The series finale of "The X-Files" airs tonight, but it's not really goodbye for Mulder and Scully.
Tonight's episode is actually billed as the "season finale," but Gillian Anderson made it clear at the start of Season 11 that she's ready to move on from playing Scully, so this feels like the end of the road. Of course, Chris Carter has been floating the possibility of continuing the show without Scully, but fans already experienced "The X-Files" without one half of the iconic duo back in Seasons 8/9, and none of us want to endure that again. Scully's search for Mulder in those episodes gave Anderson lots of emotional scenes to play, but it also proved that without Mulder and Scully together, the show loses its heart. "The X-Files" may continue after tonight, but it won't really be "The X-Files" anymore.
In previous episodes that may or may not have been finales, lots of crazy mythology stuff was thrown at viewers, but things ended on a hopeful note. At the end of Season 7's "Requiem," Mulder gets abducted by aliens just as Scully discovers she's pregnant. I vividly remember watching that scene and pleading to the TV gods for a resolution. WAS IT MULDER'S BABY? WOULD SCULLY EVER FIND HIM? None of us knew, and we waited an excruciating summer to find out.
Mulder was gone for most of Season 8, only to return as a dead man. Scully cried, we cried, but miraculously, Mulder was saved when Scully figured out he wasn't truly dead -- he was just an incubator for an alien virus that would turn him into a super-soldier. Remember the super-soldiers? Whatever happened to them?
After an entire season of playing "Who's the father?/ Is it an alien baby?/DID MULDER AND SCULLY HAVE SEX????", Scully gives birth with the help of Monica Reyes in some rural, abandoned town in Georgia ("Existence"). The episode ends with Mulder and Scully sharing a kiss over their totally adorable newborn son, William. The show could have ended there, and I would have been happy.
But then we got Season 9. David Duchovny was mostly gone for this batch of episodes and Mulder's absence was excused by saying he was "on the run." From whom or what, I don't remember. Poor baby William started developing alien powers and got kidnapped and threatened so many times I lost count before Scully finally gave him up for adoption. Mulder returned like one episode later and was put on trial for killing one of those super-soldiers even though they can't die, and the series ended with Scully and Mulder on the run ("The Truth"). They sat in a dingy motel room just like they did in the pilot, and in the final line of the show, Mulder told Scully, "Maybe there's hope." Much of the plot didn't make sense, but that line was perfect.
Seasons 10 & 11 were unexpected gifts that allowed us to spend more time with Mulder and Scully on our TV screens, and we got two more brilliant episodes by Darin Morgan. His writing has shaped me as a writer, though I haven't yet created anything half as good as "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" or "Quagmire," for which he provided script assistance. Mulder and Scully's "Conversation on the Rock" in that episode is the epitome of everything I love about this show.
This season, Morgan wrote "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat," an episode about false memories and the role of "The X-Files" in a world where truths are right in front of us but we believe them to be lies. For most of the hour, Scully can't wait to try an off-brand Jell-O dessert from her childhood. The treat is appropriately set in a mold of Bigfoot's gigantic foot but as Scully brings the first quivering spoonful to her mouth, her expression changes. She puts the spoon down and Mulder looks at her questioningly. "I want to remember how it was," she says. "I want to remember how it all was." They gaze at each other as the camera pans up to a perfectly starry night sky.
In a series full of potential endings, that might just be my favorite one.
When tonight's episode ends, my hope is that Mulder, Scully, and William are together as a spooky little family, but to quote Mulder, "I know the difference between hope and expectation." Even if things end badly, "X-Files" fans can take comfort in our time-honored tradition of fixing it with fanfic. (Seriously, go read "Parabiosis" by Penumbra.) In those stories, Mulder and Scully can continue seeking the truth, challenging each other, and crossing flashlight beams as they run through dark cemeteries together forever.
But can we at least see them kiss one more time tonight?