XFiles Season 11 Premiere – My Struggle III
We’re baaaaack! I’m so excited to be your X-Files recapper for this 11th and possibly last season of one of the most groundbreaking shows of all time! I’ve been a huge XF fan since I was 12 and that was during season four, so you do the math. Let me start by saying: season 10 was kind of a hot mess, I liked “Mulder and Scully Meet the Weremonster” and “Founder’s Mutation”; I loved “Home Again”; I felt that “Babylon” was maybe the worst episode of television in the history of the world; and “My Struggle I&II” were…well, they were something. Glad we’ve established that. Last night’s premiere, entitled “My Struggle III” was positioned as being from the Cigarette Smoking Man’s perspective, and while it was narratively disjointed and had a really ridiculous last two minutes, the rest was not bad. Mulder and Scully are back and I’m excited to see where these final (?) ten episodes take us.
We start off with a monologue from the Cigarette Smoking Man (henceforth CSM), because of course we do. Series creator Chris Carter wrote and directed this episode, and he is nothing if not monotonously predictable! We got a bunch of film clips and images from various presidencies, protests, and other watershed moments in American history, with the CSM implying that he was behind them all. He revealed his full name – Carl Gerhard Bush Spender – since we’d previously only known his initials, CGB Spender. He yammers on for a bit and talks about his two sons, Fox Mulder and Jeffrey Spender.
Cut to the credits, where the final title card switch from “I want to believe” to “I want to lie”. Hmmm…
(side note: Mitch Pileggi is in the credits along with Gillian and David again, hooray!)
Finally, the commercials ended and we saw Scully and Mulder for the first time in about two years. Scully was lying on a gurney in the basement office with Mulder hovering over her, his first words being “it’s me, Scully” and that made my little heart happy. Scully however, is not so happy because she’s having a massive seizure/crazy brain activity, since all of the season 10 finale was a vision that happened in her mind’s eye (CALLED IT). Skinner and Mulder wait outside her hospital room, and by wait I mean Skinner is waiting and Mulder is irritated that no one is telling him anything about his constant/touchstone. A doctor comes out to get them, bringing them into a room with scans of Scully’s brain. There it is, all lit up, and Skinner sees a Morse code signal in her temporal lobe – Find Him. That’s ridiculous but we’ll just go with it. Skinner thinks she means that Mulder should find their son, William. Mulder says whatever, he’s staying right here by Scully’s side.
Mulder interior monologues about “the person he cares for most in this world” and worries if he had a hand in this latest bit of suffering and if he could fix it. He also said that Scully “lies here so helpless” which I think Scully would smack him for if she could here him. “Mulder, I am far from helpless!” That is what she’d say. Anyway, she does wake up and tells him about her end-of-the-world, humanity-killing pathogen vision, and that he was dying and they need William’s stem cells. Understandably, he’s a little alarmed and thinks it all to be a product of her seizure. I would also be alarmed if my normally unruffled partner passed out, had weird brain scans, and woke up spouting stuff about deadly pathogens. She does tell him that the CSM is alive and in Spartenburg, South Carolina. He says “I’m on it” and heads off to do some CSM-slaying.
Except he is being followed! In his new silver Mustang! I’m not complaining about seeing Mulder in a fun car for once, and I’m sure David enjoyed it. A car chase ensues, which is unnecessary but fun. Then Spender (with his old face back!) calls Mulder, who somehow has Spender’s number in his contacts. We saw Spender being attacked in a garage while taking out the trash by the same guy who’s car-chasing Mulder, and he wants “the boy”. William.
Scully is having a bunch more visions in real time, this time with a teenage boy’s face spliced in, and then we can see the CSM talking to Monica Reyes. So that part of the finale wasn’t a vision, she is working for him. They are going on about Scully and William and the CSM’s connection to William, and Monica says “Scully and her boy have gone beyond you” which is hopefully foreshadowing of how William and Scully are going to crush the CSM into dust with their MINDS while Mulder cheers them on, which is why I should be writing this show. Monica also says “I think you’re in love with her” and we all throw up collectively.
Scully has escaped from hospital care, where Spender also visited her and she asked for info on William. He gave her the adoptive parents’ last name, Van De Kamp. She calls Mulder from the basement office, telling him that he needs to listen to her and they have to find William before having another brain-mushing seizure and passing out again. The teenage boy is obviously William. She’s on the floor of the basement office but is gone when Skinner comes in to look for her. She left her phone on the floor, but managed to take her keys and get in her SUV. Where she promptly feels awful again and has another seizure, getting into a car accident.
Mulder, meanwhile, arrives at Casa de Smoking Man, but he isn’t home. Another dude is there with really bad hair (Poorly Manicured Man?), along with Barbara Hershey. After some gun waving and such, they tell Mulder of the CSM’s role in the original Syndicate (they all go way back with him), how he became crazy and power-hungry, and how they want to stop him. Barbara Hershey points out that the aliens don’t want Earth anymore, since it is “a warming planet with depleted resources” and that’s the first thing that has made sense in this entire convo. But the CSM still wants to wipe things clean except for a Noah Ark’s of selected people. They’d like Mulder to do their dirty work and kill the CSM, dangling William in front of him as incentive. They tell Mulder that no one can save them, to which he responds “I know someone who can save us, and I think you know her too” – damn straight! Scully can save the world!
