X-Files Flashback: ‘Existence’

Season 8, Episode 21
Director: Kim Manners
Writer: Chris Carter

The X-Files has milked Scully’s unexpected pregnancy for literally all it could possibly be worth. Not only did it top Mulder’s disappearance at the end of Season Seven with a dramatic and teary hospital bed revelation, but it also provided a major story thread that propped up much of the maligned eight season. On that, a side note… It’s amusing how, when I started this experiment, nearly everyone told me that seasons seven through nine were garbage and would be an extreme slog to get through. A funny thing happened (and maybe it’s my unwieldy optimism now that the end is in sight) but I rather liked the overall seasons thus far. Sure, they’re not classic X-Files material and they do have ups and downs, but the seasons are perfectly serviceable material. Season Nine? We shall see…

But I digress…

The final two episodes – “Essence” and “Existence” – to Season Eight should really be considered a complete whole as they work beautifully together, delivering cinematic-level action for the small screen. After nearly seven years of working on the series, noted television director Kim Manners managed to elevate many episodes beyond their sci-fi trappings. It’s a shame Manners died in 2009. I would have loved to see his influence on the upcoming reboot. Still, he leaves a fantastic legacy, and “Existence” excels thanks to his visual flair and feel for action. The script? Well… It tries very hard to engage, but it ultimately confuses more than it titillates.

We begin with the remains of super soldier Billy Miles brought in for autopsy. I say remains, but it’s really just a box of gore with a single metal vertebrae. The doctor in charge jokes about cause of death and leaves the remains behind. This being The X-Files Billy Miles manages to reconstitute himself into a fully functioning human. This event was the first major gap in logic of the episode. Meanwhile, Monica Reyes shuttles Scully out of DC south into Georgia to an abandoned town where Doggett was born. The menfolk stay back in DC where they interview both Alex Krycek and Knowle Rohrer. Rohrer fogs matters further by telling Doggett Scully’s baby was implanted during her abduction to make a perfect human super soldier. Just as Skinner has exhausted his patience with Kyrcek, Billy Miles arrives in Skinner’s office and gives Skinner a concussion in the elevator. Later, Krycek runs afoul of Mulder and Skinner (his random allegiances another logic gap of the overall series), and Skinner eventually shoots Krycek in the head, killing him.

Scully and Reyes continue to prepare for her birth in this abandoned town when a forest ranger appears, seemingly eager to assist. When Billy Miles appears in town, the forest ranger blows him away with a shot gun. How did he get there? Apparently Doggett was very specific about not providing information on their whereabouts but neglected to call her cell from a secure line. Thus, Agent Crane, the super-soldier agent, was able to determine Scully’s location thanks to help from a higher authority. Another gap in logic here as Doggett would have known to call from a secure line, not some random phone in the Bureau. At any rate, Billy Miles is not dead, and Reyes discovers that the forest ranger is actually a super soldier herself. Eventually, Reyes and Scully are surrounded by soldiers as Scully gives birth. Once that event transpires, all soldiers walk away – another gap in logic after Billy Miles had seemingly been tasked previously with killed those involved with Scully’s conception. Now, the deadly soldiers are just hanging around as amped up well-wishers.

Scully, Reyes, and Baby William are safe by the time Mulder arrives via helicopter. When he visits Scully in her apartment at the end of the episode, the Lone Gunmen are there bearing gifts (more on that later). Scully introduces Mulder to what is presumably his genetic son (but who really knows with this show), and they close the season with a hotly anticipated kiss.

Aside from Manners’ exciting direction of the episode and from the script’s holes in logic, one of the more interesting aspects of “Existence” is the correlation of Scully’s childbirth to the story of Jesus Christ’s virgin birth. Now, The X-Files has long dabbled in religious iconography, most recently with Mulder’s ties to the imagery of Jesus on the cross during his abduction. Yet, here, William’s birth is presented as a uniquely holy event thanks to three strong ties. First, even though Scully is most definitely not a virgin, she did not conceive William through physical intercourse. The baby was conceived either through in-vitro fertilization or through government intervention or through aliens – pick your poison. Second, Monica Reyes and Mulder both either see more make reference to a bright light in the sky – one that Mulder claims led him to Scully’s location. At first, I thought it was going to be a UFO, but it’s clearly intended to be a reference to the star of Bethlehem. Then, more comic, the Lone Gunman visit Scully bearing gifts in a modern twist on the three wise men. They even say something to the effect of having to see the child for themselves and subsequently reporting on it for their newsletter.

Whatever your beliefs in the episode, you can’t deny the kinetic energy and enthusiasm director Kim Manners manages to bring the well-worn material. I’ve said this before, but you can almost feel the creative team silently crying out “Let it die!” as they rally to deliver a substantial season (series?) finale only to have Fox shell out more cash for another season. I can’t say whether or not Season Nine is any count. I hear it’s not. Yet, so much of the negative buzz around a perfectly serviceable Season Eight has given me hope that, perhaps, that season isn’t as bad as I expect it to be.

Perhaps that’s the key to everything… Lowered expectations.

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