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The X-Files – DeadAlive (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

The X-Files is dead. Long live The X-Files.

What is dead may never die...

What is dead may never die…

As the title of DeadAlive implies, the eighth season of The X-Files is obsessed with the gap that exists between life and death, or death and rebirth. Indeed, DeadAlive represents no less than the fourth time that the mythology has put Mulder through his own Christ-like journey. Anasazi and Gethsemane ended with Mulder dead, only for The Blessing Way and Redux I to resurrect him. Although Biogenesis did not actually kill Mulder, The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati still made a point to crucify him.

This is Not Happening and DeadAlive offer another resurrection of Mulder. The teaser of DeadAlive features Mulder entombed, his body placed peacefully and quietly in the ground. The episode then extends the three days to three months, jumping forward to a point in time where Mulder is miraculously (and impossibly) healed by forces that seem beyond the comprehension of mankind. By just about any measure, Mulder’s resurrection seems to be as much a “miracle” as Scully’s pregnancy.

Fade to black...

Fade to black…

It is worth noting that Mulder’s resurrection makes next to no sense on a basic plot level. The alien colonists are abducting people and experimenting upon them, dumping the bodies back down to Earth when they are done. Some of those bodies, like Theresa Hoese and Fox Mulder, are dumped in locations where they are likely to be found. Billy Miles is dumped at sea. However, the plan is for these bodies to effectively “birth” alien super soldiers, new (and sinister) alien organisms that will further the agenda of the colonists.

This is, by any measure, a completely ridiculous alien plot. One would have imagined that the colonists ditched their human collaborators in an attempt to streamline their plot to invade the planet; one imagines that all that time spent monologuing and talking in euphemisms could be put to better use. However, the colonists’ plot is just as absurd and convoluted as anything that the human conspirators ever concocted. It seems like it would be really fun to sit on one of the planning sessions for this alien invasion.

"We've got a floater!"

“We’ve got a floater!”

The most obvious question is why the colonists dump the bodies before the transformation has occurred. This seems like a rather haphazard approach to this grand evil plan. As This is Not Happening demonstrates, it is entirely possible for people like Jeremiah Smith or Dana Scully to interfere with the bodies. More than that, it seems to leave the bodies open to the ravages of nature; what would have happened if a shark had eaten Billy Miles before the transformation was complete? Why not keep the bodies until after transformation is complete?

Even allowing for that, why would the transformation require life support to make it work?  The colonists might have planned on people discovering the bodies and hooking them up to life support machines, but then why dump them in the middle of nowhere? As Mulder demonstrates, it is entirely possible that the bodies will die before they are found and will be buried. Why not put the bodies on life support on the ship and release them when they are ready? Why not dump them outside a hospital, where they will be found and hooked up quickly?

Grave sorrow...

Grave sorrow…

There is something dramatically unsatisfying in the idea that the bodies will be perfectly fine if they are left unattended, given that the aliens seem to dump people in places where it seems likely they will be left unattended. Would Billy Miles have turned into a super soldier if he hadn’t been found at that precise moment? From a dramatic perspective, it makes everything that our heroes do seem worthless; the most effective thing that they can do is to do nothing at all, and not in a clever “that’s the point of the story” way like One Breath.

That said, there is something horrific about the idea that – had Skinner and Doggett not exhumed Mulder at around this point in the story – he would have woken up in his coffin and slowly suffocated to death. It seems quite likely that this is what happened to Gary Cory, whose body was found in This is Not Happening; assuming, of course, that the alien technology somehow managed to repair the damage done during the autopsy. That said, given the report on Mulder’s health in Three Words, it is probably better not to question such things.

Burying the truth...

Burying the truth…

To be fair, the script draws attention to the absurdity of this plot development and how little sense it makes from any storytelling perspective. Scully and Skinner stumble upon the key to Mulder’s resurrection entirely by accident, rather than trying to reach it by logic. “I don’t know,” Scully confesses as Mulder inexplicably stabilises. “I… really don’t know how we could’ve known.” At least DeadAlive is candid about how ridiculous that development is from a plotting perspective.

