This is a hard post to write. We’ve been a fan of the X-Files since it’s inception. Hell, since the first season aired late night on BBC 2 in the Nineties and we were banned from watching it by our Mum because it was, and we quote ‘too terrifying for someone of your age.’
We of course managed to bypass these unfair restrictions by nefarious means (luckily in those days parental controls weren’t a thing on TV sets) and found ourselves lost in an amazing world of mysteries, conspiracies and damn good storytelling.
Which meant that when the series was rebooted for a Series ten and eleven, with Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny and all the original cast signed up, we were beyond excited. Hell, we were freaking ecstatic. Like kids hopped up on Haribo and crack.
But…then we sat down to watch the last two seasons and our high faded way too quickly.
The come-down was brutal. Brutal.
And though it sticks in our collective clack to say it, the most recent series has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that The X-Files should never have been resurrected and should in fact have been allowed to go gently into that good night.
This sounds harsh we know. But we have good reasons for stating this. And if you’ll allow it we’d like to present those reasons to you now….
- ARGUMENT 1: The on-off, will they-won’t they relationship between Mulder and Scully made complete sense in the earlier seasons of the show. We all know why. They were two different characters with opposing motivations, the intellectual gap between Scully’s faith and Mulder’s belief in the fantastical a solid reason to keep them from fully committing to each other. But after everything that has happened between them over the eleven series, (including but not limited to an alien invasion and the birth of their magic-brained child) there is literally no reason to keep them apart romantically, other than basic dramatic license. To have them continue to dance around each other in the last two series isn’t just insulting to the viewer it’s completely unbelievable and as a result strains any requests for suspension of disbelief in the audience.
- ARGUMENT 2: And for that matter, Scully’s continued scepticism over any suggestion that her partner makes, regarding aliens or witchcraft or whatever it may be, after everything she has experienced to date, just seems trite; like the writers are trying to undo all her character development in an effort to hark back to the glow of the earliest seasons. We’re all for recapturing the magic of the early days guys, but not when it comes at the expense of character progression, you know.
- ARGUMENT 3: Ripping story ideas from tabloid headlines. Now, usually we’re a major fan of this, it keeps things feeling fresh and contemporary while maintaining the mythology of the show as a whole. And so, when we recognised aspects of the IRL Slender Man case in S11 ep 5 Ghouli and the whole crazy Berenstein/Berenstain conspiracy in S11 ep 4 The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat we threw up our hands in glee. But beyond taking an interesting concept from the real world, the writers didn’t seem to know where to go with these ideas beyond throwing them in and seeing what shook out. Both episodes wasted solid concepts by weaving them clumsily into the main series arc (the hunt for William) effectively burying any instinctual creativity they might have had. It’s not so much the choice of story that we objected to but the manner in which they were developed. And the wasted potential of that act was just sad to see, truth be told.
- ARGUMENT 4: Some of the dialogue. I mean, man. It’s bad. Like full on, no-one would speak that way to anyone that knows them bad. Like let’s lay out all this exposition in case people have got confused kind of bad. If you need an example, you might want to check out the candle- lighting scene in season 11, episode 9. Location wise, visually it’s a solid set up for a scene. And let’s remember that we know these characters. We know what they believe, what they stand for. They speak to us in a kind of shorthand now, we’re that close. And so, to have them basically stand there and explain their inner most thoughts and motivations for behaving in the way that they have been, is so unnecessary at this point, so on-the-nose, that It’s just laughable. Forced and embarrassing. How this scene and many others got through the script stage we can only imagine.
- ARGUMENT 5: The Comedic episodes. The X-Files has always been known to throw in surreal comedy to balance the darkness of its stories. It’s something that we’ve always loved about it, especially when it came in the form of standalone episodes that provided a little relief to the overall story arc. But that balance has been totally askew lately, if you ask us. And The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat was the perfect example of this. Ridiculous narratives are absolutely fine. Bring them on. But to have the two agents involved in something that casts doubt on their entire career/the legitimacy of their memories and then act like it never happened is just cheap. And in point of fact, to have them involved in any standalone X-Files investigations at all while their son is missing and the future is headed towards a horrifying apocalypse, with no recognition of the ludicrousness of this circumstance, shows a complete disregard for narrative believability and for an audience’s intelligence.
- ARGUMENT 6: And then we have the S11 finale: to which we can only mutter a disenchanted ‘Good grief,’ before having a lie down in a darkened room. We don’t want to get nit-picky with the intricacies of storytelling. Seriously. But… if you’ve spent an entire series building up the disclosure of a shocking revelation to the two main characters (William’s parentage- and side note; non-consensual impregnation of a beloved character by the main villain is not ground-breaking, it’s just plain gross) only to have that secret exposed and show no overt reaction to the news, you should have your WGA card revoked immediately. Anti-climactic is not the word. It’s just poor storytelling. Dissatisfying on a cellular level. You basically cheat the audience out of something you promised them. To compound that misstep by ending the main characters long search for their son, by having him shot dead (in inverted commas) one whole second before the uber-villain is killed too is even worse. It’s a pacing disaster. Those two things taken together would have been bad enough. But then to throw in another miracle pregnancy on top of that, as a plot device to stop Mulder and Scully from caring too much about what they have just lost, is teeth-achingly lame. Honestly, the whole episode is a narrative backfire and obliterated any faith we had left in the showrunners and the series we’re sorry to say.
Welp, there you have it.
There are a hundred other reasons we could list as to why we were so disappointed with the last season of The X-Files, to be fair. And we’re sure a lot of you disagree with the things we’ve said. But as far as we’re concerned, the show has well and truly lost the delicate touch and the distinct character interactions that made it so original in the first place.
And for that reason alone, we think it really has to come to an end.
Don’t agree? Then come fight us.
We’ll be at the back table in your local, sleeve pulled up all casual like…