Existence (The X-Files)
|The X-Files episode|
|Directed by||Kim Manners|
|Written by||Chris Carter|
|Original air date||May 20, 2001|
|Running time||44 minutes|
"Existence" is the twenty-first episode and eighth-season finale of the science fiction television series The X-Files and 182nd episode overall. The episode first premiered on Fox in the United States on May 20, 2001, and subsequently aired in the United Kingdom on June 28, 2001 on Sky1. It was written by executive producer Chris Carter and directed by Kim Manners. "Existence" earned a Nielsen household rating of 8.4 and was watched by 8.58 million households and 14 million viewers, overall. The episode received largely positive reviews from television critics.
The show centers on FBI special agents John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson)—as well as ex-FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny)—who work on cases linked to the paranormal, called X-Files. In this episode, continuing from the previous episode, "Essence", a new type of alien, called a Super Soldier programmed to destroy any traces of alien involvement on Earth, is introduced. Mulder, Doggett, Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), and Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea) help Scully escape from Billy Miles with Special Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) to a remote town. Shortly after, Skinner kills Krycek and Scully delivers an apparently normal baby with the alien Super Soldiers surrounding her. Without explanation, the aliens leave the area as Mulder arrives.
"Existence" is a story milestone for the series. It, along with previous season eight episodes starting with "Per Manum", helped to introduce the story arc featuring the super-soldiers which continued throughout the ninth season. The episode was the last to feature Fox Mulder's character until the series finale the following year. As such, the last scene with Doggett and Reyes in Kersh's office was intended to show the "New X-Files" without David Duchovny.
A metal box brought containing the remains of Billy Miles is brought to a coroner. The coroner examines it and notices what appears to be a metal vertebra. After he leaves the room, the metal vertebra begins to spin, growing into what looks like the beginnings of a metallic spine. Meanwhile, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Monica Reyes arrive at the abandoned town where Special Agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick) was born.
Alex Krycek (Nicholas Lea) is seated in a chair in Assistant Director Walter Skinner's office, where he is shown a video from the morgue. Skinner tells him that Miles is somehow alive and still out to get Scully and her unborn child. Suddenly, Agent Gene Crane comes to Doggett and tells him that there is a person—Knowle Rohrer—who wants to see him, about issues concerning Miles and Scully. This leaves Fox Mulder and Skinner to interrogate Krycek. Rohrer tells Doggett that Miles is part of a secret Military Project to create "super soldiers" and that Scully had a chip put in the back of her neck during her abduction to make her pregnant with the first organic version of a super soldier.
In Skinner's office, Krycek gets up from his chair and starts leaving out the doorway. Skinner goes after him, then turns around and sees Miles approaching behind him. Skinner just manages to escape with Krycek (who was purposely closing the elevator doors on Skinner), but Miles' hand breaks through the elevator door, injuring Skinner and knocking him unconscious. At the hospital, Mulder distrusts what Doggett has been told by Knowle Rohrer, so the two set out to find out how trustworthy Rohrer really is. Meanwhile, at Doggett's abandoned hometown where Reyes and Scully are hiding out, Reyes sees someone running off and follows whoever it is. A car pulls up and she meets a trooper who agrees to help with the birth. As Mulder and Doggett pull into the garage, they find Krycek pulling up in another car, with a passenger who happens to be Rohrer. Mulder believes that Rohrer and Krycek are colluding together but don't understand how/what for. Doggett covertly pursues Rohrer and learns that Rohrer has an accomplice: Agent Crane.
Mulder's own problems arise when his cell phone rings and Krycek disappears from his car. Mulder, after learning what Doggett has witnessed, believes that Crane gave Krycek access to the FBI. Suddenly, Krycek smashes through the car window with his prosthetic hand and crushes Mulder's cell phone. Krycek aims his gun at Mulder and tells him to get out. Krycek is about to pull the trigger when a bullet administered by Skinner pierces his arm. Krycek tries to pick his gun up again, but Skinner shoots his hand, rendering it useless. Krycek pushes his gun over and tells Skinner to shoot Mulder, telling him Mulder's life will grant him a thousand lives. Instead, Skinner raises his gun and shoots Krycek in the head. Doggett attempts to apprehend Rohrer and Crane but ends up being chased by the two. The pursuit ends up in the FBI garage and ends violently with Crane being run over and Rohrer crashing his car into the garage wall, going up in flames. Both men are presumed dead.
