After David Duchovny left The X-Files at the conclusion of the seventh season, the series went in a new direction. Despite some inspired casting choices, many fans still see the disappearance of Fox Mulder as the beginning of the end for the iconic sci-fi series. While it’s not perfect, Season 8 deserves far more credit for unexpectedly strong chemistry between new and familiar characters and a tightly plotted mythology arc throughout the season.
The first thing they got right: They found a splashy replacement for Fox Mulder by casting Terminator 2 star Robert Patrick as FBI agent John Doggett. Tasked with finding a missing Fox Mulder, Doggett stepped into the hardened skeptic role. Scully had her defenses up initially, but soon developed a rapport with Doggett and strengthened her relationship with Skinner in Mulder’s absence. There was genuine conflict and respect between Scully, Doggett, and Skinner, a dynamic that was a positive development for the show’s characterization. When Mulder did return in the second half of the season, The X-Files, for the first time, became a true ensemble, adding new layers to a show with mythology that was growing stale. It was better off for it.
The group rallied around the search for Mulder, then banded together, with newcomer FBI special agent Monica Reyes, to protect Scully during her pregnancy. It was in this storyline that Gillian Anderson finally took center stage. The actress was given her most challenging work on the show and, no surprise here, rose to the occasion with emotionally wrenching performances week after week.
It was the mythology, though, that remains underappreciated. With the Smoking Man gone, Alex Krycek became the most notable man in the shadows. The sinister Krycek plays both sides before showing his true colors; he puts Scully’s baby in danger and nearly kills Mulder. The season also had a frightening monster evade the mythology. In a callback to the series premiere (and a few subsequent episodes) Billy Miles becomes the boogeyman after his latest abduction and tries to hunt a pregnant Scully down for her “special” baby. In the end, The X-Files season 8 ends exactly in the right place; with Mulder, Scully, and baby William together, for now, as a family.
While The X-Files’ eighth season will be known for what it’s missing, it should be remembered as one of the series’ most satisfying story arcs.