[Editorial] How “The X-Files” Season 11 Finale Should’ve Ended
“Hardcore X-Files fans know there have been no real endings on the show,” creator Chris Carter explained to TV Line this week, defending last night’s disappointing finale of the show’s eleventh season. And he’s right. If you’ve been watching “The X-Files” since the very beginning, you’ve come to expect finales that ask more questions than answer them. Finales that lack, well, any real sense of genuine finality.
But if there was ever a time to *finally* give us a real ending, I can’t help but feel that last night was that time. After all, Gillian Anderson has made it clear that she won’t be back for a twelfth season, making the Season 11 finale the final hour for Mulder and Scully. Granted, the show *could* continue beyond Season 11, without Scully in the picture; but if only in the “as we know it” sense, last night was something of a series finale. And yet, Carter’s patented lack of storytelling commitment again reared its ugly head.
Really nothing was certain in the Season 11 finale, with Skinner, William and the Cigarette Smoking Man all “killed off” in ways that were far less than definitive. Sure, CSM is *probably* dead after being shot a few times by Mulder, but Skinner’s “death” was questionable at best while William’s murder was rescinded by Carter in a final moment that weirdly echoed the post-credits scene from 1987’s live-action Masters of the Universe; the reference, I assume, was anything but intentional.
As for that whole global contagion storyline the show had been building to since 2016, it was brought to a highly uneventful conclusion with the apparent death of CSM.
Just about the only thing the Season 11 finale left us with, for certain, is that Scully is pregnant with Mulder’s child… for real this time. Mind you, we spent many years believing that Mulder and Scully already had a child together, but Season 11 of course revealed to us that William isn’t actually Mulder’s son. This time, Carter seems to promise, one of TV’s most beloved duos has truly created a child of their own; a child we’ll surely meet in 20 years when FOX decides to again cash-in on nostalgia and bring the show back for one more revival.
After eleven seasons and 218-hours worth of investment in “The X-Files,” it was hard not to be disappointed by a finale that really didn’t feel like much of one. I’ll admit that Scully’s reveal to Mulder got me choked up, but aside from that sweet little moment, it was yet another finale that suffered from Chris Carter’s refusal to give us one.
A shame, considering he was *this close* to a perfect conclusion to the saga.
In the final moments of Season 11, the Cigarette Smoking Man shoots “Mulder” directly in the head; “Mulder,” of course, turns out to actually be a shape-shifting William. The real Mulder then pops up behind CSM, pumping bullets into his chest and (presumably) killing the season’s big bad. Mulder and Scully embrace, heartbroken by the “death” of William but given a shared glimmer of happiness with the reveal that Scully is pregnant.
Of course, we knew right off the bat that the “Mulder” shot in the head by CSM wasn’t actually Mulder, as that’d be way too definitive of a finale for a show that’s always been insistent on *not* wrapping anything up neatly with a bow. But, and hear me out here before you jump on me for suggesting Mulder be killed off… what if it was?
My perfect ending for Season 11? Mulder is shot in the head by CSM, followed by second Mulder popping up behind CSM and killing him. We, along with Scully, assume that William was the one shot and that Mulder #2 is the real Mulder, but William reveals in the final moments that he’s actually Mulder #2. The real Mulder *was* shot in the head. And Scully has FINALLY been reunited with William. Not William in the form of someone else, but William as William. With Mulder dead, mother and son walk off to an uncertain future.
It’s a shocking twist that Carter was seemingly setting the stage for, and holy shit would it have blown minds if he had the balls to go for it. And really, why not kill off Mulder? With Anderson not coming back for another season, what sense is there even trying to continue the show, as is, without her? Does anyone really desire a version of “The X-Files” with Mulder but without Scully by his side? Again, the Season 11 finale was the perfect opportunity to actually give us a *series* finale; going forward, Carter would be free to start anew.
The death of Mulder would’ve brought a true finality to the series – it also would’ve been one of the most shocking end-caps in television history, as certainly nobody would’ve seen it coming – and Scully being reunited with William would’ve been the perfect note to end her story on. The great wound of Scully’s life is having a son that she was forced to abandon, so it would’ve been heartbreaking but also hopeful to leave her with William, and really only William, by her side. As for Mulder, he would’ve died ensuring that reunion happened.
Horribly depressing? Absolutely. But sometimes finales need to be.