The X-Files is one of the most legendary shows of most of our lives. Nearly everyone watched it during its original run of the 90s, and maybe people still hold it in high regards to this day. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s careers were made by this very TV show, and not a day goes by that you see them in something else and think “Oh that’s Mulder/Scully”.
The show ran for 9 seasons from 1993 to 2002 (and these were not small seasons! Each one had at least 20 episodes, back in the day when this was the common thing), and spawn movies (which were not the best. One of which is a gap bridge between two of the seasons in the middle of the original run), computer games (the one on the PS1 was the fucking nuts, even if it was dog hard!), books, comics, spin-off shows that not that many people heard about. It has been spoofed, as well as the cast themselves appearing as the characters in other pieces of works such as the Simpsons (what a brilliant episode that was).
Needless to say, The X-Files was legendary and deserves a place in the hall of TV fame.
During the original season, I found myself loving the Alien conspiracy storyline. This was one long continuous story about some strange black alien goo – which was linked to an alien human hybrid – which was linked to the colonisation of Earth by aliens – which was linked to the shady syndicate – which was all being orchestrated by the Smoking Man. Any episode featuring anything relating to this had me hooked, and I found myself trying to piece together the convoluted storyline that it was trying to portray.
Of course, now looking back, they were making it up as they went along. They had no end game. No one did back then. They made TV shows for people to just sit and lose themselves in. It was only as it became more popular that they tried to link things together and create an actual narrative. In the 90s, every show was pretty much a single story per episode. Now the world has changed and people don’t want that any more. They don’t want single stories, they want one long arc that runs the entirety of the 10 – 12 episodes and bleeds into the next season. They want a more tight and central storyline that has its beginning, middle and end planned out already.
This is not The X-Files, as most of the season was the “Monster of the Week” and featured some strange tale that Mulder and Scully had to resolve (or more often than not, just had to be a part of and the tale is left open for us to imagine that the horrors of what we had just witnessed are still out there (much like the Truth itself).
While some of these episodes linked with each other (such as the legendary Tooms saga), most of these episodes remained separate.
I did enjoy these, although I always felt a bit disappointed whenever one of these stories would appear in place of the black goo/alien/hybrid conspiracy one.
One of my personal favourite episodes was one called “Home”, about an inbred family in the South. It was haunting and featured some genuinely terrifying moments.
(I am actually going to come back to both this episode and the Tooms episode later on in the review, so at the moment I am just laying the ground work).
So eventually the series ended and the X-Files became a hazy sparkly memory of our past. A time when we were excited because it was Friday (or whatever) and a brand new episode was coming on the TV. So we’d tune in our chipped cable boxes (with the orange buttons) and check it out.
After that both Duchovny and Anderson were never off of our screens. While they were not in anything that was as monumental as the X-Files (although I heard Californiacation was good), they still were active and you’d see them pop up in things now and again.
Then, in 2016, FOX released season 10. It was only 6 episodes long, which was not ideal. It also began and ended with a story that linked to the black goo/alien/hybrid story and spawned the return of the Smoking Man (who was previously believed dead).
I was quite excited for this, but ultimately felt let down. The convoluted storyline had become too much of a mess to try and untangle, and since a lot of the season’s episodes focused around plot, possibly in an attempt to get in line with other TV shows of the generation, it was not overly enjoyable.
Not only that, but instead of full hour episodes, FOX decided to stick to the original time of 42 minutes that the show had back in the 90s, which lead to the episodes feeling incredibly rushed.
Although most of them did link together to form this central storyline, they were also their own self contain plot which had an ending, meaning that it was a lot to cover in such a short time, where as other shows would continue the story in the next episode.
Personally… it was a mess and I didn’t overly enjoy it. The black goo/alien/hybrid episodes always showed Mulder on the run, or driving fast somewhere to do something or other that I never quite understood, and it lost the same charm that the original season had where it was Mulder and Scully investigating a bizarre mystery. I found myself enjoying the ‘monster of the week’ episodes more, one of which was brilliant. Titled; “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” and starring comedian Rhys Darby, it was a breath of fresh air from the rest of the serious toned episodes that had come before it (and after). I found myself laughing out loud and enjoyed the fact that the cast didn’t seem to take it too seriously.
But other than this, I lost interest in the show, often looking at my phone or checking out some game to buy off the internet whilst an episode was on.
It was not to say it was a bad season… it was just a bit disappointing, and never really reached the same heights of the original run.
Well two years later and another season has just finished, one which marks the actual end of the show (since Gillian has stated that she no longer wishes to return now). So this is it! This is the last season of the X-Files and we won’t get any more…
And it seems that FOX learned nothing from the previous season! If you did not enjoy the season back in 2016, then you won’t enjoy this one as it is more of the same.