On the other hand, the resolution carries considerable thematic weight. The eighth season of The X-Files is very engaged with the idea of death and rebirth, the themes quite heavily referenced in this two-parter. This is Not Happening is very much fixated on death, with DeadAlive much more interested in rebirth. Over the course of DeadAlive, Billy Miles is resurrected and Krycek plots to revive the mythology. In both cases, the resurrection feels wrong somehow. Only Mulder “comes back right”, as it were.

Coffin up a theory...

Coffin up a theory…

The key to Mulder’s survival is not to preserve his life through artificial means, it is not to put him on life support or to force his body to keep working on a purely mechanical level. “By keeping him on life support we were incubating the virus,” Scully explains. “We were hastening it along.” In a way, this plays into the body horror themes of the eighth season, the anxiety that the human body is really just a machine made of meat. Putting the body on life support is to reduce the body to mechanical impulses, much like the super soldiers themselves.

This is perhaps one of the central fears embodied by the super soldiers, the reduction of the human body to nothing more than a series of mechanical parts with no soul beneath them. The super soldiers are essentially truly alien, organisms that approximate all the biological tics associated with life without any real sense of self or consciousness. It is, in many ways, a key encapsulation of the season’s themes of self and identity. The super soldiers are not necessarily sturdy enough to support an entire new mythology, but they work well in context.

"John, don't EVER call me 'Double-D Kersh' again, understand?"

“John, don’t EVER call me ‘Double-D Kersh’ again, understand?”

More than that, the idea of turning off Mulder’s life support machine feels entirely appropriate within the larger themes of the eighth season as a whole. The eighth season of The X-Files marks a point of transition for the show. Watching the season, it feels like the show is getting ready to bid farewell to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson; hoping to replace them with Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish. The eighth season is about bidding farewell to one version of the show, and welcoming the next.

In particular, this stretch of the season is about letting go of what the show was and embracing what it is becoming. In that context, keeping the show as it was on life support is a horrifying thought. After seven years on television, the thought of reducing the show to a number of routine biological impulses is horrifying. Trying to hold on to the show as it once was instead of embracing what it will become will only create something monstrous. David Duchovny is back for eleven episodes; use the opportunity to bid him farewell.

Holding on in there...

Holding on in there…

The eighth season has a lot of internal anxieties about what The X-Files might become. These fears are reflected in any number of anxieties about change and evolution running through the final third of the season; the use of the password “fight the future” in Three Words, the transformation of Billy Miles into a super soldier, the fears about Scully’s baby. The eighth season of the show stands on the cusp of a great transformation that is almost entirely out of its own control. It makes sense that it would be nervous.

In light of all these challenges, the eighth season seems to suggest that the best thing that the production team can do is to just let them happen; any attempt to either force the transition or arrest the development will not end well. It is a very smart approach to these radical changes, one that is ultimately undercut by the ninth season’s stubborn refusal to let go of the past. The eighth season takes Mulder off life support, the ninth season would keep him on it for as long as possible.

"Sorry, I got lost. Boy, this hospital is moodily lit."

“Sorry, I got lost. Boy, this hospital is moodily lit.”

It seems like the worst thing that any character can do in the final stretch of the season is to resist change. Keeping Billy Miles on life support only facilitates his transformation into a monster. DeadAlive makes it quite clear that the birth of a super soldier is not mere hybridisation. Billy Miles is not changed, he is replaced. “I stood there and watched his body go into seizure just moments before this happened,” Scully observes. “On the monitor, there were two heartbeats.” The Billy who woke up is not the Billy who was recovered.

This perhaps represents the anxieties about the series’ transformation. After all, the show changes dramatically between Within and Existence. The final stretch of the eighth season is largely about easing the transition from what the show was to what it will become, and the super soldier perhaps embodies the most deep-seated fears about that evolution. What if the eighth season is really just a new show gestating inside the old one? What if there is no continuity between those two extremes? What if the show becomes a monster on autopilot?

"Krycek yourself before you wreck yourself."

“Krycek yourself before you wreck yourself.”

