I wanted to believe it'd be different, but that's not what happened last night.
There were reasons to fear The X-Files coming back before a single episode was shot; it's hard to put lightning back in a bottle. Nostalgia is powerful, but not unbreakable. When I first wrote about The X-Files' return, I was willing to admit that I'd keep watching, despite the dreadful season premiere. There was reason for hope, too, as the series got better as it went along. The second episode was promising if a bit generic, the third episode was hilarious, and the fourth episode was a touching reminder of why this series works: Mulder and Scully.
The episodes that didn't work? The first, fifth, and six. Who wrote those episodes? Series creator Chris Carter. He's been the weak link the whole way, and weirdly, it's because he keeps getting away from the people he created.
Little about The X-Files has mattered but the relationship between sceptic and believer. The mythology, convoluted as it became, was window dressing for two characters having their beliefs challenged over and over. The "truths" and conspiracies were, really, moments (for us) to better understand themselves.
The baseline for the revival was whether Mulder and Scully still worked. For the most part, that's been proven true -- I still love watching those two bounce off one another, the passage of time only adding to the long history between them.
Given all that, I can't figure out why the last two episodes do their damnedest to make sure Mulder and Scully aren't even in the same room together. In the finale, a mess on just about every conceivable level, they don't have a single line of dialogue with one another until the closing moments Are you kidding me?
You had one job, X-Files! The one thing you needed to nail -- the only thing that mattered -- was a satisfying conclusion (or extension) of their relationship. Despite the plotting missteps along the way, that arc seemed like it was finally heading somewhere, with Mulder and Scully reconsidering their difficult decision to give up their son, fearing he'd be targeted by those in the shadows. As they grew older and the world began to move on, their hearts grew heavy.
Talk about a missed opportunity.
I wish it was the only problem with the episode. I mean...
- Why bring back Skinner if you're not even going to use him?
- Fox Mulder, Mr. Conspiracy, has a phone tracking app on his desktop?
- Why would anyone actually pay attention to Tad O'Malley?
- Are we supposed to believe Scully fixed a worldwide epidemic because she's saved a single hospital? How could they mass produce her DNA in time?
- The long-awaited showdown between Mulder and The Smoking Man spends half the time with Mulder lying on the floor?
- I'm still upset Mulder and Scully barely ever talked to one another?
I just wanted Mulder and Scully to track down another weirdo like the Flukeman. The X-Files has always been at its weakest when the stakes were raised beyond the main characters because it's a show about those characters. I cared about Mulder's sister because I cared about Mulder. I cared about what happened to Scully when she was kidnapped because I cared about Scully.
Everything else? Eh.
I suspect The X-Files will be back (again) in a few years with some episodes that try to bring actual closure. We don't know who's piloting the UFO that showed up in the final seconds, but given Scully musing about their son, it seems likely said child has been keeping tabs on them. Plus, a UFO in plain sight flips the show's mantra on its head; the truth really is out there and everyone can see it.
It's hard to imagine the episodes would focus on anything but wrapping up the remaining loose ends of the series' mythology, and that's a depressing thought.
Is there a way we can pretend none of this happened and just lock Mulder and Scully in a basement again to track down a bunch of weirdos? Who cares what was supposed to happen in 2012? Who cares what The Cigarette Man is up to?
There's no use saying I won't watch future episodes. I will, of course, because I am weak. In an ideal world, Carter would step back from his creation and let other people step in. That seems unlikely. Carter started this train, and he's going to end this train. One way or the other, we're going to the last stop.