I had foot surgery in early September. For four weeks I was on crutches and painkillers and off my foot entirely. Then two more weeks with a walking cast. During the first part of this epic recovery I was too fuzzy-headed to do much of anything useful and, through the miracle of Netflix, began to watch the entire ouevre of The X-Files. I had forgotten some of it, and frankly, some time around the beginning of the first run 8th season I got distracted by life and sorta missed more than I saw…. But I decided it would be interesting to look at the whole series and both movies and see how they held up entire.
The good news is, while the first eight seasons of the series are uneven, when the show good it’s just howlingly fun*. The even better news, from my storyteller’s point of view, is that they know when to bless the bobbles and move on. By which I mean, when someone points out an obvious, um, flaw of logic in your story, you acknowledge it and keep going. I used to think about this a lot when I was editing comic books, which often embrace “continuity” but not so often logic. My favorite example of “blessing” comes from an episode of Lois and Clark: a Criminal from the Future asks Superman why he wears the canonical red-and-blue outfit. “I mean, really. The most powerful human in the universe and…a cape? Blue tights? That’s the best you can do?” And Superman looks down his nose and says sternly, “My mother made it for me.”
Okay. Can’t argue with that. Nothing to see, here, folks. Move along.
The X-Files does this a lot: winking at fan-preocupation with Scully and Mulder when they kiss on New Year’s 2000 and Mulder notes that the world didn’t end (a triple layered wink at millennial anxiety, the characters’ interpersonal anxiety, and the showrunners’ anxiety that a kiss will spell the beginning of the series’ end); the constant mockery of Mulder, who is the original Bear with Furniture; the fact that the X-Files mission is endangered when accounting notices how outrageous their expense reports are. And at the end of an episode late in the 8th season they address–but do not answer–one of the puzzles from the first X-Files movie.
If you saw the movie you may recall that at the end, Mulder rescues Scully from an underground facility in Antarctica. His Sno-Cat has run out of gas and he’s on foot, but he gets to Scully, rescues her, and watches as the underground facility they have climbed out of is revealed to be a space ship that lifts out of the snow, leaving the two of them lying on the snow field, exhausted (and probably deep into hypothermia). Next thing you know, they’re in Washington, reporting in. How the hell did they get home? It’s not like there’s much in the way of cab service in Antarctica.
So: at the end of “Alone” a gung-ho FBI agent and long-time fan of the X-Files, asks Scully and Mulder: ”When you and Agent Scully were in Antarctica…” and asks the question that consumed a thousand fans. And Mulder and Scully have the grace to look flummoxed–and still don’t answer the question. Instead they start squabbling about whether it was, indeed, a spaceship (he saw it; Scully was unconscious). Cue the credits. Cue also me chortling with glee.
To bless the obvious, you don’t always have to answer a nagging question; you just have to acknowledge that the question is there.
*the ninth season, which I’m just now finishing, is a whole blog post of Don’t all rolled into one, with a few genuinely affecting moments and a whole lotta train wreck.