Moderator: Chief Couch Potato Kylie
Who: “The X-Files,” a cult science fiction horror drama that aired on the Fox network from 1993-2002, in 2016, and in 2018.
What: “The X-Files” revolves around FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigating so-called X-Files, i.e. marginalized, unsolved cases outside of the FBI mainstream involving paranormal and/or extraterrestrial phenomena, as well as the government conspiracy to hide the truth about those phenomena.
Agent Mulder wholeheartedly believes in the existence of aliens and the paranormal, while Scully, a skeptic, is assigned to apply scientific analysis to Mulder’s discoveries for the purpose of debunking his work and steering him back toward the FBI mainstream. Episodes consist of so-called mythology story arcs, devoted to the larger, nefarious conspiracy to cover up the existence of extraterrestrials (and their apparently hostile aims), as well as “monster of the week” episodes, i.e. standalone episodes exploring subjects of horror, science fiction, humanism, and, at times, humor.
When: Season Eleven aired from January 3 to March 21, 2018, on Fox with a total of ten episodes.
Where: The show is set primarily at FBI Headquarters (particularly in the basement) in Washington, DC, but the agents investigate X-Files all over the country and sometimes overseas and/or across international borders.
Why: Because the members of this panel, hardcore, love the The X-Files! If you don’t believe me, listen to our five-part X-Files podcast and retrospective series, the first of our “Look Back to Look Forward” series (embedded below).
How – as in How Was It?! (THOUGHTS)
When Fox decided to revive The X-Files, unofficially kicking off the wave of revival and reboot television currently dominating the airwaves and officially bringing back our two favorite agents, Mulder and Scully, and some of their allies and enemies for new episodes, the members of our CPU! panel – Nick, Sarah, Kyle, and Hilary – along with your frequently involved moderator and Chief CP, quivered with anticipation. So much so, we launched our X-Files series panel to deliver a comprehensive Retrospective covering the original series in-depth in four “Looking Back” episodes (below) as well as a fifth episode discussing the six episodes of Season 10, equally as in-depth. The first three episodes of our four-part “Looking Back” series reviewed the nine seasons of the original show. In the fourth podcast episode of CPU!’s X-Files series, our panel took our X-Files geekdom to a whole new echelon of super-fandom, as we closely examined the expanded universe (the films, graphic novels, and games) and provided our definitive top ten lists of our favorite and least favorite episodes of all time, including our favorite myth-arc and monster of the week episodes separately, in addition to what we considered to be the scariest, grossest, and funniest episodes of the series. Have you listened to them yet?
Looking Back at Seasons 1-3
Looking Back at Seasons 4-6
Looking Back at Seasons 7-9
The X-Phile Superfan Geek Edition
In this new and final (for now) podcast episode of CPU!’s ongoing X-Files panel, our panelists discuss Season Eleven Around the Water Cooler, parsing through each of the latest ten episodes, ranking them from best to worst, and dissecting how they fit in the grand X-Files scheme, as compared to the original series and to Season 10. We also consider the likelihood of the revival continuing, as star Gillian Anderson told the press earlier this year that she was done playing Agent Scully for now (though she enigmatically remains on the convention circuit…which is very unlike her past patterns…), so we offer a few questions, impressions, and future considerations, should a new season be ordered pending the availability of the producers, the writers, and the leads, Duchovny and Anderson.
This podcast was recorded in August 2018, and there are, without question, MAJOR SPOILERS, as the panelists cover key plot points of the eleventh season. Listen at your own risk, and let us know what you think by commenting below!
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Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Next Wednesday, our Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD panel, with a slight change of personnel, returns to the Water Cooler after a year’s hiatus to consider the most recent Season Five and to prognosticate upon what the unexpectedly ordered Season Six might have to offer, particularly given the bombast and seeming finality of some of the story lines in the fifth season of Marvel’s only major network offering. Stay tuned!
Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
1) How can the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) be remotely alive?! We saw his face incinerate in the series finale of the original series, “The Truth.” Was it aliens? Is he a clone? We need a supernatural/paranormal/extraterrestrial explanation, because the more mundane one suggested in the series was not seen as plausible by more than one panelist.
ANSWER: Still a question without an answer. The show, as yet, has not seen fit to explain CSM’s miraculous recovery from incineration in the original series finale.
