We’ve reached a watershed moment in our X-Files rewatch with the end of Season Seven. Before it was unexpectedly renewed, this season was intended to be the show’s last, and some of that finality remains. (Despite the last-minute reprieve, it’s still the last season of the original run to feature both Mulder and Scully as main characters – the end of an era!) Yet, all it took to extend the life of the series was the insertion of two ginormous cliffhangers: Mulder’s abduction and Scully’s miracle pregnancy.
We have so much to discuss with guest panelist KatyBeth, so let’s jump right into it like Fox Mulder into a storm drain. —Sage
- Favorite Mythology Episode?
KatyBeth: How do you solve a problem like Fox Mulder?
How do you write a lead out of a show?
By having him abducted by aliens, of course.
Season Seven’s finale episode “Requiem” is a banger. It reunites Mulder and Scully with major players from their original case: the woods of Bellefleur Oregon, the townspeople (like Billy Miles and that girl who cannot give a realistic line reading to save her life), and even that orange “X” Mulder spray-painted on the road. But with seven-eight years (depending on your view of the timeline) between visits, more has changed than Billy getting a job and Teresa having a baby. Mulder and Scully’s relationship is way past showing off bug bites in a candlelit motel room – they’re actively cuddling on screen (!), with Mulder going into full protective mode after Scully has a few unexpected moments of physical weakness.
Mulder is right to be worried, when it seems like the aliens are re-abducting the class of ‘89 and anyone else with priors. He doesn’t even know about CSM sending Marita to Tunisia to get Krycek out of prison so they can form a newer, mostly-younger Syndicate. Mulder bands together with a team of friends, informants, and enemies to figure out what to do (while posing like The Last Supper), and then he tells Scully she’s not allowed to go with him, for her own safety. She sends him with Skinner for HIS safety, which means there’s at least one credible eyewitness when it turns out Mulder is the one the aliens wanted all along. Scully is of course fine – she’s just knocked up (!!!). Oh yeah, and Krycek maybe killed CSM by shoving his wheelchair down the stairs because he just wants to be the Number One guy in the group. So Mulder might be an orphan again, for the second time this season.
I mean like, what a way to end a season! Chris Carter was looking for a way to write out one of his two leads and maybe set up another movie, but wound up actually doing something interesting. What will happen with Mulder? Will he make it back to Scully? How exactly did she get pregnant when her ova are in the freezer, probably between some vodka and a frozen pizza? Is the CSM dead? Will Krycek and Marita turn on each other? Is Skinner promoted to Number One Boyfriend now? Better tune in for Season Eight to find out.
Sage: Season Seven not only begins on a big swing, it ends on one too. And “Requiem” had one main job to do: get Fox Mulder the hell out of dodge so that David Duchovny, his contract dispute with Fox the network settled, could become a recurring cast member. The season finale does this in the most fan-service-y way possible, and in a series that almost always resists serving its fans (sometimes kicking and screaming), I will gladly take it. Back to Oregon!
What’s so special about bringing back Billy Miles and his friends isn’t just that the audience is, by now, nostalgic for the early days of the show – Mulder and Scully are also nostalgic for the early days of their partnership, and this was the case that started everything. (They are the reason that Billy is alive and mostly well, after all!) So much happened here, and it catalyzed an entire universe of things that happened after. I mean, if your heart doesn’t flutter when Mulder stops the car in front of the “X” he spray-painted on the road to mark their nine minutes of lost time seven years prior, you need to turn in your Official X-Files Fan Club membership card.
“Requiem” has the “gang’s all here!” spirit of many of this show’s season finales (there’s even some Last Supper imagery with said gang and Mulder as Jesus friggin’ Christ), and yes, there’s some retreading when it comes to the Marita/Krycek/CSM of it all. But it also has earned emotional heft when it comes to Mulder and Scully, who are now, more than ever, guided by their mutual concern and crucially aware of each other’s feelings. Mulder has seen Scully interact with children countless times before. But with all that’s changed between them (including some information we won’t learn until the middle of Season Eight), one look at her holding Theresa Nemman’s baby has him instantly resetting the priorities he’s had in place his entire life. When it becomes clear that someone else needs to find the craft before CSM can get to it, Scully’s so respectful of Mulder’s desire to protect her that she doesn’t argue about staying in DC, and he gives her peace of mind by allowing Skinner to tag along and watch his back. This is how it always should have been, and still, they end up separated.
Like “The End,” this episode feels like the set-up for a continued movie franchise that it was initially intended to be, and I wouldn’t mind popping over to the alternate universe that saw the IP going that way instead. But as it is, I still think it’s successful, if not in realistically extending the mythology, in highlighting the melancholic strain that runs through Mulder and Scully’s relationship. It’s devastating to need, and it is ruinous to be needed. That’s the note on which we leave Scully, who loses Mulder at the same time that she learns she has more of him than she ever expected to.
Kim: As I said in our Season Six post, the mythology falls apart in the last third of the series, buckling under its own weight and then spinning out into nonsensical concept upon nonsensical concept. But for one bright shining moment all with the mytharc rights itself and that moment is “Requiem.”
Listen, you KNOW I am a sucker for a full-circle moment and “Requiem” is forty-four solid minutes of them. Everything about it screams not just season finale but SERIES finale from the fucking title to the fact that our heroes are brought back to Bellefluer, Oregon aka the site of their very first case together to the unholy alliance of Krycek, Marita Covarrubias, and CSM trying to resurrect the OG project that got us all here in the first place. My favorite thing about a full-circle moment is the whole concept of characters returning to the place they started HAVING CHANGED. Boy, have Mulder and Scully changed, for better, over the past seven seasons. In the pilot there was initial mistrust but curiosity and willingness to take the leap with each other. In “Requiem,” there is absolute trust and there is all-consuming love and devotion. I mean, fuck, in a perfect parallel to the scene where he tells Scully about Samantha’s disappearance, Mulder curls up behind Scully in bed (IN BED!!!!!) and tells her that there’s more to life than the X-Files. Fox Mulder!! Says that!!! GROWTH.
