X-Files Flashback: ‘The Truth’

The Truth

Season 9, Episodes 19 & 20
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Chris Carter

And so “The Truth” has come to this.

After 201 days of reviewing every single episode of The X-Files, the series comes to end with an hour dedicated to the trial of Fox Mulder. Is it a terribly compelling way to end a 9-year series? Not especially. Honestly, I half-heartedly expected some sort of grand showdown between Mulder and team versus the crop of super soldiers on which the ninth season has obsessed. Instead, we’re given A Few Good MenX-Files style. Attempts are made at the end of the episode to bring home nine years of investment in the series. But, in the end, Chris Carter makes the ultimate fan service sacrifice – a cuddly moment between Dana Scully and Fox Mulder.

It’s what everyone wants, right?

“The Truth” begins with Mulder gaining entry into a top-secret military institution. There, he uncovers information identifying December 22, 2012, as the end of the world. Sure, it’s the end of the Mayan calendar, but it also correlates to the day the aliens colonize the Earth. After discovering the information, Mulder is attacked by Knowle Rohrer but is able to fling him over a railing onto high voltage wires, supposedly electrocuting him. As Mulder knows too much by this point, the government puts him on trial for murder and makes A.D. Skinner his defense attorney. The better part of an hour is spent parading critical characters to the series’s mythology in and out of the makeshift courtroom. Scully. Marita Covarrubias. Jeffrey Spender. Gibson Praise. They all have a portion of the story to relay in defense of Mulder. Granted, Mulder isn’t truly interested in acquitting himself of murder. He’s far more interested in exposing “the truth,” of course.

When Scully (with the aid of Tier 2 support Doggett and Reyes) discovers Knowle Rohrer is not dead, the evidence is barred from court. Mulder is convicted of murder and sentenced to die via lethal injection. Skinner and Doggett are they inexplicably able to break Mulder out of the government facility in which he is captive. Even Alvin Kersh gets in on the action. Mulder and Scully then break south, headed for a wise man in Anasazi, ancient Indian ruins filled with magnetite. The “wise man,” however, is revealed to be the Smoking Man who should be branded the Energizer Bunny of the series. He tells Scully the truth behind the pending alien colonization, something Mulder from which Mulder wanted to shield her. Outside, Reyes and Doggett arrive, armed with the knowledge that the government knows Mulder’s location and intends to kill him. Rohrer appears but quickly dies when he comes in close contact with the magnetite. As choppers approach, the four agents flee the scene, splitting up.

The government lays waste to the ruins, supposedly killing the Smoking Man in the process. It would be difficult to imagine otherwise as we are given a scene showing the heat of the missile effectively flaying Smoking Man’s skin. Thinking Mulder dead, the government leaves the ruins. Mulder and Scully, however, are holed up in a hotel in Roswell. There, they languidly lounge, reviewing the events of the series finale. As they embrace, Mulder acknowledges the pending alien colonization but admits he has hope something will stop it.

I will admit that I consider the concept of putting your most valuable character on trial for his/her actions to be the most whored television conceit in the history of television. To say it’s a cliche is to say the mythology episodes are the weakest aspects of the series. Yet, there it is. This is how Chris Carter chose to end the series. As he did with the original alien mythology, Carter spends a lot of time explaining away the overall mythology of the series and the purpose of the super soldiers. By this point, I’m fairly convinced that either people already understood it or no one cared. It’s strange to spend my final hours with The X-Files original run on such an obvious and didactic episode. Still, it’s not without its entertainment values. I just wish someone had shouted “You can’t handle the truth!!!”

So, what do I make of The X-Files after seeing every episode. Well, in a way, my understanding and appreciation of the series is the same going out of it as it was coming into it. “Home” is still the best episode of the series. Yes, it’s the most disturbing and darkest hour of television you’ll likely see. But it excels at combining an unusual story (incest) with a whimsical setting and pop cultural allusions (Mayberry) as well as theming meaningful to the overall arc of the series (motherhood). That was the first and only episode I’d ever seen, and it remains my favorite to this day. I’m well on the record being in appreciation of the “monsters of the week” stories over the famed mythology episodes. I doubt I’m alone in that. As The X-Files gears up for its return Sunday night, it’s curious that Carter chose a mythology outing to begin the limited series. Early reactions have been extremely mixed, although rumor has it great “monsters of the week” episodes are coming.

Ultimately, what The X-Files does for pop culture in general is lay bare the mistrust in our government. Starting with the assassination of JFK through 9/11 and Edward Snowden, popular opinion of the government and its supposedly covert activities are not positive. In a way, The X-Files foreshadowed the currently rampant anti-government factions that are becoming increasingly popular. You can easily imagine that many consider themselves a Fox Mulder-type, a seeker of truth fighting Big Government and its dark secrets. Yet, what The X-Files heavily invested in that many have forgotten is the logic and clear-headedness of Dana Scully, the balancing agent against Mulder’s wild-eyed conspiracies. That balance is what makes The X-Files soar as a long-lasting legacy. Sure, toward the end, Scully became just as conspiratorial as Mulder. My opinion there is that is a symptom of a show in the decline, betraying what it so carefully set out to be.

Am I glad I watched all 201 episodes of The X-Files. Yes, I do think it was a worthy activity that brought me many great hours of television. To me, the series isn’t about aliens or conspiracies so much as it is about being human and the fight to retain your humanity. That is as universal a theme as one could possibly reach.

Now, am I glad it’s over. Oh god yes. So. Glad.

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