Season 5, Episode 20
Director: R.W. Goodwin
Writer: Chris Carter
The X-Files fifth season finale, “The End,” was originally supposed to have been the end of the series itself. Once freed from its television shackles, it would then ascend to an ongoing series of films, much like Star Trek. Yet, shockingly (the italics designating great sarcasm), the Fox Network decided that the series was too popular – and too profitable – to end just yet. Therefore, “The End” does indeed feel like an ending in some ways but leaves enough lose ends for the film and for the inevitable sixth (and seventh and eighth and ninth) season.
The episode begins at an international chess tournament where a Russian grandmaster faces an 11-year-old boy, Gibson. Overhead, an assassin prepares his gun, aiming at first at the Russian but refocusing on Gibson. The boy, seemingly aware of the activity, quickly shifts his body as the bullet rips into the Russian and kills him. Back at the FBI, Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens) heads up the investigation but requests that Mulder not participate. Clearly, Mulder does not oblige and joins Scully and Diana Fowley (Mimi Rogers) in the investigation. Though the investigation, they discover that Gibson can read minds, which is why he became a chess prodigy.
Meanwhile, the Smoking Man is flushed out of hiding by Alex Krycek, and he begins working with the Syndicate to deal with the boy and the now-apprehended assassin. He also reaches out to Jeffrey Spencer, eventually telling him that he is his father. The Smoking Man orchestrates the assassin’s death within his prison cell and manages to abduct Gibson, who apparently has genes that are dormant in most humans. In the end of the episode, the Smoking Man gives Gibson to the Syndicate and burns down Mulder’s office, save one file – the file belonging to Samantha Mulder. All of Mulder and Scully’s research is now gone.
While I enjoyed “The End,” it’s a difficult episode to effectively review as it is a strict exercise in plot as most mythology episodes are. There is little-to-no room for character development since writer Chris Carter fills each episode with more detail and action than should reasonably be expected. The saga surrounding Gibson is effectively introduced, but it ultimately goes nowhere. He is effectively a red herring within the episode itself – apparently a diversion to achieve the burning of the X-Files – and in the actual construct of the episode. As a result, his story is not satisfactorily resolved by the end of the episode.
Speaking of “The End,” if this episode were to serve as the end of the series, I can imagine that legions of fans would have been outraged. It feels like an ending – the burning of the X-Files is more symbolic than anything else – but, as with Gibson, it resolves nothing. It just stops. As a season cliffhanger, it’s fine. As a series ender, there would have been riots in the streets. The episode isn’t the worst of the mythology outings I’ve seen, but it’s not the best. It lives somewhere in between where plot points dominate and character development is non-existant. If you can deal with that, then you’ll likely appreciate it. For me, “The End” is a means to an end – a place that hopefully gives us more unique experiences with Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.