For all the series finale energy, God, I’m glad it wasn’t because it would have been a painfully unsatisfying end given Mulder’s abduction and the earth shattering reveal in that final Scully/Skinner scene. (More on that from me later.) Still, in a way, it IS a series finale of sorts, given the fact that it marks the end of David Duchovny’s tenure as a full time cast member. The X-Files will never be the same after this, but “Requiem” at least sets them up for that change in spectacular fashion.
- Favorite Standalone Episode?
Sage: Writing a not-lame X-File with a happy ending has to be similar to constructing a Rube Goldberg machine: lots of things have to happen in the right order for it to work. “The Goldberg Variation” manages to be narratively precise and a genuinely feel-good watch at the same time.
I know I’m always bringing up our old friend Clyde Bruckman, but am I wrong in saying that he and Henry Weems would get along? It’s almost always interesting when this show turns what most would think of as an unimaginable blessing into a curse. Being the luckiest man in the world is making Henry miserable, just as having the gift of sight did Mr. Bruckman. You can’t get something for nothing on The X-Files, a theme that also carries this season’s “Je Souhaite.”
At least Henry has the right idea in trying to leverage the surprisingly useless power he’s been granted for good. Enter: baby Shia LaBeouf – who I will never be able to look at the same way after seeing Honey Boy – a year shy of Even Stevens. The story belongs to Henry and his terminally ill neighbor Richie; Mulder and Scully are just kind of there as federally mandated guardian angels to help matters along.
Unfortunately, goodness and selflessness usually aren’t very interesting. Only here, the universe seems to be dead set against Henry giving Richie the gift he’s increasingly desperate to give him. Like the machines Henry builds for Richie, you may be able to see the conclusion of this episode coming from a mile away, but it’s all the not-so-coincidental coincidences that lead up to it (bullets ricocheting with intent, a gangster caught in a ceiling fan) that make it worthwhile. Well that, and a moving guest performance by the sorely missed Willie Garson as a guy who just can’t win for winning.
“The Goldberg Variation” is also proof that there was (and continued to be) too much unnecessary hand-wringing over what would be lost if Mulder and Scully were to be canonically romantic. You can sense how freeing it must have been for David and Gillian to stop holding back post-”Millennium,” because we all can attest that the vibes have been there from Jump Street. Mulder and Scully’s dynamic in this episode is relaxed and flirty and nothing else suffers for it. (Scully suggests they ditch the case and get back to DC for date night! Mulder compliments her outfit! Scully wistfully tells Richie that she “likes baseball too”!) Some (me) might even say that it even adds something new and exciting to a show that is, in some other ways, resting on its laurels.
Kim: Another season, another recap post with me singing the praises of God Himself Vince Gilligan and choosing one of his standalone episodes as the best of the season. The Season Seven honor goes to “X-Cops,” an homage to beloved trash TV show Cops that’s so well done there had to be reminder placards of what show was actually on after every commercial break during its initial airing.
One of the things we have kept coming back to during this rewatch is how much Vince Gilligan just fucking loves television. He loves watching it, he loves writing it, he loves making it. “X-Cops” is perhaps the nerdiest thing he’s ever done. Everything about it hits! Director Michael Watkins nails the visual style, going so far as recruiting actual members of the Cops production team for added authenticity. The script is populated with an appropriately checkered array of character archetypes that you normally see on the show, from the eager rookie to the memorable (and a bit revolutionary for the time) Steve and Edy, who, quite frankly, deserved some sort of spin-off. The episode manages to capture the spontaneity of a documentary and even feel like improv most of the time. The censoring of all the cursing never fails to SEND ME into fits of giggles.
And then there’s David and Gillian. Not enough is said about how fucking good they are in this one. It’s a mighty task to ask them to break the fourth wall as Mulder and Scully but NOT break the fourth wall as David and Gillian. As an actor that’s a bit of a brain-wrinkling mind fuck but you would never know that watching them. Their reactions to encountering the production team are so dead-on, from Mulder’s immediate acceptance of their presence to Scully’s snarky “Because the FBI has nothing to hide” delivered to the camera with a smile. All in all it’s a stellar episode that proves that even in the seventh season The X-Files still has a good amount of creative juice in the tank.
KatyBeth: “You’ve seen this movie 42 times? Doesn’t that make you sad? It makes me sad.”
Here to make Agent Scully very sad, it’s me watching “Hollywood A.D.” way more than 42 times.
Get past the delights of the constant flirting and the bubble bath scene and the episode is, at its heart, a meditation on the stories we tell ourselves and others. The world is made up of stories, and everyone in the episode is a storyteller in one way or another. Not all of the stories are true, leading to a sad outcome in the case Mulder and Scully are investigating. Some stories are half-truths, like the film Skinner’s old friend from college makes that captures the chemistry between Mulder and Scully but is misdirected to make Skinner the love interest instead. And some stories are true, like Mulder and Scully laughing and holding hands when there’s no one around to see them.
My personal truth is that I love this episode (and its essential question, “What is Tea Leoni’s shoulder made out of?”).
- Least Favorite Episode?
Kim: Are there bad episodes in Season Seven? Yes, of course, there are. I mean, “En Ami” and “Orison” are objectively terrible episodes that no one enjoyed. However, I would wager that the biggest disappointment of not just Season Seven but the entire fucking series is the “Sein Und Zeit” and “Closure” two-parter, and that’s why they win the dubious honor of my least favorite episodes.
