The X-Files: The Saddest Show Ever? 

 

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“They said the birds refused to sing and the thermometer fell suddenly as if God Himself had His breath stolen away. No one there dared speak aloud, as much in shame as in sorrow. They uncovered the bodies one by one. The eyes of the dead were closed as if waiting for permission to open them. Were they still dreaming of ice cream and monkey bars? Of birthday cake and no future but the afternoon? Or had their innocence been taken along with their lives buried in the cold earth so long ago? These fates seemed too cruel, even for God to allow. Or are the tragic young born again when the world’s not looking? I want to believe so badly; in a truth beyond our own hidden and obscured from all but the most sensitive eyes… In the endless procession of souls… in what cannot and will not be destroyed. I want to believe we are unaware of God’s eternal recompense and sadness. That we cannot see His truth. That that which is born still lives and cannot be buried in the cold earth. But only waits to be born again at God’s behest… where in ancient starlight we lay in repose.”

There’s no shortage of sad moments in The X-Files. Whether it’s the death of Scully’s sister or Mulder’s mother, or Mulder crying at Scully’s bedside as she lies dying of cancer, or when Scully decides to give up William for his own safety, or the death of Max, The Lone Gunmen, or a plethora of other beloved characters, there are many reasons to cry.

Since I was a kid, my dad has been teasing me relentlessly about watching this “melodramatic,” “far-fetched” show with its “ridiculous, over-the-top emotions.” But he really amped up his criticism after I’d had it on constantly in his living room for the past few months, binge watching with my mom to get her up to speed for the revival.

Every so often he’d be in the room while we watched an episode and make comments like “Scully is useless. Always nay-saying Mulder or getting knocked down.” However, the more the show went on and the more bits and pieces he saw, the more he came to like Scully. “She doesn’t take anyone’s bullshit does she?” “Yes! She shot the evil nurse!” “Wow, she kicked his ass!” Aside from gaining more respect for Scully, (which she obviously deserves) my dad happened to sit with my mother and me watching the end of “Closure,” and gained more respect for the show as a whole.

Just by catching an episode here or there, my dad was learning key parts of the story and getting to know the characters and their motivations. Though he hadn’t seen the episode before leading into “Closure,” or most of that episode itself, he knew enough about Mulder’s search for Samantha, the cloning project, and CSM screwing with Mulder’s heart, that he desperately wanted Mulder to find his sister. I mentioned that this was a great part for him to see.

My dad is a social worker who every day witnesses first hand the unspeakable  cruelty and suffering that evil people inflict on children. He’s been waken up one too many times in the middle of the night by a call informing him of a child fatality–some crime that would steal God’s breath away, as Mulder says of the children’s graves at the Santa Village.

“Why is this a good one for me?” My dad asked.

I told him about the walk ins. How they come to save the souls of children from the great suffering they would experience in life, so they can live forever in the starlight. How the starlight is billions of years old by the time we see it, always traveling, always alive. How its the one thing in the universe that never dies. As I spoke, the beautiful spirits of children were playing, holding hands, laughing, at peace. “My Weakness” played over the scene as Mulder walked through, his face showing a profound reverence. And there was Samantha. The real Samantha. Finally. After all these years. Samantha at fourteen. Samantha free from the tortures of her alien captors.

The beauty of this moment is that the audience feels they’ve been searching with Mulder for Samantha just as long as he has. And finally we all have our closure. As Samantha ran into her brother’s arms and smiled, Mulder could see that she was happy. Now, at last, he could be free.

“You just gave me chills,” my dad said. “This is so sad.”

At first I thought “Aha! I knew it! You love this show! No one can resist the files!” and then I thought, he’s right. It is sad. I watched him watching the show, eyes tearing.

Multiple times during our binge-watch, my mom had called this is the saddest show ever. She might be right. But I love it. It’s sad because Mulder and Scully’s challenges get harder and the forces working against them never relent. They suffer great losses and the conflict is always building, the threat always growing in intensity. It’s a story I can get totally lost in. That’s because of all the emotion the characters go through. It’s a good sad. And it never gets old to get lost in. Because I’m always seeing it anew.

And as Scully says in the season 8 episode “Deadalive,” “The truth may hurt, but it’s the only thing that matters.”

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