The last episode of The X-Files may well be the last episode not just of season 11 but of The X-Files as a whole (although series creator Chris Carter still thinks there is more in its future).
Those who have read my book Theology and Science Fiction will know that I follow Doug Cowan in emphasizing the importance of offering deeper analysis than merely noticing Christ figures. But in the case of this episode, we are clearly supposed to notice a Christ figure, namely William. The episode replaces the standard phrase “The Truth Is Out There” at the end of the opening credits with the words “Salvator Mundi” – “the savior of the world,” which is normally a reference to Jesus.
A significant part of the episode deserves comparison to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, in which young Jesus turns out to be something of a prankster as he discovers and tries out his “superpowers” while not yet having the maturity to use them wisely.
William, we learned this season, was conceived through different means that sexual intercourse – which hints at an analogy to miraculous conception. The episode not only highlighted this, but took it further, both when Scully emphasized that she had merely been a vessel for William whose origins lay elsewhere (in an experiment in a lab rather than in heaven), but also when she revealed to Mulder that she was pregnant with a child that would in fact be their own. When Mulder says it’s impossible, Scully says it’s “more than impossible,” which presumably means “miraculous.” He spends his childhood on the run from authorities that are out to get him, like Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. William is eventually killed and then undergoes a sort of resurrection as we see him emerge from the water alive at the very end of the episode, despite having been shot in the head.
Much of the episode is emotionally poignant – especially when William uses his ability to make himself appear to be someone else to appear to the Cigarette-Smoking Man (who earlier described himself as William’s “creator”) as though he were Fox Mulder, the smoking man’s firstborn son. It turns out that he would in fact be willing to kill his own son to carry out his plan for the world, but in pulling the trigger, he actually kills a different “son” who has taken his place.
The points of intersection with the story of Jesus as found in a wide variety of sources are thus multiple, multifaceted, and complex. They are not accidental. And so the one question about Christ figures that I find is regularly worth asking is why – why would the writer have felt it worth making someone’s story parallel that of Jesus? In this case, it seems as though this is the conclusion of something that has been a theme running through many of the show’s seasons, namely that an older generation that holds the reigns of power has embraced an evil path, and someone young needs to arise to save humanity from itself at its worst. Ultimately, the direction this takes at last is fascinating, inasmuch as it offers a message that science and faith can come together to make their own miracle, and that it is something better than the conspiratorial tinkering of reigning powers can come up with. But there is also a message of hope in William’s story itself, inasmuch as he refuses the path that his creator wants him to, preferring to aim for something higher and better. And so this really does make for an interesting crafting of a Christ figure for the present age.
In relation to the theme this season of challenging traditional conspiracy theories of precisely the sort that The X-Files tended to foster, I would note as well that the talk show host who thinks he is unveiling a global conspiracy with inside sources in the government turns out not to be a trustworthy source of information for the public, even when he is drawing directly on information from Dana Scully! In religious terms, it seems that no one knows enough about what is really going on to even interpret history, much less control it.
What did you think of this episode?