The Truth Is Out There: Looking Back at Seasons 8-9 of The X-Files

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. 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?!

The amount of time Mulder and Scully spend in hospitals—either in their own bed or beside the other's—is both alarming and quite ridiculous.

Of course, their closure rate is low: they're more often in the ICU than in the field in these later seasons.

Though, considering the days/weeks/months they've also lost due to alien abduction and government kidnappings, I suppose the real miracle is that they're still “kicking it in the ass,” as Kim Manners would say.

Seasons Eight and Nine are just full of miracles—like Scully's impossible pregnancy and Mulder's resurrection. There are a lot of Messianic, Biblical overtones here: Fox fills the role of Lazarus, while little William's birth is heralded with a bright light—and he's described by many as “the perfect human.”

(The casting of the Lone Gunmen in the roles of the Three Wise Men bearing gifts is quite a hoot.)

But there's a reason why these later seasons are more ridiculed/less beloved than the previous seven. For starters, the mythology arc exhausts itself and feels repetitive at this point. There are only so many alien/government conspiracies an audience can take. Plus, with Duchovny bowing out of most of Season Eight and almost all of Season Nine, it doesn't even truly feel like The X-Files anymore without that fundamental Scully/Mulder dynamic.

Then, there's Scully's pregnancy. It would have been a more satisfying story if handled in a reasonable way; the portentousness of it comes across as a deus ex machina plot device, rather than an emotional, character-driven arc. It just feels so soap opera-y the way it unfolds…

Plus, the way Dana and Mulder never acknowledge what obviously happened between them off-screen to lead to her pregnancy is yet another heavy-handed move by Carter and Co. to hobble the Mulder/Scully romance and frustrate the longtime fans. The frequent implications that no one—not even Mulder—can be sure who fathered Scully's child feels rather like a slight to Dana's character, given her steadfastness throughout the series.

Still, if you've come this far, you have to see it through to the end. So here are the highlights/must-sees from the last seasons (of the original run):

 

SEASON EIGHT

“WITHIN” (8.01) / “WITHOUT” (8.02)

Wherein we meet Agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick), the manhunt for Mulder only flushes out child prodigy/telepath Gibson Praise (Jeff Gulka) again, and the alien bounty hunter runs amok. This two-parter is plenty frustrating and doesn't really resolve anything, but it's required viewing in terms of the series mythology—and as new partner Doggett's introduction.

“PATIENCE” (8.03)

Man-Bat attacks in this great “Monster of the Week” episode. It's nice to see that Doggett already has Scully's back from their very first case together.

“REDRUM” (8.06)

Guest star Joe Morton (who also costarred with Patrick in Terminator 2: Judgment Day) is living backwards and gets a second chance to save his wife from a murderer. Danny Trejo also guests in this tense morality tale.

“MEDUSA” (8.12)

I love a good claustrophobic thriller done right, and this story, with Doggett and a team investigating mysterious deaths in a Boston subway, is a winner. Plus, the guest stars include Dr. Kelso (Ken Jenkins) from Scrubs and Captain Gates (Penny Johnson) of Castle.

“PER MANUM” (8.13)

As if pregnancy isn't already horrific enough, Scully believes she and another woman are at the heart of a plot to create and steal alien babies. An especially nail-biting episode for all the ladies in the audience.

“THIS IS NOT HAPPENING” (8.14) / “DEADALIVE” (8.15)

Somewhat psychic agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) joins our heroes as supernatural healer Jeremiah Smith—and a whole slew of alien abductees—reappears. Scully has the worst three months ever as she faces a ping-pong session of good news/bad news:

GOOD NEWS: They finally find Mulder!
BAD NEWS: …He's dead. Bummer. (Guess Duchovny shouldn't have demanded that pay raise.)
GOOD NEWS: JK LOL, maybe he isn't really dead; maybe he's only mostly dead. We'd better hurry and dig up his coffin, a mere three months after the funeral! (Translation: they renegotiated his contract!)
BAD NEWS: …Now he's just infected with a virus turning him into an alien replicant…

When you lay it all out like that, of course it sounds crazy.

“ESSENCE” (8.20) / “EXISTENCE” (8.21)

Billy Miles returns as a juggernaut alien replicant determined to either kill or steal Scully's baby. The whole team comes together, with the always chancy aid of Krycek (Nicholas Lea), to uncover replicants within the FBI, while Sculls and Reyes take off for rural Georgia.

By the end of this finale, baby William finally arrives, Doggett takes a stand against the oft-infuriating Deputy Director Kersh (James Pickens Jr.), and Skinner puts three bullets into Krycek in one of the more satisfying moments in TV history.

