And so, fellow “X-Files” travelers, we come to this: another season, another cliffhanger. How many does that make? Four — counting two movies and the ninth season back in 2002? “Files” is good at temporizing, even better at rewriting its own rules. There’s nothing — except perhaps a classic’s self-respect — preventing us from one day finding out that Elvis is piloting that flying saucer positioned over Scully in the closing minutes of Monday’s finale. If any series can bring back Cigarette-Smoking Man (William B. Davis) as effortlessly as “The X-Files” did in the 10th season, there’s nothing to prevent it from bringing back the Tupelo Tornado in the 11th.
But with Monday night’s inconclusive conclusion now history, decisions must be made — ours and Fox’s. Let’s start with the network’s. There will likely be an 11th season. There has to be. But what . . . ?
In fact, Fox — the network, not Mulder — conceivably even ordered two endings for the six-episode 10th. The first alternate ending was perhaps genuinely conclusive. Nothing left to do here . . . Wrap it up once and for all. Beam Scully up or blow her up. Whatever. Just get this over with.
The second ending — if that’s what Monday’s actually was — is what we got instead. This “X-Files” revival has performed reasonably well, ratings-wise, so there was no compelling financial reason to wrap. The door thus remains open, that spaceship above Scully’s head in suspended animation until the new contracts are signed, and some time clears on the schedule — probably by early next year. If Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny back out, then the go-to team could be special agent Miller (Robbie Amell — aka “Deathstroke” from “The Flash”) and Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose of “Six Feet Under”).
That’s pure speculation, but maybe Fox considered the 10th season a franchise relaunch all along. If Anderson and Duchovny don’t come back for the rest of the ride, then let Einstein extinguish Cancer Man once and for all. Maybe dashing Agent Miller could even turn out to be Baby William, at long last. That’d take some explaining to do, but “Files” is good at that.
What it’s not so good at is closure. As a result, the truth remains out there, somewhere just beyond our reach — or perhaps beyond the series’ grasp. We want the truth? Maybe Col. Jessup’s right — we can’t handle the truth. Maybe “The X-Files” can’t either.
But what can we handle? An 11th season? I’d say “sure” — conditionally.
We’ve all learned to be chary of series that dangle odds and ends of mysterious “mythologies” over years, over seasons, even over intervening decades, only to withhold the last odd and end — to suck us into yet another season. That’s called “manipulation,” and after too many head-fakes, the next season can start to feel like just another rat hole to go down.
The 10th season finale, “My Struggle II” — the second part of the series premiere, “My Struggle” — did feel like one of those: another twist (the Spartan virus), another turn (Scully’s blood holds the special alien gene for the vaccine), another reprisal of “Old Smokey” — Mulder’s fondish appellation for Cigarette-Smoking Man, who returns with a hole in his throat and malice in his heart.
A cross between Charles Montgomery Burns and Dr. Evil, Smokey is no longer a figure to be feared after last night but to be mocked — or pitied. That doesn’t necessarily bode well for an 11th season.
But I — maybe you — leave this six-episode exercise in financial and nostalgic gerrymandering with a sense of hope. There were four good episodes during this run — “Home Again,” for example, and “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” — and only two disappointments.
Also, to watch Scully and Mulder back on the case was a reaffirmation of sorts. “Mythologies” can come and go, but it’s the chemistry between two leads that keeps a show afloat through the years, even over the decades. The Scully/Mulder magic endured. It’s the sort of magic that transcends hokey dialogue or parody-skirting plot arcs. It makes diving down the rat hole one more time almost worth the effort.
So free advice: When “Files” returns . . . lose the “mythology,” or at least figure out a way to make it resonate with modern (young) viewers who couldn’t care less about little green aliens and their DNA. Stick with the comedy episodes, and the monster-of-the-week ones, too. Those were always “X-Files” at its best anyway. They resonated with a sense of life’s absurdities, and unfathomable mysteries. They didn’t need closure or explanation to work. In fact, they abhorred closure and explanation.
Also make certain Scully and Mulder return. Ambrose’s Einstein and Amell’s Miller may seem like someone’s idea for the next “X-Files” team, but “The X-Files” will always be about Scully and Mulder.
Even Ol’ Smokey can’t do anything about that.