2) Where is William? William, Mulder and Scully’s son, became a running theme this season. Is William part alien – and if so, from whom did he inherit this alien part? Is he, by any chance, in the UFO glimpsed in the final moments of the season finale?
ANSWER: William, as it turns out, was adopted by a family who gave him the name Jackson VandeKampe; the adoption was facilitated by Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens), the CSM’s second-born child and half brother to Mulder. As provided by the myth-arc of this season, it appears that William’s genetic makeup includes material considered to be extraterrestrial in nature; however, it is also revealed – whether it is the truth or a believable lie – that CSM, during the events of Season 7 episode “En Ami,” abducted Scully while she was sleeping for the purpose of extracting her DNA to combine with his and with alien DNA in a test tube somewhere, thereby producing William and rendering CSM William’s biological father, and Mulder his biological half brother, rather than Mulder being William’s biological father. Whether or not any viewer can stomach this explanation is explored heavily in our podcast episode.
As for the UFO in the tenth season finale – that UFO was not real and/or has, perhaps, not yet come to pass. We find out in the first episode of Season 11 that the events of “My Struggle II,” the tenth season finale, are part of an extended vision that Scully is having as she lies comatose in a hospital bed in “My Struggle III,” the eleventh season premiere, which she may be experiencing because of her biological link to William, who experiences visions of his own as part of his alien-influenced paranormal abilities. Scully believes that this is a possible future, which she fears will result in catastrophe both for William and for Mulder. Listen to the podcast episode for details.
3) Where did Reyes (Annabeth Gish) go? Why did the writers cause her to make choices that went so far against her character as perceived from the original series?
ANSWER: The second question has no answer that satisfies our discerning bunch of X-Philes, not all of whom like the much reviled Reyes; yet, Reyes hangs around CSM all season, until he apparently (SPOILER) shoots her in “My Struggle IV,” the eleventh season finale. The reasons why Reyes is included in the revival and for aligning with the show’s ultimate villain feel forced and entirely against her character, and even those of our panelists (Nick and Sarah) who like her are appalled by the treatment and use of Reyes in these revival seasons. Is she dead now, is the real question, and should we continue to care about a character that remains as detested by many of the fans as she is misused by the writers/producers (well, mainly Chris Carter)? You be the judge.
4) So, are there aliens, or aren’t there? The “My Struggle” episodes suggested that aliens were a myth created by the government factions such as the Syndicate, and that the real enemy is biological, namely a (potential) viral outbreak that will only affect people who don’t have a DNA immunity to it. Scully, however, theorizes that the DNA that provides such immunity is alien in origin, and that she has the DNA due to her abductions and cancer scare during the original series. Mulder doesn’t seem to have it – but what about his exposure to the black oil in the original series? Also, didn’t the original series suggest that all humans have alien origin, given the age of black oil remnants on Earth and the discovery of the UFO in Africa? This new plot strand was highly confusing to most of us and did not gel – also, it was poorly executed in comparison to the episodes of the original series that it was trying to downplay.
ANSWER: There are aliens. Season Eleven confirms that much. It is, however, suggested by two new characters – Erica Price (Barbara Hershey) and a so-called Mr. Y – who explain that they are former members of the Syndicate, that the aliens’ colonization plan was derailed, particularly as humanity is quickly using up the planet’s resources, but the hostile alien factions introduce the ability to create a catastrophic virus with alien technology and properties, of which CSM currently has control, which would wipe out all life on Earth and would allow said aliens to reengage with their colonization designs once humans no longer present an obstacle to their conquest. As usual, the explanations are confusing and convoluted, but isn’t this why we love the X-Files?
5) Are the Lone Gunmen actually alive, as panelist Kyle read was confirmed by the hallucinatory sequence affecting Mulder in “Babylon?” If so, where the heck are they?
ANSWER: This question remains unanswered, though Langly’s (Dean Haglund) consciousness manages to survive, contrary to his desires, within the framework of a super-computer designed by the Syndicate as a defense to the alien virus and as a place where – select – people can live on and/or survive following the impending extraterrestrial viral apocalypse. Allegedly.
6) Where are characters like Marita Kovarubius? Former assistant director Kersh? Is Alex Krycek really dead? Where is former Agent Jeffrey Spender, half brother to Mulder and legitimized son of the Cigarette Smoking Man?
