‘The X-Files’ 10.06 Recap: “It Would Now Appear We Go Out with a Whimper”

I dreaded this. I knew going in that the finale of the ‘X-Files’ revival would tie directly to the awful season premiere episode. Somehow, despite setting my expectations as low as possible (is there something lower than rock bottom?), it’s even worse than I expected.

I’ll refrain from calling ‘My Struggle II’ (even the title is lame) the worst episode of ‘The X-Files’, only because I remember how unwatchable the original (Season 9) series finale was. It’s not too far removed from that, however.

We start with Scully narrating a cursory recap of her character arc over the course of the series on top of a really inane montage of “photographs” (really still images from various episodes, during which there could not have been anyone taking photos of her). At the end of it, in an astoundingly cheesy visual effect, Scully morphs into an alien. No, we’re not supposed to think she really has morphed into an alien. It’s metaphorical or something. Whatever, it’s stupid.

Instead of “The Truth Is Out There,” the episode’s opening credits close with a definitive proclamation of “This Is the End.” Don’t believe it. The episode will not hold true to that conviction for the entire hour.

Scully arrives in the office looking for Mulder, but he’s not there. Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) has gotten his podcast back online, and he’s spewing a new conspiracy theory about how alien DNA has been implanted into virtually every American citizen via small pox vaccination shots.

Oh geezus, Chris Carter is an anti-vaxxer, isn’t he? Ugh.

O’Malley calls the office trying to reach Mulder. When Scully answers, he asks her to come to Mulder’s house, which he found ransacked.

Scully tells Asst. Director Skinner that Mulder is missing. (By the way, what’s the deal with Mitch Pileggi having almost no screen time in this revival? I think he has about five lines of dialogue the entire season.) She and Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) then go to the hospital where Scully sometimes works and bump into a patient with a disturbing wound on his arm right where a vaccination shot would have been given. Einstein thinks the alien DNA story is a bunch of hooey. Scully tells her about what she found in her own DNA. She then takes a blood sample from Einstein for testing and fully expects to find alien DNA in it. In a classic line of overwritten Chris Carter dialogue, Scully tells her, “The science that we were taught takes us but a distance from the truth.” I guess that’s supposed to clue us in that Scully has abandoned her ‘skeptic’ mode.

Tad brings a doctor onto his podcast to rant about a global pandemic that’s on the verge of wiping out the human race. Based on nothing, Scully is fully on-board with this story and starts panicking. Without doing any testing at all, she concludes that the guy with the arm wound was exposed to anthrax. She theorizes that the alien DNA (which, again, virtually every American citizen supposedly has) turns off human immune systems and leaves the victims vulnerable to any and every viral or bacterial infection in existence.

That’s right, people. Everybody has Alien AIDS!

Where’s Mulder in all this? We find him in a car, looking like he’s had the crap beaten out of him, driving to Spartanburg, South Carolina. He ignores calls from both Skinner and Scully, but doesn’t get rid of the phone. This conveniently allows Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) to locate him using a Phone Finder app that Mulder happened to have installed on his work computer and left himself logged into.

Scully receives a mysterious phone call from a familiar voice asking to meet. It’s former X-Files substitute agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish). Sitting under a couple of umbrellas in the rain, Reyes tells Scully where she’s been and what she’s been up to over the past decade.

In a flashback, we learn that Reyes was brought to meet the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), who survived being literally blown up by a missile. Although suffering some nasty burns all over his body, CSM was expected to make a full recovery. He didn’t seem overly distressed about his condition. He informed Reyes that a secret cabal was planning to use alien technology to depopulate the Earth, except for a handful of selected “Chosen” who would be handpicked to survive. If she wanted to be among the chosen, she’d have to leave the FBI and work for him as his assistant, which mostly entailed lighting cigarettes and holding them in his tracheotomy hole for him.

When the flashback is over, Reyes says that Scully is also among the protected chosen elite. Apparently, CSM is awfully fond of her.

One more, briefer flashback shows us what happened to Mulder leading to his present state. CSM sent an assassin to his house. Fortunately, in between Season 9 and now, Mulder found time to become a master in Mixed Martial Arts. He and the assassin tussled and beat the hell out of each other all through the house. Eventually, Mulder won. With that out of the way, Mulder made a car trip to South Carolina to pay CSM a visit.

You’d think the most evil man in the world might have some security at his house or something, but no, he’s alone and Mulder walks right in with a gun. CSM is pleased to see him. The assassin was an “invitation” he knew Mulder would accept. To explain why he’d want to kill off almost the entire world population, CSM gives a Talking Killer rant about climate change and how destructive our species is. He offers to save Mulder so that together they can start the world anew. Mulder refuses.

On his latest podcast, Tad O’Malley blathers some nonsense about chemtrails spreading aluminum or something incomprehensible that Chris Carter no doubt takes very seriously.

After thinking on it for a bit, Scully realizes that it isn’t alien DNA making people sick. The alien DNA inside her is the reason she hasn’t gotten sick. It’s the cure.