I mean…how the FUCK do you drop the ball on the Samantha Mulder story? This isn’t the mythology of Lost where there would be no answer that would satisfy everyone nor is it a Sopranos-style cut to black series finale moment. Samantha’s disappearance is the impetus for the whole damn show. It’s what drove Fox Mulder to the X-Files and finding out the truth about what happened to her has been his whole life’s work. (Well, until Scully took Samantha’s place in Mulder’s eyes, but that’s a whole different essay.) How do you fumble the resolution to THAT story?
Do you mean to tell me that the plan for Samantha the ENTIRE SERIES was that…she grew up on an army base with the Spenders (bullSHIT Cassandra wouldn’t tell Mulder immediately, are you kidding me???) and experienced a whole lot of trauma at the hands of “The Project” until she was a teenager and then…benevolent spirits just…took her away? What? Are you joking? It’s nonsense and it’s an insult to all the fans who spent SEVEN YEARS watching this goddamn show, ESPECIALLY when they had multiple chances to end this story in a satisfactory way. (Hello, it should have ended with GHVG’s “Paper Hearts” which would have totally played into Mulder’s disillusionment in “Gethsemane,” like it was RIGHT THERE, but noooooo that would have been too obvious I guess!) And then suddenly we’re in Season Seven with David Duchovny’s departure imminent and, let’s be real, potential cancellation on the horizon, and it’s like, oh shit! We forgot to wrap up the Samantha arc! And THAT’S what you thought was a good ending? Get the fuck out of here.
And what makes me madder is that David and Gillian really deliver the goods in these episodes too. There are few Scullys I love more than Red Ross Scully ready to dismember anyone taking advantage of Mulder’s deep sense of empathy. The scene where Mulder reads Samantha’s diary is genuinely moving! Scully stays the night at Mulder’s apartment comforting him after his mother’s death!! There’s good stuff going on here but that’s completely wiped away for me by the whole dumb and utterly unsatisfying concept of “walk-in” spirits saving children from suffering terrible fates. But not all children! Just some of them! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, none for you, Chris Carter, you LOSE.
KatyBeth: “En Ami” beats out “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” for me just barely as my least favorite. This episode is as slimy as the CSM himself. Like I said when we watched it, die faster. And keep your nicotine-stained mitts to yourself.
Sage: Season Seven includes three cast-written vanity episodes, all with varying levels of self-indulgence: 1) “all things,” Scully’s dark night of the soul with a Moby soundtrack, a New Agey sensibility, and a happy ending; 2) “Hollywood A.D.,” a meta romp featuring guest performances by David’s then-wife and best friend; and 3) “En Ami,” which I can only describe as The Point at Which Everything Went Wrong.
With all respect to William B. Davis, a legend and an irreplaceable presence on this show: Why? Why was this allowed? How did so many people agree that an episode casting CSM as the creepy Richard Gere to Scully’s way too agreeable Julia Roberts was a good idea or at all in line with her character? It’s an impossible sell from the beginning. No part of me believes that Scully would buy the story being peddled by the figure who orchestrated every bit of suffering she and Mulder have endured over the past seven years and, even if she did, that she would go off with him alone, having any expectation that he would actually deliver on his promise.
On top of that, “En Ami” introduces an ick factor to CSM’s admiration of Scully that simply does not need to be there. (Mourning the days of “I like her too, that’s why she was returned to you.”) The X-Files almost always avoid sexualizing Scully, to there’s a dissonance when CMS (who is, lest we forget, Mulder’s biological father) does it, and that Scully, to some degree, goes along with it. Gross. GROSS. It is all so gross, I wish I could erase it from the canon completely.
- Scariest Episode?
KatyBeth: To quote Dana Scully: “Tennessee. Snakes. Thank you, Mulder. Thank you so much.”
“Signs and Wonders” scared me so much upon airing in 2000 that I managed to entirely block it out of my memory until I did my first ever full watch of the series in 2012. The problem is that it’s a good episode and the guest cast are great – it’s just so terrifying that I have to watch most of it with the sound muted and my eyes looking away from the screen.
Sage: There’s a rickety church on an otherwise empty lot a couple of miles from where my parents retired in South Carolina, and every time we pass it, my dad says, “Your mother thinks they handle snakes in there.” Now, I googled the name of the church and they actually have a pretty nice official web presence, so I reckon that’s not true. (Surely, snake-handling churches don’t have well-maintained dotcoms…or do they?) It still gives me the creeps every time I see it, and “Signs and Wonders” taps right into that fear.
I understand that snakes are living things that deserve compassion and aren’t inherently evil, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like them. (I’m with David, who apparently refused to shoot with any live ones and exercised his call sheet status to put both his stand-in and some rubber snakes to work.) In my defense, this episode seems intent on showcasing them in the worst possible light, even though they’re technically being controlled by one of my other most hated creatures in nature, a corrupt clergyman. In fact, I would tell snakes that they need to start pushing back against some of this bad PR, because the scene in which Gracie gives birth to a slithering coil of them isn’t doing their image any favors.
Kim: Like David Duchovny, I have a debilitating fear of snakes, so it’s gotta be “Signs and Wonders” for me. The whole thing is terrifying from beginning to end, but the scene where Gracie literally gives birth to serpents (SERPENTS!! PLURAL!!!!) is the stuff of my most terrifying nightmares.
- Underrated Episode?
