For as frustratingly uneven as this season of ‘The X Files’ has been, I’ll give the show credit that several episodes, including this week’s, have felt like they could have come right out of the original series. Even if they’re not quite top-tier original series, that’s still an improvement over the last revival season.
Episode ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ opens with a pair of surgeons hacking up a body in a dimly lit operating room. It quickly becomes obvious that they’re not trying to save the patient, but to harvest his organs. When one takes a good sniff of the victim’s pancreas and then gives it a big lick, you know they’re serious weirdos. Suddenly, a young woman in a hoodie who looks like she’s doing ‘Assassin’s Creed’ cosplay parkours down from the rafters and stakes both doctors through their hearts, muttering “Those who love me I will deliver.” She then takes the cooler full of harvested organs and drops it off in front of a hospital with the words “I will repay” scrawled on it.
Mulder and Scully arrive in the Bronx and wrest this investigation out from the hands of a couple of local FBI agents who are glad to pass it off. Scully isn’t convinced that it’s an X Files case. Mulder of course suspects vampires.
At an unknown location, another young woman named Olivia puts some bloody organs in a blender and feeds the raw gore slop to what looks like a bunch of homeless, sickly hipsters. In another room, a man named Dr. Luvenis (Jere Burns) lies in bed, surgically attached back-to-back with a girl named Kayla. They watch a corny old sitcom from the 1960s on TV with rapt attention. In the next bed, the actress from that sitcom, looking not a day older, recites all the dialogue.
We soon learn that the parkour ninja is named Juliet, and her sister Olivia ran off to join a cult. Juliet is obsessed with rescuing her. The cult leader is former TV actress Barbara Beaumont (Fiona Vroom). She should be 85-years-old today but looks far younger. Her husband, Luvenis, is a mad scientist who discovered a cure for aging that entails cannibalism and weird surgery. Their cult victims were all originally ugly or disfigured. Barbara promises them youth and beauty, and they are all so over-the-moon in love with her that they’ll gladly sacrifice their lives to her, as Kayla does when Barbara slashes her throat and cuts her off Luvenis in a fit of pique. Among her other charming attributes, Barbara is incredibly petty, vain and selfish. Sensing her displeasure when she doesn’t get the bloody nutrients she needs, another cultie offers himself up for “dinny,” and Barbara happily allows him to slice open his own gut so she and the others can feast.
Luvenis steals the organs back from the hospital, but Scully foresaw this and placed a tracker inside the heart. She and Mulder follow it to a decrepit apartment building. The superintendent claims that he’s never met the owner and never asked any questions. Mulder and Scully go upstairs, where Barbara greets them in a darkened room. She behaves like a diva and expects them to recognize her from a TV show she made 50 years ago, boasting that she looks so good for her age because she avoids direct sunlight.
When Mulder and Scully ask too many questions, the culties attack. Some of them toss Scully down a dumbwaiter shaft while others wrestle Mulder to the ground. Fortunately, Juliet somehow found them (was she stalking Mulder and Scully?) and fights off the culties. She then leaps onto Barbara and pounds a stake into her heart.
Olivia is missing. While searching for Scully in the basement, Mulder runs into Dr. Luvenis with the girl now attached to his back. The doctor babbles some nonsense about curing the curse of age and reversing time. He says that Olivia willfully gave herself over to him and this is what they both want. Juliet isn’t having any of it. She sneaks up behind Luvenis and clocks him on the head with a hammer.
Mulder finds Scully unharmed, if smelly. Her fall was broken by a giant pile of trash. Juliet surrenders herself and says that going to prison for the murders she committed is a fair price to pay to get her sister back.
At various points throughout the episode, Mulder meets Scully at church, where Scully ruminates about why she has faith in God and they both ponder the state of their relationship. In the final scene, they discuss something cryptic about a “leap of faith forward” and an ending.
This episode has some things I can quibble about if I must. The Juliet character is very thinly sketched. The religious nonsense she keeps blathering is never properly explained, nor do I understand how or why she’s a ninja, or why she stakes her victims through the heart. If Luvenis is supposed to be the same age as Barbara and has undergone the same treatments, why does he look so much older and more haggard than she does? The culties’ blind, suicidal devotion to Barbara is also pretty silly, but I then I remember Jim Jones or the Heaven’s Gate cult and I have to give that a pass.
Overall, it’s a pretty decent monster-of-the-week (or mad-scientist-of-the-week) episode enlivened by a fun villain and some very nice character work from David Duchovy and Gillian Anderson. I like the way the story weaves the characters’ own aging into the plot. A running gag about Mulder needing bifocals is pretty amusing.
This is the last episode before the season finale. Given that Gillian Anderson has indicated that she’s done with the show and will not come back for any future seasons, I assume that the final scene of this episode will tie into the finale in some way that writes Scully out. Unfortunately, with Chris Carter writing and directing again, it’s virtually guaranteed to be another disaster. Brace yourself for that.