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The X-Files: Season 10 (IDW) #11-15 – Pilgrims (Review)

This June, we’re going to be taking a look at the current run of The X-Files, beginning with the IDW comic book revival and perhaps taking some detours along the way. Check back daily for the latest review.

Pilgrims is essentially an attempt to do a mid-season mythology episode in the style of Colony and End Game or Tunguska and Terma, a big sprawling epic populated by familiar faces and impossible scale that is driven more by questions and mysteries than by answers or revelations. It is in many ways a testament to writer Joe Harris’ desire to emulate the basic structure and framework of The X-Files, right down to the manner in which he structures The X-Files: Season 10.

There are a lot of obvious markers and touches that help Pilgrims to feel like a classic mid-season mythology episode. There is an international scope, as seen in the trip to the Arctic in End Game or to Hong Kong in Piper Maru or to Russia in Terma. The first half of Pilgrims unfolds in Saudi Arabia, with Mulder and Scully dispatched to investigate what initially appears to be a terrorist attack on an oil operation but is promptly revealed to be something far more sinister.

The red and the black.

The red and the black.

Similarly, in keeping with the style and tone of many of the best mythology two-parters, the basic plot is relatively straightforward even as complications appear at the edge of the frame. In End Game, Mulder is racing to recover his lost sister as details about secret cloning experiments spill out around him. In Nisei, Mulder is trapped in a traincar with a ticking time bomb and a dangerous assassin as he digs away at the conspiracy. In Apocrypha, the black oil just wants to go home. The same is true in Pilgrims, which follows an alien trying to escape.

Even the structure of the five-issue arc recalls that of many X-Files two-parters, with a massive pivot coming between the third and fourth issues in the same way that many two-parters would switch premises at the half-way point. The Saudi Arabia plot wraps up at the end of the third issue, while Gibson Praise is introduced at the start of the fourth. The first three issues focus on the mystery of the Saudi attack, while the final two put a much greater emphasis on the traditional trappings of the X-Files mythology including the conspirators and Skyland Mountain.

Lone survivors.

Lone survivors.

It is remarkable how faithful Joe Harris is to the format of those classic X-Files mythology episodes. Of course, this is something of a double-edged sword. As with a lot of The X-Files: Season 10, the biggest weakness of Pilgrims is the fact that it all feels a little overly familiar and a little too indulgent. Krycek was one of the most popular supporting characters from the nine-season run of The X-Files, but bringing him back at the centre of a five-part epic mythology story feels like pandering and fan service. Harris is not inventing his own mythology, but resurrecting an old one.

Then again, that might seem to be the point. The black oil discovered in Pilgrims is compared to the oil resting beneath Saudia Arabia. In that respect, it is the remains of long-dead organisms compressed and decayed and converted into fuel. There is something more than a little appropriate about that.

Eye see.

Eye see.

The title Pilgrims is fascinating. It recalls the ambiguity of many of the best X-Files titles. The story is structured so that the title could apply in any number of contexts. Pilgrims opens with Mulder and Scully visiting Saudia Arabia. Given that Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca, and that Mecca is a hugely important site of religious pilgrimage, one possibility immediately suggests itself. However, the story ends with the dispossessed black oil embarking in a journey from Saudi Arabia to Skyland Mountain, suggesting another possible explanation for the title.

However, these are just the literal interpretations of the title. More metaphorical ideas abound. Throughout the story, Krycek feels compelled to do things even though he cannot understand why that might be or who wants him to do them. It is an experience that perhaps evokes extreme religious faith, with a pilgrimage serving as a journey driven by faith rather than by knowledge. After all, The X-Files was a show that frequently engaged with ideas of faith through the framework of the mythology.

Life finds a way.

Life finds a way.

There are other possibilities that are less firmly tied to concepts like faith. The black oil at the centre of Pilgrims is distinguished from the version that appeared on the show. It did not come to Earth to invade or conquer. According to Sheltem, this version of the black oil came “seeking freedom, and fresh start upon a new world.” In some respects, it evokes the mytholgoy that developed around the Pilgrims who helped to found America. Their journey also resulted in a great deal of death and destruction quite apart from the romance afforded to their ideals.

