Get the barf bucket ready. The second-to-last episode of The X-Files’ 11th season may have been the goriest of the year, maybe even of the past two decades. With the strict Standards and Practices of the 1990s loosening, Mulder and Scully are able to test the bloody waters of modern network television in “Nothing Lasts Forever,” as they literally stumble into a cannibal camp.
What was most striking about this episode was not the outrageous amounts of blood (intended, I’m sure, to make me sick to my stomach) or Scully’s mysterious whispered promise at the end to take a leap of faith with Mulder, but the lessons the show tried to impart in what may be one of its final episodes ever.
Don’t Give up on Those You Love, Even If They Have Given up on You
The episode kicks off with what appears to be a risky surgery on a live human being. However, as the shots progress, it is made strikingly clear that this is not any ol’ surgery: this is a surgery run by cannibals, who are harvesting organs for their nutrients. Before they can complete their mission, a weapon-wielding teenager bursts into the room and impales the doctors, reciting “I will repay” before grabbing the freshly picked organs and rushing them to the hospital. We later discover that this is Juliet, a hyper-religious, heart-wrecked teen who is hoping to find her missing sister. When Mulder and Scully confront her about her intentions, she denies wanting to “rescue” her sister, claiming that her sister rejected their family. This makes her ultimate decision, to murder the cult leader that had captured her sister, with the knowledge that she would definitely go to jail, all the more confusing — why put your neck out for someone who doesn’t want to be helped? At the end, we see that her sister Olivia has recovered and rejoined her family. She lingers in the background, concerned, as her mother weeps over Juliet’s departure (presumably, to jail.)
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To me, this is the show’s way of leaving us with a lesson: people may go through trials that test them emotionally and physically. They may reject help, even from those that they love, but that is no reason to give up on them. Sometimes, people just need to be shown that they are worth fighting for and that alone will change their ways.
You Must Make Sacrifices to Stay Beautiful…and It’s Not Worth It
Barbara Beaumont, the leader of the bloodthirsty cult, was an old television star whose fame fizzled back in the ’80s. In hopes of reclaiming her former glory, she begins working with Doctor Luvenis, a scientist who is convinced he has reversed the process of aging by surgically connecting older, crippled people to younger, healthier hosts who can transfer their bodily nutrients to the other. To gain their trust, the doctor feeds the hosts blended blood, which, miraculously, “beautifies” many of them, who were born with deformities and sought out the cult as a solution. As repayment, they offer their bodies to Barbara, who drains them until they die so that she can have everlasting beauty.
However, while Barbara may have become physically gorgeous as a result of this reverse process, the lifestyle she must follow to live to achieve this goal offsets the process’s benefits. Forced to stay inside and avoid the “damaging” sunlight, Barbara has stayed cooped up in her apartment for over two decades and survives on a diet of crushed organs and blood. Her only “friends” are her brainwashed followers and she spends her days watching reruns of her old sitcom and repeating every line verbatim. In reversing the aging process, Barbara trapped herself in the past, which is the greatest reason I’ve heard for not attempting to stop time.
Aging Is Not the Enemy
One theme that runs throughout this episode is Mulder’s dismay over aging. When Scully jokingly reacts to Mulder’s new bifocal glasses, he immediately becomes defensive and claims he doesn’t need them (even though he spends the remainder of the episode eye-rolling at his inability to read without them.) Though Scully insists she’s not judging him (because, she says, aging is a natural process that we all go through and is nothing to be ashamed about), Mulder doesn’t fully grasp the significance (or lackthereof) of aging until the end, when he comes face to face with someone who tried to stop the process and witnesses just how crazy she’s become in doing so.
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In fact, the whole episode seemed to be a poster child for the “YOLO” movement. When, at the end, Mulder laments how his relationship with Scully in the past negatively affected her future and her present, she scoffs, and reminds him that she doesn’t put any of that on him. The ending wants us to believe the one thing that we’ve known all along: nothing lasts forever, except Mulder and Scully’s love.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments down below.
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