Skinner goes to his car after not finding Scully and rudely gets a gun pointed at him by Monica, who is sitting in the back seat. He pulls the gun from her pretty fast, thankfully, because let’s face it, Skinner is a badass. He trains the gun on her until his old friend the CSM enters, sitting in the passenger seat. Skinner is definitively Not Pleased. The CSM yammers on about his Grand Plan and how Skinner can have immunity from the coming apocalypse. Skinner asks about Mulder and Scully, and is told Scully is immune and that William plays a role in this. The CSM wants Skinner to find William for him in exchange for immunity. Not cool, bro!
Scully is not doing any world-saving today, however. Einstein and Miller (gross) brought her in to the hospital again, where she is sleeping. The doctor thankfully calls Mulder to tell him this. As agents Dumb and Dumber are leaving, the shady guy who car-chased Mulder, ran over Spender, and led Mulder to the CSM’s abode just waltzes straight past them into Scully’s room and closes her curtain. He then proceeds to try to smother Scully with a pillow. She fights back and falls to the floor, where he starts to choke her. He very well might have succeeded, as she is small and weakened by today’s ordeal, but then a hand comes around, grabs a scalpel, and slices his throat. That’s right, Mulder just slit a man’s throat to save the woman he loves! It was the best part of the whole episode. LOVED IT.
Another great part? The CSM tries to leave Skinner’s car and Skinner barks “get your ass back in the car, I’m not done!” HA. I love Skinner so much. Skinner demands to know why the CSM is so invested in William. More yammering about him being “special”. Ugh we GET IT. Thankfully, we cut back to Mulder and Scully. After Scully’s attack, she comes out to sit next to Mulder on some chairs and they hold hands. She says that she and William are linked somehow, and that he will find them – they won’t find him. Mulder asks if they are just supposed to sit and wait, and Scully says that they are going to do their job because she believes that the truth still lies in the X-Files, which is the line they kept using in all the promos for this episode. She has faith, which is nice to see. She knows she can ultimately win, I think! Nice to see her fighting spirit. It’s quiet at times, but it is always there.
Interspersed with the Skinner-CSM car exchange is Skinner in the hospital right after Mulder saved Scully’s life like a badass mofo. Mulder comes up to him to ask where he was, since he’d asked Skinner to find Scully and stay with her. You know, like a friend. Mulder then delivers a great line: “You. Smell. Like. Smoke.” And pushes Skinner! Skinner pushes him back and tells him to let it go, which is clearly not going to happen. Skinner leaves and we see his final exchange with the CSM – he asks who William’s father is, and if it is Mulder. The CSM flashes back to the season 7 episode “En Ami,” where he’d taken Scully to a house under the pretense of a cure-all for all of humanity’s diseases. There was a period of time that both the viewer and Scully could not account for. She’d fallen asleep in the car, and then woke up the next morning in her pajamas, angry that the CSM had drugged her. He insisted he hadn’t. Liar.
In the present, the CSM tells Skinner that he, not Mulder, is William’s father and that he impregnated Scully “medically”. The episode fades out on his cigarette and that sound you hear is a million female X-Files fans screaming that Chris Carter once again has made Scully’s body a vehicle for his plot, and that rape is rape, and we are all really upset right now.
Overall, before the last 30 seconds, I liked this episode. It was certainly way better than the Season 10 finale, “My Struggle II”. Mulder did NOT ditch Scully like we’d previously thought, Mulder was not dying, there was no mass contagion/pathogen, and Agent Miller did not, thankfully, drive all the way to the CSM’s house and back to DC in apocalypse traffic all in one afternoon, thus bending the space-time continuum. Many critics talked about the weird pacing, which I agree was poor. Mulder’s constant voiceover monologues were really getting to me. I get that we can’t hear his thoughts, but “show, don’t tell” comes to mind here. The monologues were quite distracting, but at least we got to hear Mulder call Scully the most important person in the world to him.
The issue of Scully’s rape via the CSM – now known to the audience and Skinner but not to her or to Mulder – is a really big problem. Entertainment Weekly published an interview with Carter directly after the episode finished airing, and writer James Hibberd asked the following:
When CSM says he’s William’s father, is he literally his father, to some biological extent? Along with alien DNA?
No. He’s the figurative father if he’s not the actual father. He didn’t rape Scully. He impregnated her with science.
This is a serious issue – Scully was raped and for Chris Carter to dismiss that simply illustrates how little he knows about the topic and how little he regards this experience. As I pointed out above, Scully’s reproductive abilities are his go-to for driving the plot forward, and that is a super-tired, overused trope that continues to illustrate what every critic and almost every fan has been saying since the hot mess of Season 10: Carter has to step away from the writing aspect of television. He hasn’t written a good episode of The X-Files since “Triangle” in 1998. He’s co-written, but when he alone has the writing and directing credits, these episodes are crap. Before tonight’s episode, I’d call him the George Lucas of television. After this latest development? I don’t know anymore. It has gotten more damaging than that.
Some fans might think that, my being a shipper, I am most upset that Mulder isn’t the father. While that is supremely disappointing, it pales next to the fact that Scully has now been violated yet again. Both of these characters are iconic, but Scully has risen slightly above Mulder in the pop culture pantheon as a beacon for women in science and a supremely smart, confident, and badass role model. Carter doing to this her seems like its aimed at taking her down a peg, and his refusal to call it what it is – rape and misogyny – is simply unacceptable.
I am interested to see how we will go from this to next week’s more typical X-File. I assume it will b a bit jarring, but I’m used to that at this point. Join me next week for another recap and analysis! Until then, find me on Twitter @lightstar1013.