Over the years we've seen some funky stuff on the X-files, but we've never seen Mulder's office engulfed in flames -- until now. In what has become customary for X-files season finales, we get a couple pieces to the big puzzle, but we're left with more questions than before. It's frustrating as hell, but that's why we love it.
Alrighty, this synopsis is a little long but I hope you'll stick with me.
At a what appears to be a world championship chess match -- played in a stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia -- an oddly interested audience watches as a 12-year old wonder kid named Gibson puts a shaky, much older, Russian chess champion to shame. Our chess boy glances behind him as though he's heard something. Could it be possible he's aware of the highly-trained gunman waiting in the rafters? Of course it is -- this is the X-files. Gibson stands up, hits the Russian with a check mate, then leans back just as a bullet whizzes past his little noggin and plants itself in the chest of the loser. Talk about your bad losses.
The scene then shifts to another wintry Canadian setting. Two parachuters land at a remote cabin in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. Inside, Cancer Man, prepares some tea. The masked visitors creep around the house, but when one tries to go through the front door, he's met by a slug that renders him very dead. Cancer Man bolts from the cabin and runs through the woods, but his escape is foiled by Alex Krycek. Krycek has been sent to bring Cancer Man back to the Syndicate, and since the black-lunged son-of-a-bitch can't resist the invitation back into the game, he agrees.
Back in D.C. Skinner drops into Mulder's office to tell him about the Russian chess star assassination. The spindly-limbed Agent Spender has been given this assignment by someone outside the bureau (which tells anyone familiar with the show exactly who it is) and for some strange reason he's requested that Mulder not be allowed to help out. Skinner, being the conscientious boss he is, informs Mulder of Spender's wishes then accompanies him upstairs so they can both pay Spender a little visit.
Spender is briefing a roomful of agents about the assassination, but his attempt at authority takes a big hit when Mulder walks in and verbally smacks the crap out of the young agent. Spender believes the dead Russian was the intended target, but Mulder already knows that the shot was supposed to hit the kid -- and the kid knew when to duck. A note of agreement comes from the back of the room when Agent-in-Exile Diane Fowley pipes up. Mulder gives her one of those "haven't we slept together?" looks and Scully notices.
At an outdoor meeting place somewhere near a major highway interpass, Krycek and the newly-invigorated Cancer Man have a pow-wow with the Syndicate. Cancer Man snidely says that "all is forgiven" for that failed assassination attempt, and they get down to business. The chess champion with the ability to dodge snipers is an important little bugger, and the Syndicate wants to reel him in before all those truth-seekers get to him. Cancer Man takes an ample puff on a Morley, agrees to do the deed, then walks off with the confident stride of a man who just got the upper hand.
Mulder, Scully and Fowley drive to the psychiatric hospital where Gibson is being examined. During the ride, Scully asks Fowley about her past, and we quickly see a connection between Fowley and Mulder. In 1991, just as Mulder was slipping into his X-files obsession, Fowley took an assignment in Europe. On the surface this wouldn't suggest anything, but the darting glances between Mulder and Fowley show Scully that something is obviously going on.
The threesome drop by the Ingent Murray Psychiatric Hospital in Gaithersburg, Maryland to question their bullet-dodging pre-teen. Any doubt about Gibson's mind-reading abilities are quickly put to rest when, after a discussion about "Baywatch," he declares Mulder to have a dirty mind. Smart kid. Mulder challenges Gibson to a match with a computerized chess board, but he declines and Mulder suddenly has the boy-wonder figured out. In another act of sheer Mulder brilliance he's already deduced that Gibson always wins because Gibson always sees what his opponent is thinking. Remove the mind and a mind reader is worthless, which means a mindless computer opponent would probably beat this supposed prodigy. Gibson quickly turns the conversation back to reading Mulder's dirty mind, revealing that the agent is secretly thinking about one of the two women who have accompanied him. How much you want to bet she doesn't have red hair?
Mulder's next stop is the federal detention center where the sniper is being held. Agent Spender is trying his best to be a man, but he can't pull of the act. His six-hour interrogation with the sniper has yielded a whole lot of nothing, and he's put-off when Mulder asks to have a shot (no pun intended). Apparently, Spender has not idea who he's dealing with and he makes a crack about Mulder's paranormal investigations, prompting this great response from Mulder: "You're insulting me when you should be taking notes. Somehow you got the big assignment, but just because you're wearing the suit doesn't mean it fits." Ha! Take that you swarthy bastard!
Back at the psychiatric hospital, Gibson passes every test the experts can give him, including the ultra-hard "what did I have for breakfast" quiz. Apparently, this boy is more than just a chess player -- he's the greatest mind reader in the history of anything. Scully and Fowley watch the tests from an enclosed room, and the tension between them threatens to blow the windows out.