Sage: “Chimera” isn’t particularly derided, but I would say that it’s generally overlooked, perhaps because there are echoes of “Arcadia,” “Terms of Endearment,” and even “Small Potatoes” in its dark-underbelly-of-the-suburbs storyline. What it does an especially good job of is throwing you off the scent of the true villain of the piece and the unintentional bloodlust his philandering inspires. (Are you watching this, Tom Sandoval?) Sheriff Phil seems like a nice enough guy to Mulder, if too consumed by his job and not appreciative enough of his wife. But Mulder tugs on the thread of his seemingly mild narcissism to find something far more vile. While “Arcadia” is about the insidiousness of forced conformity, “Chimera” focuses on the prison of traditional, respectable marriage and family, which turns both Phil and Ellen into monsters. Of course I love it.
Moreover, I so enjoy it when the X-Files turns a logistical challenge into an opportunity, as it does here, with most of Gillian’s time going to directing “all things.” It’s rare, so it’s an extra special treat when Scully is set up to provide the comic relief. Her stakeout misadventures and efforts to make Mulder as miserable as she is via regular grumpy phone calls are a delight and invite the viewer to compare their wildly communicative relationship with Phil and Ellen’s ships-in-the-night marriage. You do have a significant other, Fox, and you very well know it.
Kim: “Theef” is never going to make anyone’s Top Ten list but you’ll also never see it mentioned whenever anyone talks about the worst episodes of the series. In fact, no one really talks about “Theef” at all, which is a damn shame because it fucking slaps. It’s a reliable and right down the middle kind of episode, which sounds a bit dismissive, but as we’ve said many times before in these posts, it’s the kind of episode you NEED to sustain a 20 to 22-episode season. Everything about it works! Billy Drago is spectacular as Orell Peattie, a despondent father turned revenge bound villain who makes you think “Well, he had his reasons!” (My favorite kind of villain!!) It’s genuinely scary from the truly horrific microwave popcorn MRI sequence to Peattie fucking blinding Scully in the thrilling final showdown. (I don’t fuck with voodoo or hexes, man, that shit is REAL.) And there’s some great Mulder and Scully material with the whole “you always keep me guessing” bit that carries through the entire episode. All in all “Theef” is a solid and well crafted entry into the standalone episode canon, 10/10 no notes.
KatyBeth: I really, really thought my answer for this was “Brand X” (it takes place in the next town over from where I grew up!)… until I spent five minutes rewinding one part of the cold open of “The Amazing Maleeni” to critique the up-close magic. Let’s call it a professional problem – I can’t watch a magic performance without watching the magic, and this episode gets it so right.
Everybody who has seen that late-’90s Breaking the Magician’s Code show hosted by Mitch Pileggi knows that there aren’t so many tricks in the world – it’s all about how you dress them up. And how does this episode dress them up? With a story that imitates how illusions themselves are structured.
The setup feels simple: now you see a magician, now you see a magician’s dead body. The late Ricky Jay, notable for sleight of hand and card tricks, portrays Herman and Albert Pinchbeck, twin brothers and amateur magicians. One followed the call of the stage and performs under the name “Maleeni” and the other became a banker – but only one of them is dead. Mulder and Scully show up to investigate and find the death isn’t what it seems at first glance. Add in a fellow magician/heckler and a convicted bank robber, and suddenly the plot isn’t about a murder at all. It’s a magic heist, put on by the surviving twin and the heckler, who have secretly teamed up to rob the bank and frame the robber for it. (I LOVE a heist.) Mulder and Scully manage to catch them at it because a bank heist is much easier to understand than a card trick.
Best parts: Mulder’s coin trick (and Scully’s fake-impressed “AmAzing!” response), Scully wearing the top hat.
Worst part: knowing what the top hat and indeed the entire van smelled like after housing those birds.
- Best Mulder Moment?
Kim: Mulder’s dorky flirting has always been endearing but it really goes to a new level in a post-“Millennium” world. Mulder and Scully are finally FINALLY on the same page in regards to their relationship and truly, the flirting is out of control, especially in “The Amazing Maleeni.” There is something so pure about the whole Great Muldini scene. It almost feels like it’s something Mulder would have done to impress his high school girlfriend in the halls between classes, much to his girlfriend’s delight, and it basically has the same effect as an adult. It’s something that both makes him look clever as he demonstrates his understanding of the case and it gives him an excuse to touch Scully when he tweaks her nose to make the coin appear. My favorite thing is how Scully tries SO HARD to pretend he isn’t charming the pants off of her. (Literally.) It’s sweet and it’s light-hearted and after seven seasons of Mulder angst it’s what we ALL DESERVE.
KatyBeth: The moment in “Requiem” where Mulder has been covering his hotel bed in crime scene photos, only to ignore them entirely when Scully needs to lie down in his bed because she mysteriously doesn’t feel well. It’s romance! It’s comfort! It’s love!
Sage: Allow me to take you back to my Season Two Mulder Moment, because the man who didn’t choose to sit at Scully’s bedside over killing the men who put her there wouldn’t have been able to make the leap forward that he does in “Requiem.” In the pilot, after Mulder sits on the floor and tells Scully, who is laying in his bed, about his sister’s abduction, he says that finding her (or at least learning what happened to her) is “all that matters” to him. Seven years later, the two of them are on the motel bed together (!!) when he tells her of their quest, “There is so much more than this.” You know what that is? Growth.
One of the many reasons I struggle with so much of what happens after the end of the original run is that Mulder’s character arc is to evolve from being a single-minded man obsessed with his doomed mission to being a partner and father – somebody who sticks around. And though his curiosity gets the best of him at the end of the Season Seven finale, his revelation that the truth isn’t worth their lives or the life that they could have is still pretty fucking powerful.
- Best Scully Moment?
KatyBeth: Bear with me for cheating and choosing two moments:
- “Mulder, the slide, please!” She’s absolutely delighted while taking over the narrative of Mulder’s slideshow and theorizing about the case at hand. Her training is complete. (But don’t ask Mulder to do the autopsies.)
