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The X-Files: Beautiful and Grotesque. How It All Went Wrong.

I'm going to blame this rant on David Duchovny. I'm going to blame it on him because he has teased the Phile in me with the press releases and interviews about his new show, Californication. It's his fault, you know, that I even bothered re-watching some X-Files episodes. You don't have to read this rant. You don't have to respond. It's just something I need to do so I can put it back where it belongs---out of my mind. I think the fact that he teased that the second X-Files film would begin shooting in November is what really got me, even though I know that he's teased before about a second film---just not this specifically with a filming date and a possible release (this time in the summer of 2008). I know FOX hasn't said a word either way about it, but David certainly has---right down to the fact that he should have gotten the script shortly after doing the interview. And that's probably why I sat down and started to immerse myself in the train wreck that became the X-Files all over again. Enter this rant at your own risk.

The X-Files was my first fandom. It was the first show that really captured me, made me follow it, and join others who did the same. It was the first real fandom love I've ever had, and nothing, NOTHING, not even Inuyasha compares. Back when it was still on the air, right up until the bitter end, I would schedule my Sunday nights around it. When Sunday, eight o'clock at night rolled around, I didn't want ANYONE talking to me. I would put my tape in the VCR, hit record, and for a whole hour I would be focused on nothing else. And then I would talk with those who watched---and towards the end we would bemoan the mess that it had become---collectively wallowing in the shared bitterness. I don't think I've ever seen a fandom as deeply divided or as passionate. There's nothing close to it. Even now, it stirs things in me that I had almost forgotten, proving that if a second movie were to ever be made, the Philes of the world would turn back time and be right back in the thick of it as they were when the show was on the air.

There were far more divisions in the fandom than anyone can imagine. Shippers, NoRomos, IntelliFiniShippers, DarksideIntelliFiniShippers, Mulderists, Scullyists, Classicists, Next-Generation (Doggett/Reyes), the list goes on and on. And each faction had its own take on the show. I was a IntelliFiniShipper, if you're curious. I was one that believed that Mulder and Scully should be together in the end, and I suppose that last moment in the finale kinda sorta gave us that, but the problem is that it's so tainted by so much that happened that it wasn't at all fulfilling. By the time we saw those last five minutes, the show had been stripped of its integrity that it was just a bittersweet moment that left us wondering what happens next. There wasn't any real resolution to anything, and we still haven't gotten it. I remember the fandom exploding; the wars were endless, for about six months after the end between so many factions. First the show got ugly, and then the fandom did.

Having watched half of the first season, I am astounded by how beautiful it was. The writing was impeccable. It was riveting and magical. It's like nothing else on TV before or since. I found myself unable to stop a tape once I started, and even with the shadow of the end hanging over my head, I found myself falling in love all over again. Of course, the end still ruined it, and I still have this disgusting, bitter taste in my mouth that I don't think will ever go away when I look at the show. So, where did it go wrong? Where does one begin?

Chris Carter created one of the most memorable characters of the 1990s. I don't think on American television right now there is a character as intense or as driven as Fox Mulder was. There isn't any single character I can think of on American television that NEEDS something as badly as he did. The show wasn't a hit because it focused on aliens and paranormal phenomenon. It was a success because the chemistry of the characters was so exciting, because the story was so human in its nature, and because you couldn't stop yourself from rooting for a character as passionate as Mulder. In so many ways, the viewer WAS Fox Mulder; we NEEDED the same thing: the answers for his sister. The early revelations about what he believed about his sister are so powerful because of his desperation, and I have to say that I'm envious of Chris Carter for making a character that is so complex and captivating. He could have done anything he wanted, gone anywhere with it---except where he did after the first movie----and it would have been brilliant. He just made so many fundamental mistakes along the way that it got so muddied, so screwed up that the beauty of it became grotesque.

The first four seasons are absolutely mesmerizing. They capture the viewer, suck them in, and you can't help but allow yourself to go down the rabbit hole. He had only planned on five seasons when he began, and when FOX, in their greed to bleed the show of its every last dollar, offered an extension, he took it without knowing where to go with it. I almost have to say that rather than continuing with the show after the fifth or sixth season on the small screen, they ought to have taken it right to the big screen and turned it into a movie franchise. It would have prevented Chris Carter's tendency to push the panic button and flounder his way through to the end in a story he'd lost control over years ago. He might have been able to take some time to hammer out details and satisfy the intelligent viewers he instead chose to insult.