One more possibility presents itself. The finale of Pilgrims unfolds on Skyland Mountain, a site of great symbolic importance to The X-Files given its appearance in episodes like Ascension and Patient X. The closing scenes reveal that Gibson Praise has resurrected more than just the Cigarette-Smoking Man, he has brought back the entirity of the conspiracy. The story brings back Alex Krycek, despite his fairly unambiguous death in Existence. In short, the entire story could be read as a pilgrimage towards the mythology of The X-Files.

Who called in the Men with Black Eyes?

Who called in the Men with Black Eyes?

The X-Files: Season 10 and The X-Files: Season 11 fixate upon the mythology as an object of near-religious significance. The comic seems drawn to these objects as if they were sacred relics. This is perhaps most obvious in G-23, a two-part story that exists in no small part to offer an origin story for Mulder’s iconic “I Want to Believe” poster. Pilgrims is very much a pilgrimage into the mythology of The X-Files, an unapologetic set of homages and nods towards the show’s nine seasons of mysteries and riddles.

There are points at which this can be quite frustrating. Pilgrims is very much a stew brewed using recognisable elements of classic stories. Most obviously, the plot Pilgrims owes a lot to Piper Maru and Apocrypha; it is essentially the story about some rogue black oil that is woken through a freak accident and begins a globe-trotting journey home that includes a heavy focus on Alex Krycek. Pilgrims is quite conscious of these similarities. Matthew Dow Smith returns repeatedly to Rob Bowman’s cliffhanger to Piper Maru, focusing on eyes clouded with black oil.

Even Dow Smith's increasingly claustrophobic layout (focusing on tighter and narrower panels) masterful evokes a tightening and zooming camera shot that recalls Bowman's work and which fits beautifully with the paranoid aesthetic of The X-Files.

Even Matthew Dow Smith’s increasingly claustrophobic layout (focusing on tighter and narrower panels) masterful evokes a tightening and zooming camera shot that recalls Bowman’s work introducing the black oil in Piper Maru and which fits beautifully with the paranoid aesthetic of The X-Files.

However, there are plenty of other similarities. While the idea of telling a black oil story that focuses on the economics and politics of real oil is very clever, and arguably essential in the context of the War on Terror, Pilgrims borrows the great “black oil hiding inside real oil reserves” plot hook from Vienen. The possession sequence at the start of the first issue is consciously framed so as to evoke the possession sequence at the very start of The X-Files: Fight the Future. There is a sense that a lot of this has been seen and done before.

Some of that is down to the arrival of artist Matthew Dow Smith, who takes over regular art duties from Michael Walsh. Like Walsh, Smith has a style that is very heavy on atmosphere and tone. It is not overly detailed or photorealistic. Whereas Walsh tended towards a style that was almost cartoonish and animated, Smith is a bit murkier. His lines are heavier, and his panels are dominated by shadow. Even in the sunny surroundings of Saudi Arabia, Smith’s inking suggests the general aesthetic of the show’s Vancouver era.

A well-oiled machine...

A well-oiled machine…

Smith is not an artist who does likenesses particularly well. Mulder and Scully are clearly recognisable as David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, but Smith is not as clear as artists like Gordon Purcell or Alex Saviuk. However, Smith have a very cinematic style to his layouts and his rhythms. Many of his comics read like they could be storyboards for unaired episodes of The X-Files, with particular attention paid to the framing of the story. In most cases, this works very well. Through his rhythms and framing, Smith creates a palpable sense of paranoia.

However, there is also a sense that Smith is drawing a little bit too heavily on the work of directors like Rob Bowman, David Nutter and Kim Manners. The X-Files was one of the best directed television series of the nineties, with the show’s best directors creating a truly cinematic sensibility to their work. Smith applies the same aesthetic to the script provided by Joe Harris, which means that a lot of the images feel very familiar. Smith brilliantly recreates the style of the show’s direction, but combined with Harris’ scripts, this means some of the beats feel very “samey.”