But… hold on… I thought that “virtually every American citizen” has alien DNA in them? So why would anybody get sick? Hasn’t everyone effectively been inoculated?

I guess not. The so-called Spartan Virus spreads rapidly. The world is falling apart. The doctors at the hospital and Agent Einstein get sick. Scully uses a sample of her own blood to create a vaccine, which she whips up in about a half hour and gives to Einstein without running any test trials or waiting for FDA approval.

We cut back to Mulder and find him dying. CSM gloats and removes a prosthetic to reveal a big hole in his face. Why does he feel the need to show this to Mulder? I don’t know, to demonstrate how evil he is, I guess.

Agent Miller finds Mulder and puts him in the car to drive him from South Carolina back to Washington, D.C. That’s about a ten minute drive, right?

Oh…

Mulder's commute

Miller calls Scully to tell her that he has Mulder and is on his way back. Scully drops everything she’s doing and runs outside, where she finds a small crowd of people milling around. One guy tosses a trash can through a window to show us that looting has begun… or maybe he just watched ‘Do the Right Thing’ and felt like acting out the ending. Scully tsk-tsks the crowd and tells them to go to the hospital to get cured. They thank her and do as she told them.

Scully hops in her big SUV and has no problem at all weaving through what’s supposed to be a chaotic traffic jam but looks kind of like a light rush hour. She finds Miller and Mulder on a bridge, takes one quick look at Mulder and immediately diagnoses that he’s too far gone for her cure and needs a stem cell transfusion (WTF?) from the child they had together – apparently forgetting that baby William would be a teenager now.

Suddenly, a giant UFO descends from the sky, hovers over Mulder’s car, and shines a light down. The episode ends with a close-up of Scully’s eye looking up.

And… that’s it. The End.

Episode Verdict

Holy hell, this is terrible. I don’t even know where to begin here. Nothing about this episode works. On every level, from the writing to the acting to the directing, it falls flat and feels completely false.

We keep getting told over and over again by Tad O’Malley and Scully that a global pandemic is crippling the planet, but there’s no sense of mass panic or much of anything happening outside the walls of Scully’s hospital. The only “news” source covering this alleged apocalyptic disaster is the conspiracy theory nutbag podcast. And Tad’s line about the mainstream media ignoring the event is laughably ignorant of the way that the 24-hour cable news cycle conflates every mild flu outbreak or isolated shark attack into nonstop End of Times fearmongering.

After all is said and done, the show closes on a stupid cliffhanger with no real ending, even though there’s no indication that David Duchovny or Gillian Anderson want to return for another season.

Just as happened the first time around, Chris Carter is the worst part of his own show.

Now that it’s all wrapped up, this new ‘X-Files’ revival amounted to one really great episode, three with mixed results, and two outright turkeys. I said in my recap of the third episode that I would forgive the show any sin for giving me that one little slice of perfection. I still feel that way, and am overall glad to have this mini season if only for that reason. Still, when it’s bad, the show can be really just dreadful. Sadly, that’s how it ends. Again.

18 comments

  1. Chaz

    I loved pretty much every episode, this one was a bit ridiculous in places but to me its not any more far fetched and fiction than normal, traveling in TV shows has always been a problem, anybody can figure out that traveling to SC from Washington would take some time, same with her having to work on a cure, they mention a few hours and I just assumed that time had passed when she finally has what she needs to administer, that time was easy enough to shave off of Mulder and Miller coming back, again, its a TV show and we lose time quite often in just about every show out there, not sure why you are picking it apart so bad now.

    What pissed me off was the end, I figured they wouldnt be able to cram everything into 6 episodes and it completely doesnt fit that they could do whatever for 4 episodes in between the first and last with how the story for those two was set up, 4 episodes of NO mention of any of that really and then all of a sudden its a crisis and we are talking about it again?

    According to Carter, the ratings have been really good and he expects this to continue but nothing else has really been said….I’m still down for more X-Files and always will be 🙂

  2. theHDphantom

    Very disappointing indeed. Probably the worst written episode of this mini-season. One thing I was looking forward to with this episode was seeing Cancer Man back in the show, but felt his character was just used as filler and as a quick throwback.
    You’re pretty much bang on with all your criticisms, Josh. Really no other comments to add really from me. If I had to grade the episodes, it’d probably look like this:

    Episode 1: 3 out of 5
    Episode 2: 3.5 out of 5
    Episode 3: 1.5 out of 5
    Episode 4: 3.5 out of 5
    Episode 5: 1.5 out of 5
    Episode 6: 1 out of 5

    All in all, this was a pretty mediocre “season”. As an X-Files fan, If there is another season, I’ll probably watch it out of loyalty to the show. However, maybe it’s best if they just don’t do anymore.