So, you ask, where is my proof that he screwed up? Let's start with the episode, "Closure," where Mulder supposedly says goodbye to Samantha. He has learned that Samantha had been sold by his "father" to the aliens who wished to colonize this planet as collateral, had been returned to earth about 1979, and tested on until her death in 1987. He has learned that his mother slept with his greatest enemy, the Cigarette Smoking Man, otherwise known as C. G. B. Spender, who is therefore his real father. He learns that he has a half-brother named Jeffrey Spender, who incidentally grew up with Samantha at an unknown compound and never told Mulder when he first met him at least two to three seasons previous. Before then, Jeffrey Spender was simply the agent assigned to the X-Files to keep Mulder out after he and Scully had been reassigned for a brief time. He was just another obstacle put in place to thwart Mulder's search, nothing more, nothing less, and when it came out that he was some long lost half-brother, it got confusing.  It's all just dumped on us, and instead of getting angry as Mulder's prone to do in situations concerning his sister's disappearance, he's instead tranquil and walks around in a field filled with the spirits of the dead, where he supposedly meets his sister's dead spirit and says goodbye. The whole thing isn't bad in theory, but on the other hand it's nothing but a cop-out that destroys everything that we'd been led to believe up until that point. It's the easy route, and it's such a mess that we're still scratching our heads over it.

The mistakes in that single episode alone exemplify the very reason the show imploded in the end. Chris Carter lost focus on the very nature of the show. He forgot what it was about. He was too busy trying to show off with shock and awe that he forgot the truth of the matter. The truth was never "out there" as the show's opening catchphrase implied. It was always about Mulder's very human need for answers and his sister. When he sat down to create the show, Chris Carter just never managed to figure out just what it WAS that happened to Samantha. And when he got to the episode Closure, it was simply to tie up that major loose end because the star of the show was leaving in the next season. He HAD to get this most crucial story wrapped up before Mulder's departure to the space ship. He just didn't know what to do or how to figure it out, so he just made a cop-out ending of Mulder saying goodbye. Touching in a way, but so anti-everything we had followed up until that point.

Why have a government conspiracy continue through the whole entire 90s when the girl/woman in question had been dead since before Mulder stumbled across the X-Files in the first place? If she had died in 1987, and Mulder hadn't gotten to open the X-Files until about, what, 1992, 93 when we first meet him, why not just have someone tell him the truth before he exposed all the other secrets they were hiding? He would have had no reason to dig up all the things they were hiding if he had known before he ever begun. Rather, I'd like to think their little cop-out, if we ever get the fabled movie 2 and beyond, that this was yet another ruse, another lie, another mis-direction and that deep down he's still searching for the little girl he saw get abducted when he was 12. Then again, just telling him, showing him what they did in "Closure" would have just made him more determined, which is why I never believed it. He wanted real answers too badly to believe a diary left behind by Samantha supposedly, and to hear it from an agent that he mistrusted and had been lied to before, well, it just doesn't make ANY sense. The fact that he just seemed to let it go after all this time was and is just too easy. Mulder should have been furious, livid, enraged. He ought to have been ready to search all the more. The whole story seems to be too simplistic, considering all the trouble he went through to discover it. And yet, the ever suspicious Mulder takes it as truth. It just doesn't add up.

What else went wrong? In a few words, just about everything. After the fifth season or so, Chris Carter didn't have any real direction, and he'd bring so much stuff up in the mytharc episodes that went unanswered. Each episode asked a new set of questions without really answering the previous set. He was trying to pull it into too many different directions, trying to throw too many things in that didn't really have any place. It wasn't enough to have an alien race conspiring with a select few in the American government to colonize the Earth. He needed to have a rebel alien group combating the alien colonizing race. That muddied the waters and confused so many. It also never really got resolved in a satisfying manner, either. We were already trying to wrap our brains around the idea of aliens abducting individuals to either make them into what is termed an "Alien Human Hybrid" or be left simply to die of cancer. We were trying to piece together all of the first alien's motivations that throwing in a second race, without any real direction, just made it messier.