- Scully in the lab with her invisible corpse, giddy in her joy about having concrete evidence for something unexplainable. The little yellow powder marks on her face while she’s dusting the body to make it visible are so endearing – as is her frustration a bit later when the body has disappeared and she whines out, “I was so excited, what was I thinking?”
Kim: I would wager that there is no purer Scully moment in the entire series than her giddy reaction to the invisible corpse. Say what you want about Scully being a skeptic but I’ve always believed she is much more open-minded than she purports herself to be, especially after working with Mulder for seven years. It’s just that she’s a scientist, for fuck’s sake, she likes real and tangible proof! When she’s faced with that tangible proof, she doesn’t try to explain it away! (It’s only when that proof goes away, as it so often does with the X-Files, that she starts to question it.) It’s why Scully is just so delighted by the invisible corpse. It’s actual physical proof of the fantastical, gradually revealed to her by yellow pigment that eventually gets smeared all over her face. No wonder she giggles like a schoolgirl.
Sage: In “The Sixth Extinction,” Scully returns from the Ivory Coast in her Safari Chic wardrobe ready to fight anyone who’s given up on Mulder or who won’t let her treat him as she sees fit. “I have been on a plane for 22 hours,” she tells Skinner, barging into his office looking as hydrated and glamorous as someone who has never even seen a plane. “I have to see him.” Skinner goes on to explain how Mulder’s condition has seemingly deteriorated after Kritschgau convinced him that he needed to inject Mulder with PHT to slow his brain activity. Armed with what she’s learned from the inscriptions on the beached spacecraft, Scully launches into a monologue that wouldn’t be entirely out of place in a sports movie about an underdog team: “He’s not dying. He is more alive than he has ever been. He’s more alive than his body can withstand and what’s causing it may be extraterrestrial in origin.”
How long we’ve waited to hear her say those words!! And the wait was worth it, because Scully’s faith is not earned easily. We are unfortunately dealing with Chris Carter here, so this watershed moment is later walked back somewhat. But it still foreshadows the true believer Scully who’ll play Mulder to X-Files rookie Agent Doggett in Season Eight, and I think that’s beautiful.
- Best Shipper Moment?
Sage: Season Seven contains Mulder and Scully’s first real kiss and the first time it’s confirmed onscreen that they’ve slept together and it ends on the cliffhanger that Scully is somehow pregnant with his child. (If you argue with me on that last point, I will come to your house.) But the shippiest moment of this batch of episodes comes before any of those things. Because how can you compete with the mutual confession that they are literally each other’s tether to reality and light in the fucking darkness? The “my constant, my touchstone” exchange in “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” is a direct progression from Scully telling Mulder in Season Two that she “had the strength of [his] beliefs” when she was fighting for her life post-abduction and him telling her in his hallway in Fight the Future that her “goddamn strict rationalism and science have saved [him] a thousand times over.” Only they’re no longer couching their declarations in her science or his desire to believe. “The end of my world was unrecognizable and upside down. There was one thing that remained the same. You were my friend, and you told me the truth.” These are wedding vows, you fools!!
Honorable mention to the way they look at each other after the “Millennium” kiss, because it is so tender and serene and contented, I cannot stand it.
Kim: In a season where we get a well-lit Mulder and Scully kiss that’s actually in this timeline AND confirmation of them having sex, I’m still going with the last scene of “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” because what kind of wedding vow nonsense is this???
It’s the way Mulder cups Scully’s face in his hands and looks deep into her eyes right before he says “You were my friend and you told me the truth,” gently brushing his thumbs over her cheekbones as he emphasizes the word “you.” It’s the quiet, reverent way in which he says it and it’s the way tears fill her eyes, a smile slowly spreading across her face. And then she just says “And you are mine” because what else is there to say to that? Quite frankly, it’s the best response to a love declaration since Han Solo said “I know.”
AND THAT’S NOT ALL! We get a classic Mulder and Scully forehead kiss, but Scully fucking lingers there for a full 10 seconds (yes, I counted) which is a long fucking time in TV time, okay? Then she pulls back, caressing his cheek before putting his dumb Yankees hat back on his dumb head. And finally, because she can’t stop fucking touching him, she takes his face in her hands. She smiles at him, her thumbs drifting OVER HIS LIPS and then she walks away, probably reminding herself that they can’t go any further than that right now cause he just had fucking brain surgery. HONESTLY. How am I supposed to go on after that???
KatyBeth: It is Sunday, April 9, in the year 2000. An episode begins. Here’s Scully, getting dressed and checking her hair in the mirror of a bathroom we don’t recognize. Whatever could this mean? Our heroes are so rarely in the cold open that it must be something monumental. We see a bare foot, sticking out from the rumpled covers of a bed. The camera pans up the leg, then finds an arm and finally rests on the face of the naked man in the bed. It is Fox Mulder. Gillian Anderson has used the cold open of the first (and sadly only) episode she wrote and directed to confirm that yes, Mulder and Scully are engaged in a sexual relationship. Fans take to the internet screaming with joy. Somewhere, Chris Carter is crying. “The characters did this themselves,” he says. NoRoMos are angered and spend the next few decades saying “tHeY onLy diD iT OnCe” to anyone who will listen. Shippers are not listening. We are passing notes about this in homeroom. It is the greatest thing that has ever happened.
- Thirstiest Moment?
