Previously on The X-Files, “Nothing Lasts Forever”
Many of us are quite aware of a usually misremembered adage stated by philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana’s aphorism is a piercing truth that carries weight in every facet of our experiences, be them within our reality or a fictional universe we’ve enjoyed for the most part of the last 25 years. During its revival, The X-Files has wildly fluctuated in tone and quality as its writing staff attempted to strike a tenuous balance that reveres the show’s first run while creating new avenues of intrigue for Mulder and Scully to explore.
However it’s always difficult to not dip from the well that once produced the most refreshing stories in the genre. In spite of Chris Carter and The X-Files alum’s efforts to bring something new to the table, aliens and labyrinthine conspiracies will forever be the lifeblood in the show. This isn’t a bad thing as many loose ends (namely William’s journey and status as humanity’s savior) were begging to be tied after the original series finale in 2002. While tweaks and tiny retcons have occurred in the last two seasons, the “My Struggle” series of episodes have truly pushed The X-Files to the bleeding edge of one’s suspension of disbelief.
Sadly, what mistakes were made in season ten bubbled back to the surface during the fourth chapter of My Struggle, and the show may not be able to recover from Carter’s decisions. That is, if it will even be renewed.
Like in seasons past, the grand conspiracy once again evolved into two warring factions, as the reigning champ of evil CSM (William B. Davis) had his former collaborators-turned-rivals Mr. Y and Erika Price (A.C. Peterson and Barbara Hershey, respectively) squarely in his sights. Naturally, sinister egotistical geniuses such as themselves couldn’t get their own hands dirty while enacting their grandiose plans for world domination; naturally, they sought to manipulate the better natures of Fox, Dana, and Walter Skinner for their gain. All of this – with the inclusion of William/Jackson in the mix – would be fine and good, however watching these bookend episodes elicited a strong disconnect from the other eight episodes of the corresponding season. Perplexingly, the episodes written and helmed by Chris Carter remain the most discordant during the revival, and this is his damn show.
Worse yet, if “My Struggle IV” is to be the final episode of The X-Files (as Gillian Anderson stated, she’s done with Scully), it only created more questions about the status of certain characters, presented super questionable actions that are antithetical to character identity, and an especially incredulous shift in the dynamic between Fox, Dana, and William.
Yet again, and I didn’t think I’d write this pun more than once, season eleven’s finale lived up to its title and was a struggle to watch.
At the very least Miles Robbins carried a majority of the finale competently as the ridiculously overpowered William Jackson Mulder Van De Kamp. Seriously now, which name are we going to use for him? The interchange is a minor grievance but is it excessive. Speaking of, Billy Jack took over narrating duties from his father/brother during the finale, detailing his upbringing and the development of his apparently endless array of powers. If anything was revealed, Jackson had a privileged life in the Van De Kamp household and lashed out for shits and giggles. Granted, everyone faces personal struggles relative to their station in life yet Jackson always appeared to look for trouble, as was the case in “Ghouli”. How can we empathize with a boy our favorite leads have searched for the past 16 years when he’s displaying sociopathic tendencies, having telekinetic tantrums, and “joked around” by making his girlfriends nearly kill one another?
While Jackson inadvertently created a case against himself based on past and recent actions, his brother/wannabe father figure Fox was given false information by Monica Reyes about William’s location knowing Mulder would do anything to get his son back. Who knew Fox had it in him to kill a squad of Russian mercs and the CSM’s chief nemesis, because I sure as hell didn’t. I understand Mr. Y and his cohorts live in a shroud of secrecy and dwell within the fringes of society… but no one will eventually notice Fox killed six people and left their bodies to rot inside a hangar? Okay then. I guess the murderous streak runs in the family.
Once Mulder finally caught up to his “son”, William’s proclivity to overreact actually worked in their favor and before you could say “chunky salsa”, Erika Price and her wetwork squad painted the motel room red with their liquefied remains. Although we barely got to know Price outside of her big monologue about the merits of an A.I. slave program in “This”, like Mr. Y it felt like a complete waste of a character who was supposed to rival Cigarette Smoking Man. Not everyone can receive an equal share of time to develop their character, especially in a limited event series like this, yet it remains disappointing as the list of antagonists for Mulder and Scully is oft-tread and further lacking variety and longevity.
In any case, none of these gripes compare to Scully’s perplexing change of heart about William. Her desire to reunite with her son had been paramount to the character’s motivation and progression throughout the later seasons and the second feature “I Want to Believe”; the thought of William was never a crutch but a torch that lit her path, giving her the strength to help those however she can, as a Special Agent or medical doctor. After her all too brief conversation with William (in the guise of Fox), Scully gave chase only to learn from Mulder that her son was shot in the head point blank by CSM. Who, by the way, may be really dead this time – along with Skinner and Reyes. All relatively empty deaths that lead up to the wackiest (final?) moments of The X-Files.
Remember how Dana appeared genuinely concerned about William’s safety when she thought she was talking to Fox? Well, life moves pretty damn fast after your boy takes a bullet to the brain. In a stunning twist of some really awkward and straight up terrible characterization, Scully reversed her decision on how important William was to her by claiming he was merely an experiment conducted against her will. After 16 years of searching and running and bouts of internal strife and tears of frustration, Dana doesn’t give a damn about her kid? That’s pretty damn cold. Not to mention not even remotely in character! I… what… huh???
And for good measure, Scully revealed to Mulder that is she pregnant again. Because why not.
Concluding with an absolute head scratcher of reveal/cliffhanger, “My Struggle IV” was easily the second worst episode in the revival’s short history (I’m sure you can imagine which one is at the top of the list), making a mockery of The X-Files’ longstanding storyarc while disparaging the meticulously crafted characterization of one television’s beloved heroines. If Fox were to greenlight another series of episode, this may be the time that fans will finally say enough is enough before The X-Files becomes a pale shadow of its former self.
The X-Files S11E10 Review Score
"My Struggle IV"
The X-Files – S11E10 – My Struggle IV | David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi | Writer and Director: Chris Carter