DeadAlive features other characters trying to arrest inevitable change. Krycek shows up to offer Skinner a deal with the devil, asking Skinner to sacrifice the show’s future in order to save its past. When Krycek shows up offering a vaccine that could cure Mulder, Skinner is immediately suspicious. “What do I have to do?” he asks. Krycek replies, “Oh, it’s simple, really. Make sure Scully doesn’t come to term.” In other words, reset the status quo. Bring Mulder back and get rid of Scully’s child.

Of course, DeadAlive is never quite clear who Krycek is supposed to be working for. After all, the conspiracy is largely dead. The Well-Manicured Man died in The X-Files: Fight the Future. The Second Elder was murdered in his home in Two Fathers. The First Elder was burnt alive in One Son. Krycek threw the Cigarette-Smoking Man down the stairs in Requiem, effectively ending his attempts to rebuild the Syndicate. In the context of DeadAlive, Krycek could be working for a new conspiracy, collaborating with the colonists, or just stirring.

Shedding.

Shedding.

After all, Krycek’s allegiances have always been ambiguous at best. He was introduced in Sleepless as a spy sent to win Mulder’s trust. The Cigarette-Smoking Man tried to kill him in Paper Clip, leading Krycek to flee to Hong Kong to sell secrets in Piper Maru. After he was dumped in a missile silo in Apocrypha, he somehow escaped and aligned with a local militia in Tunguska as part of a larger gambit with the Russian Syndicate in Terma. However, Krycek eventually found his way back to the Syndicate.

The Red and the Black suggested that Krycek was working with the Well-Manicured Man in an attempt to develop a vaccine to fight the colonists, a rare principled stance from the character affectionately known as “rat boy.” Krycek remained tied to the Well-Manicured Man in The End, remaining in service to the Syndicate after the death of his sponsor. In Two Fathers, it was Krycek who advocated for an alliance with the rebels, suggesting that his work on the vaccine was more than just opportunism.

A vaccine? That is SO two seasons ago, Alex.

A vaccine? That is SO two seasons ago, Alex.

Of course, Krycek’s motivations are always ambiguous. His decision to throw the Cigarette-Smoking Man down the stairs at the end of Requiem could be read as something a principled stance – a rejection of the Cigarette-Smoking Man’s last desperate attempt at collaboration. It would be ironic if Krycek proved to be the most principled of the conspirators, despite his habit of backstabbing and manipulation. One of the most interesting readings of Krycek would be to suggest he was the antihero to Mulder’s hero, willing to do what it took.

Other readings of Krycek’s actions suggest themselves. “Survival is the ultimate ideology,” the Well-Manicured Man mused in Fight the Future, words that perhaps sum up the conspirators’ motivations across the first six seasons. Perhaps Krycek is the ultimate child of the conspiracy, the ultimate survivor. More than that, Krycek has always been presented as a twisted reflection of Mulder. Like Spender, Krycek is just another son of the Cigarette-Smoking Man; he is ultimately another prince inheriting a ruined kingdom.

Krycek has always been a rather base(ment) character...

Krycek has always been a rather base(ment) character…

Perhaps the most consistent of Krycek’s characterisation has built upon his frought relationship to both Mulder and the Cigarette-Smoking Man. This is perhaps the most logical motivation for his actions in Requiem; his decision to hand Mulder over to the colonists before throwing the Cigarette-Smoking Man down the stairs feel like a continuation of Krycek’s pathological hatred of his nicotine addicted father figure, just like his skillful attempts to turn Jeffrey Spender against his father in One Son. Krycek is a hateful son, but also a jealous one.

The production team has always had trouble figuring out what to do with Krycek from a plotting perspective. It feels appropriate that Krycek should be the last man standing of the Syndicate, due to his uncanny ability to perceive which way the wind is blowing, but it does mean that the writers have to struggle to figure out what to do with him. Essence and Existence seem to imply that Krycek is working with the colonists, which seems odd. If the colonists abandoned their unreliable human allies, why employ possibly the most unreliable of human allies?

A little bloated...

A little bloated…

Of course, there is a sense that outside factors played a part in this confusion. There were rumours of a Krycek-centric episode in the seventh season, possibly a story that would have tied together the Russians and the rebels with the artifact recovered in Biogenesis. The suggestion seems to have been that Alex Krycek and Marita Covarrubias would have founded a new Syndicate in the ruins of the old one. This did not happen for a number of reasons, possibly because of the fear that the seventh season might be the last season of the show.

