TV Review: The X-Files (Season 11, Episode 9)
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‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ is a weird one. Written by Karen Neilson and directed by James Wong, it explores the depravity of a cannibalistic cult that have discovered that human flesh is the new anti-aging cream; a once beloved TV star that even with this eternal youth has become a recluse; Scully’s constant struggle with her faithfulness to her Catholic upbringing; and the fact that both Mulder and Scully have forgotten that Mulder has literally been wearing glasses since they first met.
In short, the ninth episode of this season (and the last standalone) traverses its way through biblical verses that fit snuggly within the beliefs of this cult that eating the flesh of another will rid you of deformities and grant you eternal life.
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That is if you’re willing enough to become surgically conjoined to Barbara Beaumont (Fiona Vroom)'s partner (Dr. Randolph Luvenis, portrayed by Jere Burns); an 85-year-old who wants to feel – and look like – his young, chirpy self to serve those who have saved you from said deformities. And yes, you get to see this delightful operation, along with multiple scenes of close-up organ harvesting from freshly-killed cadavers.
And there’s me believing season four’s ‘Sanguinarium’ was the worst episode for surgery-related imagery.
As intriguing – and disgusting – as this episode is, it lacks coherency due to the multiple strands of narrative running through its 43-minute run-time. There’s the resurgence of Scully’s faith (or lack thereof), the character arc of Juliet (Carlena Britch) who is devoted in saving her sister Olivia (Micaela Aquilera) from the cult that she has fallen for and the validity – and success – of Beaumont and Luvenis’ prophecy. And most importantly, how they can produce and share a bloody, organ-smushed smoothie for over a dozen cult members when there are specific requirements at hand.
‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ does, however, strive in a particular field that has been lacking as of late in this revival. Both season ten and eleven have relied much too heavily on callbacks and nostalgia to the original series, which can only serve for so long until some explanation needs to be reached as to what has happened development-wise in Mulder and Scully’s characters over the period of time when they weren’t on the small – or big – screen.
Where monster-of-the-week and mythology episodes tend to differ the most is in this character development. When it comes to the mythology, it is often the overarching narrative of the series that takes precedence over the trivial aspects of Mulder and Scully’s moral compasses.
I mean sure, big revelations in their individual lineage and ties to an overwhelming governmental conspiracy are often revealed, but the inner-most workings of their characters shine the most when explored – even in the briefest detail – in episodes that stray away from an often-inconsistent narrative arc.
There are a plethora of examples of this throughout the series; moments that are often fan-favorites due to different writers taking on the task of portraying Mulder and Scully in their own perspective, whilst staying true to their core design. In this case, it’s X-Files veteran James Wong who can coax the struggles of Mulder and Scully that have plagued them both since they first met.
With Mulder, it’s his belief that he is a burden to everyone, and to Scully, it’s her constant battle between her faith and rationality, that can often lead her into believing in everything but herself.
Wong channels these insecurities into a beautiful vignette in the closing scene, where Mulder voices his insecurities and burdening guilt for leading Scully on an unfulfilling life. A life where she doesn’t have her sister, her dog, a top job at the FBI, or a family with a bunch of kids; all because she never left Mulder’s side.
Whereas Scully recounts her guilt of giving up on their son, and on their relationship together. She believes she fled, and for that, she failed, again. But what both fail to see individually is what is created between the two of them; they have and always will be two parts of a whole, and it’s all these indifferences, heartaches and harrowing experiences that have brought them closer together and demonstrated how much they need each other.
As beautiful as this revelation is, it is unneeded. Carter needn’t have begun the revival with Mulder and Scully estranged; they went through all the commotion of ‘breaking up’ in I Want to Believe, and it was as torturous then as it was during the tenth season and parts of the eleventh. It stirs unnecessary relationship drama that has never been associated with The X-Files.
Mulder and Scully, whether platonic or romantic, have always been the other’s touchstone, and the series was based more on their search for the truth and their ability to save people from unbelievable circumstances rather than ‘will they or won’t they’ drama. Duchovny and Anderson’s chemistry prevented that from ever being an option; Mulder and Scully were, as cheesy as it sounds, destined to be together, forever searching and saving people, long after the series ends.
And that’s what makes the whispered exchange between the two of them even more so poignant; they share so much without words, a few words for them to know and for us to never find out makes their bond damn unbreakable.
Mulder loves Scully and Scully loves Mulder. End of.
The X-Files is available to watch on demand on My5.