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Atlanta Journal and Constitution: As 'The X-Files' ends, Mulder and Scully get one last chance to discover whether the truth is really out there

Atlanta Journal and Constitution
As ‘The X-Files’ ends, Mulder and Scully get one last chance to discover whether the truth is really out there
Steve Murray

“The Truth” is out there — and over and out after Sunday night on Fox. That’s the name of the final, two-hour episode that brings “The X-Files” to an end after nine years on the air.

Creator Chris Carter says the show’s shoot ended with a bang. “The last scene was fitting. It was a gigantic explosion.” (FYI: The explosion isn’t literally the episode’s ending, it’s just the scene that happened to be the last one shot.) Here’s hoping the series goes out with the same kind of explosive effect. Once a cult hit and pop phenomenon, “X-Files” should have hung up its sensible gray suit two years ago, after Ivy League heartthrob David Duchovny reduced his appearances as paranormal FBI sleuth Fox Mulder to only half the season. He was absent this year but returns for Sunday’s finale, in which Mulder is on trial for murder.

Carter admits that the series hit a rough patch around the time of Duchovny’s departure. “There was the business problems with David during the seventh year of the show,” he says. “It didn’t help the creative energy.” He’s referring to Duchovny’s lawsuit against Fox, accusing the network of devaluing the series’ worth by giving rerun rights to its own cable and local stations, and as a result lowering Duchovny’s share of profits.

At the same time, co-star Gillian Anderson announced in an interview that “The X-Files” would not return for an eighth season. Oops. It continued, she returned, and former Marietta resident Robert Patrick stepped in as new FBI partner John Doggett to fill the gap left by Duchovny. This year, Anderson’s role has been limited, with much of the FBI legwork being done by agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish).

But now, really, truly — the series ends Sunday.

Fans who’ve endured the head-spinning twists might be glad to know that the episode’s setup, a military tribunal, should allow a lot of clarifying facts to come out during testimony. “Hopefully we’re going to make it all make sense,” Carter says. “The piece will bring the series full circle.”

But he stays mum about specifics. Wrapping up nine years of byzantine plot lines promises to be a challenge. “It’s complicated by the quantity of the detail,” Carter says. “But as you’ll see, as you watch the two-hour finale, it makes rather cohesive and clear sense.” (Sorry, but I can’t offer you any hints: Fox didn’t send advance review tapes to TV critics.)

It’ll be interesting to see how the final installment ties up more than 200 episodes of sometimes bewildering narrative arcs. As the series introduced multiple types of aliens, cannibals, miracle pregnancies and cancer remissions, and too many explanations to count concerning the abduction of Mulder’s kid sister, “The X-Files” began to resemble the tattoo Scully chose in one episode: a serpent swallowing its own tail. For a while, the writers seemed geekily more interested in weaving together their “mythology” of governmental corruption than in giving viewers the heebie-jeebies.

What kept us watching were the coolly creepy atmosphere and high production values that gave the show a dark cinematic gleam. But even more important than those was the Mulder-Scully chemistry, the will-they-won’t-they sexual frisson that was yin to the characters’ professional yang. When “The X-Files” movie hit theaters in 1998, the duo’s near-kiss was, for fans, more pulse-raising than the soft-core sex scenes in most Hollywood flicks.

Once the sexual tension broke (complete with the birth of baby William), the show became much less sexy. And with the approach center-screen of Patrick and Gish, it lost its core. The production values remained high, but it was a case of style over substance. The numbers reflect that. This season’s viewership declined to below 9 million, at 85th place in the ratings; at its ratings apex, the 1997-98 season, 20 million watched, and it ranked 19th.

But Carter’s series goes out honorably. It may have stayed on past its prime, and if it “jumped the shark,” the splash wasn’t a tsunami. And remaining fans needn’t mope. “The X-Files” isn’t gone for good; plans are in the works for at least one more feature film.

“Everyone wants to do it,” says Carter, who says that at the show’s wrap party, “my cheeks got very tired from smiling. It was a very happy party. The sadness came before then, when we were doing everything for the last time.”

And he still won’t leak any specifics about Sunday’s finale. Except by indirection. Asked whether the show might have a big surprise or two, all he offers is a low chuckle and a single word:


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One Response to “Atlanta Journal and Constitution: As 'The X-Files' ends, Mulder and Scully get one last chance to discover whether the truth is really out there”

  1. […] was diplomatic as ever in his assessment of how the lawsuit affected the show. “It didn’t help the creative energy,” he conceded. Carter seemed to accept  it as a business reality of twenty-first century television […]