I finally finished watching the new season of X-Files. I’ve written a couple of blogs about the X-Files because I am madly devoted to the show. The first was about how Scully and Mulder have the best lips on TV. Then I grounded Christopher Carter for Season 10, and most recently, with season 11, I wrote this blog saying that Chris Carter is the bad boyfriend I can’t quit..I had only seen about half of the episodes at the time, and I realized Chris Carter was messing with my head again, like with season 10. And let’s not mention several of the movies that should never have gotten the green light. But in season 11, he first confused me by not continuing the disastrous Season 10, but instead tossed in a few emotionally satisfying episodes. So like when you take back a bad boyfriend because he promises to change, I was hopeful, but cautious.
And this time out, I am happy to report that Chris got it right. I believe I’m supposed to give you a “spoiler alert” at this point, but good god, people! It started in January and took me months to watch 10 episodes, so if you haven’t finished it yet, you need to go to show-watching rehab. Be gone!
He combined the familiar X-Files mysteries with Scully and Mulder reflecting on their middle-age. Alien-infused, slightly paranoid commentary on the government and the standard X-Files weird bloody gore unfold side-by-side with the physical limitations of middle age and their regret of choices made and not made. While doing their thorough investigative Scully and Mulder thing in the presence of 2 younger, impatient FBI agents, Scully delivers some funny lines about presbyopia — that thing we middle-aged people do, moving around our heads and squinting into our glasses to see small print. She’s teasing Mulder who is fumbling for his reading glasses to look at his phone’s Google search on the name of the person who was recently murdered. She also mentions loudly toward the young agents that gout is another sign of aging, and Scully and Mulder have a private moment making fun of them.
I loved them in this moment — I love making fun of the young ones without their knowledge.
But the episodes are also about regretting choices made or not made. Wondering if you could have done better, and forgiving yourself if you decide you couldn’t have. I am about their ages on the show, and I think that’s why it resonated so much.
I was curious about what others thought, and I was surprised to read a synopsis of the season that was the exact opposite of my take. I quote Zack Handlen from the AV Club website:
“…and it’s bad. Not the worst the show has ever been, and better than the mess that ended season 10 [Sandy comment: I totally agree!], but still: bad. As in not good, as in not worth it, as in kind of brutally depressing to watch everyone go through the motions for this nonsense.”
Ah, gotta stop you there, young one. From your picture I found online, I ain’t see no gray hair or hair coloring that seems a tad out of sync with your skin’s elasticity. So, I’m going to guess you are in your 30s. Look, I get it. I was “brutally depressed” watching On Golden Pond as a teenager. It freaked me out. Old people shaking and doddering around and yelling and being deaf. I wanted none of it, and wanted no reminder of getting old. It was a horrible movie to me; yet, people have told me it’s one of their favorites. It took me years to realize I was just too young, and it took several more years to think I should watch it again. Of course, now that I’m older, my biggest obstacle is remembering to add it to my Netflix list, which I just did, so there’s hope. And I think that just proves I’m old enough to appreciate it now.
Where was I? Oh, yes, young one, Zack, I get it. When you are younger, it is kind of brutally depressing to watch your heroes age. I know you want the endless conspiracy tangles, the far out weirdness found exclusively in small towns in the middle of nowhere, the witty repartee of their age-old argument of science versus belief. All that was there, darling; it just took a backseat to very real character development. These characters are now in their 40s and 50s, and they been around the block of life, with each other, with the FBI, with their careers, and with themselves. At this stage of their lives, they need closure on their son’s fate and what they did or didn’t do about it more than the continued shenanigans of the Cigarette Smoking Man conspiracy. But in true X-Files fashion, the two are inextricably linked.
At your age, watching Scully and Mulder talk softly in a church must seem like a lot of nonsense. But here’s what I saw: an amazing scene where Scully, who previously found an enormous amount of solace in the church and her religious beliefs, questions everything. Reviewing her life, she feels more like a failure, that she has no miracles left to ask for, that she has let down herself and those around her, and she has utterly failed to protect her son from Cigarette Smoking man and his minions.
Boy, do I get that. OK, maybe not the Cigarette Smoking Man minions after my son thing, but everything else, yes. And the best part for me? Mulder, the agnostic, shows up next to her in the church, lighting a candle because it’s meaningful for her (and her own candle wouldn’t light). He wishes he had never gotten her mixed up in the X-files, but tells her, “I am standing right here, and I am listening.” They have been workaholic coworkers, lovers, estranged, reunited, and have reached a place of being lifelong friends. His speech is that rare kind of moment, of truly knowing a person and accepting them. They have history, a lot of it is difficult, but they are both still alive and present to each other.
Zack, I gotta tell you, if this ever happens to you, get down on your knees and be thankful because this is what life is all about. All the great stuff about previous seasons? You can always bring your best to your work; and the alien evidence will always be moved to the next government facility and be out of reach. But this personal connection they have to each other? That’s rare and good baby, and is the thing even Cigarette Smoking Man can’t take away from them.
So do me a favor, Zack. Review this episode again at whatever X-files anniversary is being held about 15 years from now or whenever you are 45. Then we’ll talk about what is going on in this season. Of course, they may be On Golden Pond age by then, and if they do a show, we’ll alienate a whole group of new people. But I maybe able to help them get through it. I just have to watch the movie again and not freak out.
Also, I hope Chris Carter is done. You did good, Chris. We know that our beloved characters will be OK going forward; and praise the universe Cigarette Smoking Man was shot dead (we hope). What else do you need? Not a darn thing. Let’s do what the French do at the end of their films, because it’s cultured and classy. Fin.