ANSWER: Spender is on the run, helping to keep William safe, though it seems he checks in with his brother and with Scully from time to time. Kersh (James Pickens Jr.) is still finger wagging at the FBI, and particularly at Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), in the Deputy Director position, as the latter half of the season demonstrates. We have not seen Marita (presumably still on the run) or Krycek (presumably still dead) as of this publication.
7) Just how much should we care about Agents Miller (Robbie Amell) and Einstein (Lauren Ambrose)?
ANSWER: Apparently, not at all. Agents Miller and Einstein appear briefly in “My Struggle III” and then do not return for the rest of the season.
8) Was the last shot of the cliffhanger in “My Struggle II” really that of a UFO? If it is a UFO, did it ultimately save Mulder from the virus, since the vaccine didn’t somehow work on him (also really confusing)?
ANSWER: If Scully’s “vision” is to be believed, that UFO is real and a portent of future events. Mulder’s fate, should this portent become real, is uncertain, but Scully fears that only William can save who is presumed to be his actual father (not CSM).
9) How did Agents Scully and Einstein produce and proliferate the vaccine so quickly?
ANSWER: Dream time magic.
10) So, how was AD Skinner able to approve Mulder and Scully’s return so fast, particularly given their highly touted hiatus from the FBI, highlighted in the second film, “I Want to Believe.”
ANSWER: Skinner’s got skillz and more sway with Kersh than most, apparently.
11) Will we ever get to meet Scully’s younger brother in person?
ANSWER: We have not so far.
12) Why does the Cigarette Smoking Man see fit to make Mulder so miserable all of the time? Also, where the heck did he go?
ANSWER: A valid question without an answer. Though his disappearance proved to be part of Scully’s vision-state when translated from “My Struggle II” to “My Struggle III,” CSM drops his truth bomb as noted above in “My Struggle III” and then continues to raise holy heck for poor Fox Mulder as the season progresses. By the end of the season, however, William retaliates for months of trying to avoid his potential father/grandfather and the danger he presents with the use of his extraterrestrial abilities and a dash of violence. Does CSM survive? Listen to the podcast episode for details.
13) When will the new season premiere? You know it’s going to happen.
ANSWER: Season Eleven premiered in January 2018. As yet, a Season Twelve has not yet been ordered or renewed….
14) The podcast panel, by and large, feel that six episodes just isn’t enough, but eight to ten might be a nice chunk, a la British TV.
ANSWER: The podcast panel believes ten is better than six, but many of them also feel that thirteen would be better than ten. Of course, getting a single additional episode may be difficult as the future progresses…
15) Can Mulder and Scully please get back together? This is just a rough patch, right?
ANSWER: Right. Mulder and Scully tentatively make another go at romance this season and, by the end of it, confirm a pretty major spoiler that you are just going to have to listen to the podcast episode or watch “My Struggle IV” – or read below – to learn. We would say, however, that Mulder and Scully seem committed to each other (finally) romantically, and that it has done nothing to diminish their relationship as colleagues and friends, particularly after all this time. Take that, Mr. Carter.
1) Is CSM really William’s biological father? There are two concerning pieces of information from the original series that make us question Carl Gerhard Busch’s rather definitive assertion of parentage over William. First, to suggest that this violation of Scully’s womanhood, even though no sexual act was implied, was part of “En Ami” actually undercuts and undermines the power of that particular episode, which showed an interesting new side to CSM while enticing Scully to question whether or not CGB Spender was actually as evil as everyone, particularly Mulder, believed. Second, there were several events in the original series that led up to the birth of William, earned by mysterious if not confirmed pieces of mystery sprinkled throughout Seasons Six through Nine, including the UFO fragment that augmented Mulder’s cognitive abilities, the implication that Mulder and Scully shared a night of passion after years of palpable sexual tension, and the responses that baby William seemed to show toward Mulder in the beginning, before and after Mulder as a character departed the show with the departure of David Duchovny during his contract disputes with the network and with Carter. And really, just how believable is CSM/CGB/Cancer Man in the end, really? He has screwed his children over so many times by now…isn’t it indubitably possible that he is trying to turn the screws once more for Mulder, his favorite target?