Scully goes into labour and Reyes helps her deliver an apparently normal baby with the alien Super Soldiers surrounding them, all witnessing the birth in a cold stare. Without explanation, the aliens leave the area as Mulder arrives. While Doggett and Reyes report to the FBI Headquarters, Doggett initiates an investigation into Kersh after previously witnessing a late night meeting between him, Rohrer and Crane (and their consequent disappearance). Mulder takes Scully and their newborn baby back to her apartment. After marveling over the baby and discussing recent events, the two share a long, passionate kiss.
Writing and casting
"Existence" was written during filming, which led to Kim Manners—the director of the episode—helping with the script. Because of this, several of the action scenes, such as the fight at the FBI headquarters, were Manners' ideas. According to Manners, the last scene with Doggett and Reyes in Kersh's office was the "birth" of the "New X-Files" without David Duchovny as a lead. From here on, Monica Reyes became a main character on the show. Star Trek: The Next Generation regular Denise Crosby briefly appears as Scully's gynecologist. The episode features the last appearance of Nicholas Lea, sans the series finale. Reportedly, Lea had become tired of the role and was growing weary of the ambiguous nature of the character. When Lea learned that his character was to be killed off in "Existence", he reportedly welcomed the news. The night the episode aired, Lea wrote on his personal website: "I felt that [Krycek] wasn't getting a fair shake anyway. [...] I wanted more in-depth ideas about the character and it never came to pass. It kind of stopped being fun to play."
The final scene of the episode featuring Mulder and Scully kissing almost was not filmed. Initially, the script called for Mulder to kiss Scully's forehead. Both Duchovny and Manners argued that the scene was "mundane" and that they had "been teasing and doing that bull for so long" that they wanted "a real kiss at this point". During the birth of Scully's child, several allusions to the story of the birth of Jesus are made, including Mulder following a star to find Scully and The Lone Gunmen bringing gifts for the baby, much like the Three Wise Men. Scully's child was portrayed by Jerry Shiban, who is the son of John Shiban, a producer who worked on The X-Files as well as The Lone Gunmen. He was the first of seven babies to represent the character and the only one to play Baby William for a single episode.
Effects and filming
According to director Kim Manners, the most difficult scene to shoot was in the elevator with Mitch Pileggi and Nicholas Lea. Conversely, Manners favorite scene was the one in which Skinner kills Krycek. Manners himself proposed the uniqueness of the shot, which features a CGI bullet going straight through Krycek's head. Extra money was budgeted for Krycek's death. Mitch Pileggi was very happy when he was told he would be killing Krycek; he explained, "when they came to me and told me that I was the one that was going to kill Krycek, I was elated. Not because I wanted Nick to go away or anything, it was just from a character stand-point; Skinner just wanted to kill Krycek so bad." Manners later called it one of his "favorite scenes [he'd] ever directed" and one of the "best scenes [he's] seen in a long time on television."
The car scene with Gillian Anderson and Annabeth Gish was shot at Kanan Road, Malibu. Anderson and Gish sat in what is known as an insert car, while the crew sat in a pickup car in front of them. The birth scene was filmed at Paramount Ranch. Gish had never filmed with guns before joining The X-Files, so the producers hired a retired LAPD officer to teach her more about firearms. She also did some shooting practices before returning to the set. The FBI garage scenes were shot in Century City and took a total of four days to finish.
The episode also contains a scene wherein Reyes serenades Scully with "karaoke renditions" of whale calls. Gish later noted that "[Series creator Chris Carter] gave me a tape of whale songs, which was hysterical to be playing in my trailer." Carter was inspired to write the scene after a friend gave him a Paul Winter album that incorporated whale sounds into the music. Carter later explained that, "I just thought it was kind of much like [Reyes'] character to appreciate that."
"Existence" premiered on May 20, 2001 in the United States on Fox. The episode earned a Nielsen household rating of 8.4, meaning that it was seen by 8.4% of the nation's estimated households. The episode was watched by 8.58 million households[nb 1] and by 14 million viewers, overall. In the United Kingdom, "Existence" premiered on June 28, 2001 and received 0.65 million viewers, placing The X-Files number three in the top ten broadcasts for Sky1 that week behind Star Trek: Voyager and The Simpsons. Fox promoted the episode with the tagline "Will the beginning be the end?" The episode was later included on The X-Files Mythology, Volume 4 – Super Soldiers, a DVD collection that contains episodes involved with the alien super soldiers arc.
