The X-Files: Requiem

Case: The first alien abduction case Mulder and Scully ever worked on, calls for them to investigate, again.

Destination: Bellefleur, Oregon

‘Requiem’ winds down seven seasons by compelling Mulder and Scully to re-investigate their first case. And by compelling I mean forcing and by forcing I mean Chris Carter. He’s back to write this season finale. ‘Requiem’ is actually a good title because this episode is the death of the series and its mythology, never to be revived again. Many will argue that the end of a cohesive mythology was a long time ago, they’re not wrong. But no single episode has marked the end of its mainstay feature so ceremoniously as this one. And in many ways, though it continued (at the time) for another two seasons, the show would never be the same again because of the loss of David Duchovny. Carter’s answer to this extremely depressing circumstance is to write a sub-par episode that creates a plausible reason for Mulder to be gone, ‘indefinitely’. Whether you buy the concept this episode posits for his abduction, well, that’s up to you. For me, it’s, at best, a Hail Mary.

Before I continue, I acknowledge that this series was in between a rock and a hard place, and that even that is a gigantic understatement. This episode had to be poised to either be a conclusion to the season or the series, and the creative team didn’t know which, until three days before it aired. They also didn’t know in what capacity Duchovny was coming back. But instead of working with those circumstances in a semi-artful way, 'Requiem' is a Chris Carter debacle of confusion and poorly used actors, muddling through the deeply overwrought contrived dialogue.

The first act of the episode might as well contain actual dialogue from the transcripts of meetings Fox and Carter had through the later years of this show’s production. The conversation Mulder has with the FBI accountant (Agent Chesty Short, if you can stand it!) doesn’t make as much sense in the context of the series, as it does to the real life issues this show went through, budget-wise and beyond. But Carter’s cynicism, as it often did (sometimes to great success), bled through not just Mulder’s dialogue but his whole attitude, which makes him harder to root for, in and among the circumstances of ‘Requiem'. And Scully is a total wash, which Carter makes clear early on, since all of her abduction issues (which add nuance and depth to much better written episodes) hamstring her to the point of ineffectiveness. One pleasant surprise, however, is the emotion Mitch Pileggi’s Skinner is given to play, especially towards the end of the episode. As a fan of this character, I rejoice at seeing his anything beyond his tough dad role. Because it is he who feels responsible for Mulder disappearing, we see an emotional side of Skinner, riddled with guilt and sadness.

The second act isn’t worth analyzing, or even talking about too much since it reflects most of the aforementioned confusion. (Not to mention, Krycek, CSM and Marita.) It involves the same group of characters Mulder and Scully sought to understand in the show’s pilot: Billy Miles (who is inexplicably law enforcement now), Theresa Nemman, now married to a missing sheriff, Billy’s dad, as well as, once again inexplicably, the alien bounty hunter from 'Colony.' The episode comes to a climax when Mulder is taken aboard the aliens’ ship, perhaps forever.

In the show’s final moments, we find out that Scully was so physically taxed while in Oregon because she is… pregnant. What can I say to that revelation other than... Whoo-boy.

Other Thoughts

* For one of the most influential creatives who was hellbent at never resolving the undeniable romantic/sexual tension between Scully and Mulder, Carter writes one of the most romantic scenes in the series' history when Scully comes to Mulder’s hotel room ‘to get warm’. I guess her blankets don’t work in her room?

* Furthermore, this is the same person, vehemently opposed to Mulder and Scully ever being together, who wrote one hell of an ending, blowing up any mystery as to the nature of Mulder and Scully's relationship.

* Side note: Am I too hard on Chris Carter?

* Skinner’s face when Scully tells him she’s pregnant.

Quotes

Scully: "Let's go waste some money."

Final Analysis: It’s a shame because this episode could have been a million times better written. As it stands, the last sentence was the only interesting redeeming one. 'Let's see where this all goes from here' was what I was left thinking.

6 comments:

Billie Doux said...

It's unfortunate that it wasn't a better episode. But hey -- at least we've finished season seven!

And I don't think you're being too hard on Chris Carter. I've always felt that Carter simply didn't understand what worked on his own show. Much like the executive producers of Highlander.

Mallena said...

On my first viewing, I liked this episode, and I would like it still if it had really been the last X-File. Mulder could have disappeared into the ether, never to be heard from again, Scully could have raised a normal child alone, and I would have been sad that my favorite show was over, but still happy that it ended well.

Now, though...I know of so many things to come that were so nonsensical, frustrating, and maddening, it's hard to find the good parts in what is to come. I keep trying to enjoy what I can, and there are still some good episodes, but I can't help wishing that Chris Carter had the good sense to quit when the X-Files was still great. I would have missed the episode with Burt Reynolds, though, that was pretty good.

Heather said...

Billie:
Yes, plagued is the show that has a creator who doesn't know how to buoy further what's good about it. I'm very excited we are done with 7 seasons. When I first started writing for Doux, I looked so longingly on TXF reviews, just wishing I could somehow be a part of it. :)
Mallena: That's a good point that the show could have ended here and it would have been sad, but nonetheless on a high. Anyway, in some weird way, Mulder being taken is a bit like the end of the director's cut of Close Encounters -- it's all Roy Neary ever wanted.

Billie Doux said...

Heather wrote: When I first started writing for Doux, I looked so longingly on TXF reviews, just wishing I could somehow be a part of it. :) I'm so glad you are!

Mallena, very few shows seem to end when they should. They're either cut off too soon or they drag on a couple of seasons longer than they should because the suits want to keep getting money out of it. And then there's Supernatural, which I now realize is in a class by itself. :)

magritte said...

Personally, I think the X-files should have ended around season 5, with the fall of the Syndicate. It was always going to be a tricky beast to end though. One of the things that was so distinctive about the X-files was that it resembled a procedural drama, but the cases were never quite closed by the end of the episode. But while that lack of narrative closure was novel and interesting in individual episodes, when it comes to sustaining long story arcs, there's a point where adding more mystery is counter-productive.

The great strength of TV series with long narrative arcs is that they have the time to explore characters and their relationships in a way that's impossible in theatre or film, only novels can really compete. But the fact that the format requires episodes to be a particular length and a certain number of episodes per season, inevitably leads to a certain amount of narrative flabbiness compared with shorter format media. When you add in the temptation to milk a successful series for financial reasons, it's not surprising many shows have trouble coming to satisfying ends. Hell, even novelists have often succumbed to the temptation of making more and more sequels to stories that should have come to satisfying conclusions far earlier. And of course TV series sometimes stop abruptly for financial reasons, which novelists generally don't have to worry about. I can't think of a series that attracted any following at all that the novelist couldn't find a publisher to complete the work...the only real danger is the author's death.

One show I thought did a pretty good job of ending appropriately was Battlestar Galactica. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, too...it certainly could have ended with season 5 or even season 3, but the season 7 ending was satisfying and the later seasons were still quite good.

AndyDecker said...

No, not too hard on Carter. In hindsight, after watching so many shows which depends on a tight continuity and the development of the characters, I wonder why I didn't stop watching the X-Files earlier. I finally stopped watching regulary in season 8 except the odd episode, but the disregard – or no interest - Carter&Co had for their own mythology after they failed to deliver a coherent ending to most of the storylines had killed nearly any enthusiasm I had. For me Scully was unbelievable as a character after season 5 and the movie. The show became ever more schizophrenic, like being two shows. The arc-storylines, which made less sense with each new episode, and the other episodes which mostly seemed removed in almost every regard from the rest.