Confused About The X-Files? We’ve Got You Covered | Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Confused About The X-Files? We’ve Got You Covered

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If you’re excited for the upcoming relaunch of the X-Files, you might be confused as to where to start with the series. It’s nine seasons and more than 200 episodes of television, so it can be a little daunting to consider where to begin. Well, I’m a total nut for the X-Files. We refer to ourselves as X-Philes (think Trekkie, only for X-Files fandom), and I’ve spent a ton of time during my life pondering the mysteries of the X-Files. So, if you’re confused about the series’ conspiracy story line you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a pretty comprehensive description of the X-Files’ ongoing conspiracy “mytharc” episodes. But be warned, it’s obviously spoiler heavy. If you’ve got an interest in watching the series for the first time, you may wish to avoid this story. But, if you just want to be caught up on the conspiracy/alien storyline or if you feel you need a refresher before the new episodes air, you’ve come to right place.

Just a small warning, I’ve written all of this from memory. While I know my X-Files pretty well, it’s possible that I’ve gotten a couple things wrong (possible, but I’d like to think it’s not likely).

One of the things that bothers me about the X-Files returning is the cavalcade of people bemoaning the series’ lack of answers to its ongoing story. As a big fan of the series, I find this notion both hilarious and kinda insulting. Because I followed the show very closely, I think I have a great grasp on the storyline and I can say with confidence that the writers not only explained the ongoing series once … but twice during the show’s run. The answers might not always be satisfying, but as the series slogan says … the truth is out there.

The world of the X-Files is a world not unlike our own … well, except for all the strange mutants and monsters that inhabit the countryside. Oh! And the aliens. The X-Files never tried to hide the fact that aliens exist. Agent Fox “spooky” Mulder is our window into this world and he believes that aliens not only exist but that a huge coverup at the highest levels of power exists to hide these alien interlopers from everyday folks. Mulder’s longtime partner, Agent Scully, doesn’t believe that aliens exist, but she does believe that a coverup is happening. Who is right? What exactly is going on with the X-Files conspiracy that befuddled so many people during the series initial run? Read along and I’ll enlighten you.

Aliens. Yes. It’s aliens. Mulder was right. During the series run the mythology episodes focused primarily on two types of aliens: Human-alien hybrids, and alien bounty hunters. The human-alien hybrids are typically clones of actual humans with one teeny tiny difference: they bleed green blood that can be deadly to humans. The alien bounty hunters also bleed this green blood. The green alien blood can coagulate a human’s blood if they are exposed to it. Typically, exposure to the green blood will kill a human, though Scully was able to save Mulder from his exposure through extreme cold and anti-viral medication. The only way to kill these clones, or the bounty hunters, is to pierce the back of the skull with something sharp. This could be done with a bullet or more frequently with the bounty hunter’s weapon–a mechanized ice-pick. When killed in this manner, the clone or the bounty hunter’s blood will become inert and won’t hurt humans.

The Bounty Hunter is an alien who can shape shift. These aliens seem to be used primarily as enforcers by the Syndicate during the first seven seasons of the series.

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The Syndicate is a powerful consortium of men and women who have been working for decades with the alien colonizers. The group was formed following the Roswell crash and have been secretly plotting behind the scenes since. They have no allegiance to any one nation and have control over many countries and even the United Nations. The Syndicate was given clemency by the alien colonizers in exchange for help with creating a perfect alien-human hybrid. The hybrids would serve as slave labor once the colonizers return was complete. The problem is that the Syndicate was formed by a bunch of people more interested in their own safety than protecting the human race. They began their eugenics program, code named Purity Control, to create the hybrid, but they knew that once the hybrid was complete colonization would begin immediately. So, they spun their wheels for years delaying completion of the hybrid while secretly working on a vaccine that would make them immune from the alien virus.

Virus? Yep. You see, in the X-Files universe the invading alien race is actually the first creatures to have lived on our planet. Some of these aliens left the planet and some of them have existed underground for millennia as a sort of virus that looks like black oil. Sometimes this alien virus simply possesses the human host. The Black Oil gains memories and abilities from the host body while also gaining the capability to emit a bright radiation flash that can instantly kill a human. The only way to know if a human is possessed by the Black Oil is to see if their eyes have a film of oil swimming over the surface.