"Existence" received mostly positive reviews from critics. Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club awarded the episode a "B". While offering a positive opinion in regards to the finale as a whole, he felt that "Existence" dragged more so than "Essence", resulting in a less interesting episode. He also felt that the overarching mythology of the series had long ago become too convoluted to make sense, but that the "human pieces of the show still work, and that includes Doggett." Contra Costa Times columnists George Avalos and Michael Liedtke were pleased with the episode noting that the last scene was "beautifully written". Avalos and Liedtke also reacted positively to the death of Alex Krycek at the hands of Skinner, saying it was the best scene in the episode. Despite their praise, however, they stressed that "Existence" was not as exciting as the previous episode, "Essence," or the 1998 The X-Files feature film. Jessica Morgan of Television Without Pity gave the episode an A- rating, noting that "season eight's finale goes out with a big fat juicy kiss between Mulder and Scully, at long last". Gareth Wigmore of TV Zone was positive toward both "Essence" and "Existence". Wigmore gave the episodes a 9 out of 10 rating and wrote "the reason that this two-parter works is that its plot is simple enough for the audience to still have a handle on".
Not all reviews were positive. Robert Shearman and Lars Pearson, in their book Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen, gave the episode a more mixed two-and-a-half stars out of five. Paula Vitaris from Cinefantastique gave the episode a scathing review and awarded it no stars out of four. She heavily derided the plot, and wrote, "Thus endeth the Mulder-and-Scully era of The X-Files, and what a load of sanctimonious crap it turned out to be!"
- At the time of airing, the estimated number of households was 102.2 million. Thus, 8.4 percent of 102.2 million is 8.58 million households.
- "The X-Files - "Existence"". TheXFiles.com. Fox Broadcasting Company. February 2002. Archived from the original on 31 October 2001. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "Existence". BBC Cult. BBC. Retrieved October 1, 2009.
- Manners, Kim (2002). Audio commentary for "Existence". The X-Files: The Complete Eighth Season: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
- Kessenich, p. 146
- Kessenich, Tom (July 22, 2001). "What's Next? Fox Drama 'The X-Files' Will Try to Recover From a Disappointing Season". Wisconsin State Journal. Lee Enterprises. Retrieved December 26, 2012. (subscription required)
- Hurwitz and Knowles, p. 197
- Carter, Chris; et al. (2000). The Truth Behind Season 8 (DVD). The X-Files: The Complete Eighth Season: Fox Home Entertainment.
- The X-Files: The Complete Eighth Season (Media notes). Kim Manners, et al. Fox. 2000–2001.
- "TV Ratings". St. Petersburg Times. Times Publishing Company. April 2001. pp. 7D.
- Associated Press (May 2001). "Season finales lift NBC to No. 1". The Cincinnati Post. E. W. Scripps Company. pp. 3C.
- "BARB's multichannel top 10 programmes". barb.co.uk. Retrieved 1 January 2012. Note: Information is in the section titled "w/e June 25 – July 1, 2001", listed under Sky 1
- Existence (Promotional Flyer). Los Angeles, California: Fox Broadcasting Company. 2001.
- Kim Manners; et al. The X-Files Mythology, Volume 4 – Super Soldiers (DVD). Fox.
- Handlen, Zack (December 14, 2013). "Review: The X-Files: 'Alone'/'Essence'/'Existence'". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- Liedtke, Michael; George Avalos (May 24, 2001). "Season finale consummates fans' emotional journey with The Kiss". Contra Costa Times. MediaNews Group. Retrieved November 25, 2009. (subscription required)
- Morgan, Jessica. "X-Files". Television Without Pity. NBCUniversal. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
- Wigmore, Gareth (2001). "TV Zone #141 Episode Reviews - X-Files Essence / Existence". TV Zone. Visual Imagination. Archived from the original on January 12, 2002.
- Shearman and Pearson, pp. 247–248
- Vitaris, Paula (April 2002). "The X-Files Season Eight Episode Guide". Cinefantastique. 34 (2): 42–49.
- Hurwitz, Matt; Knowles, Chris (2008). The Complete X-Files. Insight Editions. ISBN 1-933784-80-6.
- Kessenich, Tom (2002). Examination: An Unauthorized Look at Seasons 6–9 of the X-Files. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 1-55369-812-6.
- Shearman, Robert; Pearson, Lars (2009). Wanting to Believe: A Critical Guide to The X-Files, Millennium & The Lone Gunmen. Mad Norwegian Press. ISBN 0-9759446-9-X.
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