And then there was the departure of Fox Mulder, its main character, its main driving force. There are reasons Duchovny left, mostly concerning the royalities dispute. As much trouble as Carter was in before to figure out this story, he was in even more now. So he threw in Agent John Doggett, who on his own isn't half bad of a character, but really wasn't effectively used. To make it even worse, he threw in Agent Monica Reyes, who is quite possibly the most extraneous character OF the X-Files. Her purpose wasn't clearly defined. She was brought into protect a pregnant Scully---which in itself is ridiculous. Scully could take care of herself on her own, and most certainly didn't need Reyes hovering. At least Doggett had a purpose---he was there to find Mulder after his disappearance. He was earnest about his goal, even if the government most likely put him there to prevent that very thing. Reyes was just there to balance the sexes on the show as far as I can tell. You brought in a male character, so therefore you must bring in a female.

It only got muddier from there. The baby storyline was so badly presented, so badly timed, and so badly done that it just angered Philes. We didn't have any clear, cut and dried evidence that this child was a creation of aliens OR if Mulder and Scully were the parents. The closer we got to the series end, the more obvious they tried to make it seem that it was indeed Mulder and Scully's son, which makes what happened with him all the more frustrating. And we knew that Scully wanted nothing more than a child, especially since she lost Emily in the fifth season, so when she just gave up William it baffled us Philes. Not only was he a miracle child, (Scully was rendered barren up until this happened), he also had strange abilities that were never explained. The fact that Scully simply gives the boy up for adoption is just ludicrous. It wouldn't protect the child in the long run, not if the government and aliens kept such close tabs on what the X-Files division and its agents did. If anything, it made certain that William would be hunted down and killed, if the story had ever progressed that far. William was a plot device, and a bad one. He should have been saved for a future film, or at the very least the very, very end of the series to set up the future film franchise.

Then there were the deaths of several key characters---some were harder to swallow than others. The Lone Gunmen were killed off for no reason. Absolutely none. Their spinoff series didn't do as well as had been hoped, and to finish what couldn't be done in their own show (which makes me wonder just WHAT would have happened in their series even more), they were simply killed off. It was pointless, and the fandom exploded in fury after it happened. because it was so unnecessary. The Lone Gunmen weren't a central focus of the show, certainly, but they were beloved by the fanbase. It was like Carter wanted to slap us in the face and insult us directly by doing in the quirky trio of conspiracy theory writers/computer hackers.

The death that I'm still furious about and haven't forgiven Chris Carter the most for, however, is Alex Krycek. Krycek was quite possibly Mulder's doppelganger in every way possible---save the having only one arm part, I suppose. He wanted to find the truth as badly as Mulder did, he just went about it a different way. Instead of staying on the outside, trying to unravel the Syndicate and its plots with the aliens, Krycek readily went into the belly of the beast to discover it first hand, to counter it from the inside, and to destroy it. While the Rebel Aliens were a bad idea in some ways, it was Krycek who worked with them in an attempt to take down the Syndicate and the other aliens. It was Krycek who referred to Mulder as brother---not by blood, but in spirit. And they were. They didn't always get along or work on the same side, but in so many ways they had the same desire.

Sure, it wasn't odd for Krycek to attempt killing Mulder at various times through out the series. He had tried several times, and it had been him to kill Mulder's step-father, but the final attempt in Season 8, when Mulder finally returned, was too much. The motivations were familiar, his reasoning in character, but the timing didn't make any sense. Why kill Mulder for getting too close now? Why be so insistent, knowing that Mulder's the only one who can probably eliminate the CSM----a feat that Krycek never succeeded, but not for lack of trying. He wanted the same thing as Mulder, and had helped him out several times. Double crossing at this point wasn't productive to the storyline. By then, Mulder had become an abductee, and if you follow the episode DeadAlive, dead and now revived, so what was there really left to protect for Krycek? All the secrets were already revealed to Mulder by then, and CSM wasn't worthy to protect in the first place. Besides, his insistence that killing Mulder will somehow save the world makes even less sense. Just because Mulder is out of the picture doesn't mean the aliens or the government would have stopped their efforts in colonizing and cover-up.