So, the Syndicate continued working on their hybrids and secretly creating their vaccine to protect their families from the eventual alien apocalypse. The vaccine was a highly guarded secret, because if the colonizers knew that work on the vaccine was happening they would simply kill all of the Syndicate and push up the invasion time table. But then something wholly unexpected happens…

Through some means, the alien virus–the Black Oil–evolved to use the human body as an incubator instead of simply possessing the victim. A human infected with the Black Oil then becomes an incubator for an “infant” alien who will eventually burst from the host, killing the human in the process. These snarly “infant” aliens are driven by pure instinct, and will kill anything that gets in their way. The infant aliens do have one need: heat. Extreme temperature will allow the alien to hibernate before entering the next (last?) stage of its life as a grey alien. During the series we see an infant alien find its way into a nuclear reactor to complete this metamorphosis.

Okay, here’s where the alien biology gets a little bit (more) complicated and we can blame this on either David Duchovny, or the concept of the unreliable narrator. In the episode The Unnatural (written and directed by Duchovny), we learn that the grey aliens can shape shift. Arthur Dales, brother of the Agent who first opened the X-Files in the ’50s, tells Mulder a crazy story about a grey alien who decides to turn away from his people in order to play … baseball. Just bear with me. This alien (played by The Flash’s Jesse L. Martin) shows that the Greys can change their shape to appear as anyone. But here’s the important part, the alien bounty hunter shows up to dispatch Martin’s alien, but before that can happen he shape shifts into a grey alien. Are the bounty hunters actually grey aliens? Or do the Greys and the Bounty Hunters merely share the ability to shape shift and nothing else?

In my opinion, those two are the same race. So, here’s a cheat sheet scanned from my extremely nerdy notes that I jotted down following the Unnatural’s airing back in ’99.

I apparently had a lot of time on my hands in high school

If we are to believe The Unnatural, then the politics of/and explanation for the alien invasion become even more complicated. Thankfully, this narrative thread isn’t explored too deeply and could always be explained away by saying Arthur Dale was mis-remembering things when he relayed the story to Mulder.

At some point a rebellion happens within the alien colonizers. Though we’re never given great detail about the rebellion, we do know that the rebels have the same shapeshifting capabilities as the colonizers. However, the Rebels have disfigured their true faces closing off all orifices (including eyes, mouth, and noses) so that the black oil can not infect them. Otherwise these aliens are the same as the bounty hunters with the same weakness at the back of the neck, and the same green blood (though the Rebel’s blood may not be toxic).

The rebels begin killing off alien abductees to prevent the human-alien hybrid program from having subjects. Then the Rebels kill off the Syndicate, with only a few of the higher ranking members escaping with their lives.

And that was the end of the Syndicate. Sort of. Though the original Syndicate and alien colonizers were destroyed by the Rebels, CGB Spender–more commonly known as Cigarette Smoking Man–escaped death and continued with a new Syndicate. This time Spender was more concerned with his own power, and tried using alien technology (more specifically a buried craft) to take a part of Mulder’s brain that had been affected by the aliens. The plan didn’t work and it looked like Spender was kaput, but the aliens weren’t done.

At the end of season 7, Agent Mulder was, along with many others, abducted by the alien bounty hunters. Those who were abducted were subject to horrifying experiments before being returned to Earth. Those who were returned died before literally shedding their skin to be reborn as alien super-soldiers (or “so called super-soldiers” as Robert Patrick’s character always called them). Mulder was returned, and saved from this process through some grade-a screenwriting bullshit (hey, I love the series, but let’s call it what it is.). The humans who weren’t as lucky were totally taken over by the new alien consciousness, and couldn’t be differentiated from regular people except for a strange bump on the back of the neck.

In season 9, Duchovny's absence was filled by Agents Doggett and Reyes

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These super-soldiers also had a weird fascination with Scully’s baby. When Scully got pregnant (which was weird enough considering she’d been told earlier in the series that pregnancy was not possible for her), the super-soldiers spent a lot of time behind the scenes looking after Scully and plotting. When a friendly FBI agent took Scully to a tiny ghost town to deliver the baby, the super-soldiers arrived. But they revealed that they weren’t there to kill or capture the baby, instead the super-soldiers wanted to ensure that the baby was delivered safely. Once the baby was delivered, the super-soldiers scattered.

Understanding that the super-soldiers (and later a weird alien worshipping cult) wanted their child for potentially nefarious means, Mulder and Scully gave the baby up for anonymous adoption. But, not before he was given an injection that supposedly would kill any alien abilities the kid might have. Their hope was that the kid would never be found by the super-soldiers.

The alien super-soldiers were virtually indestructible. Garbage trucks, fiery car crashes, bullets–nothing worked against these creatures. Well, almost nothing. Mulder, Scully, along with new X-Files agents Doggett and Reyes, learned that the super-soldiers had a weakness to magnetite. Coming anywhere near magnetite would make the super-soldier’s body go through a strange change before killing them.