Piece in our time.

Piece in our time.

To be fair to Smith, this is a larger issue with the arc as a whole that is accenuated by the artistic choices. Smith is a great artist for a monthly X-Files book, and he does spectacular work on the later multi-issue mythology stories like Elders and Endgames. In particular, Smith’s artwork fits comfortably with Bellaire’s colouring. Pilgrims has a colour scheme that (appropriately enough) echoes the recurring theme of the red and the black that runs through The X-Files.

This is employed particularly cleverly in the scenes with Gibson Praise, to the point that the chessboard appears to be red and black rather than black and white. The X-Files used these board games as metaphor on a couple of occasions, most notably during Gibson’s first appearance in The End and during Burt Reynolds’ appearance in Improbable. In Improbable, it was suggested that God was engaged in a game of chequers with the universe, playing on a board marked in red and black. (Of course.)

Gripping stuff...

Gripping stuff…

These games are an effective metaphor, both for the show’s mythology and its larger worldview. Mulder and Scully frequently find themselves pawns in a game operating at a much greater scale and to which they may never be entirely privy. This reflected the show’s broader philosophical perspective. In keeping with the existential crises of the nineties, Carter returned time and again to the idea of a conflict rippling beyond mankind’s capacity to perceive; Lamentation, Powers, Principalities, Thrones and Dominions, Patient X, The Red and the Black.

Harris very clearly understands the aesthetic of The X-Files. He very consciously positions Pilgrims as a part of that larger thematic tableau. “Upheavel is the very nature of the cosmos we share,” Sheltem advises Scully at one point in the story, alluding to the abstract wars that seem to rage in heaven beyond the characters’ perceptions. At the end of the adventure, Scully seems to accept as much. “I don’t think any of us has a place in those woods right now,” she tells Mulder, calling off the search for the black oil as a lightning bolt flashes overhead.

Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightnening...

Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightnening…

While Pilgrims suffers from feeling overly familiar, the ideas underpinning it are interesting and denot a clear understanding of The X-Files as a whole. While Vienen already did the whole “what if people mistook the black oil for regular oil?” plot, it is certainly an idea worth revisiting in the context of the twenty-first century. After all, the idea that people would brutally murder each other in pursuit of the black oil feels more timely than ever, and Joe Harris peppers the stories with allusions towards the brutality with which mankind pursues its greed.

Similarly, there is something quite clever about setting the story in Saudi Arabia, even beyond the obvious contemporary resonance of an X-Files story that takes Mulder and Scully to the Middle East. Harris’ script emphasises culture clashes and conflict as Mulder and Scully find themselves operating on the edge of a razor within the jurisdiction of a reluctant ally to the United States. Harris has a clear grasp on his characters, with both Mulder and Scully feeling completely in-character as they brush up against the repressive regime.

Scully calls it as she sees it.

Scully calls it as she sees it.

In a way, the Middle Eastern setting plays like an attempt to emphasise the extent to which the mythology still resonates with a geopolitical landscape that has radically shifted since the mid-nineties. During the War on Terror, the relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been remarkably tense. The country is generally regarded as one of America’s longest-standing and most reliable allies in the region, but that alliance has caused a great deal of strain.

On ethical grounds, critics wonder how the United States can support and prop up a regime that is so brutal and so repressive in its policies. Saudi Arabia does not recognise basic human rights and has engaged in any number of horrific actions that the United States has been forced to ignore or overlook as part of their alliance. More than that, Saudia Arabia has also been responsible for fanning the flames of militant Islam for its own short-term political gains, to the point that some would argue the Kingdom holds some moral responsibility for the events of 9/11.

"How about before afternoon tea?"

“How about before afternoon tea?”