They added more episodes, as the season is now 10 episodes long, and only three of them are linked (once again the first and last episodes are tied into the episodes from last season – the convoluted alien conspiracy storyline, along with one episode in the middle), but most of the episodes are their own self-contained “monster of the week” storylines.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing, given how confusing and messy the interlinked alien plot became, but they just handled it badly once again.
There is no way they can tell a good enough story in just 42 minutes. Not one that has a beginning, middle and an end. It was just too rushed.
One great example of this is the 9th episode, which was a really interesting X-Files story (good enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the classic episodes in terms of plot), but the deliverance was bad. It was a story about a doctor and his 80 year old wife who had managed to work out how to reverse ageing and started a cult to harvest their organs to prolong their own lives. It was really interesting, and, at times, quite haunting.
However, the story was told in just 42 minutes, so we had to have them introduced, then shown doing what it is they are doing, then Mulder and Scully investigating, then them getting a lead and finding the culprits, and then finally dealing with the situation.
They found the culprits by sheer accident. I looked at the time and the episode only had another 8 minutes to go, which is not enough time to give us a satisfying ending. The show should have gone on for at least an hour. Hell! They could have even dragged the story out to a two parter. In fact that would have made most of these episodes a million times better, just if they took the time to give the audience what it wanted.
It was not a bad season. Nearly every single story was intriguing, it was just that it was over in the blink of an eye. And because they crammed so much in (the episode I was just talking about also feature a subplot as well, which just took up too much airtime), that the characters had very little interaction with one another. I know we have seen Mulder and Scully talking and hanging out in the past, but how come the episodes never felt this rushed back then?
There was a couple of episodes this season that just planned sucked. Other than the “My Struggle” saga (which was the black goo/alien/hybrid/Smoking Man storyline), the second episode (title; “This”) and a semi comical episode about the digital age (titled: “Rm9sbG93ZXJz”) were not the X-Files greatest moments. The Rm9sbG93ZXJz episode was okay, and it raised some interesting points about how we are so dependant on technology and how it could so easily backfire, but it is a cliché story that was not done overly well as it was trying too hard to be funny.
The final episode was actually surprisingly well done, even if it was trying to conclude the most confusing storyline than Lost and did not end the series with a bad taste in our mouths. It left it open enough that if they ever did want to return, then they could, but at the same time, it felt like a good enough finished (if not a little rushed as you would have expected).
I will say that this season does feature one of the best episodes of the entire season… no the entire series! Which is a fucking bold statement to make. But hear me out.
It was titled; “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” – so already from the get-go you can tell that it is going to be a joke episode, similar to the best one of the last season “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”. In fact it was written by the same person.
It centred around a man who claimed to be a long forgotten partner of Mulder and Scully’s, and seemed to know everything about them, including some of their past cases (which included flashbacks to some of the classics scenes from episodes like Tooms and Home – see, I told you I would come back to this, and superimposed the guy into the episode as if he was there the entire time. It was just brilliant). It also featured a young Mulder watching an episode of The Twilight Show and his head had been superimposed with David Duchovny face. It was hilarious.
The whole episode centred around a really interesting theme called The Mandela Effect, and also marked that it was time for the X-Files to end, but in a really amusing way that left you thinking afterwards.
The episode was enjoyable from start to finish, even when the people from the insane asylum showed up to take the man away, and they were carrying large butterfly nets. It was all just brilliant. Its a little hard to describe why it was so good, as I am sure I have not done it justice. But other than “Home”, I would say that this episode alone deserved 5 Robots out of 5, and it has even given the season an additional Robot rating on this very review, as without this season, this episode would have never been made. So we have to appreciate it for that.
Overall, season 11; the final ever season of The X-Files, was more of the rushed convoluted and confusing linking storylines, or rushed and not fleshed out “Monster of the week” plots, which were excellent in design, but due to the small run time of each episode, became a bit of a waste of a good opportunity.
It is a shame that such a legendary series has to end of a bit of bad note, but there are a couple of little gems to be found hidden within, such as the episode centred around Walter Skinner’s Vietnam past (staring Haley Joel Osment) or the blatant rip off of Stephen King’s; IT, but you cannot help but feel that maybe the creators should have left the show along before allowing it to become a hybrid of the old TV world and the new age, where we have central storylines over self contained ones, and shorter seasons. If only they went for the longer run times then maybe the season could have pulled itself out of the downward spiral it fell into at times over the past 10 weeks.
And that marks the end of the X-Files. While it did not end of the create height of the original run, it was still enjoyable enough to entertain us for the short while, most of which we spent our times thinking back on classic episodes during a simpler time.
Will we ever see Mulder and Scully again on our screens? Whose to say? Will we ever get these answers and the answers left by so many open ended X-Files episodes? Probably not, but there is still some hope, and the way that this season ended showed us that there may one day be hope, for I want to believe…