But the worst part of all has to be who kills Krycek. An Alien Bounty Hunter would have been far more satisfying, or logical, than A.D. Walter Skinner. Skinner shoots Krycek before he can fire at Mulder. It should have stopped at the arm. He then blatantly, and in cold blood, fires right between the eyes, killing Krycek in a way that is just too shocking, too over the top. Mulder may not have gotten along with Krycek, but his reaction to the man's death was too nonchalant. They had been through too much by then, and their twisted love-hate relationship should have garnered a more emotional response from Mulder. He just asks Skinner to tell Doggett he wants a report and if he's with him. It's as if a man wasn't just shot to death in front of him. The whole thing is just too extreme and too out of control to make much sense to the show. It's a prime example of just HOW the show imploded towards the end.

What's even worse is the final confrontation between Mulder and his arch enemy, CSM. Here we are given an arbitrary date of the alien invasion: December 22, 2012. It is another question, another plot raised that we will never see reach culmination, and the fact that it comes from the CSM's lips is rather anti-climatic. CSM professes that he has been protecting Mulder all this time, waiting for him to be broken so that he could enjoy the ruin of Mulder all the more. It's preposterous at best, and insulting at its worst. The CSM's goals were to protect his secrets, to work with the aliens to save his own ass from being colonized, and to, in a twisted way, find a way to buy enough time to defeat the colonizing aliens. Mulder was an obstacle to those those goals, the way he was trying to expose the Project, which CSM protected without question and defended without hesitation. To make it some sick game of revenge is empty and pointless, especially considering the fact that Mulder is his son. It's all rather unfulfilling that the X-Files greatest villain would be rendered so petty in the end.

We learn that Mulder has discovered the truth and is now refusing to expose it to the world, to testify about what he has seen and learned. This is quite possibly the worst reversal, even more so than when he simply let go of Samantha. Mulder has done everything and anything, including putting his own life on the line, to learn and expose the truth. As badly as he wanted his sister and answers for her, he wanted the truth about aliens and the government's involvement, if not for the ties to his sister's disappearance, but for the truth itself. No matter how bad, or shocking, Mulder would always reveal it, at least to Scully if not to others. He wouldn't have hidden from it, nor would have he tried to deny it. It's a shame that his character was so warped in those last two seasons, when we saw him for those briefest of moments.

What was even more irritating, especially to the NoRomos and the IntelliFiniShippers, was the times when Scully would write emails to a Mulder in hiding. The letters were so anti-Scully, anti their relationship, and just so sappy that we couldn't believe they were being written at all. And just when did he start calling her Dana? And why on earth would she EVER sign her letters with something as stupid as "Forever yours, Dana." It was like a soap opera took over the show. Their relationship was so beautiful and adult, and while we hadn't seen open romance between them, we knew it was there all along, so why would they change their relationship and write such trite to each other? It was just sickening. It was like a sick joke, and we were waiting for the punch line or one of Mulder's quips to save us from the saccharine.

Quite possibly, though, the stupidest storyline in the history of the X-Files HAS to be the super soldiers. They're extra, stupid, pointless, worthless, and have no real purpose. They were just there, and what's even worse is the fact that they cast Xena, Warrior Princess, to play one of these stupid things. They're supposed to be unkillable, unstoppable, and out to destroy anyone trying to stop the government from whatever it is. You know what, I don't even know WHAT the hell they were supposed to be really doing---were they supposed to be out to get William? Were they supposed to stop Scully from finding Mulder? No one really can tell or knows. The show would have benefited if they had never, EVER been included. .. EVER.  Considering we already had Alien Bounty Hunters, who are only vulnerable with a stiletto to the back of the neck, why did we need super soldiers running around again?

