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X-Files outlives its spin-off

Scott Wasson
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Yep, there will be a Mulder-less ninth season for The X-Files, but The Lone Gunmen‘s cliffhanger season finale will leave us hanging permanently, since Fox has pulled the plug on Frohicke and company. I’m ambivalent about this. I had high hopes for TLG. I didn’t really start watching Mulder and Scully until the third season or so, when the show finally hit its stride. I was hoping Fox would give the Gunmen time to find their legs.

Meanwhile, The X-Files has long outlasted its real mystique, despite Terminator 2’s widely acclaimed portrayal of Agent Doggett this past season. (“Don’t worry, Scully; he’s made of liquid metal.”) Back in the day, The X-Files was the most brilliant show on television, steeped in an enigmatic, post-modernist playfulness. Chris Carter tiptoed down the line between the natural and supernatural, and at the end of each show, you weren’t quite sure what you’d seen. There was a plausible “scientific” explanation and a compelling otherwordly interpretation, and neither was entirely adequate.

Then one day, I’m watching the show, and tree roots are reaching up and grabbing people by the ankles. And it was over. The X-Files-as-Creepshow era had dawned.

By now, the burnt-out husk of Carter’s “meta-plot” is littered with the skeletons of a thousand discarded plot devices, and the path they line is too convoluted to be made sense of. Fifteen different types of aliens. Hundreds of loose ends. Any number of flying saucers. One two-hour movie. Eight season-ending cliffhangers. Five or six insider informants. 418 Jeremiah Smiths. And not one satisfying answer, nor any good way to bind it all together.

I’d hate to see The X-Files go, but I’m afraid to see what happens next.

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