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The X-Files: Deadalive

Case: Redacted to avoid spoilers on the front page. It involves digging up bodies.

Destination: Washington, D.C.

"Anybody miss me?"

We're all very aware by now of how much the way we watch TV has changed. There are still shows that put out episodes once a week, leaving audiences desperate for the resolution of a cliffhanger - real water cooler shows. But these are starting to become a minority, surrounded by shows that are released all at once, or that many viewers choose to watch all at once, after the whole series has been released or put out on DVD.

For me, The X-Files sits strangely between the two. I watched the first few seasons of the show more or less as they aired in the UK, but drifted away during the fourth season. I caught up with the rest on DVD, in a week-long binge watch while I had the flu. As a result, I knew that Mulder would return, alive, after the gut-wrenching finale of 'This Is Not Happening'. I was aware of the way the series had ended and I'd seen the subsequent 2008 movie, so I knew Mulder would, somehow, be back - properly alive and not in some form of the undead.

For me, then, the mystery of the cliffhanger was how Mulder would end up not dead. For anyone watching at the time, though, this must have been a much heavier and more emotional cliffhanger. David Duchovny had left the series as a regular, and although he made a few guest appearances, it was known that he would not be returning full time. It must have seemed entirely plausible that Mulder was really, truly dead (subsequent guest appearances could easily have been flashbacks, dreams or even ghostly visions). Rather than an intellectual puzzle, as it was for me, this must have had everyone on tenterhooks. It's unlikely that viewers watching the show now will have the same experience, since after the 2008 movie and the 2016 revival series received so much publicity, it must be widely known that Mulder is not killed off partway through season eight.

Although I knew Mulder would be coming back, I had no idea how, and if I'd been asked to guess, I'd probably have thought the dead Mulder was a clone or something. I certainly wouldn't have predicted that he would reanimate. The way Mulder is brought back is really rather extraordinary.

Yes, The X-Files is science fiction/fantasy (which of those two is the more accurate description depends largely on the episode!) and in SFF, no one is every really, truly, irrevocably dead. But if we imagine a spectrum with absolute realism on one end and a relatively loose fantasy in which almost anything can happen on the other, The X-Files would be very much towards the 'realism' end. Its horror is based in urban legends, folktales that some believe could really happen, that others enjoy imagining might happen even if they don't believe it. Its science fiction is based largely in similar legends (alien abduction, the modern equivalent of stories about elves, faeries and changelings but believed by some) and occasional 'hard' science fiction (that is, science fiction based on speculation from accurate scientific theory).

We've seen various forms of the undead on The X-Files - ghosts, vampires, zombies. But usually, when people die on The X-Files, they tend to stay dead, or at least their corporeal form does; this is not a show that regularly kills characters off and then brings them back again. To have a character found in a state of decomposition, buried with a full funeral and then dug up three months later, alive, is really quite an extreme stretch of our willing suspension of disbelief. (Yes, I can easily name two other shows where that has happened - which I won't specify here for the benefit of those who haven't watched them yet - but those involved magic in one, and a religious miracle in the other, not science fiction, which generally requires a more rigorous explanation for such things).

The whole thing works, though, at that's at least partly because we want it to work so badly. I think Doggett's great, but let's face it, The X-Files was always about Mulder and Scully at its heart and it's such a joy to see them reunited, I almost don't care how they achieved it. And when the first thing Mulder does on waking from several months of being dead is make a terrible joke, we realise just how much we've missed him. Welcome back, Spooky - you really deserve that nickname now!

Other thoughts

 - Love the falling Mulder in the credits (one theory being that the unidentified figure in the usual credits is also Mulder) - that's a nice touch.

 - Normally, men withholding information from a pregnant woman to 'protect' her would annoy me, but in this case I'm with Skinner and Doggett. I wouldn't have told Scully until there was something solid to tell her either.

 - Scully cuddling Mulder at the hospital is very sweet, but given he's practically a zombie and still kinda decomposed, it's also a little gross and icky.

 - It's always nice to get call-backs to the pilot episode - poor old Bully Miles just can't catch a break, even after death.

 - Of course, Krycek also shows up again, which is also fun. Nice call-back to Skinner's nanobots as well.

 - Skinner is placed in a horrible position and emotionally tortured by Krycek. I love that he doesn't even consider killing Scully's unborn baby, no matter how much he cares about Mulder. I love Skinner.

 - It's a shame they already used the title 'Lazarus' (in 'Cold Lazarus') - 'Deadalive' really doesn't have quite the same ring to it!


Scully: Do you know what you've been through?
Mulder: From what I see in your face.

Final analysis: It's kinda bonkers really, but I love these character so much, it works. Three out of four icky zombie-cuddles.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

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