'The X-Files' Recap: The Truth Is Out There, But Our Struggle Is Here
Back in 2015, I was reluctant about the X-Files reboot at first, but the new season was coming no matter what, so I made peace with it and joined the fun. Last time around, I participated in the official show re-watch, watching an episode a day for 202 days (204 if you count the movies). Then January 2016 came, and I think I can speak for everyone with a functioning brain and say that season 10 was possibly the most embarrassing television I’ve ever watched. After that experience, I unfollowed the official account on Twitter. I hid their page on Facebook. In fact, I had completely forgotten about the new season until Dustin DMed me a few days ago. In the absence of that build-up, and with my expectations set to a non-existent level, this season might already be at an advantage.
But first, a recap. In season 10 Chris Carter went back to his roots of alien-tampered vaccinations. In the last episode, we saw humanity suffer a worldwide outbreak of the Spartan Virus. Scully sequenced her own DNA, discovering that she carries alien genomes. Mulder chased down Cigarette Smoking Man (who, surprise! somehow managed to survive a direct hit by a Hellfire missile). Scully met with Agent Reyes who explained to her that the alien genomes present in Scully’s DNA give her immunity to the virus. In the end, a very sick Mulder is reunited with Scully, who is ready to cure him with an antidote sequenced from Scully’s blood. However, she sees that Mulder is far too sick to be cured with the antidote and requires a stem cell transplant from their son, William. This, of course, is when all goes dark, except for the single beam of light coming from, presumably, a UFO, hovering above.
Season 11 opens with the episode “My Struggle III,” thus continuing the mythology story that begen and ended season 10. So how bad was it? Compared to the previous season, it wasn’t terrible. The most glaring problem is that this new season completely discounts the last. The massive viral outbreak? Mulder at the brink of death? The UFO closing in on Scully? It was all a vision sent to Scully by her son William. Of course, at this point, deus ex machina is the only viable writing device available to Chris Carter. Too bad he didn’t use it to scrap the entire mythology plot.
Of course, the biggest reveal was that Fox Mulder is not William’s father; Cigarette Smoking Man is. I’m curious to know if this particular plot point was written before or after the Weinstein scandal broke in the news because it feels especially cruel to yet again violate Scully. She’s been kidnapped by aliens and human monsters alike, experimented on, had her ova removed, been left barren, and given cancer. And now we’ll have to watch as she learns of her rape committed by Mulder’s father. At this point, the treatment of her character feels malicious and possibly vindictive.
The episode was also problematic in the typical Chris Carter ways, by which I mean that each scene felt disjointed from the next, often to the detriment of the overall story. For example, early on in the episode, Mulder expresses disbelief at Skinner’s suggestion that Scully is sending a message in Morse code via her prefrontal cortex (this is the most ludicrous sentence I have ever typed in my entire life) telling Mulder to find William. The reversal of character behavior here is staggering. Skinner urges Mulder to heed the message, but Mulder is disinterested. Then, not even ten minutes later, we hear a voice-over from Mulder as he drives, saying that he is “desperate to find William.” These extreme shifts in character traits and objectives are possibly the biggest problem with the later seasons of the show. Chris Carter does this too often. He writes for immediate scene tension, often sacrificing the larger plot. There are a lot of smaller problems as well. Mulder in a car chase? Please, he can hardly hold onto his gun when he runs after a bad guy. CSM’s voiceovers during clips of Trump, Flint, and Putin, feel heavy-handed and clumsy. The scuffle between Mulder and Skinner also feels out of place. Their combative relationship was understandable and even appropriate during the earlier seasons, but after 11 years — given the struggles they shared — their hospital fight looked petty.
Even though I am very good at complaining, this episode wasn’t all bad. The mythology plot felt like it had progressed and gained some momentum, hopefully setting up a path to resolution, or at least an end. I don’t know if you’d agree, but to me, it felt like Chris Carter did hear the negative feedback from season 10 and tried to rectify some of the complaints. This episode featured more David Duchvony and Gillian Anderson and minimized the two new agents, Agent Miller and Agent Einstein. Hopefully this means that we get more stand-alone episodes. The next four were not written by Chris Carter, which hopefully means that we get a break from the mythology. Episode 4 was written by Darin Morgan, who is a fan favorite. Episode 2 was written by his brother, Glen Morgan. I’m looking forward to the Monster Of The Week episodes, but I’m going to maintain my low expectation level.
Ursula’s favorite X-Files episode is “Small Potatoes”, which should not be surprising. You can follow her here.