Although President Obama has not broken ranks with Saudi Arabia, his predency has seen the relationship become increasingly strained by realpolitick. President Obama himself has acknowledged the difficulties of working with the United States:

“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?,” Turnbull asked.

Obama smiled. “It’s complicated,” he said.

Obama’s patience with Saudi Arabia has always been limited. In his first foreign-policy commentary of note, that 2002 speech at the antiwar rally in Chicago, he said, “You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East—the Saudis and the Egyptians—stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality.” In the White House these days, one occasionally hears Obama’s National Security Council officials pointedly reminding visitors that the large majority of 9/11 hijackers were not Iranian, but Saudi—and Obama himself rails against Saudi Arabia’s state-sanctioned misogyny, arguing in private that “a country cannot function in the modern world when it is repressing half of its population.” In meetings with foreign leaders, Obama has said, “You can gauge the success of a society by how it treats its women.”

Saudi Arabia is a country that finds itself balancing its own short-term political interests against those of the United States, leading to a relationship in which neither partner really seems to agree about that much beyond the fact that they probably need one another.

Strange bedfellows.

Strange bedfellows.

In some respects, Pilgrims suggests that this strained and tense relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia recalls the relationship between the colonists and the conspirators. After all, the colonists had drawn the conspirators into an arrangement that the conspirators frequently attempted to avert or undermine. One of the big recurring ideas of The X-Files is the sense that impossibly large conspiracies are inherently unmanageable and that they inevitably collapse once interests begin to compete.

In that respect, Pilgrims recalls the core themes of Patient X and The Red and the Black. In that episode, it was gradually revealed that neither the colonists nor the conspirators were homogenous entities. Some of the conspirators – like Alex Krycek, Marita Covarrubias, and the Well-Manicured Man – were actively plotting against their allies. At the same time, the colonists were embroiled in a war among the stars involving faceless rebels. Joe Harris returns to the idea of this interstellar war in The Season 11 Christmas Special.

All fired up.

All fired up.

Within Pilgrims, the mysterious Sheltem is positioned as an entity completely disengaged from the concept of colonisation or conspiracy or enslavement. This alien is not an essential part of the conspiracy against mankind. This alien is not part of a sinister cover-up. This alien does not represent its species. Sheltem just wants to go home, to break away from its fellow aliens and to forge its own course. Pilgrims reinforces the idea that the colonists are not a homogenous collective, and that chaos and divergence are universal constants.

This is in some ways a logical extension of the cynicism that The X-Files has towards government and authority. Despite the somewhat pessimistic subject matter, there is something inherently optimistic in how The X-Files approaches ideas like individuality and self-determination. According to The X-Files, these sorts of conspiracies and plots are always undermined by decisions of individuals and the fact that people are people first and foremost. The Cigarette-Smoking Man is still a man, with all the weaknesses and flaws of a man.

Old friends.

Old friends.

For writer Joe Harris, this was an important theme to tackle during his run on the book:

We’ll also deal with the idea that not all the aliens are bad, as has been touched on in the past. There’s been this idea that there are rebels seeking to thwart the plans to recolonize the Earth. Some of the things that Mulder and Scully discover as the black oil is returned to the mythology is that some of the would-be alien colonists are not as advertised. Some of them just want to go home after many, many millennia buried under the Earth.

Indeed, this theme of self-determination does come up again towards the climax of his run, particular in Endgames.

"It's Super-- wait, I forgot we're with IDW."

“It’s Super– wait, I forgot we’re with IDW.”

While this was always a recurring theme of The X-Files, it feels important that Pilgrims returns to that idea during the War on Terror. Unlike during the Cold War, the War on Terror is not a monolithic conflict with a clear “us” and a distinct “them.” France might not align readily with the United States invasion of Iraq, but it is still a target. There are no clear “good guys” and “bad guys” in the Syrian Civil War. Russia and the United States might agree that they need to defeat ISIS, but that does not make them true allies.

