THE X-FILES is over; and while David Duchovny teased that it would end on “the cliffiest of hangers,” the series’ actual conclusion was the most definitive proof that there’s no justice in Chris Carter’s world. The repeated damage done to Dana Scully throughout her decades of seeking the Truth amidst the lies became the unwanted gift that kept on giving, tainting her relationship with Fox Mulder and even destroying it right up until — I think? — what ripped them apart brought them back together in mourning. And even with a new miracle on the way, there are no answers. There never will be. There’s not even a guarantee that this latest development won’t come to a horrid end like the first one did. There is no justice. There is no peace. There’s just…this.
At a time when the actual world seems to be falling apart, this sort of apocalyptic thinking was exactly the opposite of how THE X-FILES needed to take its bow. But we all wanted one more go — which turned into two more rounds of dismantling everything — and, grudgingly, it was given to us. Be careful what you wish for, eh?
He wasn’t meant to be. Here we go.
Most of THE X-FILES’ final episode centered on William. Much like in all three of the previous “My Struggle” episodes penned by Carter, “My Struggle IV” opened with an emo voiceover. This one featured the miracle child that a “barren” Scully gave birth to, only to have to give him up in hopes that he’d have a safe and normal life. As revealed in “Ghouli” and further developed here, that hope died a slow, horrible death.
Even before the events of “Ghouli,” William’s life was anything but easy. He had powers, and the other kids noticed that something was different about him. So, he took to fighting and constantly being bounced from one school to another, ultimately ending up at “a school for bad kids” and disappointing his adoptive parents. William was an outsider with questions about his origins that couldn’t be answered in his “normal” life, but he didn’t seek out the birth mother who could have helped him.
Understandably, he had no desire to find his real father, either. As we learned in “My Struggle III,” which started THE X-FILES’ eleventh season off with a cruel rewriting of history, William’s father was actually the Smoking Man. This remains an unnecessary and uninteresting plot twist, especially considering how things turned out. The only narrative purpose this detail served was to, what, tell everyone that the evil experiments were evil? As if viewers didn’t already have hundreds of episodes of proof of that? Ok.
Despite not actually being William’s father — he didn’t know it at the time — Mulder was the one sent to search for the boy. Scully stayed behind, which made no sense in the context of this partnership or when considering Scully’s supposed status as Mulder’s equal; but her reasoning was later revealed so we’ll allow it. (We’ll get to that below.) So, unlike Scully, Mulder was able to hug the person he believed to be his son and look him in the eye — knowingly — when he said that he’d been searching for him forever. Of course, the touching “father-son” moment was before William showed off his Carrie-like skills at destroying the people who were hunting him; and then he ran off, leaving his not-father to call his not-actual-mom to tell her that he’d lost their (not) son yet again!
Most of the episode focused on the hunt for William, only to end in the boy’s slipping through his (not) parents’ fingers at every turn. By the time Scully had the chance to catch and try to talk some sense into William, Skinner had already given her the big, awful reveal about the kid’s actual parentage. Viewers didn’t get to witness the full conversation, but it was clear enough what happened. That didn’t stop Scully from running into danger and begging “Mulder” to let her just talk to her son. It was only as William’s ability to sustain the ruse was slipping and the real Mulder showed up that Scully realized she’d been begging the baby she gave up to let her talk to him, all while he was trying to convince his mother to let him go.
Congrats, Scully. You met your son, right before he ran away, pretended to be Mulder a second time, and got shot by his actual father!
Really, the only thing resembling fairness here was the fact that Fox Mulder finally — finally — managed to put a bullet in the guy who had given him his life only to ruin it. Then again, that black-lunged sonofabitch has come back to life after actually going up in a massive explosion, so who knows?
Also along the way: Monica Reyes gave Scully and Mulder a tip about where they might be able to find William and was, apparently, doing it from inside of Cancer Man’s car. But she lied about her phone call when he got back in his passenger seat, so I guess she was actually trying to do the double agent thing? Not that it matters. I wouldn’t exactly call her death “justice for Reyes,” as many X-FILES viewers wanted after the last finale anyway. It was a total footnote, glossed over, and useless. Not a way to say goodbye. Not a way to say goodbye at all.
Skinner, too, tried to do the right thing, only to pay for it with his life…But again, not before delivering one more crushing blow to Scully’s entire universe.
What little bit there is of so-called hope. With such a messy story and nothing resembling earned redemption for our beloved Truth-seekers, there was one silver lining in all of this: When Mulder asked, “what am I now if I’m not a father,” Scully told him that he was. Forget the fact that she was previously “barren.” Forget age. Plausibility was never THE X-FILES’ strong suit when it came to absolutely anything regarding women’s health — and Dana Katherine Scully’s in particular! — so we’re going to let our suffering heroes have this one.
