As we come ever closer to what may well be the last ever episode of The X-Files, it’s entirely appropriate for an episode that’s more or less the antithesis of a last hurrah. Equally, Nothing Lasts Forever also ruminates on themes of aging and faith (the on-the-nose title a further extension of the former), appropriate for this penultimate installment of the long-running franchise.
Not for the squeamish, Nothing Last Forever follows Mulder and Scully’s investigation into the murder of two surgeons at an illegal makeshift surgery, uncovering evidence of mass organ theft. In turn, this leads the two agents to an 85 year old actress who hasn’t aged a day since she was thirty, a religiously motivated killer and a cult of cannibals who consume human organs to off-set the aging process.
When it comes to grossing out the audience, Nothing Last Forever certainly succeeds – scenes of human organs being blended and drank like smoothies, two people being surgically conjoined and copious amounts of throat slicing and stabbing to boot surely rank the episode as one of this season’s gorier affairs. What keeps the episode away from just simple shock value gore porn though is the script’s grim sense of humour – first-time writer Karen Nielsen lends proceedings an air of black comedy, especially in the case of the central villain, the campy, cannibalistic Barbara Beaumont (Fiona Vroom), who gets some truly killer one-liners in and among all the flesh eating and blood drinking.
It’s an episode that is prime for some truly horrific imagery – from the wheelchair bound Dr. Randolph Luvenis (Jere Burns) and his surgically attached ‘blood doners’ to the flesh eating hipster-like cultists, director James Wong spares no opportunity to seed some unique and disturbing shots into the episode. The direction is superb from start to finish, with action parkour scenes and blood-soaked horror blending seamlessly with the episode’s more delicate moments of tenderness and contemplation.
As great as the horror element is here, it’s the quieter moments of self-reflection that elevate Nothing Lasts Forever – both Scully’s faith and Mulder’s atheism are explored and discussed in greater detail here, with particular focus on the lives the two agents lead as a result of their work with the FBI and the X-Files. This all coalesces into a sweet and eye-opening coda that sets up what looks like the end of the road one way or another, all hinted at with a cheeky whisper from Scully in Mulder’s ear. Nielsen‘s dialogue is spot-on and the performances from the two leads hit all the right marks, making for some quality drama in an already memorable episode.
If there is any criticism one can aim at the episode, it’s that it unwisely decides to spend too much time in the company of the villains, not Mulder or Scully. This being the last chance to enjoy a simple procedural episode in the company of the two main characters, it’s unfortunate that we aren’t afforded as much time as normal with them, despite the two big church scenes. The focus on the villain, whilst fun (mainly due to Fiona Vroom‘s wonderfully flamboyant performance), also takes away a lot of the mystery and opportunities for shock twists that could have occurred had the script held back on these elements a little while longer.
That said though, Nothing Lasts Forever is still immensely fun, chock full of the tried-and-tested X-Files tropes we’ve come to know and love. The direction is tight and wonderfully atmospheric, whilst the design and effects teams deserve considerable acclaim for their nightmarish but scarily-plausible creations (especially the grim depiction of Luvenis). Whether the gory goings-on are to your taste or not, the final scene alone is such a wonderful insight into the two main characters that it’s most definitely the highlight here.
With one final episode left to go, Nothing Lasts Forever offers a clever and succinct rumination on the series as a whole, cherry picking the best elements that made for such a winning formula, and taking them out for one last spin.