And then it gets worse. The finale was so insulting, so irritating, and done so poorly it was as if they just wanted to get it over with and call it good enough. The fact that Fox Mulder is returned from the space ship---or government testing facility, who can be absolutely, entirely 100% certain, and breaks into a government facility again later on to only get caught and then put on trial ala-military style for a murder he didn't commit (he's accused of killing a man, who by the way, just happens to be a super soldier) is just the final blow. We hear in this trial all the things that have happened in the series up until the very moment of the trial. Those of us who watched from the pilot to "The Truth" already KNEW all of this. It was like hearing a long book report from a fourth grader. Every single major event in the mythology was retold, much to our abject horror. It didn't really even tie anything up. They told us what we knew, dug up some characters we hadn't seen in ages, and basically treated us like idiots with the whole thing.

The last five minutes took us full circle, back to the very beginning of the series, and the two scenes could not be any more different. The first scene is touching, refreshing, and beautiful as we see them just feeling each other out, getting to know one another. We see Scully coax Mulder out of his shell, and hear about his sister in a quiet, intimate conversation. In the final scene we are reminded of that, but it is a mess, and while it would have been befitting if done any other way, it just comes off as flat.

Mulder and Scully have escaped after Mulder's guilty verdict, are on the run, and are staying in a hotel room, not unlike the one they stayed in back in the pilot. They start to talk about what next, and Mulder expresses that he is a guilty man, that he has failed in everything, and that there is likely no hope. Scully refutes these claims. Mulder admits that he wants to believe that if he just listens to the spirits of the dead, that even if they're (he and Scully) powerless now, maybe they'll be able to do something, that they can change the future, and Scully agrees. They then cuddle, obviously like lovers, and the screen fades to black. It'd be a much more satisfying end if the mess that preceded it had been better planned and had made some semblance at keeping track of itself.

It's just so astounding to me that a story that was so beautiful and enchanting could turn so incredibly sour. I want to tell Chris Carter how he screwed up, how he could have fixed it, and how he can still fix it if he'd ever figure out how to write a damn movie and get it made. The rumors, however, indicate it'll be a MOTW variety, which will be difficult given the ending of the series. Who will be in it? Just Mulder and Scully, or will they include Doggett? When will it take place? Before or after Mulder's abduction? So many questions. It'll be hard to say if it'll even ever get made, given the fact that we haven't heard anything since Duchovny dropped his bombshell in July. Chris Carter confirmed to an entertainment magazine that he was hoping to hand the script in the near future, but wouldn't confirm if it'd ever be made into film. Much like the X-Files themselves, it seems that the truth about the second film is a bunch of smoke and mirrors, and we'll all be left hanging, yearning for a truth that will never be realized.

To me, as a writer, I'm indebted to the X-Files in many ways. I wouldn't have actively pursued it as I have if I hadn't seen the show. I saw how a character could capture the hearts and minds of so many, and I envied Carter for it. I still do. Despite the terrible mess that is the X-Files in the end, Fox Mulder can still grab someone and make them care---even now---even in reruns. He's the type of character ALL writers want to have, the one that is so intense the reader/viewer/whatever can't look away from and will follow no matter what. I think that's why what happened with the X-Files hurt so much. I think it's also why once the show went off the air and the fandom started to quiet, I never looked back and refused to watch again---until now of course. It was too hard to see again what had happened to it---and in some ways it still is.

The only thing I have to be proud of is the fact that I was part of, perhaps, one of the first online fandoms ever. Sure, the Star Trek and Star Wars fanbases had been around for far longer, but with the internet, Philes could connect as things happened, rather than years later, debate instantly, and make friendships in minutes.  It's certainly something one never forgets---even if they try. The ghost of the internet community lingers, even now, on the official board, waiting, for what we do not know. The feelings are still there, although subdued. The debates continue, albeit less heated but no less passionate. Some openly acknowledge the disaster that was the end, while others choose to remember the beginning with fondness. And yet, all the Philes that remain within the fandom all have the same unifying desire. And perhaps, if there is hope as the last five minutes of the series implies, the second movie will get made and all the bitterness of the last two seasons will be washed away---I guess we'll just have to wait and see, eh?

As they say, "The Truth Is Out There."
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Wow, Names andy btw, big fan

lol, that's one hell of a rant Fae, I loved the x file's and was too dissapointed. Hopefully this "second movie" will be created.

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