This might have been for the best. As interesting as a conspiracy led by Krycek might have been, it would exist in the shadow of the mythology spanning the first six years of the show. Indeed, watching the super soldier arc unfold through the eighth and ninth seasons of the show, it feels like the production team might have been better suited to get even further away from the theme of alien colonisation. It is a shame, because Krycek is a fascinating character – the rare character who arguably gets more interesting for his inconsistencies.

Digging up the past...

Digging up the past…

Although Krycek did not get much to do during the seventh season, it was clear that the production team wanted him to do more during the eighth. In interviews leading up to the eighth season, Chris Carter was very excited about the possible return of Krycek and Marita:

You’ll see more Krycek, he’s coming back. And Mulder/Krycek, I mean, we’ve got to get Mulder back before we get any interactions. Yeah, the mythology lives on, and even though there are certain things that have been resolved, there are things to explore, and as you saw in the season finale, Krycek’s very much alive. So’s Covarrubias, and since Laurie Holden, who plays Marita Covarrubias, sent me a nice letter at the end of the year, I’ll probably give her as much screen time as I possibly can.

The production team seemed to understand that Krycek’s return had to wait until Mulder came back. Frank Spotnitz explained, “We’ll see Krycek and Covarrubias in the second half of the season. I think their roles become more important when Mulder is returned.”

On life support...

On life support…

Ultimately, Marita did not appear in the eighth season, owing to Laurie Holden’s busy schedule. (“Marita has been busy working with Jim Carrey,” Carter quipped, referencing her role in The Majestic.) However, the decision to hold back Krycek’s reappearance until DeadAlive makes a great deal of sense. Krycek first appeared in the second season of the show, before veteran writers like Frank Spotnitz, John Shiban and Vince Gilligan even joined the show; Krycek is very much a link to the show’s past.

As with a lot of the episode, Krycek’s appearance in DeadAlive works better as a thematic element and a narrative concern. After all, why does Krycek need Skinner to kill Scully’s baby? It is undoubtedly a power play for Krycek, who likely gets a thrill out of bending Skinner to his will in the same way that the Cigarette-Smoking Man did in Zero Sum. However, there are more efficient ways for Krycek to actually accomplish his goal. It shouldn’t be hard to ensure that her baby isn’t born, if Krycek sets his mind to it.

Skinner's heart just isn't in this any longer...

Skinner’s heart just isn’t in this any longer…

More to the point, does Krycek actually have a vaccine or is he bluffing? The vaccine he holds in the parking lot looks a lot like the vaccine developed against the black oil, which seems dramatically different from the current methods being employed by the colonists. If Krycek is representing the colonists, why would he offer a vaccine? If Krycek is working against the colonists, why wouldn’t he use the vaccine on Billy Miles? It is all just a little bit confusing and difficult to parse.

Of course, it seems just as likely that Krycek doesn’t have a vaccine and is simply bluffing. After all, the fourth and fifth seasons used Scully’s cancer to suggest that nothing good could come from making a bargain like that – the episodes like Zero Sum and Redux II implied that the Cigarette-Smoking Man would leverage Scully’s health against Skinner and Mulder without any real ability (or willingness) to cure her. After all, Skinner’s desperate course of action at the climax of DeadAlive is based on the fact that he can’t trust Krycek.

No use crying over spilled vaccine...

No use crying over spilled vaccine…

Even if it doesn’t make sense from a plotting point of view, Krycek’s return makes a great deal of sense from a thematic perspective. The central conflict of DeadAlive (bleeding over into Three Words and the rest of the season) is the past fighting against the future. The X-Files is going through its own transformation, and the show must fight the urge to turn back in fear or panic. For the show to survive, it must evolve. Krycek is the perfect antagonist; he is the last vestige of the conspiracy, the ghost that has not been exorcised.

Krycek represents the old conspiracy attempting to reassert itself. The only leverage he seems to have over Mulder is a vaccine that was developed during the fourth season, and which has likely been rendered redundant by everything that has happened since. Krycek does not change with the times or adapt; he is still controlling Skinner with the nanobots he implanted in S.R. 819. For all he might change allegiances, Krycek is a holdover from an earlier time in the show’s history. He is the past fighting its own redundancy.