Even over the course of The X-Files: Season 10 and The X-Files: Season 11, there is a recurring sense that not everything is as it appears to be and that not every character’s motivations can be neatly summarised as “good” or “bad.” There are admittedly moments when Harris fumbles the ball on this point, particularly with the reintroduction of the faceless rebels in The Season 11 Christmas Special, but it is a theme that feels a lot more timely and relevant in the context of the twenty-first century.

Burning man.

Burning man.

One of the big challenges facing Joe Harris in writing The X-Files: Season 10 and The X-Files: Season 11 is the question of how best to explore the differences between the world as it existed during the original run of the show and the world as it exists now. Harris was cognisant of the challenges:

This idea that there is a conspiracy within the government means something a little different in the 21st century. Now its all about who owns the government, who’s wiring profit out of it, who does it really serve and work for? In a post citizens united world where we have corporations who own everything and the NSA operating without restraint. We conduct warfare by remote control. It brings the stuff that is paranoid about the X-Files into this brand new spectrum. The concept updates itself pretty well. I don’t want to be retro. I want to spin the story into something that feels really current.

Truth be told, Harris doesn’t always integrate those ideas smoothly. Casting Mulder as Edward Snowden at the end of Elders is a great idea in theory, but the execution is somewhat clunky. Having the Lone Gunmen freelance for the government in Believers feels like a betrayal of their characters.

Scarfing out a place for itself.

Scarfing out a place for itself.

However, Harris does a much better job at emphasising themes that resonate with the contemporary world. Having Gibson Praise establish the heart of his new conspiracy in Guantimo Bay in Elders is a clever touch, tying back to the Cigarette-Smoking Man’s history with the Bay of Pigs suggested in Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man and shown in More Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man. Similarly, while Pilgrims doesn’t do much with its Saudi Arabian setting or its “black-oil-as-regular-oil” concept, these suggest and imply a wealth of juicy themes and ideas.

At the same time, Pilgrims continues to engage with the questions of identity and legitimacy that haunt a lot of The X-Files: Season 1o. The comic is still trying to figure out its place in the larger scheme of The X-Files, as the franchise inches closer and closer towards television. There is a sense that the comic is living on borrowed time and existing in a continuity lacuna that could easily be erased the moment that Chris Carter sits down at a computer and types the words “Fade In” on an episode or film.

Oil's well that ends well...

Oil’s well that ends well…

Negotiations that would lead to the revival were already taking place behind the scenes. There was still some ambiguity about the form that the revival would take, but it was clear that Chris Carter was hoping to work with his creations again. In interviews, Harris acknowledged the awkward position in which this put Season 1o:

It’s a delicate dance. I’ll be honest with you, we’re trying to leave room for Chris Carter to tell the story he really wants to tell with regard to the invasion and the next chapter involving Scully’s son William. So I would say, “Not exactly.” However, I would hope we wouldn’t continue to evade it, either. It’s really a careful orchestration when you’re in our position. We don’t want to step on any ground Chris Carter might want to explore in a potential third X-Files movie, not that I have any inside info on where that project stands or what it would contain. I just know that there is ground he really wants to cover. So we’re trying to leave a bit of a wide berth.

This is perfectly fair. However, given the emphasis that Believers had put on the importance of William to Mulder and Scully, it does create a jarring sense of discontinuity when the comics are read in quick succession. The Acolytes and their pursuit of William all but disappears from the story, because those toys no longer belong to the comic.

Continuity error!

Continuity error!

Pilgrims acknowledges this obliquely, conceding that the comic book mythology now considers William to be out of bounds. As Scully drives Sheltem towards Skyland Mountain, she asks, “William… what do you know about my son, William?” Sheltem disappears instantly, making it clear Scully will not be getting an answer. Later, Mulder acknowledges that Sheltem simply told Mulder that William was “okay.” He explains, “I don’t think he knows where William is. I don’t think any of them do.” William is effectively off the board.

