WARNING: Spoilers for “The X-Files” ahead.
I’ll be honest, I hated the finale to the last season of “The X-Files,” for what was a decent season overall. My biggest fear after the finale of the mini-series that was season 10 of the iconic show was that we were to leave one of the greatest shows of all time on a horrendously plotted cliffhanger that did no one any favors whatsoever. And with that, my first thought when I think of Season 10 of “The X-Files” is of its horrid low with its ending, not it’s sometimes great highs, with episodes like “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” that hit so well into our nostalgia bones. The plain and simple truth of the matter is that “The X-Files” is a show much more enjoyable when actually dealing with individual cases within the X-Files, not the grand mythology that creator Chris Carter always wants to shove at us. The “Monster-of-the-Week” episodes are the iconic ones that I remember as a fan of “The X-Files,” and that’s all I really ask for in Season 11 is more of them, and less convoluted mythology episodes.
Too bad “My Struggle III” is one of the dreaded mythology episodes. Though, it’s not as poor as it could’ve been.
Starting off with a monologue from the Cigarette Smoking Man [CSM] (William B. Davis) about the state of the world we live in and the secrets he holds within him, “The X-Files” catches us up to speed with the world since we last left the show nearly two years ago. It does a decent job in stating how far the world has come since the events of “My Struggle II” (even though the episode picks up immediately where the last one left off, nearly two years earlier).
After the opening credits, we finally learn what happened to Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) after she looked directly into the light of the alien spacecraft on the 14th Street Bridge at the end of last season. We learn that Scully suffered a seizure and that the events of “My Struggle II” were all a vision from Scully of what could happen in the future. While I really hate the idea of the “It was all a dream!” trope, and while it does seem like a cop-out here, I have no issue wiping “My Struggle II” from the slate and starting over. As it was so clumsily written that I’ll accept a re-write, even if it also comes in a clumsy manner.
After an MRI shows Scully to be emitting a morse code signal saying “Find him,” Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) knows she is talking about William, their missing son, that seems to be the key to everything surrounding the mythology these past two seasons. When Scully awakes, she tells Mulder of her visions, and warns him that Mulder will die without seeking out the CSM and ending it once and for all, preventing the spread of the spread of the fatal pathogen.
Later, Scully is visited by Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens), Mulder’s brother, whom they entrusted William with in the original series. He tells them that he’s being followed by someone who wants William and came to warn her. When Scully asks Spender to reveal William’s location, he refuses to break his promise he made her to never tell anyone of William’s location. Though, after pleading, he says he can reveal who the adoptive parents are, yet is interrupted by hospital staff before he can.
Next, we return to the CSM with Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), revealed to be in alliance with him last season. They begin speaking of Mulder and Scully’s plans, to which Reyes implies that they might realize William to be the weakness in CSM’s armor. Here, we get an update to our world when CSM states that however airtight his plans of human extinction might be, they would simply be dismissed as “fake news” in our day and age. Scandal over substance, etc.
At this point in the episode, I’m pleased with how they turned around the sins of “My Struggle II,” but I myself and struggling to keep up with everything going on at once and why it’s particularly important. After 11 seasons, there’s only so much “The X-Files” can do with its mythology before it becomes batshit crazy, and not even the good kind of batshit. It’s already convoluted, but it always finds a way to redeem itself, which it seems to be doing at the exact same time as it’s pressing more into its convoluted nature.
This being said, the episode does pick up a bit from here and while I can’t ever say that it does anything spectacular, it’s enough to keep me interested in this season.
As Mulder makes his way down to the CSM, he soon finds upon arrival that he has left his home and members of the Syndicate, a group nearly wiped out in the original series, are in his place, propositioning Mulder to kill CSM on their behalf, to continue in their plan of alien colonization. When the group explains their intention is to throw CSM off, rather than playing the obvious move of killing him themselves, Mulder sees through it as a way for them to implement their own plan of alien colonization without risk of failure. Mulder storms out of the proposition refuting the idea that he can save them, but that he knows someone who could, and that they know her too.
It sounds like a clusterfuck, and it kind of is, but there’s a sort of playfulness to the second half of the episode that I like about it. It’s silly and out there in the way that “The X-Files” should be. Is it perfect? No, but there’s enough fun here to go around.
All the while, Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) has been cornered in a parking garage by Reyes and CSM, who begin to explain their plan of human cleansing. He explains his plan excludes Scully and William, as they are immune to such a disease, and he attempts to bring Skinner to his side to lure more allies away from the X-Files and into his pocket. Here, we get to see a more fiery Skinner that we got in the original series, hardlining his stance against CSM in a way we didn’t get in Season 10.
Scully, having exited the hospital and behind the wheel of a car, suffers another vision and involves herself in a car accident, landing herself back in the hospital when Agents Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) and Miller (Robbie Amell) find her after her accident. Later that night, Scully is visited in her room by a member of the Syndicate, who wastes no time in attempting to smother her in her sleep, only to be thwarted by Mulder, who has traveled back from South Carolina in record time somehow, slitting the assailant’s throat.
Recovering from the attack, Mulder and Scully share a tender moment, which leads into the one thing I wanted from this episode: a lead in to more “Monster-of-the-Week” episodes, saying that until they can find William and CSM, all they can do is their work, and that even outside of their search, the “truth still lies in the X-Files.” Damn right it does. This is the content I signed up for. I might not have gotten it in this episode, but dammit it’s coming.
Skinner soon walks in after his confrontation with CSM, Mulder questions him on his whereabouts, telling him he smells like smoke, leading to a confrontation that in turn leads to a flashback to the car, where CSM reveals to Skinner that Mulder is not William’s father, but he is. That 17 years prior in episode “En Ami,” when Scully was drugged by CSM, he in turn, whether by force or science, impregnated Scully.
This twist goes two ways for me, on one hand, it’s a good way to shake up the series in a way that I didn’t see coming. On the other hand, it’s scummy and disturbing. Granted, we aren’t supposed to think anything less of CSM, but it certainly does give him an extra layer of grossness we never got before. The fact that Scully gave birth to Mulder’s half-brother all this time is a disturbing revelation, but one that I’m interested to see how it unfolds going forward. It took 41 minutes to get to the real dark meat of the episode, but it came.
“My Struggle III” was a mixed bag for me to say the least. It has good elements about it, but even in damage control mode, it’s still a mess that makes me like the mythology episodes even less than I already do. I’m absolutely stoked for the upcoming “Monster-of-the-Week” episodes, and this season premiere is the obvious hurdle we had to cross to get to such episodes. I commend Carter for correcting his awful mistake with “My Struggle II,” but I need him to lean in more to really flesh out what he wants “The X-Files” to be in what appears to be its final season. Until then, bring us the monsters dammit.