‘The X-Files’ Season 11 Finale Marks the End of an Era

The X-Files” closes some heavy cases in the season 11 finale as Agent Fox “Spooky” Mulder (David Duchovny) and Special Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) risk their lives and careers over a family matter. The two federal cops routinely find themselves the center of most of the larger investigations their small office is assigned. From Mulder’s sister Samantha, who disappeared when he was just a child, to Scully’s sister Melissa, who became collateral damage in a case, forensic evidence follows their DNA and the latest arc takes the experiment further.

William, the boy Scully and Mulder gave up for adoption, knows himself as Jackson Vandercamp. He knows he has a role in the future, but it is a reluctant one. He’s had enough of being the odd one out, and after using his powers for something less than good, he is now looking for answers. His adopted parents were killed by the DoJ, and his real parents have a much more complicated relationship. We know why Cigarette Smoking Man is always smoking. He’s always just finishing sex. He has sons everywhere. If Mulder knew the truth of it, he would be the mirror image of Fay Dunaway’s character in “Chinatown,” mumbling “my son, my brother, my son, my brother.” William also doesn’t stay within the bounds of his arc. He briefly becomes a suspect when his character careens into a monster-of-week episode.

Bookended between the twin pillars of the ravings of a Cancer Man, the second year of the series revival ran a serpentine path between the new overriding arc and the various monsters of the week. This year brought a self-referential parody episode on the series. A third X-File agent appears to be the only person immune to the Mandela Effect that has gripped his former partners, who have no recollection of him at all. The only person at FBI headquarters who remembers the agent is FBI Assistant Director Walter Sergei Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), who has his own problems this season. The FBI mainstay could have risen much higher in the Bureau if he hadn’t ruffled so many feathers covering Fox and Scully’s collective insubordinate asses. We also get a flashback to his tour of duty in Vietnam, where he slightly resembles Joker Man in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” and proves he is a skilled hunter.

Season 11 issued two classic episodes, back to back, leading up to the finale. “Familiar” saw a devil dog guarding the gates of hell, conjured by the wife of the Connecticut town’s chief of police, who also had the largest collection of books on local folklore and superstition. It was expertly done, capturing the New England Wiccan flavor without resorting to easy stereotypes. The Grimoire looks positively mundane, until it proves to be a very hot property.

“Nothing Lasts Forever” explores the science of blood magic through life-extending surgical rituals. The episode features a magnetic and narcissistic cult leader, a B-movie star whose IMDb page lists as making movies since celluloid was invented. The episode was as spine-tingling as it was spine-mingling. The season also dropped the worst episode of the series. “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” is supposed to show the increasing desperation of alienation in a technological age. Filmed as an existential piece that no doubt reminded someone of Stephen Spielberg’s “Duel,” it comes across as an annoying cartoon where none of the jokes have a punchline.

The final episode, “My Struggle IV,” opens with the pending spread of the alien contagion. Agent Scully lit a fire in the alternative media, alerting a conspiracy show called “Truth Squad” to the upcoming manmade contagion of alien origin. It has been determined that only Scully and her son, and maybe a few others, will be immune. This starts a race to find closure in a world where conclusions may be terminal, but are always inconclusive. The episode is exhausting, like the airport chase scene in William Friedkin’s “The French Connection,” though it does have some fast lane humor.

The episode includes a car chase scene that features a comically timed U-turn, and an unconscious nod to the prologue of the 1983 “Twilight Zone” movie. William’s powers include picking winning lottery tickets, and making people see him however he wants to be seen. So when a truck driver who picks him up says he’s looking for trouble, William obliges with a take on the “Do you want to see something really scary?” line Albert Brooks tosses at Dan Aykroyd.

“My Struggle IV,” which was written and directed by series creator Chris Carter, ends with a flashlight scene, but jumps right off the cliff. Fresh off the shock of the end of Skinner’s run, we see Fox shot in the face. We already know there are special circumstances at play, but we do see it, and it is a gasp-inducing moment. Then we witness the end of an era, a dynasty and a Darth Vader father figure with shallower breaths, all in one. After the shocks are absorbed, “The X-Files” leaves off on an impossible dream. Possibilities are endless if you apply enough pressure to your left temporal lobe. It could move forward as a family sitcom.

The X-Files” season 11 finale aired March 21 on Fox.