This idea of discontinuity ripples through the stories in other ways. Various characters in Pilgrim are presented as displaced or ethereal, characters whose very existence is open to question and who could easily be erased or fundamentally altered or forgotten in the blink of an eye. “Those who came before us, like the majority who followed, came to prepare,” Sheltem reflects. “To colonise. To conquer. But we had come seeking freedom, and fresh start upon a new world. Only to find ourselves lost. Hunted. Forsaken.”

"You know, you really think they'd have rebranded by now."

“You know, you really think they’d have rebranded by now. They can’t be getting good Yelp! reviews.”

In some ways, Sheltem seems to speak for the comic book itself. The book was originally intended to serve as the “in continuity” continuation of the classic series, only to finds its place in the canon rendered uncertain by behind-the-scenes developments. As a result, the comic perhaps felt abandoned and neglected. “I am lost here, on this world and in this time,” Sheltem confesses, “forsaken as my brothers before me.” The comic repeatedly identifies Sheltem and his people as “the forsaken ones”, perhaps acknowledgin the place they hold in continuity.

The title Pilgrims may be intended to evoke the parallels between Sheltem’s people and the European settlers. After all, the colonisation of North America is a recurring theme of The X-Files, and so it seems entirely appropriate for Pilgrims to play with that idea. Although the reality is somewhat more complicated, the standard historical narrative of those early European settlers casts them as pilgrims journeying in search of a world where they might exist free from persecution.

Downward spiral.

Downward spiral.

Sheltem has a similar objective. Like the pilgrims of legend, Sheltem and his people are simply looking for a place where they can be. However, the metaphor suggests that they share a goal with the comic as a whole. “This story is ours alone,” boasts Sheltem, and he might be speaking for the comic again. Season 10 may not be the continuation of The X-Files, but it can be a continuation of The X-Files. That said, the five-parter ends with all of these abherations attacked and destroyed, usurpers burnt by the “proper” colonists. (“Purity” and canonicity, perhaps.)

Similarly, Alex Krycek is presented as a figure of discontinuity, albeit one who exists quite distinct from the pawns employed by Gibson Praise. Krycek himself seems to speak for the franchise as a whole, disorientated and forced to integrate seemingly conflicting possibilities. “You’re not the one who’s apparently supposed to be dead right now, or over a decade out of time!” he yells at Scully at one point, although his own state reflects that of The X-Files as a whole. It is worth noting that Pilgrims is arguably more sympathetic to Krycek than the show ever was.

White out.

White out.

Drawing on imagery and themes associated with the show, Harris ties this question of discontinuity to the importance of memory and the possibility of lost time. The X-Files was fascinated with the idea of lost time, dating back to The Pilot and emphasised in the two nine-minute gaps in Tempus Fugit and Max that correspond to the time lost on the Watergate tapes. Harris returns to the question of lost time in Pilgrims, a thread that interested him:

Other times, I find myself shuttling through the series… different scenes I wanted to re-visit, episodes I wanted to re-familiarize myself with, etc., and, particularly when reviewing the Mytharc episodes, I’ll find little elements and things that either weren’t fully explored, or left dangling, and I’ll add them to my notes and try to revisit those later on.

In our Pilgrims arc back in Season 10, I revisited the idea of ‘time loss’ involving stopwatches and proximity to alien spaceships as first introduced in an early season episode, when the entire conspiracy was new and Mulder was just understanding it.

This works very well as a metaphor for The X-Files: Season 10 as a whole. Although the series had been launched as the “in continuity” continuation of the original nine-season run, it was soon to be erased and forgotten by the mere existence of My Struggle I. It would all be lost time. Harris is very aware of this fact, and very shrewdly ties the issue of comic book continuity back to the show’s theme of memory. He does something similar at the end of Endgames.

Time's up.

Time’s up.

(As an aside, Pilgrims seems very aware of its existence as a comic book. The chopper that abducts Krycek is given the code name “blackbird”, in what seems to be a nod to the stealth jet that appears in Uncanny X-Men. At one point, the Cigarette-Smoking Man remarks to Gibson Praise, “I’d imagine it must be lonely for a man such as yourself. All the world on puppet strings, but only he can see them.” It is an allusion to one of the most famous quotes from Watchmen, perhaps the most famous comic book ever published.)

