It's been a whirlwind 10-hours of The X-Files Season 11, and with "My Struggles IV" the Mulder/Scully party looks to be over. While there are certainly some cliffhangers, the revelation about Mulder and Scully's miracle child also felt pretty satisfying.
In our last The X-Files postmortem of the season (series?), we chatted with creator and episode writer/director, Chris Carter, about the four-part "My Struggles" arc, who the heck is actually dead, and what the future holds for the series.
Did it feel different this year bringing the season to a close?
Chris Carter: No. I don't think we're at the ending as much as a new beginning. Or, it's not a conclusion for me. It's maybe one of the biggest cliff-hangers we've ever had. Certainly, with the carnage and the revelations. We did six last time, and 10 this time. Even though it took a year of my life to do it, it happens much faster. So, the arc is much quicker, and that struck me again.
When did the concept of the four-part "My Struggle" episodes come to you? Obviously, you had your Season 10 pick up, but did you know then that you wanted to tell this particular through line in four pieces?
Yeah, I had four stories to tell. They were the characters that were most central to the mythology being Mulder, Scully, the Cigarette Smoking Man, and Mulder and Scully's son, William. Those are the stories I wanted to tell, so I'm glad everyone stuck with it.
Gillian had a very specific announcement this year saying that she was retiring from the character. Did that affect the tail end of the season?
No, it's what I wanted to do always. I wanted to reveal William's immortality. I wanted to bring Mulder and Scully back together in the most emotional way. So, I had all those cards to play.
Some showrunners have an idea of a last image that they want to end with. Was Mulder and Scully hugging on that dock with the knowledge that she's pregnant set, or did that come from telling that story this season?
It was in my head and I couldn't wait to shoot it. But that's not the last image. (Laughs)
True. It was indeed William in the water alive. But was it Mulder and Scully or William you were moving towards the whole season?
You know, I'm so invested in these characters. I've lived so much of my life with them, and it's a moment we've seen twice. We've seen it at the end of the second movie, and we've seen it now at the end of the finale. The revelation about the first child was a different situation. I really feel like emotionally they are connected in a way that we haven't ever quite seen.
The X-Files has always been very subtle about portraying the romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully. But you let the writers lean into it this season with some really poignant moments. Why was it important to show that now?
I think that there was some part of us that heard the fans. There was another part of us that saw them both getting older and thinking about the future, and thinking about retirement and old age, and what their lives might be together. So, I think that these are poignant moments for two characters who have known each other for 25 years.
Was there a Mulder/Scully moment or scene you really loved this season?
Two things come to mind. One being that pillow talk in Episode 3, and the other one being the moments they had shared in the church together in Episode 9.
When did you tell David and Gillian how the season would end, and did they want to know?
There's a tremendous amount of trust between the actors and me, and so I withheld everything until the end. I let David read the script before I let Gillian, because I wanted her to not quite understand what was happening to Scully. I gave them both the script without the last four pages. I actually withheld those pages until just before we shot, so they didn't know where it was going. And I did that purposefully.
Wow! They are both pros, but even then how long did it take to then land those last four pages during the shoot?
You will appreciate that those scenes at the end of that pier were shot between two and five in the morning. We were all tired. They were all very cold, but I can tell you we were also very glad that the weather was great, the wind was calm, it wasn't raining. It could've rained on our parade literally.
What was the wrap shot for the season?
I think the final shots that I shot were with some of the additional stuff that I had to do with Mitch for that action sequence. The sequence on the dock with Mulder and Scully was the second to last night. We tried to put it on the last night, but we were unable to do that.
Speaking of Skinner, we’re very well trained by you that unless you say someone's dead, they aren’t dead. So, we see part of Skinner’s body. Do you want to say if he’s dead or not?
Well, you see him lying under the car. But you did see him fall before the car hit him, so while he's motionless it certainly begs many questions.
