The X-Files #208: Goodbye to All That

"We are all shepherds."
ACTUAL DOCUMENTED ACCOUNT: Series finale! Frank tracks the previous episode's serial killer as the Group recruits Emma... and cuts Peter Watts loose.

REVIEW: And so it ends... Almost. There'll be some effort to wrap things up in The X-Files (four episodes hence), but for everyone but Frank and Jordan, it really is the end. I suppose they held out hope for a renewal from Fox; it just didn't happen. It's too bad really, not that the show ever found its groove, even if the second half of Season 3 was actually quite good. Another half-season, and it would have gotten to the year 2000, where they could have blown everything up, or else saved the world. Instead, the Millennium Group's agenda gets a quick explanation - something about unlocking the brain's potential and creating evolved human beings who can outgrow the species' barbarity - and the characters are left in Limbo.

For Peter Watts, that's pretty devastating. The only possible ending for him now is that the Group has him eliminated for betraying them to Frank. He was a great character, both as a friend and as a sinister foe, and remained so to the end. He tempts Emma with a cure for her father, defends his family from Frank going over the edge (hey, he promised to kill Watts if the Group ever went after Jordan), and trusts Frank's instincts more than the Group's assurances, but whatever move he makes, he remains a believer in Millennium's work. They cast him adrift, and his days are counted, but he remains true to those ideals. And to Frank, who he claims to have protected all year. And we can believe it. So it's a pity that we never get closure on the character, or that he isn't allowed to partner up with Frank again.

Emma fares much better, thankfully. She's smart and about as paranoid as we, the audience, are. Her father's Alzheimer's having incomplete symptoms, the page that saved her life, her surprising chance at a promotion thanks to Baldwin's death (can I say I find it unbelievable that he'd survive that explosion, just so he can be horrifically killed by a Millennium agent?), she sees the Group's hand in all of it. They are putting her in a position where she has no choice but to betray Frank, and from which she can actually influence his career at the FBI. That betrayal is pretty mild, mind you. She merely reports the truth and it's really McClaren's call. Still, she's rewarded with a complete cure for her father (who nonetheless admonishes her for having sold out), and her computer reboots with the Millennium desktop theme. Had the show continued, she would have been an unwilling agent for the cause, perhaps working on the inside to help Frank and Watts. Her head lies heavy at the series' close.

And there's Frank, who is completely right about the copycat killer (they say he copies Ed Cuffle, but all I see is Mr. Zsasz's M.O. from Batman comics) having been programmed by the Millennium Group. With the help of his only remaining friend at the Bureau - and GASP! it's not Emma - he gets the evidence he needs to track the killer down to a friend's house, a pretty blind girl who doesn't realize he's barricading her windows and who nevertheless thinks she can plunge the place into darkness in the middle of the day by snapping back the breakers. It all feels like background, and of course, won't lead back to the Group; the killer commits suicide by drill bit before he can be captured. We need this crime plot because that's how Millennium episodes work, but how much better would this have been if we could have focused on the Group itself instead of a clueless pawn?

Jordan, for example, has much too small a role. She's under threat, and gets to parrot one of Watts' lines, either thanks to her supernatural empathy or a secret conversation between her an her uncle Peter. But that's it. The Frank-Jordan relationship being the heart of the series, I would have liked to see it play a much larger part in the finale. I do like the final shot, however, as the two of them drive off, from rainy British Columbia to a sun-soaked valley. It's a hopeful image, a beautiful one that presages a happy ending. There will be no Apocalypse, we just don't know (yet?) how it will be averted.

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: The powers the Group is trying to give their new human race, does it relate in any way with the way Frank, Jordan and poor Lara Means' heads were wired? Are they examples of Millennial evolution, and important to the Group as natural-born members of that super-race? Did the Group merely observe them in action to learn about these abilities, or would they have been experimented on had their usefulness come at an end? And is this why the Group took no real action against Frank despite the threat he posed to them? You'd want the test subject alive, presumably.

- The various conclusions are variably satisfying. Had the episode not been trapped inside its own serial-killer-hunting format, it might have been able to bring everyone's stories to a proper close. But Emma's story intrigues, Frank on the edge is a sight to behold, we do get some coherent answers, and the coda says a lot with little.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to see ya go, Millennium, but you lost me during the second season, possibly even in the first. I was happy when you were a show about mankind's capacity for madness, not angels and demons and cabals. Sure, Frank's ability was proof positive that there were supernatural forces in the world, but that doesn't mean you have to make that the focus of your show. "The Dead Zone" got by just fine with a VERY limited number of people having psychic abilities. "Early Edition" likewise knew to be selective about its supernatural events, usually in the form of a newspaper delivered by a cat.

Siskoid said...

That's probably what was missing most from Millennium: Messenger cats.

And closure, of course.


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