Krycek talks about the difficulty of piecing his identity together due to his fragmented memory. It is the same problem that haunts the Cigarette-Smoking Man. Discovering that Krycek recalls nothing after the events of Apocrypha, the Cigarette-Smoking Man wryly muses, “And here I thought my memories were incomplete.” Krycek responds, pointedly, “You’re not quite yourself either, are you?” Of course, without the thread of memory that provides internal continuity, how could anybody be themselves?

Krycek must feel sick.

Krycek must feel sick.

This set-up affords Harris the opportunity for some cheeky meta-commentary. Asked to explain his discontinuity, Alex answers, “1013.” It is a rare acknowledgement of that recurring (and significant) number in dialogue. The date is Chris Carter’s birthday, and so is the name of his production company. It is also seeded throughout the show’s run. It appeared in Apocrypha as the number of the launch silo housing the space ship and in which Alex Krycek found himself abandoned. As such, in a very literal sense, Krycek finds himself unable to ever escape Ten Thirteen.

It is perhaps an acknowledgement of the fact that Joe Harris will never materially own these characters and that he will never be afforded the opportunity to tell a real story featuring them. The best that Joe Harris can do is to borrow them from Ten Thirteen. “That’s where they’re taking you from, isn’t it, Alex?” the Cigarette-Smoking Man wonders, and he is correct. Krycek (and all the other characters) have been taken from Ten Thirteen. When their role in this story is finished, they will go back to Ten Thirteen. Just like Krycek does, repeatedly, in Pilgrims.

The ooze is loose.

The ooze is loose.

Perhaps reflecting the uncertainty of his existence, Pilgrims returns repeatedly to the idea that Krycek is dreaming rather than remembering. “He’s displaying a recurring loop in his delta wave activity,” Byers observes while studying the print out. “It’s like he’s dreaming while he’s awake.” When Gibson observes that Krycek seems to be dremaing his way through the world, Krycek angrily and immediately responds, “A nightmare is what it is!” Nevertheless, Pilgrims puts a great deal of emphasis on how Krycek perceives the world and his relationship to it.

Much like changing the word “memoirs” to “musing”, transitioning from “memories” to “dreams” suggests an elasticity or fungibility that speaks to the strange place that Season 10 holds in the larger X-Files canon. Is it all a memory? Is it a dream? Is there a distinction to be made between those two ideas, particularly in the world of fiction? They are, after all, just two competing ways of interpreting reality. Pilgrims leaves the question to the reader to answer, however it seems surprisingly sympathetic to Krycek.

"Don't Krycek for me, I'm already discontinuity.."

“Don’t Krycek for me, I’m already discontinuity..”

In the end, Krycek is allowed to escape. As the colonists burn through “the forsaken ones”, Krycek has a moment of revelation. “I’m free, aren’t I…?” he wonders. And he makes a run for it. This version of Krycek never appears again. Given that the Season 1o and the Season 11 continuity has been reset, it seems highly unlikely that he will ever appear again. In many ways, this version of Krycek is a loose end and a dangling plot thread that escapes the story and never looks back. He is free of continuity, in a very literal sense.

In a way, this reflects the approach that the show has taken towards its characters in the past. The X-Files seems to candidly acknowledge that its characters will enjoy a rich life beyond the canon. In some ways, Milagro could be read as Chris Carter surrendering his control of Scully and accepting that the character has a life beyond what her creator has chosen to give her. In Audrey Pauley, it is suggested that fan pursuits serve to keep a television show and its characters alive even if they exist outside the recognised canon of the series.

It's just not nostalgia without shirtless Skinner.

It’s just not nostalgia without shirtless Skinner.

Krycek is free. Krycek gets his happy ending, ignoring canon and continuity. It is a powerful ending.

You might be interested in our reviews of IDW’s “season 10” of The X-Files:

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