gone on to live a happier life, moved me as it did Scully.  “I’ve always wondered how this was gonna end,” Mulder states, voicing the thoughts of every X-Files fan.  Will we ever know what Scully whispers to Mulder in the end?  I don’t need to know.  While I wish the show WOULD give me definitive answers about, say, what’s up with William and why everyone in the world seems to want him (more on that when I review the finale), here is an area where I think the show found just the right note of ambiguity.  Based on Scully’s final words in the scene to Mulder, I choose to believe that here at the end of the season and, perhaps, the show, that Mulder and Scully are finally, truly together.

At least… I want to believe.

I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on the finale — perhaps forever? — of The X-Files.

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