Recap | The X-Files S11E01 – “My Struggle III”
The X-Files Season 11
|Title||My Struggle III|
|Air Date||January 3, 2017|
First, I’m really excited to start covering The X-Files, because it’s one of those shows whose nostalgia factor is pretty high for me. I just love it. It set the stage for so much that, in this, our Golden Age of Television, we hold dear. Dynamic characters, serialized television, pushing the boundaries of horror on the small screen, nonlinear and esoteric storytelling. Without The X-Files, for all its foibles and flaws, we would have very little in the way of must-see TV in the present day. Maybe someday, after I’ve finished my Star Trek rewatch for RSC, I’ll dig into The X-Files.
Second, this is an insane episode. I mean truly crazy. It’s adrenaline-filled and fast-paced, with quick cuts and scene upon scene of world-shattering exposition that doesn’t really say much.
When we last left our X-Files heroes, Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) was dying on the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac from a deadly alien virus that’s sweeping the world, and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) was looking up into the lights of an alien craft hoving directly over them. We pick up immediately after that engaging yet deeply flawed season finale (Season 10’s “My Struggle II”), and by that, I mean that we discover everything in that finale was just in Scully’s head. She’s having hallucinations from an unknown origin, drawing her to find her long-lost son, while Mulder is drawn to find the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), who is of course behind all of this.
No seriously, what actually happened in My Struggle III?
There’s actually too much to recap in detail here – the notes for my recap took up three pages. This is, if nothing else, a jam-packed episode. Among it all: Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) has been working with CSM, which I absolutely don’t buy; Skinner somehow forms a kind of alliance with him; and Mulder traverses the eastern seaboard like twenty-five times to find out that there’s a global conspiracy to colonize space working against CSM’s own conspiracy to wipe out the human race with the alien virus (except, of course, a select few). Oh, and we find out that Mulder and Scully’s child, William, is communicating telepathically with Scully, somehow. OH! And we find out that William is actually CSM’s child with Scully.
Yeah. All of that happened.
What’s the Truth?
In the midst of all this, there’s both a story and a message. This is The X-Files, after all. I think that this show is more relevant today than ever. I don’t think it’ll ever be irrelevant, in fact. The Cigarette Smoking Man himself says, “Civilization is in its final stages. Alliances are crumbling, truth is fluid and alterable. The only truth left is to survive it.” We live in times where someone needs to keep the people in power in check. Those times never really end.
After my initial disappointment at Carter having retconned the identity and paternity of Scully’s child, I’m genuinely interested to see where this goes. They redefine the season 7 episode “En Ami,” where Scully takes a trip with CSM to find the cure for cancer. It turns out that he drugs and impregnates her there. When Skinner questions him about this, CSM replies in the grossest way possible. Skinner asks, “You impregnated her?” CSM replies, “With science, Mr. Skinner. Alien science.” Gross.
Unfortunately, I think that it’s a poor choice for the relationship of Mulder and Scully, something they messed up in I Want To Believe, the 2008 film. At least now this raises questions: how and why are Scully and William suddenly so important to CSM, and Mulder is expendable? Why does he need them? What will this change for the partners? And where do we stand with the fate of the world?
What does this mean for the rest of season 11?
There are so many more questions raised than answers given, which I suppose is exactly what is supposed to happen at the outset of a new season. I’m excited to see where Mulder’s half-brother and William’s Uncle Agent Jeffrey Spender (Chris Owens) continues to come into play, where William’s story will go, and how Mulder and Scully will recover from this eventually devastating news.
CSM isn’t really bent on world domination now, just world destruction. He quips, “The aliens aren’t coming; let’s just be clear.” I suppose he’ll probably be in charge of everything when the virus has killed everyone. But I don’t see his endgame yet. And that’s OK.
Does this still feel like old X-Files?
At times this feels just like our good old show, with callbacks and flashbacks and voiceovers permeating this episode. They work.
There’s an amazing montage and voiceover from the Cigarette Smoking Man, talking about all the things he’s seen and done throughout his career. It all culminates in a great revelation that he helped to fake the Moon Landing.
There’s not a single cohesive narrative here — it feels like a series of “next time on The X-Files” montages. There are quite a few compelling moments, but just moments. It’s too frenetic and fast-paced, less purposeful and methodical. I want this show to slow down and take its time. From what I’ve read, of the ten episodes in this season, two will further the mythology, and the rest will be monster of the week episodes. I’m hoping that they keep a thread of all this going throughout the standalone episodes, with the fully mythology-driven installments bookending the season.
Random Thoughts on The X-Files
When Scully’s doctor starts talking about the strange thing she’s seen being at the nexus of a bunch of strange government agencies — I want to see that show. Oh wait, it’s called Fringe.
I really enjoyed the Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) storyline, the YouTuber (essentially) who’s poking into conspiracy theories who pulls Mulder back in. It seems nice and timely. I’m a bit bummed that it seems we’re out of that now and really into something bigger. I hope he comes back.
I do enjoy Agents Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) and Miller (Robbie Amell) as mirrors of young Mulder and Scully. They didn’t have much to do, but I’d be OK with seeing more of them.
Both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are stellar. I’m pretty sure they always will be (we won’t talk about Season 9). However, Anderson just acts the hell out of this episode. She’s truly amazing, between fighting for her life against an assassin, to making seizures and hallucinations compelling, to just the quiet moments of desperation worrying about her son and Mulder – Anderson is just captivating.
Do you still want to believe?
Yes – this episode opened the door for so many ideas regarding the mythology. However, even more, as I said, The X-Files has never been more timely. I think, if Carter, Morgan, and company really are on their game, they can produce some on-the-nose, cutting-edge science fiction.
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