Tuesday, September 25, 2018
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This week’s ‘X-Files’ feels like a finale. What the episode said about the show’s mortality

"I always wondered how this was going to end."

Mulder's rather pointed words end this week's episode of The X-Files, which features the similarly pointed title "Nothing Lasts Forever." It's the penultimate episode of Season 11 and perhaps for the entire show. So far the chatter about the show's future or lack thereof has been agonizingly back and forth, with parties involved initially saying they were open to more seasons until Gillian Anderson began repeatedly saying this season was her last. Subsequently, showrunner and creator Chris Carter said the show could not go on without Anderson, then walked back that statement.

It's all left fans wondering: If this is the end, was it planned? And most importantly, will we get any real resolution?

This episode hinted very strongly toward at least addressing those fears, with perhaps the most frank conversations we've ever heard about Mulder and Scully's relationship, roles and goals as well as pointed contemplation on the protagonists' mortality and even the show's own lifespan. "Sometimes I wonder why we keep doing it, Scully, in the face of all of this indifference," Mulder says, ostensibly about disbelievers in their investigation but just as easily about the show in 2018. (This season's ratings are down substantially from 2016's thematically inferior Season 10.)

The episode revolves around the investigation of a human-organ-eating immortality cult in the Bronx after two guys are found stabbed through the chest with stakes next to an organ-depleted body on a table. The cult leader is a woman named Barbara Beaumont, an actor obsessed with looking 33 and living forever despite her age of 85, along with Dr. Randolph Luvenis, who is apparently pioneering the technology, which involves turning younger people into surgically attached symbionts and also harvesting and consuming healthy young organs as smoothies. He calls it a cure to the greatest disease: aging. But, despite their best efforts, these cult leaders find that, well, nothing lasts forever. They are felled by a Scripture-reciting, vengeance-seeking sister of one of the cult members.

Against this backdrop are laid Mulder and Scully's confrontations with their own aging: Mulder's vision has deteriorated to the point of needing bifocals, though he steadfastly refuses to call them bifocals, and Scully spends a great deal of time talking about life events and how her faith has changed since she was 4 years old. Not to mention an offhand comment from the cult leader that Scully is past her prime. (Aging has been a theme earlier in the season, particularly in Episode 3, "Plus One," when Scully frets about their future and whether Mulder is going to meet someone younger before they sleep together.) It makes one wonder whether they are talking simply about the characters' age, or whether it's an offhand admission that the show is also aging.

Scully and Mulder (Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny) spend a lot of time in a church in this episode. (Shane Harvey/FOX)

At the same time, the episode seems to directly nod at a long-held fan theory that Scully is immortal (also joked about in last season's "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster"). When literally fighting members of the cult, she falls from a fourth story entry to a garbage chute and somehow doesn't even sustain a scratch. The official reasoning? She fell on a pile of decades of trash.

The show draws a lot of comparisons between Catholicism — both as it relates to the vigilante sister and as it relates to Scully — and the cult, particularly in verses about the taking of Jesus' body and blood in communion (among the highlighted scriptures, John 6:54-56: "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life"). But it also uses Mulder and Scully's time in the church as a jumping off point for several discussions about their personal beliefs in God, miracles and the connection between faith and reason.

"Reason and faith in harmony. Isn't that why we're so good together?" Mulder asks. Scully replies, oh-so-pointedly for a show that so often beats around the bush and deals in half-truths: "Are we together?" These are two of the central questions that have gone directly unspoken yet defined The X-Files for nearly 25 years. It feels like a deliberate acknowledgment of both factors' importance as the show winds down.

On the whole this season has been a bit more open about Scully and Mulder contemplating their relationship status after last season showed them indefinitely broken up without reason; they were together at the end of the show's original run and were living together but unwed in the all but forgotten 2008 movie I Want to Believe. But even as they clearly slept together in Episode 3 and shared a few tender moments of hand-holding and the like here and there, this season seemed to avoid the actual answers about what happened and where they were going until now. In "Nothing Lasts Forever," Scully finally admits that she left Mulder, describing it as having "fled" and that she "gave up on that" much like she gave up on protecting William. With the promise that in next week's finale they will actually find their son, it feels like a step toward closure.

Equally blunt and cathartic is Mulder's admission that he wishes Scully would have left long before to spare herself the pain of a stalled career, a lost sister, a lost son and her struggles with cancer, all of which are linked to their long search for the truth. He envisions a much different and far more normal life that she might have had if she had "walked out of that basement office" some 20 years ago.

Though there is perhaps still no outright "yes" to Scully's question about whether they are together, Mulder emphasizes that he is right beside her listening to what she needs and in return Scully indicates that moving forward she'd "like to do that together."

And she whispers something in his ear that isn't heard by the viewers, most likely that she wants to find William after all, given that previews for next week's finale tease them with him. We can only hope that some of the final answers we seek will be unveiled in the finale.

I always wondered how this was going to end.

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