[This story contains spoilers from the season 11 finale of Fox’s The X-Files.]
The X-Files’ season — and possibly series — came to a bloody end during Wednesday’s finale.
With the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) bent on unleashing a global contagion and everyone looking for Scully’s (Gillian Anderson) son, William (Miles Robbins), nearly every recurring character — outside of Mulder (David Duchovny), Scully, Tad (Joel McHale) and Kersh (James Pickens Jr.) — died or had a near-death experience.
In the quest to find William (whom he thought was his son), Mulder survived an ambush from Mr. Y (A.C. Peterson) and his associates, and he took out the team. William, whose powers extended well beyond merely being able to change people’s perceptions of reality, did his part in the bloodbath and made Erika Price (Barbara Hershey) and her associates spontaneously combust.
Arguably the most gutting (apparent) deaths were longtime allies-turned-compromised-agents Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) and Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi). Reyes, who was reluctantly aligned with CSM, tried to help Mulder and Scully find their son; she also valiantly attempted to drive away from Skinner when he confronted her and CSM in an alley with a gun. Instead, CSM changed the gear without her consent, which made it so Skinner was run over by the car … after he seemed to fatally shoot Monica.
William got closure, to a degree, with his parents. When Mulder caught up with the young man, he expressed how much he meant to him. Though William fled — and continued to try to outrun his parents — he made himself appear as Mulder to tell Scully that William wanted to be free, but he knew she loved him.
But as viewers learned in the season 11 premiere, William was not biologically Mulder’s son — he was CSM’s, who drugged and medically impregnated an unwilling Scully. (CSM is also Mulder’s biological father.) William kept his Mulder persona, and confronted their father on a dock … who shot Mulder/William in the head. An enraged real Mulder shot CSM, repeatedly, and kicked him into the water. As Mulder grieved the loss of his son and what his life meant without his fatherhood, Scully told him he was still a father: she was pregnant. However, William had one more trick up his sleeve as the final scene of the season (and possibly series) was William popping out of the water, still alive.
So will this ending stick? Will The X-Files return for its 12th overall season? Can the show go on without Gillian Anderson, who has repeatedly said this is the end of the line for her with the series? For more on what’s next for the beloved franchise, The Hollywood Reporter turned to series creator Chris Carter.
The season 10 finale featured a close-up of Scully’s eye that indicated the scenes that followed were her premonition of a possible future. This season, there was another close-up of her eye midway through the episode. Was that stylistic choice vs. what followed being another premonition?
[Laughs.] That’s why they call them cliffhangers. I can’t imagine the show won’t come back in some shape or form. Certainly you’re going to see an answer to the question that’s posed.
So you’re viewing this as a season finale vs. a series finale?
Gillian Anderson has been open about this being her final season. How did that impact the way you approached the episode?
My plan had always been to end it essentially in the way I ended it. It all adds up. There are four chapters to the “My Struggle” series and they all add up to that finale. It was certainly on my mind, but it didn’t change much.
What changes did you make? With this potentially being Gillian’s last episode, what did you want fans to take from her role in the final episode?
If Gillian is certain about not coming back, it would be the last time we see her on-screen as Dana Scully. It poses certain larger questions going forward. It was no different than what I always wanted to leave fans with: she has an enduring love for Mulder. The journey he’s taken her on has been worthwhile. That she is certain her belief in science can explain everything. She believes now that we know as much as we don’t know.
One of the big reveals in the episode was Scully’s pregnancy. Your episode, “Plus One,” had the duo sleeping together, and a few hints (such as the St. Rachel motel) that this could be where the story was going. Was that actually when the child was conceived, and how much were you looking for fans to pick up that thread?
I certainly laid the groundwork for the possibility that something could have been consummated beyond the consummation of the moment. That was all done imagining the finale and where that child might have been conceived.
Given the twist about William’s paternity this year, can you confirm this is biologically Mulder and Scully’s kid that she is carrying?
I will confirm it is their child. But I will also confirm Scully has alien DNA.
When Mulder told Scully that William was gone, she said she wasn’t his mother — she carried him and gave birth to him, but wasn’t his mother. Is she thinking she wasn’t biologically his parent? What was going through her mind in that scene?
She was his biological mother. She was coming from the idea she had given him away very early on. She may have carried him and bore him, just as she said, she was really never a mother to him.