2) How true was Scully’s coma vision? Sure, the show manages to posit in “My Struggle III” that the confusing and somewhat unsatisfactory ending of Season 10 is nothing more than a mere fever state dream of Scully’s if not a clairvoyant vision, but if true, have Mulder and Scully averted the alien virus apocalypse by the end of the season? Did William’s final season act serve to do the same? Or, is there someone carrying the torch of CSM’s nefarious scheming with the ability to spread a legitimate viral outbreak? Also: are the aliens real? The revival’s explanations around the extraterrestrial elements that informed the original series are truly dizzying in scope and in logic and might be losing some loyal viewers who particularly favored the original myth-arc of the show. Or, so we guess.
3) Is Reyes really dead? Is CSM? Is <gasp> Skinner?
4) The Lone Gunmen mystery burns for our panelists, as these characters are popular with us and with X-Philes the world over. Are they really buried in Arlington? Or, did they pull off the greatest faking of their deaths that the world has ever seen?
5) How is Scully <SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER> pregnant? Is her unborn fetus human? Is s/he/they Mulder’s biological offspring? Wasn’t she barren? Plus, she’s an older woman who was not actively pursuing methods of fertilization/conception? Are we to believe that God blessed her with a miracle (we’re okay with this explanation, if it is more than obliquely hinted at)? Will we ever meet this child?
6) The final shot of the season depicts William, who was shot by CSM, his potential father/grandfather, emerging from murky, watery depths, presumably unscathed owing to his alien DNA. What will William’s endgame be, regardless of who fathered him, should the series continue? Will Scully ever be able to reach him? Will he be swayed toward nefarious aims, particularly in light of the events of the episode “Ghouli” and of the revelation of his father being the ultimately evil CSM?
7) Will the show ever return? The future is looking dicey – we need to “fight the future!”
8) If it does return, Deputy Director Kersh finishes the season by blustering about closing the X-Files again. Was this a threat or a promise, and if the latter, how can Mulder and Scully justify their return with all of the life complications affecting their ability to investigate the X-Files cases themselves?
All of our X-Files super-fans and panelists heartily enjoyed and were excited by these latest episodes; there was virtual consensus on which episodes were the best and which were the worst. All five panelists thought “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat,” “Followers (in base code), and “Familiar” were the three best of the season, while “My Struggles III & IV” and “Nothing Lasts Forever” were the three worst (generally), though panelist Sarah was far less enthused overall by “Kitten,” featuring special guest star Haley Joel Osment. In any event, the entire panel continues to be grateful if not overjoyed to see Duchovny and Anderson back in action as Mulder and Scully and to see other familiar faces, including Cancer Man and Skinner. We also look forward to any additional seasons Fox may choose to produce of a show that greatly influenced the television landscape as we know it and continues to do so; all panelists are committed to continue watching, should more seasons be produced. What did you think? Comment below!
While no official announcement has yet been made, TV pundits believe that renewal for a possible Season 12 is a “long shot,” given the declining ratings of Season 11 and, particularly, given Anderson’s announcement to the media in January of this year that “this is it” for her and for Dana Scully. Plus, the network and Carter have gone on record to say that while there are no plans to produce more episodes at this time, they are open to the possibility of making more, even though they also do not see, and rightly so, going on without Anderson/Scully. Still, again, the show has not been officially canceled by the Fox network, and Gillian has been known to change her mind somewhat unexpectedly in the past – plus, what’s up with her and David’s latest joint appearances on the convention circuit? One might theorize that they are taking fan temperatures, given Season 11’s lower ratings, in order to see if it is worth producing more seasons; those of us on this CPU! panel encourage demanding more at a fever pitch! In any event, rest assured, gentle listener, that if a Season 12 is announced, CPU! will plan to reconvene our X-Files podcast panel, ready and willing to dissect any additional seasons of one of our all-time favorite shows. CPU! will also, as always, keep you posted on future developments. Stay tuned!
- Our X-Files panel spies possible suspicious UFO activity in the skies of West Michigan.
Our X-Files panel (left to right): Sarah, Nick, Hilary, and Kyle
A final (for now) look: Mulder and Scully embrace in the face of the loss of one (alleged) child and the potential gain of another in some of the last frames of Season 11 (prior to the credits). The Truth Is Out There…unless Season 12 never comes to fruition.