As in any pressure situation, the only release is to visit the Lone Gunmen. Scully drops by just as the boys are getting ready for bed (Frohike is all dolled up in pajamas and a bullet-proof vest). Scully asks them to analyze Gibson's brain-wave data, but first she wants to know just who this Agent Fowley is. They explain that Mulder and Fowley were together when he first got out of the academy, but when he took on the X-files she took off. Scully gets a really pissed look which undoubtedly stirred the imaginations of 'shippers everywhere.
Hours later Agent Fowley is still monitoring Gibson at the hospital, but she tears herself away when Mulder drops by. They do a little catching up, she flirts, he flirts, they hold hands and Scully walks by at the most inopportune time. Her jealousy gets the best of her and she goes to her car where she calls Mulder and asks him to meet her at the office so she can show him the interesting information she's got on Gibson.
On most shows this would lead into some heart-wrenching declaration of unrequited love, but this is the X-files and there's no time for romantic conjecture. Mulder, Scully, Spender and the other agents assigned to the case are all supposed to meet in Skinner's office to discuss Scully's findings, but Spender has a little pre-meeting rendezvous with Cancer Man in the federal parking garage. Cancer Man offers some fatherly advice -- don't do drugs, stay away from fast women and "don't become part of someone else's cause or crusade." The family reunion is interrupted when Mulder pulls up and sees Spender talking with a shadowy, cigarette-smoking figure. He darts from his car, but Cancer Man fades into the night, leaving Spender to deal with the hot-headed agent. Mulder knows that shadowy figure and now he believes that Spender is part of the conspiracy.
So now we've got all kinds of tension -- Scully and Fowley aren't hitting it off and Mulder's ready to break Spender like a pencil. Nonetheless they manage to put it aside for the meeting. Good thing too, because Scully reveals that Gibson may possess the kind of brain power capable of bridging the gap between normal understanding and the paranormal. Mulder knows he's close to undeniable proof validating the X-files, but it's a big gamble. For the final payoff he'll have to go straight to the Attorney General and request immunity for the shooter in return to information about the boy and the men who want him dead. Coupling Gibson's scientific proof with the shooter's story could pull the pieces of the paranormal puzzle together. But if it all falls through the justice department might yank the plug on the X-files. Mulder chooses to risk it all.
After describing his story to the attorney general, Mulder drops by the federal pen to get the goods from the shooter. Finally, he gets an answer he's looking for -- the shooter says the kid is the missing link; genetic proof of a superior being that may even be an example of alien intelligence.
While Mulder jumps back on the alien bandwagon, Scully watches over Gibson at another nondescript road-side motel. All the poor kid wants to do is watch cartoons, but Scully's scientific side gets the best of her and she asks him how he does the funky mind-reading thing. He explains that he simply hears the thoughts just as you hear stations on a radio. Before we can really get to the juicy stuff (such as a reason why Scully wants to pop Agent Fowley's eyes from her sockets) Scully is relieved by Fowley and the conversation ends.
Just as things appear to be working in Mulder's favor, the shooter is shot dead in his cell, a bullet tears through Agent Fowley's lung and Gibson is kidnapped by Cancer Man.
Skinner breaks the bad news to Mulder and shows an interesting piece of evidence the feds found in the shooter's cell -- the wrapper to a pack of Morleys. While the good guys pick up the pieces, Cancer Man hands Gibson over to the Well Manicured Man. Gibson is shuffled into a sedan where Krycek awaits.
Back at FBI headquarters, Mulder finds Spender in the hallway where he tosses him about and uses the secret cigarette-wrapper-smeared-on-the-cheek manuever. Mulder's outburst doesn't help things because now the justice department is seriously considering the end of the X-files. Add in the fact that his ex is almost dead and you've got one grade-A bad day -- a day like that doesn't just happen. Only then does Mulder see that the entire situation has been orchestrated to knock him down and further conceal the truth.
Mulder and Scully spend the night mulling over their fate, but Cancer Man takes some personal time for a visit to Mulder's office. He picks Samantha's file from the stacks in the crowded cabinet, then drops a lighted Morley into files.
While leaving, he runs into Spender where he mentions in passing that he's the agent's father. Spender gets a constipated, incredulous look, but the moment is spoiled when alarms ring and flames lick the walls of Mulder's office. When Mulder and Scully arrive later that night, the entire place has been charred -- all the files, all the work and even the I Want to Believe poster. Cancer Man rides again, but this time he's got his own agenda.
It usually takes two or three full episodes to run through a mythology story, but the writers truly outdid themselves with "The End." I don't think anyone saw this one coming. If you're not excited for the movie now, you just don't get it.
Note: This review originally appeared at Ontap.com. It's reprinted here for archival purposes.