‘The X-Files’ Builds to a ‘Sopranos’ Moment in Season Finale

“My Struggle II” doesn't answer the big questions, and suggests either more episodes or a haunting moral.

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“In X files, as in life, seems the more answers we get, the more questions we have. Agree? Happy season finale, thanks for being there 2moro.” So tweeted David Duchovny on Sunday night, wryly. Those worried about The X-Files season finale as a result of it were right to be. That’s not to say that we didn’t get any answers to the long string of questions with which Chris Carter’s series and films have strung fans along for years. But if you thought The X-Files’ cliffhanger days were over, you were wrong. New episodes have been hinted at, but not confirmed; it seems unlikely that Anderson, for one, would want to return, given the pains she has gone to over the years to distance herself from Scully. But, who can say? Money and ratings talk, and last night’s “My Struggle II” was billed as “season finale” not “series.”

It’s possible — and the final stare-into-the-camera shot of the episode lends itself to the comparison — that X-Files was intended to go on full-on Sopranos, and that this is the speculative, unsettling note Carter wants to leave us on. The world is on the brink of extermination with contagion of all sorts — except for the chosen few, who have been vaccinated against all of it and have been given, as the Smoking Man so cryptically puts it, a “seat at the big table.” Scully has been protected against it since her abduction, but Mulder is not, and refuses to let his nemesis save his life. At the end of the episode, Scully — in just about two minutes, with the help of “Agent Einstein,” whose name is still grating — manages to create a vaccine using her own DNA, and rushes through standstill traffic and tons of other people dying to shoot up Mulder. But it’s not enough, given how far along he is. Then enters a deus ex machina in the truest sense of the term: a UFO beaming directly down on the agents. Scully stares up in awe, hope, fear — then, black.

Is there actually any way Scully can save the world? Will the world, even if the CSM’s plan is stopped, ever be safe? Other power-hungry forces will rise up. Can any government ever be trusted? Carter’s pessimistic attitude would suggest: no way. The show has consistently operated under the principle that the struggle against dark, shadowy forces will always continue. Though Scully has intimated that there was a finite issue to be solved — “let’s stop these sons of bitches” — it’s really a constant plight. And where do these aliens fit into things? Or were there even aliens in the saucer, or humans who’ve stolen their technology? The Smoking Man coming to save his son, whether Mulder likes it or not?

Like David Chase’s Sopranos finale, Carter’s final scene suggests we will always be living in fear and doubt. We carry this burden endlessly, interminably; both shows are cyclical, and the troubles of the world have a tendency to feel that way, even if we can’t totally explain Donald Trump. What’s new is always old, and a mythology episode of The X-Files, as always, ended unsatisfyingly. Eventually, it became harder and harder to imagine any final plan that could be unveiled that could possibly be fulfilling.

Unfortunately, I don’t trust Carter to have designed Scully’s desperate gaze to be our last image of The X-Files universe. Perhaps, like Karl Ove Knausgård’s endless, non-directional autobiographical novel with which the episode shares its name, Carter will find a way to get to make more episodes. The X-Files will continue, and the viewers who stick it out will walk endless into the horizon — toward a point they will never reach.

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