The experience of writing about The X-Files during its six-episode run has been a true roller coaster. I went into the season last month expecting fun — moments of cleverness mixed with high-concept, low-stakes inanity. I was confronted by some of that, but somehow, most episodes left me feeling exhausted — sometimes depressed. These were feelings I never experienced watching anything in the original series. I racked my brains to understand Chris Carter and the gang’s plots, only to be confronted with emptiness, lunacy, and half-baked pseudo-political mumbo-jumbo. The Darin Morgan episodes — the second and third — had their inspired moments, but often trying to come to terms with these new X-Files felt like starting into a Magic Eye too long, in the wrong way.
I think it’s safe to say that my trajectory was the same as that of many X-Files fans. Sure, I got to see two of my favorite characters in action again, doing the same basic kinds of things they did on a weekly basis for many years. But there was also a whole lot of nonsense stopping up the works — moments where I felt truly incredulous and uncomfortable.
I was sure that the madness would stop, even though the ratings for the show ended up being very good (upwards of 7.2 million viewers for Monday’s finale), and even though Carter ended things on a ludicrous cliffhanger. But now both Fox and Carter have said that the music will keep playing, even despite the harrowing journey we all just embarked on together.
More of this? How much more is left in you, Carter? Lest the world forget in the mini-wave of defense pieces that have been trickling out since the season finale, here’s some of what we faced along the way:
- An episode where a terrorist cell ended up being, essentially, the E.T.s of the show.
- An episode where a maggot-oozing creature made of trash created by a Banksy-biting street artist inspires Scully to wonder if she has treated her own abandoned son “like trash.”
- Joel McHale playing a heroic libertarian talk show host who almost seduces Scully and helps her (possibly) save the world.
- One episode where Mulder trips on placebo magic ’shroom pills and discovers … the “power of suggestion!”
- Mulder in actually fashionable suits.
- A shot of Scully morphing into a straight-outta-Spencer’s-Gifts alien.
- The Cigarette Smoking Man saying “cigarette” and “smokes” five or six times.
- Scully saying “You’re bat crap crazy!”
- Scully saying “fear mongering, isolationist, claptrap techno-paranoia.”
- A character called “Agent Einstein.”
- “A government, driven not only by corporate greed, but by a darker objective, the takeover of America and then the world itself, by whatever means necessary, however violent, cruel or efficient.”
- That fucking Lumineers song:
I would include “Mulder dancing to ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ in a cowboy hat and Harley Davidson tee and holding up brass knuckles spelling ‘Mushroom,’” but that was the main moment of actual joy I experienced during these six hours. Yes, I was also mortified, but isn’t horror and fear endemic to all pleasure — buried deep within it somewhere?
I understand that Season 10 of The X-Files has some moments of wild charm, and that the show was often bad to consistently bad during its original run. To act like Season 10 is that much worse is revisionism, certainly. But just because it’s “not that much worse” doesn’t mean the franchise has to keep foraging ahead. Haven’t we had enough troubled fun? Pretty soon Duchovny and Anderson will get busy with their still-blossoming careers outside of the series again, and Carter will once again try to push the franchise along without them (thankfully, though, he hasn’t betrayed any desire to replace Mulder and Scully with their bizarro younger version from this season, and Einstein).
So why not enjoy the hundreds of episodes we already have to work with, and pull ourselves out of this oozing quicksand of nostalgia and inner conflict? The truth is definitely out there — we’ve gotten the picture.