Kim: Look, I recognize that Maitreya/Jade Blue Afterglow is supposed to be the babe in “First Person Shooter.” Krista Allen (who at the time I knew as Lisa Rinna’s replacement as Billie Reed on Days of Our Lives) is objectively a stunning woman. She’s got a banging body that is showcased to perfection in those pitch-perfect vinyl video game costumes that are all tits and ass. I get what the episode is trying to sell me there. Unfortunately, I’m not buying it because the hottest moment of the episode is when one Dana Katherine Scully enters the video game, covered head-to-toe in protective gear and ready to fuck shit up. David is at LEAST giving us arms and a cod piece in this scene, but Gillian has long sleeves on! She doesn’t have an inch of skin showing and yet it’s still SO HOT? Call it the Rose Tyler showing up with a big blaster gun in “The Stolen Earth” effect. It’s the attitude that does it for me, the way she’s like “Do I really have to do everything around here?” right before she does in fact, do everything around there. If there’s anyone who deserves to get some ya-yas to get out, it’s Scully, and God, I just feel so blessed that I get to see it.
KatyBeth: Yeah, of course my answer is the Female Gaze Camera™ running lovingly up David Duchovny’s bare leg in the cold open of “all things.”
Runner Up: The look Scully gives Mulder during the “proboscis” conversation in “Hungry.”
Sage: As previously stated, the majority of “En Ami” can go straight into the trash. I will however keep the scene in which the Gunmen come over to Mulder’s after Scully returns from her unsanctioned road trip to see what actually is on the disc that CSM dangled in front of her. I would like, if I could, to direct your attention to Mulder observing the proceedings from a distance, glowering in his doorway because he is so incandescently angry at Scully for doing something that dangerous without even giving him the opportunity to watch her back that he can hardly look at her. (Taste of his own medicine, frankly, but his feelings are still valid.)
I have mentioned my partiality to the Duchovny Jaw Clench™ in these posts before, and it is getting a workout here. His quiet fury is very hot, in no small part because there’s so much unspoken in it. Mulder was being territorial over their partnership back in Episode Three, and that was long before they became partners in every sense of the word. He’s never acted this possessive of her before, but the circumstances have changed, and it’s all rooted in a raw need to protect what he loves. It is his life too, to finish his “Never Again” thought, and Scully, who certainly knows better, committed the heinous crime of fucking around with it. The moment when his eyes finally flick over to hers after the Gunmen break the news that there’s nothing even on the precious disc is loaded with so much raw emotion, from disappointment to jealousy to relief to lust.
For the duration of this scene, Mulder looks like he’s deciding whether to kill Scully or [redacted] her, and he likes her far too much to do the first thing. In other words, there is no doubt in my mind as to what happens in that apartment as soon as the boys leave. (They rip off each’s other’s clothes, if that was at all unclear.)
Coming in at a close second, we have the tight close-up on Mulder expertly shuffling a deck of cards in “The Goldberg Variation.” I have a thing for hands, what can I say?
- Grossest Moment?
KatyBeth: Whoever came up with the girl giving birth to snakes in “Signs and Wonders” should have to pay for my therapy.
Sage: My mild case of claustrophobia means that I was already inclined to be suspicious of MRIs. But “Theef” provides a real nightmare scenario by having Peattie use a poppet doll and a microwave to cook poor Mrs. Weider in the machine. Even worse, the hospital still sent her the bill.
Kim: As a former smoker, the tobacco beetles growing inside people’s lungs in “Brand X” hits really hard. The real question is how did I CONTINUE to smoke after seeing this for the first time back in 2000? That is a mystery worthy of its own X-File.
- Funniest Moment?
Sage: In no particular order:
- Skinner watching the movie in “Hollywood, A.D.” Mulder and Scully each get to enjoy their lighter moments, but this is, I’m pretty sure, the only time in the entire lifespan of The X-Files that we get to see Walter experience pure, unadulterated joy. And it’s contagious. Pass the popcorn, Skinman.
- The way that David emphasizes, “Yeah, except Barbara Eden never killed anybody” in “Je Souhaite” is a brainworm of a line delivery and it pops into my head so, so often. Also, I continue to see you with these classic TV references, GHVG, you glorious fucking nerd.
- “Fight Club” is mostly awful, but I still cannot contain myself whenever Betty and Lulu’s perpetually rageful father is onscreen. “Mr. Danfous, I’m Special Agent Dana Scully with the FBI.” “WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT YOU?!” That’s comedy, folks.
Kim: “Hollywood A.D.” is hilarious from start to finish but the scene where Scully is teaching Téa Leoni how to run in heels in the background as Garry Shandling asks Mulder what side he dresses on is peak comedy. It’s the way Scully (played by Mrs. Mitch Pileggi in this particular instance) runs back and forth at a full sprint while Téa just stands there looking at her phone for me.
KatyBeth: When Mulder and Scully visit the film set in “Hollywood A.D.,” Téa Leoni asks Scully how she runs in her heels. They walk into the background far upstage, and as the scene continues, Scully goes running back and forth across the set behind Mulder and Garry Shandling. (Bonus hilarity – if you look closely, Gillian’s double starts running before she’s out of the shot.)
- Best Monster/Villain?
Kim: I gotta go with “Hungry” because only GHVG could write an episode from the monster’s point of view (a necessity when David and Gillian were wrapping up movie commitments) and have us rooting for him instead of our favorite agents. Rob Roberts (Chad Donella, channeling his best young Christian Bale) is deeply relatable to anyone who has ever been on a diet or battled disordered eating. As Yellowjackets has shown us over the course of their second season, people can be driven to do crazy shit in the name of hunger and at the end of the day, that’s just what Rob is. His main source of nutrition just happens to be human brains! Is that any different than having a steak for dinner? That’s up to you to decide.
Sage: You’ve got to hand it to Rob Roberts in “Hungry.” At least he tries!