In the final episode of the series (which recaps the entire mythology for those who weren’t paying as close attention as I was) it is revealed that the super-soldiers are another arm of the alien colonizers and that the date for colonization has been set. Mulder learns that colonization will begin on December 21, 2012–the end of the Mayan calendar (I swear it was scarier before the actual end of the Mayan calendar happened.), the idea being that the ancient cultures of the world were able to find a way to stop the aliens. The series had flirted with the idea of ancient cultures–like the Anasazi–knowing about the aliens throughout its run.

And that’s basically the broad strokes of the X-Files conspiracy storyline in a nutshell.

Mulder isn’t able to stop the countdown to colonization in the finale. Whether or not colonization will occur is left up to the imagination of the viewers. Even the 2008 movie sequel, The X-Files: I Want To Believe, doesn’t touch on the invasion plot. The “Season 10” comic series, however, does delve into the alien mythology. The comic is considered canon, though with the television revival happening, I’d imagine that will change (I hope! The comic isn’t very good!). The question I think every X-Files fan has regarding the revival is the makeup of the episodes. Will these episodes be a six-part episode that concludes the alien conspiracy? Will it be all monster-of-the-week style episodes, or some combination of the two?

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If I were a betting man, I’d say that series creator Chris Carter may try to swing for the fences and “resolve” the mythology one more time (as someone who understood the mytharc pretty well, I don’t really want Carter to recap it for a third time for the folks who weren’t paying attention the first time around, thus wasting this revival). But as someone who loves this show dearly, I think a smarter play would be a mixture of the two with an emphasis on concluding Mulder and Scully’s adventure while establishing a new duo of Agents pursuing the truth under Mulder and Scully’s tutelage.

I know that fans don’t want to see X-Files without Mulder and Scully. There’s a reason that Robert Patrick’s John Doggett was so poorly received by the fan base (not by me, however, I loved Action Doggett), he just wasn’t Mulder. But, I believe that the world of The X-Files is rich enough that Chris Carter could introduce a new duo of agents to shepherd the X-Files division. Not in lieu of Mulder and Scully, but working for the two veteran agents. Maybe Mulder and Scully get a promotion that allows them to expand the department slightly. Duchovny and Anderson might be amenable to doing half of the episodes in a 13 episode season while the new agents can be the focus of a new series. I don’t know, I don’t care, I just want some variation of The X-Files: The Next Generation. I’m super glad that we’re getting another six episodes of my favorite show, but I definitely don’t want it to be the end.

There are 4 comments.

  1. Doug said on February 4, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    Thank you. Why are you seemingly the only one who considers “The Unnatural” a part of the X-Files mythology? Didn’t that episode establish that the Greys are shapeshifters and probably the same race as the Alien Bounty Hunters? I always thought that episode filled in a very important piece of the puzzle. Yet no “mythology” list includes that episode.

  2. Billy said on February 5, 2016 at 5:36 am

    Thanks for reading, Doug! To be clear, I personally don’t think that The Unnatural is part of canon per se. I’ve always considered it to be a wild fairy tale that “Arthur Dales” (and we don’t ever even get proof that this Dales is actually related to the first Dales outside of his word, so who knows if he’s telling the truth) was spinning for Mulder. Since Dale is the only person who can corroborate the story, and he’s clearly unhinged in a number of ways, can we really take anything he says at face value? I think it’s a case of the concept of the unreliable narrator. Maybe some of what Dales says is true, but there are enough questions that we can’t and shouldn’t really trust him. Plus, the Greys being shapeshifters is an idea that contradicts enough other established mythology concepts that I simply can’t believe it.

    That being said, I included the Unnatural here for completeness, but I don’t really believe any of it.

    I’ll have a review up soon of the first three episodes of the miniseries soon, I have some thoughts on the new mythology, if you’re watching the miniseries keep your eyes peeled!

  3. colleen said on October 2, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks for writing all of this!! I don’t quite understand the point of the alien bounty hunter….they’ve been sent by the syndicate to kill off ‘mis-behaving’ aliens or alien hybrids?? Maybe I’m remembering wrong that Cassandra was the first alien hybrid, which isn’t until season 6. I also haven’t understood why the ‘rebels’ would want to kill hybrids OR the syndicate. The whole black oil thing seems a bit like its own story-line, not directly related to myth arc.

  4. Todd Novak said on January 25, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    If the Bounty Hunters are the same race as the Grey Aliens, then why would the Purity virus (black oil) invading them cause them to be mind controlled which was established when it was explained that the rebel Faceless Aliens (same race as the Bounty Hunters) disfigured themselves with no mouth, nose, ears, or eyes so that they could not be infected with the Purity? The Greys were created by the black oil so it would make no sense that the black oil would be something that would need to mind control them.

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