 

SEASON NINE

“NOTHING IMPORTANT HAPPENED TODAY” (9.1 / 9.2)

Mulder pulls yet another disappearing act, Scully starts to suspect their baby has inhuman abilities, Cary Elwes (the Dread Pirate Roberts himself!) joins the cast as the slimy Brad Follmer, and stone cold fox (and Warrior Princess of my heart) Lucy Lawless guests as an alien replicant/Super Soldier from Doggett's past.

Even with an exploding ship, Xena killing men by dragging them underwater mermaid-style, and a slew of beheadings, this two-parter's title feels apt—nothing new or revelatory actually happens. But at least we know Mulder's on the run again and why the hell former farm boy Westley is at the FBI now, sneering in the corner.

“4-D” (9.04)

A killer can jump between parallel universes, and Reyes is left reeling when one world's Doggett ends up critically wounded, while her other self becomes one of the killer's victims. It's an emotionally turbulent story and interesting riff on the parallel worlds trope, with some truly thrilling moments.

“HELLBOUND” (9.08)

When several ex-cons are skinned alive—in a fashion identical to murders stretching back over a century—Reyes feels a strange connection and begins to suspect whatever is going on is connected to past lives. This episode is a gruesomely-unique take on reincarnation, and is rife with nightmare imagery Clive Barker would approve of.

“PROVENANCE” (9.09) / “PROVIDENCE” (9.10)

A UFO cult in Canada unearths a spacecraft identical to the one Scully studied in Africa back in Season Six, and then promptly sets out to kill the still-missing Mulder and kidnap baby William. This is another mythology two-partner where next to nothing happens—there's a lot of running around, and Scully shoots Neal McDonough—but it's still required viewing in regards to the William arc.

“AUDREY PAULEY” (9.11)

Following a car crash and some medical malfeasance, Reyes ends up in a limbo state; the only person who can reach her is Audrey Pauley, a hospital florist able to bridge the worlds. Doggett does everything he can to keep Monica alive and un-organ harvested, while angsting up a storm.

“IMPROBABLE” (9.13)

Burt Reynolds guests as a mystical checkers player, in a case where Reyes's knack for numerology connects several unsolved murders. What's even going on in this episode? Who the hell is Reynolds supposed to be—God? All I know is there's a lot of singing in Italian and Scully and Reyes play checkers in a parking garage.

“WILLIAM” (9.16)

 A horribly scarred man breaks into the X-Files; Doggett thinks he's Mulder, and a DNA test seems to support his theory—but we all know who Mulder's biological father is, and that he actually has a half-brother; and by episode's end, Scully has made the most difficult choice in her life—to give her son up for adoption to keep him safe from all the madness surrounding them.

Poor Sculls. All she ever truly wanted was a child, and she has to give him up because her life is absolutely crazy balls and covered in conspiracies. *sad sigh*

“THE TRUTH” (9.19 / 9.20)

Mulder returns after a season-long absence and is set up on murder charges, but the supposed victim is Knowle Rohrer (Adam Baldwin)—aka an unstoppable Super Soldier. A trial of our hero's peers and enemies is set up by the military, with good ol' Skinman serving as Mulder's defense lawyer, and in the course of the testimony, all of the series-long mythology, alien conspiracies, and government black-ops are addressed.

Most of the important faces (even those no longer alive) make appearances: Jeffrey Spender, Krycek, the Lone Gunmen, Gibson Praise, Marita Covarrubias, the Cigarette Smoking Man, and Mr. X. And when the farce of a trial leads to a guilty verdict, the team chooses the obvious route and breaks Fox out of prison.

And we end where we, in a sense, began: with Mulder and Scully together in a run-down hotel room, unburdening themselves about their mutual quest for the truth, renewing their commitment to stay the course and continue the fight no matter what.

It's a bittersweet ending: Mulder is free, and he and Scully have been reunited—but that doesn't mean they'll have a happily ever after, or that the government and alien threats aren't still out there. This is a series finale that offers surprisingly little in terms of closure, but the closing dialogue is a nice, personal last beat for our heroes:

SCULLY: 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: Maybe there's hope…

For a show that was often innovative and philosophical, daring to ask the big questions and allow its characters to run the full gamut of morality, these last two seasons feel like a lukewarm capper to an otherwise stellar run. Perhaps it was a case of the network being too greedy and dragging it out past its prime; maybe it was just a situation where the writers lost track of the emotional heart that kept the narrative train on the proper tracks.

Attempting to pass the torch off to two new characters—Doggett and Reyes—after the audience had spent so many years invested in Mulder and Scully proved largely fruitless. The X-Files has always been Fox and Dana's story, and clearly didn't work as well in the hands of other characters/actors.

FOX execs have been hinting that the recent limited run may have been a way to test the waters for a proper renewal: so long as Duchovny and Anderson are both firmly on board, I'm willing to keep tuning in.

This series, after all, allows for boundless opportunities for reinvention—and has had a definite lack of solid endings.

 


Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.

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