Takes a beatin' and keeps on tickin'...

Takes a beatin’ and keeps on tickin’…

Of course, Krycek’s appearance serves another altogether more practical function as well. He serves as another step on John Doggett’s induction into the world of The X-Files. The production team have been slowly putting Doggett through a process of initiation over the eighth season: solving his first X-file solo in Via Negativa and going through his death and resurrection in The Gift were big steps. However, everybody knows that you can’t be a real lead on The X-Files until you’ve beaten the snot out of Alex Krycek.

While Krycek embodies the last remaining strand of the “classic” mythology, DeadAlive firmly introduces the new conspiracy at work, as something frightening and horrifying is birthed from inside the body of Billy Miles. Billy Miles becomes alien. Although the term has yet to be applied, these new aliens would come to be known as “super soldiers.” On the commentary to DeadAlive, Frank Spotnitz refers to Billy Miles as a “pod” person in homage to The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Peace in a pod person...

Peace in a pod person…

In the eighth and ninth seasons, the colonists largely eschew human collaborators in favour of a more direct approach of replacement, infiltrating the United States government with facsimiles and doppelgangers. If the first seven seasons were about the way that power corrupts and moral decay sets in, then the final two seasons are about fear of the alien appropriation. To be fair, this is in keeping with the eighth season’s firm delineation between “self” and “other”, represented by Billy Miles two heartbeats. Billy is not changed, he is replaced.

The collaboration and complicity of the first seven seasons could be seen to reflect the liberal anxieties about abuses of American authority over the course of the twentieth century. The original conspiracy is steeped in concepts of liberal guilt over actions conducted at the end of the Second World War and during the Cold War. (It should be noted that – despite its somewhat pejorative label – “liberal guilt” is not necessarily a bad thing. It could be better described as “historical awareness.”)

Under the skin...

Under the skin…

In contrast, the basic framework of the mythology is more reactionary in nature. The threat to Earth is not filtered through a bunch of rich white men, but instead directly tied back to an alien invasion. The enemy is not human, but they can pass as human. They are everywhere, threatening to subvert the institutions that were designed to protect the public. As with the meditations on the culture of fear and surveillance in This is Not Happening, the narrative of the super soldiers seems to touch on post-9/11 anxieties early.

The fear of infiltration and subversion has long been a rallying cry of conservative conspiracy theories. It is a particularly American anxiety, perhaps rooted in the same fear of imposition of outside order that shaped a lot of the nation’s attitudes towards gun control. It is certainly reflected in the prevalence of “birther” conspiracy theories about President Obama, which are all based on the underlying assumption that the United States is being infiltrated and subverted. The eighth and ninth seasons craft a similar narrative.

"Billy's not here, man..."

“Billy’s not here, man…”

Of course, it should be noted that just because a narrative embraces these elements does not make it conservative. As Michael Dodd has pointed out, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers can be read as a criticism of either communism or McCarthyism, depending on the viewer’s political leanings:

When the United States was gripped by a so called “red scare” in the 1950s and McCarthyism dominated the political landscape, the movies provided more close-to-home tension. Don Siegel’s 1956 masterpiece Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of the most multifaceted horror films ever made. Simultaneously exploiting the contemporary fear of infiltration by undesirable elements as well as a burgeoning concern over homeland totalitarianism in the wake of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s notorious communist witch hunt, it may be the clearest window into the American psyche that horror cinema has ever provided.

The “super soldier” mythology of the eighth and ninth seasons taps into a rich vein of American paranoia and anxiety. Unfortunately, it is the same vein that would inform a lot of the “birther” and “infiltration” rhetoric of the twenty-first century.

The new normal...

The new normal…

The “super soldier” conspiracy theory could be read as a broader exploration of the themes running through the nine seasons of The X-Files. The show has repeatedly explored questions of individuality and self-determination, with the show expressing a recurring anxiety about homogeneity and conformity. The super soldiers are perhaps the most literal embodiment of that fear, human bodies who have been hollowed out to serve as shells for something more mechanical and inhuman.

