After eight previous seasons, at around 24 episodes apiece, you'd be forgiven for assuming that the ninth and final year of The X-Files is perhaps just too much of a good thing. You'd also think that, with barely a dozen shows to go, the makers of the Provenance/Providence two-parter (which aired half-way through the final year) would be busting a proverbial gut to tie up the staggering number of conflicting plot threads that they've established over the years.
Well, in terms of the former, you may or may not be right. A lot of viewers are finding the show tired and overly formulaic, and the audience has dwindled (Channel Ten are now showing their former flagship series at 10:30pm Saturday). For my money, the new stars (Annabeth Gish as Monica Reyes and the uber-cool Robert Patrick as John Doggett) and some very decent stories still make it the best show on the tube at present (at least now that Buffy's over for the year).
As for the latter, you'd be waaay wrong. Providence is another of the two-part "mythology" mini-movies (i.e. the ones that deal with the alien invasion arc) that raises far more questions than it answers.
Scully is shocked to discover a series of rubbings found at the site of an illegal border crossing in North Dakota. The symbols on these rubbings are similar to those she found on an alien spacecraft several years ago (in the Biogenesis two-parter, as any good X-Phile knows).
Realising that sinister elements in the FBI are after information about these hieroglyphics for their own mysterious ends, Scully enlists the help of the only people she can trust - Doggett, Reyes, and techno-nerd trio the Lone Gunmen - in an effort to discover the origin of the rubbings.
Along the way there are dramatic revelations about Scully's baby, the introduction of another cult of UFO worshippers, existential musings about the existence of God and the relevance of religion, and speculation as to Mulder's whereabouts.
All the series' trademarks are present: gorgeous cinematography, big-budget sets, impressive effects, and a very capable cast. Gillian Anderson gets to temporarily throw off her icy-cool facade and do some serious emoting as Scully's son is threatened, and Cary Elwes is suitably creepy as the ambiguous Assistant Director Follmer (who boasts a fascinating bit of character development in the final scene).
But the portentous dialogue and lack of any real answers is beginning to grate. Why is it that nobody in this show (save the earthy Agent Doggett) can give a straight answer to a question? The endless variations of "The truth is out there, if you just look for it," "The answers are in front of you, you just can't see them," and "I could tell you, but you just wouldn't understand," are getting really wearying.
Still, this is a fine example of The X-Files doing what The X-Files does best.