Friday, January 15, 2016

The X-Files - S9:E19/20 "The Truth"

[ S9:E18 "Sunshine Days" <<< Season 9 >>> I Want To Believe ]

Spoiler-free introduction: This is it - the series finale! The show has done its fair of share of two- (and even several three-) parters, but this is the first time it's aired a double episode all at once. It's billed as both episodes 19 and 20 of the season - which is consistent with counting episodes as 45 minute blocks of TV, but is responsible for some considerable confusion over whether the complete series contains 201 or 202 episodes. It really just depends on whether you consider the series finale to be one episode or two. It's like a double-stuffed Oreo - it's worth twice as much as one Oreo, but it's not actually two Oreos.

Anyway, to spare you the suspense, I'll tell you right now that I enjoyed the finale. It's got a few flaws, and as a two-part mythology episode, it's not as good as this series' best, but it has more of a classic feeling than anything in these last two (or three or four) seasons, and I think it works really well as a series finale, wrapping much of the show up, while still leaving room for further stories to be told, as in the planned movie franchise that never really got off the ground.

I'm a little bit surprised that this show basically copied Seinfeld's approach in putting the main characters on trial, in order to (sort of) do a clips show (especially given the lackluster response that Seinfeld's series finale received), but I actually think it works really well with this show (beyond the hokiness of the idea of putting "the truth" on trial) - and is a good framing device for tying together nine years of convoluted mythology about as well as any X-Phile could realistically hope for from Chris Carter.

Spoiler Warning: With that reader-friendly intro out of the way, the rest of this review will, as I'm sure you can imagine, contain massive spoilers. Proceed with caution.

The episode opens with a helicopter flying over some woods, and it instantaneously feels almost like a classic X-Files mythology episode (demonstrating what a different show this has become with Doggett and Reyes). No preface, just Mulder (and it's only been a year, but my, he looks like he aged a lot while on the run) in the midst of infiltrating a government facility, wherein he discovers this illustrious "date" for the alien takeover, that so much has been made of. And, believe it or not, it's the date of the Mayan Apocalypse!

Now, as kooky as the whole idea of the Mayan Apocalypse is (even more so now that it's behind us), I like the idea that the Mayans predicted the apocalypse not because they were prophets or whatever, but because they somehow figured out the aliens' plans (who have been around for a while, given that they were the original inhabitants of this planet) - a planned, deliberate apocalypse by an intelligent race. (Although it still begs the question of why they waited so long, and why they chose this particular date, not to mention all that talk about the progress of the Syndicate's experiments determining when colonization would begin. But we'll forget that).

Anyhow, Mulder is accosted by a Super Soldier we've seen before - Knowle Rohrer - and barely manages to shake him off, but is ultimately captured, and thrown into military prison. Being accused of murdering Knowle (despite that being impossible, what with him being indestructible), the military agrees to put Mulder on trial - albeit a military trial - with cooperation by the FBI. Allegedly, instead of just eliminating Mulder, they want to stamp out his crusade as well, by returning a guilty verdict. Knowing that the trial will be rigged, Mulder appoints Skinner - the only man he can trust - as his representative. Scully appeals to Kersh for help, but his hands are tied (by the Super Soldiers' involvement at the FBI), and so he once again has to play the part of the bad guy (I don't think I've warmed up to him really being a good guy yet).

Mulder sees this as a chance to finally prove what he's been investigating all these years, though it doesn't help that he still doesn't have any proof. He won't even reveal the secret he recently discovered, which would supposedly blow the case wide open (although I don't know how). Scully doesn't want Mulder to sacrifice his life for the truth, but he's already made up his mind, and you know how stubborn he can be. He's also seeing visions of dead people, apparently - making for the shocking appearance of Krycek. The Lone Gunmen also turn up, as does X. It's nice to see X again, after all these years, even if he only shows up to repeat his most disappointing legacy - leading Mulder to the useless Marita Covarrubias. I'm glad we get to see her again, though, if only to know what she's been up to. I was beginning to worry that they would just drop her character, and not even give her the honor of being killed off.

