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After the somewhat failure of the first revival season (Season 10), this season looked to improve where it failed by telling a more cohesive story over a reduced number of episodes. While the previous season had only 6 episodes, this season featured 10 episodes which is already a good sign.
For those unaware, seasons are usually comprised of mythology episodes used to tell the season overarching along with unrelated standalone episodes sprinkled in between. This season, like the previous revival season, followed that formula over its reduced length. While that season had a few entertaining episodes, it failed, as a whole, to tell a cohesive story. This season, however, had more success and told a more cohesive story amongst its mythology and standalone episodes (more on that later), featuring more entertaining episodes.
When it looked like the show wrote itself into a corner with last season’s cliffhanger finale, this season established that it was all a dream by Scully thus pretty much undoing it. This led to her having a series of hallucinations of last season’s finale thanks to her psychic connection to William. Ultimately this season, like the last, focused on Mulder and Scully’s quest to find him. However, they were not alone as CSM was also interested in him and his abilities. The season also featured a pair of members of an alien colonization syndicate named Mr. Y (AC Peterson) and Erika Price (Barbara Hershey) who were lurking in the shadows but they didn’t amount to much as the writers were unsure how to use them.
Then came the standalone episodes. “This” was still loosely connected to the mythology as it brought Langly while tackling the world of artificial intelligence. “Plus One” featured a pair of twins with psychic powers. “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” was the season’s wacky and hilariously meta episode dealing with the show’s relevance today. “Ghouli” loosely went back to the mythology and put William/Jackson Van De Kamp (Miles Robbins) front and center. “Kitten” sort of gave Skinner an origin story from a generic case. “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” was an entertaining and original Black Mirror-ish episode, focusing on our over-dependence on technology and what could happen if it goes wrong. “Familiar” saw them tackle witchcraft. “Nothing Lasts Forever” saw Mulder and Scully take on a cult.
While these standalone episodes were entertaining for the most part, the constant was Mulder and Scully and their great chemistry that they’ve developed over the years. They were fun to watch and more often than not made up for sub par episodes. They often found themselves reflecting on the fact that they weren’t exactly getting younger and were getting close to end of their careers which was fitting with this season possibly being the last. They were obviously very close to one another but even with a child, it wasn’t clear if they were more than just good friends although it was hinted several times that they might be more.
The most disappointing episode was the season finale that was supposed to wrap up the mythology. The season premiere ignored last season’s finale and this one ignored last season’s finale and the season premiere. Because Mr. Y and Price were so disposable, the last episode devolved into an episode where Mulder and Scully chased William who did not want to play a part in what was to come (last season’s finale). There was one more twist about William that would change things slightly but it came out of nowhere. He found himself making the ultimate sacrifice, or did he?
The best part of every season is always Mulder and Scully themselves and this was still the case here. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were excellent here as Mulder and Scully. They were definitely showing their age, perhaps Duchovny more than Anderson, but they could still handle the grind. “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” stands out the most as this mostly dialog-free episode only works because of their great chemistry.
Overall, this was a good season that was an improvement over the previous season with a pair of disappointing mythology episodes and also a compelling set of standalone episodes with “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” and “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” standing out above the others. Duchovny and Anderson as Mulder and Scully were great as always and were fun to watch throughout. This may be the end but I hope this won’t be the case as the ending was disappointing to say the least.