A review of tonight’s The X-Files — and overall thoughts on this revival season — coming up just as soon as I notice that you got your hair cut…
“I always wondered how this was gonna end.” –Mulder
Assuming Gillian Anderson’s comments about being done playing Dana Scully aren’t public posturing, next week will be the final X-Files episode featuring her in the role — which would almost certainly make it the final X-Files episode, period, since nostalgia for the Anderson/Duchovny partnership has been the main driver for both revival seasons. (Lauren Ambrose and Robbie Amell have been fine in small doses as Scully and Mulder Jr., but you can’t build a show around those two.) And since I expect the finale to be every bit the dramatically inert swirl of conspiracy gibberish that the other three “My Struggle”s have been, I have to look at “Nothing Lasts Forever” as the real finale of the revival, and the real final chapter of the story of Dana Scully and Fox Mulder.
The episode was produced eighth but is airing ninth, perhaps because all involved recognized how well its themes suited a finale-ish position. In having Mulder and Scully go after a disgusting cult — led by TV’s best reactor to things himself, Jere Burns — that uses stolen human organs and blood in service of eternal youth for the aging sitcom star at the head of it, “Nothing Lasts Forever” was able to comment not only on the idea of Mulder and Scully still going on these adventures (and looking this good) at their age, but to force them to contemplate their own mortality and the eventual end of their stories. Mulder has to get progressive lenses, Scully has a near-death experience when she’s tossed down a garbage chute by the cultists (only to survive by landing on the decades’ worth of trash bags abandoned at the bottom), and the religious overtones of the case — and the Buffy-ish young woman impaling the cultists with iron spears she appropriated from a church fence — force our heroes to spend a lot of time at a house of worship, lighting candles and considering their pasts and futures.
It’s simultaneously the goriest episode of the revival — and on the gorier end of what the original series did, even if it doesn’t quite reach the disgusting heights of something like “Home”(*) — and one of its most wistful, because it’s so conscious of mortality, of being nearly done with these two, and of how strong their bond has become. Crazy one moment, sweet the next, and always on point because this season finally remembered why Mulder and Scully made such a great team.
(*) I was grocery shopping the other day, and the Trader Joe’s PA started playing Johnny Mathis’ “Wonderful Wonderful,” and I instantly shuddered at the memory of that episode used it.
Because all the Mulder/Scully scenes were so on point this year, there was a baseline level of entertainment that the 2016 episodes didn’t have, in part because Duchovny was phoning in his performance too often. Not every episode this time out has been an all-timer — though I wouldn’t be surprised if some X-Philes wound up placing both “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” and “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” high in an overall episode ranking — but even the more formulaic Monster of the Week stories like the previous episode have been solidly-crafted, and have understood when to simply lean on the core partnership and let it patch over whatever issues the hour might have. I’m generally anti-revival, and the previous season was a strong argument against the whole trend, but this round — “My Struggle III” excepted — has been a reminder that there are exceptions to every rule, particularly for shows as capable of being special as this.
We don’t have finale screeners yet, and a part of me is tempted to just skip it altogether. Scully whispering something in Mulder’s ear that we’ll never hear, Lost in Translation-style, and the two partners pledging to get through their future adventures and crises together, is such a perfect endpoint for all this that I’d almost rather not sully the memory of it with whatever nonsense comes next/last. But the eight non-mythology episodes of this season have been so satisfying, they may tempt me to spend one last hour in the company of our heroes, no matter how dumb it may get.