This striving fast food worker with an unusual eating disorder is one of the most sympathetic monsters of the season (along with Ellen Adderly from “Chimera” – god forbid women do anything!), and I’d forgotten how much I love guest star Chad Donella’s performance. Sometimes he’s shifty, sometimes he’s painfully vulnerable; in one scene, he has you aw-ing over his genuine friendship with his sweet middle-aged neighbor, in the next, he’s eating her alive without remorse. Chad also has immediately great comic chemistry with David, as Mulder has Rob pegged from the jump and is only entertaining himself by toying with him.
Talk about villains who are doomed by the narrative – this guy is living (and then dead!) proof that sometimes our best just isn’t good enough.
KatyBeth: Whoever approved an episode about snakes is the most villain of the season. The best onscreen villain is Rob Roberts in “Hungry.” (Honorable mention to the diet culture tapes he listens to, which are also evil.)
- Right in the Feels Moment?
KatyBeth: Mulder and Scully spend a lot of time on his sofa this season. (I find it especially telling that both David and Gillian included moments for their characters to share that space in the episodes they wrote.) The moment at the end of “all things,” where Scully falls asleep on Mulder’s couch while they discuss
the Taylor Swift song “Invisible String” the concept of choice versus fate and wonder if they would be in this moment, no matter the choices made. Mulder looks over from his rambling and sees that Scully has fallen asleep. He takes a moment to gaze at her before covering her with his blanket. He’s so gentle! He loves her so much!
Kim: As I said earlier, “Requiem” is pretty much a barrage of feels from the start, especially for long time viewers who’ve been with the show since the start. But fuuuuuuuuuck that Scully and Skinner scene in the final three minutes of the episode is really next level. Mitch Pileggi and Gillian Anderson knock this out of the park as they bond in their grief over the loss of Mulder. Skinner’s guilt in this scene is palpable; the feeling that he’s the one who has failed Scully here is seeping out of his pores. Scully is having none of that though. She doesn’t blame Skinner, she just takes his hand and vows WITH him that they will find Mulder. Together. Because she has to!
BECAUSE SHE’S PREGNANT! WITH MULDER’S BABY! (I will not hear otherwise, thanks!)
The myriad of emotions that flit over Scully’s face in this scene though. Once again, Gillian Anderson gives a masterful performance here, accessing all of her emotions at once. She’s shocked, she’s devastated, she’s grieving and yet…she’s also joyful and surprised and devastated in a completely different way from the other kind of devastation she’s experiencing at the same time. It’s all much too much and if you aren’t feeling all of those emotions along with her, I don’t know what to do with you.
Sage: I’m with the majority of the fandom in finding the resolution of the Samantha arc (Fox’s Mulder’s very origin story!) to be a letdown. But the “Sein Und Zeit”/”Closure” two-parter is at its best when it leans into the tragedy of her story and the loss that both Mulder siblings endured. We’ve heard from so many not-our-Samanthas throughout the series up until this point; the first time we hear from the real Samantha, in her own words, is six-and-a-half seasons in, when Mulder reads the diary that she left behind. And it’s painful. He’s dedicated his life to keeping her memory alive and getting justice for her, while at the same time, her memory of him was fading. “Sometimes I think my memories were taken by the doctors but not all of them,” she writes. “I remember faces. I think I had a brother… with brown hair, who used to tease me. I hope someday he reads this and knows I wish I could see his face for real.” How that must feel for him to take in – not only that his sister was clinging to what she had left of him but also that she knew he would come for her.
He couldn’t save her, but he tried. And she couldn’t survive her childhood, but she hung on as long as she could. Both of those things matter. What they have done with their respective trauma matters. And that Scully has borne witness to Mulder’s pain and steps up to shoulder some of that emotional burden for him through the course of these two episodes matters too. They didn’t get their happy ending, but the Mulder kids have a resiliency and a deep capacity for kindness that they certainly didn’t inherit from their parents. They both deserved better, in every way.
- Best “Mulder, You’re Lucky You’re So Cute” Moment?
Sage: Maybe it’s impractical to expect better of a known sommelier of pornography, but it’s still embarrassing that Mulder slavers all over Maitreya and Jade Blue Afterglow in “First Person Shooter,” especially since we know he is getting laid regularly for the first time in the seven years that we’ve known him. Down, boy.
KatyBeth: All of “First Person Shooter.” This absolute idiot is so excited to be on another trip to California, this time to help his friends with their video game problems, see a famous gamer, and finally get to play the game himself to get his “ya-yas out.” Shocking no one, he gets trapped in the game and has to be rescued by Scully. Also his tiny sunglasses look stupid. (But they definitely made out before the Gunmen let them out of the little garage area, so I guess it is lucky he’s so cute.)
Kim: I know it’s meant to be meta commentary because she was literally married to David Duchovny and they were going for a “they like each other in all universes” AU narrative but I still get salty when Mulder gets all blushy and fawny over Téa Leoni. Sir!! I don’t care that she’s a movie star (a bit of a reach anyway, sorry Madam Secretary), your girlfriend is standing right there and unless you’ve had a discussion about hall passes, you’re out of line! And if you HAVE had a discussion about hall passes is Téa Leoni REALLY one of yours? (Again, sorry Madam Secretary.)
- Best Guest Star?
Kim: As a Sex and the City stan, I have to go with the late great Willie Garson as the luckiest yet unlucky man on earth in “The Goldberg Variation.” Henry Weems is one of those hangdog “God, this supposed gift is such a BURDEN” kind of X-Files characters, not all that unlike Clyde Bruckman, and Willie brings the perfect amount of neurotic energy and world weariness to the role. Everything about the performance works from his slumped posture to his perpetually annoyed expression. It’s hard being so lucky and he really makes you feel that!