  3. njscorpio

    This episode hurt, and Josh hit pretty much all the points that bugged me. Still, I gotta emphasize…

    The world is ending, everyone is in a panic and dying in the streets….yet Scully, with no sirens or flashing lights, has people move over for her so she can get through. So…nobody was in any actually rush to get anywhere? “Oh, she must really want to get somewhere, unlike any of us, so lets move over…”

    Mulder’s PC is not password protected? Even if he didn’t want it to be, odds are, it is FBI policy that it should be. I can accept the idea that it was password protected and Scully knew/guessed the password, if that’s what they did…but they didn’t.

    Have you seen the series Helix? Have you seen how long it takes to mix up a vaccine? I swear, I thought I missed a scene when Scully brought the IV bag to Einstein.

    Oh…and I’m not an expert on acting, but doesn’t it feel like Anderson and Ambrose are executing the same style (or quality) of acting…like they are in two different shows.

    As for the conspiracy theory, and vaccines, and small pox, and alien DNA….was this episode written by Damon Lindelof? It felt like the LOST finale, but instead of attempting to tying together the mysteries they established over 6 season, they are tying together every conspiracy theory that has trended online in the years since we last saw X-Files. It is just too much.

    Oh, and I really hope their son isn’t aboard that ship.

    • njscorpio

      My last comment was assuming there will be more X-Files episodes. I know that we are told there wouldn’t be, and that Anderson and Duchovny aren’t interested in more episodes…but doesn’t this whole 6 part series feel like the setup of X-Files: The Next Generation?

      I can see a next “season” focused on the two new characters, running around to save/help Fox and Scully in the aftermath of…whatever was about to happen.

      Phase out the two actors who aren’t that interested in the roles anymore, and keep the series going led by the Six Feet Under girl.

  4. Shannon Nutt

    Chris Carter has become the George Lucas of his own universe. I’ve been joking that FOX should sneak off and do Season 11 and not tell Chris about it – it would be a better show.

    Can someone explain this new mythology to me? So aliens DO exist, but all the alien conspiracy stuff we saw in Seasons 1 through 9 were just CSM and his homies faking stuff? Does that make any sense? Does that explain away the black oil aliens and the alien bounty hunters and the freakin’ SPACESHIP Mulder and Scully were inside during the first movie?

    It reminds me of when George Lucas ruined The Force with all his midichlorians B.S.

  5. Shannon Nutt

    Anyone else notice that, in addition to Carter, two doctors were given story credit? So Carter could ‘legitimize’ some of the crazy science he’s selling in this episode?

  6. Tom Martin

    I totally agree with you comments about the 6-episode reboot and, in particular, the final episode. It was horrible. All six were mediocre. I sat here cringing and remembering how much I used to look forward to the next episode from seasons 1-4 – after Season 4 … Anyway, neither lead seemed very committed to the reboot. I’m certainly not. Let X-Files rest in peace.

  7. Mark C Witney

    I can’t help but think that there must be something else going on here. Because this last episode was forcibly bad. I mean, it was sooooo bad that I (want to believe) that it had to be intentional. Perhaps a setup for something yet to come (?). I could not believe the schlock I was watching. What an embarrassment to the tome of the X-Files. Shame, shame… The only good release I had in the show was watching Mulder and the “assassin” beat the shit out of each other.

    Your review was 100 percent dead-on, the biggest fault falling on Chris Carter with an absolutely horrendous episode of writing. Is there something in plain sight we viewers overlooked to explain this anomaly? Perhaps Carter – if I dare give him credit – is suggesting the world and all of it’s ridiculousness needs a real-life Mulder to peel away the madness of current events forged almost entirely by mankind.

  8. Charles M

    Pretty typical of Chris Carter. In the later season of the X-Files, when he never knew if the show was going to be cancelled, he’d create a half-cliffhanger, half-ending and then justify it by saying they’ll complete the story in a movie, which he then made and had nothing to do with answering or ending anything.

  9. Thulsadoom

    I have to admit, I haven’t been overly impressed so far, much as I loved the X-Files years ago. We’re only three episodes in, in the UK (Well, 4, but the streaming was being a pain in the ar$e last night). The strange thing is, the ‘alien’ episodes were always my favourite in the early days of the X-Files, but after a while it just got so absurdly annoying with the “is it aliens, or is it humans pretending to be aliens and aliens aren’t real, or is it a conspiracy with aliens, or are aliens harmless but humans using them as a ruse?” JUST MAKE UP YOUR MINDS!!! After this length of time, it just becomes stupidly annoying that every alien episode is a supposed “Oh, so THIS is the real conspiracy?” onion layer…

    They should just commit to… “Aliens are trying to take over the world with a human conspiracy to help them so the powerful stay powerful.” Have Mulder and Scully know the truth after all this time, and any alien episodes are just them trying to help fight it… David Vincent style!!

    Or… Just bring back the superior Dark Skies, that never really got its chance to shine, despite an awesome first series. 🙂 (And yes, I know it owed its existence to the X-Files, same as Galactica to Star Wars) 😉

  10. There are some really great points here, about the ongoing or reboot-anthology episodes. I never would thought I would have said this before it came out, but they should just ditch them and go to monster-of-the-week episodes only. The story line is so befuddled I can’t see myself getting into it again.

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