My hopeful, Mitch Pileggi-loving heart likes that answer. Let’s talk about the sequence where Mulder gets to finally shoot CSM. David's performance in that moment was really heartbreaking. There’s not a lot of emotional satisfaction in that outcome.
No, I mean it's so confusing for Mulder. Here's his father, who he witnessed shooting him, so he's reeling right now. He is chasing a kid who may, or may not be his son. In the motel room, William alluded to the fact that he and Mulder don't share the same connection that he and his mother do. So, you can just imagine that he's first of all exhausted from the chase, and now he's emotionally exhausted. And when he pushes him off the end of that pier, he doesn't keep the man to prove that he's dead. He pushes him in anger.
I love the idea that in that moment of utter rejection, Mulder also reframed his belief about believing himself to be a father.
Yes. I had these four parts in my head. I didn't know perfectly how they would play out, but I knew I wanted to play with William's paternity, as that had been set up in Season 7 of the original series. I knew I wanted to play with William's immortality. I wanted to play with William's darkness. I wanted to play with Mulder and Scully's emotional connection to this kid and the pursuit of him. I wanted to play with the Cigarette Smoking Man's big plan to basically re-colonize planet earth by unleashing something. And this is something that is not really talked about, but it's true, one of the things that we least talk about is a pandemic that could overtake us.
In 1918, a hundred years ago exactly, between fifty and hundred million people died. And one of the things that informed the four-part series for me was I had heard something that the former head of the CIA said. He said "There are three things that threaten man-kind right now. One is nuclear holocaust, second is global warming, and the third is the natural or man-made release of a biological agent." That's the one we think the least about.
With the awful virulent flu that went through this winter, I thought about your story line.
As the director of this episode, there was a little bit of everything for you to play out. What really pushed you, or upped your game?
I'd never exploded heads and bodies before, so that was exciting. Some of the visuals were excellent. For me, it was an interesting episode to write and to direct, because the episode played so complexly with time. That was really an interesting thing to do and to make sure it all worked and that it would be understood cutting back and forth between time frames. And the other thing I think the episode does, is it tells the story in a way that really reveals the scope of the drama.
I’ve got a nerdy question: In "My Struggle part II", we get Scully's vision of the end of times. And it showed CSM in a very different physical state. And then we see in this season that he looks fine. Are we supposed to assume his regenerated appearance is a result of his involvement with the various alien projects?
CSM’s had access to science that no one else has access to, and if he is a part of William's immortality, what's to say that he doesn't hold the key to that in his cells? And when he went off the end of that pier, what does that suggest?
I’m going to assume until I see his dead body that he could be coming back at any point. So let’s shift to the fact that Kersh closed the X-Files again. Are we supposed to take that at face value?
My feeling is that The X-Files has been closed before. They closed it in Season 1 actually, long ago. So, it's not the first time. Practically, those files still sit down there in those drawers. And someone is going to investigate them. And if that's Mulder and Scully, they'll do it with the same passion they've always done it with. But the fact is that those files sit down in those drawers to be investigated.
David posed to me once that The X-Files should live on with a show about William. With Gillian retired from Scully, is that more of a credible direction for you to ponder as a spin-off?
No, I guess you could take that approach. I hadn't really considered it. I like Miles Robbins (William). I think he's interesting, I think the character of William is interesting, but that's a different kind of show. That would really be starting from scratch. It's more of a superhero show. That might be an undertaking, but I'm too tired to think about it right now.
The X-Files is 25-years-old this year. What are you most proud of that you've been able to evolve with this run of episodes and with the characters?
Yeah, very rarely do people get to do 25 years with the same characters, and 218 episodes in this case. It's not exactly The Simpsons. We weren't running the whole time, but I've had a lot of interesting avenues as a story teller. The thing I think I'm proudest of is that with all of those 218 episodes, we really set out to do a little movie each time. And I think that we succeeded in that way, and really appreciated how hard it is to do that. How hard the crew needs to work to basically start fresh every 9 days. My hats off to everyone who worked on The X-Files. That's what I say.
Are you going to go make a nice sitcom now?