Sometimes we kill off characters because it makes for good theater, but then we look back a few days later and realize our shortsightedness. “Hey,” we say to ourselves, “that person added a lot to this show.” But then what are your options?
- Bring in a new character to take their place. This person should have some surface differences from your original character but really not affect the plot in any other way. Give your “new” character an accent, for instance.
- Write yourself into circles trying to resurrect your character
Now, I love Cigarette-Smoking Man as much as the next guy, and he has certainly earned his place on this show, what with directing the shadow government and siring 30% of the agents assigned to the X-Files at some point.
But maybe it’s time we give William B. Davis a break. He is not a dog; he should not have to play dead whenever we ask.
Also, fun fact: David Duchovny is now the same age that William B. Davis was when X-Files began. Time keeps on slippin’ into the future.
Death #1: Just shoot him in the face (“Redux II,” season 5)
Pros: Simple, direct, and to the point
Cons: Terrible hired assassin fails to kill an elderly man by shooting him in the face
The Syndicate decides to pursue a little re-org by sending an assassin after CSM. When at last someone goes to collect the body, they find instead “too much blood for anyone to have survived.” We all know what that means.
Death #2: Undignified wheelchair toppling (“Requiem,” season 7)
Pros: Full of symbolism of how the mighty have fallen, involves Krycek
Cons: Just not dead enough
Krycek and Marita double-cross CSM, and for some reason he is surprised by this. Krycek wheels him to the top of the stairs, to which CSM warns, “As you do to me and to Mulder, so you do to humanity.” Then Krycek shoves CSM (and, by extension, humanity) down the stairs.
I really wish this was how CSM had died. He tries to finagle one of his schemes using his go-to mercenaries, he fails miserably, and then he gets trampolined down the stairs without so much as one last cigarette for his tracheotomy hole.
Supposedly the original plan was to end the series here and continue later on with movies. I cannot stress what a truly wonderful world that would have been. Intensive resources would have gone into the next steps in the story, rather than inventing new ways to dole out Duchovny’s 13 episodes of season 8. Super soldiers would just be someone’s fever dream. Mulder and Scully would be together forever. 9/11 never would have happened.
Death #3: Helicopter missile to the face (“The Truth,” season 9)
Pros: Sends an unequivocal message to the viewing audience: This man is dead forever. You just watched his face melt off his skeleton.
Cons: Just kidding, he’s not dead
In the last few minutes of the last episode of X-Files, CSM finally eats it. He’s holed up in a cave village in New Mexico, and a pair of helicopters — which the X-Files Wiki tells me were sent to kill Mulder and Scully, though I cannot imagine a world in which this was the option most in line with “plausible deniability” — instead blast his new home full of missiles, dramatically pause, and then missile him right in the face. Then the show spent some ungodly amount of money showing us his CGI death, from the flaming glow and blown-back straggles of hair to his charred skeleton.
His charred skeleton. We have seen it.
AND YET, this:
At this point, he just can’t die. Ever. There can be no CSM death written into this show that I will ever fall for again. When this universe ends and/or the aliens stop procrastinating and finally colonize the Earth, it’ll just be CSM and Scully hanging out in an empty void, one offering awkward come-ons and one scowling.
I’ll leave you with my desperate attempt to guess how CSM could possibly be alive. Commence the brainstorm!
- CSM was really a super solider, so whatever is left of his skeleton will regenerate into a person, like the piece of spine in Essence/Existence (season 8). Perhaps this seems implausible since the whole point of the cave village is that it contains enough magnetite to render the human out of super soldiers, but joke’s on you! — the one cave he was in didn’t have any of it or something.
- CSM closed his eyes at the end and sent his consciousness into the dreamcatcher between him and the helicopters. The dreamcatcher fell off its perch and dropped to the ground when the missile breezed by, and then someone recovered it and used the trapped spirit to animate a clone of CSM that they made using genetic material from the various alien/brain experiments he had undergone. Oh wait, that’s a good one…
- CSM has a clone from the various alien/brain experiments he had undergone, and it was the clone that blew up. The real CSM is in great health because he used the clone CSM for parts, like an old car.
- The last actions of the old woman caring for him were in fact the last in a sequence of steps to program a hologram of CSM having his face melted off so that the helicopter pilots and viewers would think he was for-real dead this time. God rest her hologram-programming soul.
- CSM is still dead but will appear in the X-Files Revival through flashbacks, hallucinations and voiceovers, a la season 8 Mulder. This is proven to be a satisfying and effective way to include a beloved character.