I wanted to believe—but now I can hardly give a shit.
While “My Struggle II” is less of an abject failure than last week’s “Babylon” (on which I admittedly went easy—the rating of this episode more reflective of how I actually feel about the past two episodes—afraid that any disparaging remarks would somehow stymie the continuation of The X-Files into further seasons, or just piss off too many readers), at least now we can say what we want because the show will definitely continue. Here’s a suggestion, X-Files team: Keep Chris Carter away from Season 11. Far, far away. Treat his universe much like that of the Christian God—thank him for such a rock-solid foundation, and then revel in the free will you have away from his clumsy guiding hand. Or get him working on that Millennium reboot.
The tenth season finale begins as the season began, with voiceover. Now we reorient from Mulder (David Duchovny) to hear the voice of Scully (Gillian Anderson), who we learned in “Home Again” is obviously the real focus of this season. Here is where Chris Carter demonstrates that he understands the concept of “circular storytelling” by having Scully, as Mulder did in “My Struggle,” give the audience a primer on pretty much the whole series up to that point. This is also where Scully actually combines words into a discernibly coherent sentence that amounts to her chocking up her initial role in both the FBI and the X-Files to wanting to be “a seeker of justice in a science-based world,” because apparently that’s supposed to resemble a sentence spoken by a normal human being. Like in much of Chris Carter’s voice-over monologues, we find a seemingly smart character saying something stupid in a really erudite way. I get that what Scully means is that, as a person of faith who is also a scientist (and a skeptic)—which is, considering the series as a whole, a brilliant characterization—she saw the FBI as a way to find meaning and morality in the indifferent universe Science would have us accept. But that’s not what she says, because Carter is so bent on wringing weird poetics out of ideas that in and of themselves are more interesting than the words he uses to try to convey them. Anyway, then Scully morphs into an alien because the cold open needed some punching up after such a dreary dump of exposition.
The opening credits sequence, this season returned to their former glory after the ninth season “update,” features, like every important mythology episode of the past, a different message than the typical “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” This time: “THIS IS THE END.” Which is fine, because the stakes have never been higher for our beloved agents—but also it’s one more cheap gesture on Carter’s part to manipulate us into believing that this six-episode miniseries is an isolated, exceptionally unique, once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. It isn’t, and this isn’t the “end,” reasons for which I’ll get to in a bit. But first: Man, Mitch Pileggi must be pissed. For an actor who’s added to the credits, who was such an instrumental and welcome part of the series, especially during David Duchovny’s hiatus, he’s barely in this season. New characters Baby Mulder (Robbie Amell) and Baby Scully (Lauren Ambrose) have three to four times more screen time than him, and even the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), who’s really only in this episode, walks away with quadruple the lines of AD Walter “Go Get ‘Em, Mulder” Skinner.
Anyway: This episode. After defeating terrorism last week, Scully shows up to the office to find Mulder (David Duchovny) totally gone, his laptop open to the latest episode of Tad O’Malley’s (Joel McHale) online show about government conspiracies and the like. Coincidentally, O’Malley calls Scully at that exact moment to tell her to get to Mulder’s unibomber-y cabin right away, so she does, discovering that some sort of struggle occurred, the aftermath of which O’Malley found after going there to meet up with Mulder to have some more bro-to-bro talk about evil cabals. With Mulder potentially in trouble and not answering his phone, Scully gets a hold of Skinner (oh hai!), who brings along Agent Einstein (Ambrose) for no detectable reason, especially when all Einstein does is get really worked up about how crazy everyone is acting, which at the very least allows Mitch Pileggi to grimace, “Just hold on, Agent Einstein! You’re talking to a scientist.” This is all Skinner is good for in this episode: scolding Baby Scully.
Luckily, Scully is contacted by a voice from the past, Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish), who reveals that she left the FBI after a mutilated CSM—surviving the rocket explosion in the series “finale”—offered her a deal: He’d save her from the oncoming extinction of mankind if she basically…helped him smoke cigarettes or something? It’s not clear, and even Scully is all “Wha?” Reyes explains that the whole goal of the shadow-y cabal’s main conspiracy (spearheaded by CSM) is to wipe out humanity via the “Spartan Virus,” which removes the genes behind the human immune system, thereby exposing all of humanity to every single sickness, contagion, plague, whatever to which our species has long developed evolutionary defenses. This Spartan Virus, which was created using the alien technology salvaged from the Roswell crash, was first introduced to the planet through polio vaccines (callback to Season 3), and then passed on to future generations. And it just so happens that CSM’s plan was first put into action back in 2012, which was the original series’ date for the beginning of the so-called alien invasion, which we now know was a lie to cover up an even deeper, shadier villainy perpetrated by members of our own world. Scully’s like, “Oh, OK,” and then returns to her hospital to begin to work on a vaccine using, as Reyes advised her, the alien DNA inside of her, humanity’s only cure for the Spartan Virus.
(Scully also mentions, upon reuniting with her old colleague, that when she returned to the FBI she tried to look Reyes up but was told the agent had moved on. What about Doggett [Robert Patrick], Scully? And why didn’t CSM offer Doggett the same deal as Reyes? By the end of the series, Doggett was just as much a believer as anyone. Are we supposed to believe that CSM knew Reyes was a lot more manipulable than her steadfast idealist of a partner? Or are we just not supposed to think about it? Probably the latter.)