For as many potential cliffhangers as the show has, a larger number of factors are out of your hands: if/when it returns, who will be involved, etc. If the show returns and if Gillian returns as Scully, will Scully still be able to sense that William is alive? Or has that connection somehow been severed?
Because he’s still alive, there is that connection. I imagine right now, that’s what she sensed at the end of the dock at the sugar factory: William might in fact not be dead.
Whether we get to see it or not, in your mind, what comes next for Mulder and Scully?
It is out of my hands. I have to wait for a lot of things that have nothing to do with storytelling and they have to do with a corporate story now being told [as Fox’s sale to Disney awaits regulatory hurdles]. [Should that sale go through, The X-Files, owned by 20th Century Fox Television, would become a Disney property.]
It seemed the X-Files were shut down. If this is the last we see of Mulder and Scully — or just Scully — do you envision Scully going back to her medical career as they raise their baby? What do you hope for them?
I’d be revealing way too much to say.
Skinner seemingly betrayed Mulder and Scully by not telling them the truth about CSM’s plan and William’s parentage. What debate was there about not allowing him to fully tell Scully what happened during their car ride versus merely implying what happened?
In the car, he did tell her the truth. It was clear he had something to tell her, which is why we didn’t hear him tell her, exactly. Because of her connection to William, she could [piece it together].
Skinner is the only character outside of Mulder and Scully who was in every season and both films. Dead isn’t always dead on this show, but what conversations did you have with Mitch when you were filming those scenes where it appeared Skinner was crushed under a car?
I’ve been joking around with him. He keeps asking me, “Am I dead-dead or lying under that car, in some critical state?” He [mentioned] it during New York Comic-Con — clearly the truth was out there. But you could believe he’s dead-dead. That’s part of the cliffhanger.
Fans have seen CSM die multiple times, including his explosive death in the original series finale. Should fans buy that death and if not, what could kill him at this point?
That’s a good question and also a part of the cliffhanger: is he a product of the science he claims to have in his possession? Is that what allows him to regenerate? Will it continue to be regenerative?
In the premonition finale, fans were upset about Monica’s betrayal. In this finale, she seemed to be genuinely trying to help Scully and did attempt to not run over Skinner. Why was it important for you to have a bit of redemption for her?
It was done subtly. So much of [what was seen] last season was done as Scully’s vision. In fact, she never really met Monica Reyes. This points out that Scully’s ability to see, however disconnected and exactly, the future [isn’t exact].
The global contagion seems to have been put on pause. What is the fate of the world now that it seems like some of the people at the head of the madness have been taken out or at least gone away?
You have to image that like any organization they are Medusa-like, and there might be people who are willing and ready and have always wanted to step into their places.
The finale was one of the bloodiest episodes of the series. What restrictions did you have with showing those things on network television?
I have to point out the episode that proceeded this was pushing its own limits. There’s something that’s noteworthy: we were able to do more in episode nine in terms of imagery than I was able to do in the second movie. The PG-13 rating is more restrictive than network television, which I find completely ironic and curious. But there were things that were so cool we couldn’t put in there. Things we worked very hard to do: headless corpses falling to the ground!
What are your hopes for the franchise? Elements are out of your control on the corporate and actor level, but are you looking to continue the world with the graphic novels, a spinoff or something else that you can actively pursue right now?
You look at any long-lived franchise, and there are endless possibilities. There are prequels, there are other ways to approach a series like The X-Files.
Is there anything you’re specifically looking at right now, whether it’s prequel or spinoffs?
I’m waiting for the Broadway musical!
Was there anything you planned for the finale — whether it was scripted or filmed — that you weren’t able to fit in that you can speak to?
It really all fit in there. Nothing that was cut out … everything worked. This was an editorial tour de force. Hats off to [episode editor] Eleanor Infante. The episode, as you see, plays with time. She took that idea and expanded on it in ways that when I was watching her first cut, the editor’s cut, it was like I was watching the story for the first time. That was really exciting.
Is there anything you want to say to X-Files fans?
I think X-Files fans, the hardcore fans, [know] never say die. This series, when it ended in 2002, there was the possibility of another movie, which we gave them. That the television series would come back 13-14 years later [after the television finale], tells you there are stories. And I know this is true, because I have stories to tell; there are more files in those drawers.
What did you think of The X-Files finale? Sound off in the comment section, below. Click here to read our interview with Mitch Pileggi about Skinner’s future.