Saturday, March 12, 2016

Do I Still Want to Believe?

Posted by: Angela Korra'ti
Let me tell y'all about my relationship with The X-Files.

I was already an SF/F fangirl by the time Mulder and Scully first showed up on our screens in 1993, so I can't exactly say that it was the first show I ever fangirled. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, MacGyver, and Remington Steele all beat The X-Files to that particular punch. But that said, it was arguably the first show I fangirled as an adult out of college, doing double duty with Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman to seize our household's attention that year.

And boy howdy, did our household, the Murkworks, love us some X-Files. We'd happily sing the lyrics we discovered to the theme song ("the X-Files is a show / with music by Mark Snow"), and my housemate Mimi and I in particular totally swooned for Mulder. The first two seasons in particular were amazing, and to this day, a particular plot reveal in second season holds the record (along with a later plot reveal in Babylon 5) for how long a plot point on TV has ever reduced me to amazed, babbling incoherence.

(Season closer of season 2, "Anasazi". When the Smoking Man shows up on a certain doorstep. I boggled for twenty straight minutes over that. It was awesome.)

As we got further into the show, though, it became apparent that no matter how much we wanted there to be an overall plot arc, there wasn't really. The mytharc episodes kept dropping so many tantalizing hints that nevertheless failed to pull together into a cohesive narrative--particularly after the first movie, Fight the Future, which showed up between seasons 5 and 6. Once that movie happened, my household all felt as if the stakes had been upped considerably, and we looked anxiously forward to seeing what would happen next.

Problem was, the show fell back upon the "Monster of the Week" format that had seized its fanbase's attention in the first place. And once David Duchovny started phoning in his role (in some cases, literally, in episodes where Mulder's presence in the plot was only via phone calls to Scully), the show had to scramble again to figure out what the hell it was doing. Mimi and I in particular were very disappointed that Mulder stopped being a main character, and we were particularly annoyed that a major progression in Mulder and Scully's relationship happened off-camera.

Even though we tried to valiantly hang in there during season 8, we finally reluctantly stopped watching. For me, it just wasn't the same without Mulder and Scully as the leads. I don't think we saw any of season 9 at all, aside from coming back to give the finale a look out of a sense of obligation and of wanting closure.

When the second movie came out, Mimi and I went to go see it despite profound misgivings. We were still cranky at the handling of how Mulder and Scully's relationship had progressed, yet we were curious despite ourselves as to how the second movie would pick up with that--not to mention how it'd pick up from what had happened in the season 9 finale.

Suffice to say, that movie was a disappointment.

All of which brings me around to the new season 10 miniseries, which I finally finished watching as of last night. I came into that with much the same sense I approached the second movie: i.e., that I really wanted it to not suck, yet was deeply afraid that it would.

I've been following the recap/review posts put up by both The Mary Sue and And I've gotta say that I'm pretty much on board with what both of these sites have had to say about the miniseries: i.e., that there are moments in it that I've really liked, and that Scully should indeed be Queen of Everything. My favorite moments in these episodes have been followups to Mulder and Scully's established relationship. The scene in which Mulder acts out both sides of many a conversation the two of them have had over the years, while Scully doesn't get a word in and winds up just smiling wryly at him, was delightful.

Taken as a set, though, I have to find the season 10 episodes an incoherent mess. I don't feel like six episodes was enough to progress the mytharc properly. And the Monster of the Week episodes in between the mytharc bookends had too many hamfisted missteps in them for me to enjoy them, for the most part. Worst of all, and I'll say this right out for anyone who hasn't watched the miniseries yet and might want to: the last episode ends on a cliffhanger.

Seriously, Chris Carter? Seriously?

We don't even know whether there's going to be more X-Files at this point. So leaving viewers hanging like that can play as nothing but a cheap ploy to stoke interest and see if FOX can be pressured into letting there be more of the show.

Thing is, I'm not even sure I want more at this point.

In season 10, I've found myself appreciating how Scully has matured as a character. But Mulder has become almost a ridiculous parody of himself, and while this doesn't quite get into "trashing my childhood hero" territory, it does get pretty close. Couple this with season 10's terrible treatment of the transgender character in episode 3 and the Muslim characters in episode 5, and I'm having a hard time mustering any enthusiasm for finding out where this mytharc might go next.

Part of me still wants to believe. But the rest of me isn't sure it can.

Angela writes as both Angela Korra'ti and Angela Highland, and even references The X-Files in Bone Walker, Book 2 of The Free Court of Seattle. Tell her your opinion of the show in the comments! Or come say hi to her at, on Facebook, or on Twitter.


  1. I was a HUGE X-Files fan. So much so, I became a chat host in the old XF forum on AOL. I attended all of the X-Philes conventions, and even hosted my own one year. I think what kept me watching was not so much the arc episodes, but the odd ones in between. The Peacocks ep., the one with the carnival performers (where Scully eats a live cricket), and the one where the killer loves to sing Cher still stick in my mind. Although I agree that the latter eps. near the end didn't tempt me as much, with Mulder gone, I tried to watch on occasion. I truly liked the re-vamp eps. (The creature that morphed into a human was a howl.) But I also agree - Carter shouldn't have ended on a TBC note, unless he knows for sure more eps. will follow! (BTW, Mr. Carter, if you're reading this, I still have the cap you signed and gave me when I was in LA! No, I did not sell it on eBay!)

    1. Yeah, ending on a freggin' cliffhanger had me face-palming all over the place. :( And given the various other issues I had with this set of episodes, I can't get entirely excited about the prospect of whether there will be a season 11!

  2. I liked it.
    I liked the cliff-hanger ending, not because I'm particularly fond of that type of ending but that Fans fought for and brought the show back, and fans are going to want the closure that more episodes will bring.
    There was always more to the Mulder/Scully relationship that we saw on screen and the small gestures we saw between them this time around hinted at more.
    Scully was pretty much the grown up version and Mulder not so much a parody of himself but someone who's trying to find his role in life. Most of everything he believed in has been debunked and he has to reconcile what he knows with what has happened.

    1. "There was always more to the Mulder/Scully relationship that we saw on screen"...

      Sure. But when you spend several seasons setting up a progressively deeper and more intense relationship between your leads, and your fandom is exploding with curiosity about the question of whether they are, in fact, _in love_... then for me, it's a massive copout to then reveal later than "oh hey, by the way, not only did these two characters suddenly make their relationship non-platonic, they also now have a kid."

      To wit: WHAT?!

      If that happened to me in a book I was reading, I'd be throwing the book across the room. It'd be robbing me of the payoff of the relationship that's had so much time being developed. And I'm not even talking about being mad because I didn't get to see Mulder and Scully have sex on camera. I'm still mad about that because I didn't get to see them affirm on camera that they were in fact romantically interested in one another, which is WAY more interesting to me story-wise, and which would have felt like payoff for all the wonderful buildup of their relationship in prior seasons.

      "Mulder not so much a parody of himself but someone who's trying to find his role in life. Most of everything he believed in has been debunked and he has to reconcile what he knows with what has happened."

      And I get that. I did see glimmers of that in what they were trying to accomplish with him as a character. But there were also times where he just played flat-out ridiculous for me, which I found very disappointing. :(


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