Even Gibson Praise shows up for a cameo appearance. Apparently, Mulder's been in New Mexico all (or most) of this time, protecting the mind-reading wunderkind. I could take or leave the character of Gibson Praise, but he's always been at his best reading the minds of this show's bureaucratic villains, and pointing out their hypocrisies. (Although, post-trial, if they're still trying to protect him, is it really smart bringing him into the FBI headquarters, when they know there's a replicant working on the inside?). Even Doggett and Reyes get their turn on the stand, and to my surprise, it's Reyes who gets the best moment of the whole trial. None if it is enough to exonerate Mulder, however, especially given that the verdict was a by-gone conclusion. But, though the X-Files division is shut down (for the third time) as collateral damage from Mulder's insubordination, his friends have a surprise in store for him - a daring prison breakout!

Mulder and Scully go on the run (together this time!), and, excitingly, Mulder's still got a trick up his sleeve. It's the Smoking Man - still alive! He's been hiding out in the old, Anasazi pueblos, and he's got a secret of his own to reveal. Something the Anasazi figured out years before - the aliens' kryptonite, which occurs naturally in the surrounding geological formations (it brought down the UFO in Roswell!). I can't tell you how relieved and excited I was to see the Smoking Man alive again at the end of the episode. It was perfect. Although, to be honest, his "earth-shattering" revelation fell a little flat. He doesn't survive the literally explosive climax, however - the episode makes a point of showing us his fiery skeleton so that we know for an absolute certainty that he really is truly dead this time. (Until the revival, that is).

All of this is just fantastic, but I'm kinda lukewarm about the episode's closing moments. It's the closest thing this episode has to that mushy "closure" I've been getting sick of (although, to its credit, it's only a small portion of the whole double-length episode). But the series ends with Mulder and Scully curled up in bed together, a clear demonstration of how much Chris Carter's original ideals have eroded over the years (for better or worse, depending on who you ask - I'm leaning toward worse). And their little discussion makes explicit what I've read was Chris Carter's interpretation of the central theme of the show about how the desire to believe in the paranormal is really just a variation on mankind's search for God. I think I would have preferred if that had remained no more than subtext, because I like Mulder better as an atheist.

And that's that! It should be very interesting to watch I Want To Believe again now, having watched the series through to the end for the first time. Stay tuned for a review of that coming next week!

Memorable quotes:

Military Guard: You're a guilty man. You entered a government facility illegally in search of nonexistent information. You failed in every respect!

General Suveg: This man Mulder has made a lot of enemies. He's a crusader, and a lot of people do not like the crusade.

Mulder: What's really on trial here is the truth.

Kersh: Is this all...leading anywhere?
Mulder: Yeah - the destruction of mankind.

Mulder: This is greater than you or me. This is about everything we've worked for for nine years, the truth that we both sacrificed so much to uncover and to expose.

Doggett: What's left for us on the X-Files?
Reyes: We came to this job to give it our best. It's the way we're gonna leave.
Mulder: It's not about how good you are. They control the game. They own it.
Doggett: Then let's shove it up their ass!

Reyes: What is the point of all of this? To destroy a man who seeks the truth, or to destroy the truth so no man can seek it? Either way, you lose.

(Surprisingly, it's Reyes who gets the standout moment of confrontation during the trial. And I love the look of admiration Mulder gives her after witnessing her little bout of righteous insubordination).

Mulder: A bullet between the eyes would have been preferable to this charade.

(Come on, Mulder, it wasn't that bad).

Mulder: The devil is just one man with a plan, but evil - true evil - is a collaboration of men.

Mulder: You may believe yourselves rid of your headache now. Maybe you are. But you've only done it by cutting off your own heads.

(There's a real tragedy in seeing mankind's best defender against the alien apocalypse defeated not by aliens, but by men).

Smoking Man: You damn me for my secrets, but you're afraid to speak the truth.

Scully: Mulder, you say that you've failed, but you only fail if you give up. And I know you - you can't give up.

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