In fact, the super soldiers could easily be read as a criticism of the military-industrial complex, something that the ninth season awkwardly suggests. These are the perfect soldiers; people who have surrendered any hint of self or identity in order to become (literally) inhuman killing machines. In that context, the super soldiers do fit with the show’s larger concerns about power and authority. The problem is that these ideas aren’t really developed until the ninth season; the eighth season just treats them as subversive infiltrators.

Wake up call...

Wake up call…

As such, the eighth season’s emphasis on alien doppelgangers feels like an endorsement of conservative paranoia rather than a subversion of it. This feels particularly uncomfortable in April 2001, with 9/11 less than six months away. As David Cole points out, this fear of the “alien” infiltrator would be used to violate countless civil rights:

The Patriot Act imposes guilt by association on immigrants, rendering them deportable for wholly innocent nonviolent associational activity on behalf of any organization blacklisted as terrorist by the Secretary of State. Any group of two or more that has used or threatened to use force can be designated as terrorist. This provision in effect resurrects the philosophy of McCarthyism, simply substituting “terrorist” for “communist.” Perhaps not realizing the pun, the Supreme Court has condemned guilt by association as “alien to the traditions of a free society and the First Amendment itself.” Yet it is now the rule for aliens in our free society.

None of this can be held against the production team, who obviously had no idea of the historical context that would be applied to their work. It is worth noting that the ninth season does try to change the emphasis of the super soldiers so as to mitigate the unfortunate subtext. However, it seems like the eighth season might have worked better if it jettisoned the super soldiers completely.

We are all alone...

We are all alone…

At the same time, this emphasis on infiltration and subversion feels like part of a larger political shift in The X-Files. With the eighth season’s emphasis on Mulder and Scully as a heteronormative nuclear family unit and anxieties about assisted reproductive technologies rather than “miraculous” natural births, the eighth season feels decidedly conservative in outlook. It is worth noting that the show had stressed Scully’s maternal instincts in the fourth and fifth seasons, but never to this extent.

It could be argued that The X-Files was simply reflecting the times changing around it. The liberal guilt underpinning the first seven years of the mythology was very much of a piece with the general mood of the Clinton era – capturing Clinton’s apology for illegal radiation trials and the debates around the fiftieth anniversary of the atomic bomb. At the start of the twenty-first century, The X-Files was perhaps reflecting the politics of early twenty-first century America in its fears about infiltration and subversion.

"Hey... I recognise that guy from the previouslies..."

“Hey… I recognise that guy from the previouslies…”

It could be argued that the emphasis on the colonists themselves as antagonists (acting through the super soldiers) reflects a millennial fascination and anxiety with the alien. As Jodi Dean argues in Aliens in America:

Although UFO flaps have occurred regularly since the late 1940s, the current obsession with aliens seems intertwined with fears of the millennium. Many have associated end-of-the-century culture with boundary breakdown and transgression, especially as heretofore excluded possibilities, be they monsters, the supernatural, or previously repressed sexualities and subjectivities, make their way into the social imaginary. Not only does the alien mark that intrusion of the other so typical of end-time strangeness, but its reinscription of the promise of truth iterates the certainty of knowledge characteristic of apocalyptic modes of truth.

The character of Absalom, who bridges these three episodes, provides a very clear link between the colonists and apocalypticism. To Absalom, the colonists represent the fulfilment of doomsday prophecy, the millennial apocalypse that was promised and never arrived.

No need to beat himself up...

No need to beat himself up…

Of course, talking about the politics of pop culture is never as simple as it might seem. In some respects, labels like “liberal” and “conservative” over-simplify complex political positions. Watching The X-Files, there are points where the show seems to occupy both extremes of the spectrum on different issues. Part of this is down to the fact that The X-Files is the result of dozens of writers working from dozens of perspectives, but also because a two-dimensional political spectrum lacks the nuance and complexity of real political beliefs.

Consider The X-Files‘ exploration of gender. The third and fourth seasons offer a heavily feminist critique of masculine power structures, including attempts by men to control the bodies of women. In particular, the show touches on issues of reproductive rights within that context. During that same period, the show also endorses gender essentialism by suggesting that Scully is naturally drawn towards motherhood, despite her earlier statements to the contrary. This is a more complicated position than a simple label would suggest.