May they actually get to experience every moment of the pregnancy and their son or daughter’s life together, in their Unremarkable House, with zero interruptions from aliens, government conspiracies, or out-of-touch old men screaming that their lovemaking was “platonic.” Dana Scully and Fox Mulder deserve for something good to come out of every gut-wrenching loss they’ve faced. Let them find their solace in one another and their child.
Mind you, it’s not exactly as if they needed to lose their original miracle to a fake death, as well as the knowledge that he was just an experiment…But this is THE X-FILES, where nobody is ever allowed to have nice things. And shippers are only “heard” in hints of one-night-only, “platonic” hookups in hotel rooms, while the women who lose everything in their quest for justice are left to suffer nearly two decades of grief over giving up a child, only to then have that grief destroy their relationship with that child’s perceived father.
Much like Scully’s newest pregnancy, everything that we love about her — all of that praise for her as a groundbreaking, feminist sort of television icon — was given grudgingly. She couldn’t be everything she was without being taken down a peg or ten thousand, and this final installment of THE X-FILES made that message clearer than ever.
So, yeah. Is it a ridiculous sort of thing to imagine at Scully’s age and with her past infertility? Certainly. But is this latest pregnancy the only thing about THE X-FILES’ finale that seems like it did right by the characters in any way, whatsoever? Um, yeah. Definitely.
There’s also the even smaller shred of hope in knowing that William didn’t actually die; but seeing as how he made it more than clear that he didn’t want a relationship with Scully, even knowing she loved him, he may as well have stayed dead. Scully certainly tried to rationalize her way out of mourning him, after all.
- “It’s a world of confusion, and pain, and loneliness that I can’t escape — nor can I prevent — but I want no part in the suffering that it brings.” William on the future? Or me on THE X-FILES. The world may never know.
- Fox Mulder, actually calling to check in with Dana Scully and give her progress updates? We love sudden character growth!
- William was so good at playing Mulder that Scully believed it enough to argue with him. He even knew to use the “it’s me” line…But Foxy’s just his half-brother. Whatever.
- “I carried him. I bore him. But I was never a mother to him. I wasn’t.” There’s so much to unpack here, but basically the short version is: NO. May he never write another “strong female character” again, much less actually get praise for it.
- At least THE X-FILES ended with one of those “you’re not crying, I’m crying” kinds of Mulder/Scully hugs. Well, that and William rising up out of the water. Whatever. My final image is definitely two future parents, holding each other. Forget the rest.
- I understand the wish not to wrap this series up in a happy, jolly bow of Utopia. I really do…But there was just too much loss here, on top of so much other loss, to make THE X-FILES finale anything other than a massive disappointment. Carter was able to end the series in an open-ended, yet satisfying, way with “Existence” in season eight and again with “The Truth” after the ninth season. Even that second film, which many have maligned, did a good job of showing that there was plenty of story — plenty of Truth — still out there, while giving these characters a place to rest. “My Struggle IV” did not accomplish that. At all. Perhaps Carter should have watched his own series for tips on how to end it. Or, even better, he could have taken a glance at how ER not only managed to get back to a higher quality in its final season (after a couple of years of being kind of “meh”), but also ended on just the perfect note. Major characters had their paths set out for them — those who lived had some decent happy endings — and then there was the obvious hint at a new generation, a future of the same work continuing day in and day out, even if we didn’t get to see it. Imagine if THE X-FILES had been given such a send-off; imagine it and weep. Or maybe light something on fire.
- It will be sad not to get to experience the magic of Duchovny and Anderson’s chemistry anymore, but let’s just leave this thing dead this time. A rewatch of good material is far preferable to new stories like these.
- And on that note, the only logical way to close this final recap off is to thank the stars for everything they’ve given over the years. Hats off to David Duchovny for all of that action hero stuff, masterfully juxtaposed with Mulder’s anguish in realizing that he’d never been a father after all. (Until now!) If anyone else had played this character, nobody would have been able to care.
- Last but never least: The final shoutout goes to Gillian Anderson for playing Scully’s pain and urgency in the most tear-jerking, soul-crushing way. This character could not have been such a role model to so many without her, and this story certainly wouldn’t have been worth following had her ability to sell even the worst of storylines not been ever-present. Given how Scully’s story ended, it’s no wonder that Anderson has been firm on not wanting to leave that door open. I’d say it will be a great loss, but…well. Sometimes, as I kind of hinted at in my previous recap, those characters we’ve loved are better off left in our imaginations than on our screens. Besides, after carrying the burden of making so much of the dramatic nonsense actually resonate with viewers — and somehow, beyond all human ability, actually succeeding — it’s time she gets to remind us all what she can do when given good material.