KatyBeth: Willie Garson was wasted in a terrible Season Three episode, so kudos to whoever brought him back to play Henry Weems, the luckiest man alive in “The Goldberg Variation.” As a man cursed with good luck and unable to easily share it, Weems is merely trying to get the money needed to pay for medical treatment for a young boy in his building. Willie Garson gives him a gentle kindness that I think the character needs to not come across as too fantastical or silly.
Sage: I already sang the praises of Willie Garson in my standalone episode entry, so this one goes out to the late Ricky Jay, who brought his professional expertise in magic and some decent acting chops to “The Amazing Maleeni.” Casting real-life magicians was a great call, and apparently the show fought to get Jay, who was always their number one choice to play the Pinchbeck twins, in an episode that, for the record, predated the film version of The Prestige but not the novel.
- Favorite Y2K fashion?
KatyBeth: It’s turtleneck and leather jacket time, finally!
Sage: I have a head canon that Mulder buys a little souvenir from every roadside attraction and cryptid-spotting location that he visits, which is supported by the adorable “Stonehenge Rocks” baseball cap he sports in “all things.” It’s not only cute but incredibly endearing – just the accessory to wear for Scully’s realization that Mulder is the destiny that she deliberately chose.
Kim: All I’m saying is Scully’s green sweater of sex should be in the Smithsonian.
- Sum up your feelings about the season.
Sage: Until the eleventh hour, Season Seven was going to be the final season of The X-Files, and it feels like a swan song, in both good ways and bad. In the pro column, that gives us canon MSR because fuck it; several callbacks to our agents’ origin stories; and a real answer to the mystery of what happened to Samantha. Oh, and Diana Fowley DIES, albeit off-screen. Over in the cons, we have some stories that show downright contempt for the characters (“En Ami” and “Fight Club,” anyone?) and a general sense of fatigue. It’s not easy keeping a procedural fresh across seven 22/23/24-episode seasons when that procedural is also serialized, and I think a lot about what would have happened if Chris Carter had turned the keys over to, I dunno, God Himself somewhere around this point in the timeline.
Creaky old bones and all, there are still plenty of bright spots in Season Seven: the audaciousness of “X-Cops” and its single-episode format change; the ahead-of-its time self-awareness of “Hollywood, A.D.”; and even the crossover in “Millennium,” because I can think of a dozen canceled shows that I would have liked to have seen wrapped up, even in the background of another series. All that good stuff is what makes it so frustrating that The X-Files keeps stepping on its own feet, whether that’s by retconning one of its most chilling human villains ever to be a supernatural entity, shelving Scully’s agency to shoehorn in an unnecessary CSM plot, or trying to have it both ways with the resolution of the Samantha arc. Season Eight divided fans, but I find it to be a necessary course-correction. It lasers the mythology back into one solid objective: find Mulder.
Kim: Oh, Season Seven. Big sigh. My word for Season Seven is “messy.” Because it’s…it’s just so messy, y’all. Season Six may have been all over the map in terms of tone, but it felt messy in an invigorating way. Meanwhile Season Seven often feels messy in a tired way. It’s the first season where the show starts to feel past its prime and that makes me a bit sad.
But! It’s not all a mess!! GHVG is still churning out banger after banger, pushing the boundaries of what the show is capable of with every script. And let’s be real: in the season where Mulder and Scully are openly twitterpated, making googly eyes and bantering and touching each other all the time, I forgive a lot of the mess because this is the shit I have been waiting for and they have earned it. I have earned it, all the shippers have earned it. Just because it almost immediately gets snatched away with Mulder’s abduction doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It happened so much that Scully’s love for Mulder and their unborn child drives the entirety of the next season. Buckle up, friends. We’re in the Endgame now.
KatyBeth: This is a weird, slightly unbalanced season, and I love it very much.
The mythology episodes are mostly a struggle bus, what with Mulder having ESP and whatever that Last Temptation of Christ shit was with him dreaming about marrying Diana. (They did absolutely nail the fact that Scully/Gillian will not age, though.) Chris Carter finally buttons up the Samatha storyline in the stupidest, most disappointing way possible. The whole plot is a house of cards and I refuse to believe that Cassandra and Jeffrey Spender would not have ‘fessed up about Samantha living in their house for SIX YEARS. Mulder is FAMOUS for believing in aliens because of his missing sister! (I wrote a lot of fanfic about this, it’s fine I’m fine.) And then, because a broken clock is right twice a day, CC brings a massive cliffhanger that nearly was the series finale: Mulder abducted by aliens just when he was enjoying life on earth, and Scully magically pregnant despite her ova being in Mulder’s freezer or whatever.
David Duchovny writes and directs again, and this time he’s joined by Gillian Anderson for an episode of her own. Both episodes capture Mulder and Scully with a depth expected of the people who have been playing them for years. David’s episode explores the lighter side of a heavy case and gets taken over by a silly-but-fun subplot about a film being made of M&S’s job. Gillian’s episode meditates on how Scully has been shaped by her choices and has her wondering if her life is fated, or her choices are her own. Gillian really takes the big shot with her episode – I cannot imagine how Chris Carter reacted to that cold open and I want to know all about it.
It’s unrealistic to expect the standalone episodes to keep the same high bar as the nearly-perfect run of episodes in Season Six, but they try. Somehow this show has still not run out of genres to try out (Zombies! Magic! Video games! A genie! Luck!) and does a decent job with most of them. But there are a lot more duds in this season than the last. That’s okay with me, too. When this season gets it right, it really shines.
But of course, we’ve reached a major change: Mulder is really abducted by aliens and David Duchovny really is leaving the show. It’s time to find out if this series can exist without him. Maybe it was a bad idea to kill everyone off, Chris. Can Scully even make new friends at this point? (Don’t worry, she can. Season Eight is good, okay? Let’s GO.)
Are you yay or nay on The X-Files Season Seven? Let us know in the comments!
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