Snow escape...

Snow escape…

Similarly, The X-Files is perhaps best known for its skepticism of authority and power structures, its championing of the individual over the collective. The show’s mantra is “trust no one”, but that would seem to conflict with “I want to believe.” As much as the first seven years of the show critique unquestioning trust in authority, they also seem to romanticise blind faith. Although the politics of The X-Files can be interpreted to lean one direction or the other, they are often messy and complex. Much like real politics.

As much as the anxieties of the eighth season seem to have switched from liberal guilt to conservative paranoia, other shifts have also taken place. The eighth season seems more wary of unquestioning religious devotion than the earlier seven seasons. This is perhaps most obvious in the references to doomsday cults in both Via Negativa and This is Not Happening, but also in the suggestion that the link between the alien and the divine posited back in Red Museum and Fearful Symmetry may be far from ideal.

They haven't a prayer...

They haven’t a prayer…

Episodes like Red Museum and Closure suggested that divine aliens (“walk-ins”) had only the best interests of mankind at heart. Biogenesis suggested that to become an alien-human hybrid was to touch the divine. However, the eighth season explicitly ties this idea of alien-as-divine to the colonists, as reflected in a cynical aside from the Cigarette-Smoking Man in Requiem. The eighth seems to suggest that the Cigarette-Smoking Man was right and that colonists are gods. They are just not benevolent gods.

Absalom himself seems to suggest that religious faith based on holy texts is subject to misinterpretation, and that perhaps God is not great. “What is the bible?” he asks Doggett rhetorically. “Preaching? Prophecy? Misread?” It is an interesting transition from the romantic depiction of unquestioning faith in episodes like Revelations and Signs and Wonders, where it seemed like the show was desperately searching for a religious experience. In the eighth season, it seems a little more skeptical.

Holding on, together...

Holding on, together…

When soldier!Billy awakens, he seems to be in a haze. His trance seems almost hypnotic. “They took so many this time,” he reflects. “But now I understand. They’re here to save us.” This mirrors the use of language in Red Museum and Fearful Symmetry, which suggested that the alien colonists only had mankind’s best interests at heart. Doggett is not convinced by soldier!Billy’s evangelical enthusiasm. “Well, that’s great news,” Doggett observes sarcastically. If only he knew.

(The fifth season suggested something similar with the character of Cassandra Spender in Patient X, a story couched in “war in heaven” imagery. In that episode, Cassandra Spencer also welcomed the colonists as saviors who bring peace and love to a discordant mankind; she eventually comes to realise how wrong she has been. Of course, the fifth season had its own themes of broken faith and disillusionment as Mulder lost sight of his own set of beliefs and his own unnatural certainty.)

Prophecy and change...

Prophecy and change…

Of course, DeadAlive does feature the fourth “Passion of the Mulder” across the nine seasons of the show. Essence and Existence play out their own version of the Nativity. However, the show makes a point to emphasise the secular element of both stories. Regardless of the sdecisions made at the start of the ninth season, the eighth season allows Mulder to come down off his cross and eschew his divine mission. This final stretch of the season is largely about demythologising Mulder and Scully, allowing them to give up their quests for more human lives.

Mulder gets to retire with Scully, evoking those apocryphal stories about Jesus Christ retiring with Mary Magdalene. Similarly, Essence and Existence suggest that William is not a “chosen one” or a divine figure, but is a more human sort of “miracle.” Although quickly disregarded by the ninth season, the eighth season suggests that the most remarkable thing about William is that Scully’s baby is just a normal child born of the love between his two parents. It is a very humanist approach to religion.

Sleeping beauty...

Sleeping beauty…

DeadAlive brings the eighth season of The X-Files into its final act, making it clear that the show is in something of a transitional state. It is the end of something, but also the beginning. It is dead, yet it is alive.

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2 Responses

  1. I think Mulder’s return, as you pointed out, didn’t make much sense because the show had to just somehow adjust the story for David Duchovny’s return and to finally end the show.

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