Chances are, you’ve had this experience:
You loved something (or someone) deeply, intensely. It was a part of your world, a part of your heart, so much a part of your daily life that you sort of forgot how special it was. You forgot to appreciate it. You forgot to be grateful for it.
And then, one day, it was gone.
Maybe it was a loved one. Someone who was central to your life, gone forever, whom you wished so hard you could see just one more time. Or maybe it was a place. A town that grew and changed, a home you lived in that has since been destroyed.
You thought you’d never see the person, the place, the thing, ever again.
We don’t know what we have until it’s gone.
And usually, that’s how it remains. The loved one who has left — or worse, died — doesn’t come back. The home town is never the same.
The show that you loved came to an end. Over. For good.
The memories live on only in memory.
Thus it was destined to be with The X-Files, a show I loved deeply during its first airing.
At least, that was its destiny … until it returned.
A second chance.
January 24, 2016, was a red-letter date on my calendar. Marked with a giant X: for the return of The X-Files, of course.
Was I excited? Oh, yes. Giddy I was, downright giddy with anticipation. I posted so much on Facebook about the show’s return that friends started mocking me (with love, of course, always with love). “I had no idea you were excited about this,” said one. “Hey Pam, I hear they are airing new episodes of The X-Files starting tonight. I remember you kind of liked the show so I thought I’d let you know,” said another.
So January 24 came along, and at 7 p.m. Pacific I was snuggled up under my new favorite blanket, everything I could possibly need for the next hour within arm’s reach. Ready.
And then of course there was that football thing, some game, it ran over into The X-Files‘ start time. It was unbearable, but it finally ended. The iconic X-Files theme music kicked in, and my heart fluttered. The (more or less) original opening filled the screen, and my grin spread from ear to ear.
I grinned through the whole show, joy in my heart, elation in my soul. The X-Files was back.
When the first episode was over, I posted on Facebook: “That was perfect. So happy.”
There were, of course, the naysayers, the people who watched the show just waiting to hate it. “The first episode is awful,” they said, “the second not much better.”
I ignored them.
Ours is a critical society. We snark and we criticize because it’s easier to hate than to love. I am sure there were people waiting with bated breath, hands at keyboards, ready to pounce. To find the slightest imperfections, the smallest inconsistencies, the littlest confirmations of a pre-decided opinion: the reboot can’t possibly be as good as the original. Prove me wrong. Though of course I won’t let you.
But I don’t believe in living that way.
You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
When something you once loved, that you thought was gone forever, comes back, you have to savor every episode, every line, every look, every nod to the past, every moment.
Was it what I expected?
Here’s the thing: Anyone over the age of … well, let’s say twenty-five or thirty, raise your hand if who you are today is who you thought you would be ten years ago. If your life today is what you thought it would be.
I feel pretty confident there are no hands raised. (If you accurately predicted ten years ago what your life would be like today, then hat’s off to you.)
That’s how life goes.
When you’re twenty-five, the number of paths you could take to forty-five is infinite.
When you’re forty-five, the number of paths from twenty-five has been whittled down to one. Everything else you could have done, everything else you could have been, it’s nothing but the might-have-been.
Life takes us places we never expected.
Of all those infinite paths between the end of The X-Files Season 9 and the beginning of Season 10, of all the possible journeys the characters could have taken, the writers had to pick one. It’s not the same as living the journey. Living your path, each tiny choice leads to the next, moment to moment. It makes sense because we witness it as it unfolds.
But reviving a TV show means making all those choices at once. Do The X-Files‘ creators’ and writers’ choices make sense? To some they will, to some they won’t. Was the path they picked the one I would have picked? In the end, it doesn’t actually matter.
Fictional characters though they may be, I love that I can see in today’s Mulder and Scully the weight of their choices since we last saw them. They are not the people they were when we left them, and they shouldn’t be. But who they are is, nonetheless, believable. That tension of love and frustration, that deep commitment balanced by the need to protect their own boundaries, the walls they’ve built up because of or in spite of themselves and their lives. The struggles and the wondering: did I make the right decisions? Should I have taken another path? Everything I believed, everything I’ve fought for, everything I’ve devoted my life to, has it all been worth it? These are questions we all grapple with in our own (real) lives. Much to the credit of the creators, cast, and crew, these same questions feel real in the new X-Files universe.
And as to the fact that Mulder and Scully aren’t together anymore: just as with any of our own relationships, it’s complicated. As David Duchovny said in an interview, there’s not just chemistry between Mulder and Scully now; there’s history, too. Which makes it feel real.
Sure, there are the deviations from the original story, accompanied by unspoken requests from the creators that we play along.
But I saw Cigarette Smoking Man die. Like, not just sort of die, not just maybe die. He was decimated, eviscerated, destroyed in a fiery ball of very hot fiery fire.
You want to bring him back? You want me to ignore the fact that that’s basically impossible?
Okay. I want to believe. For you, Chris Carter, I will believe.
Is The X-Files exactly what it was before? Of course not.
Did Alice Walker not tell us that we can’t step in the same river twice?
Did Julie Andrews not remind us that nothing lasts forever; nothing ever could?
Critics can go on criticizing, tearing apart whatever there is to tear apart, judging mercilessly while occasionally deeming a moment or two worthy of praise.
Me, I’m going to savor.
You’re back. It’s been a long time. Are the things you remember the same things I remember? Are the things that were important to me the same things that were important to you? I know I’ve changed. How have you changed? Will I recognize you? Will you still love me? Will I still love you?
Nothing lasts forever; nothing ever could. The X-Files is back, but soon, too soon, it will be gone again. As I write this, there are only three episodes left; by the time it’s published there might be only two.
I loved it in its original day, and I love it now. Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, and all the others, too many to name, thank you.
Turns out the good shows stick with you, the characters (and the actors who played them, and the people who created it all) stay in your heart.
Even after all this time?
Also published at my Huffington Post blog.
Check out Pam’s books!
- The Universes Inside the Lighthouse—YA sci-fi adventure / first in the Balky Point Adventures
- The Wishing Rock series—women’s fiction / wit, wisdom, and recipes
- The Pam on the Map series—travelogues / wit and wanderlust