[Warning: There are spoilers below for the The X-Files episode, "My Struggle II."]
Contributing Editor Tara Bennett draws the curtain on a frustrating cliffhanger finale episode of The X-Files miniseries event written and directed by series creator Chris Carter.
First off, it was a pleasure to spend the last few weeks back in The X-Files world again. As uneven as some of the episodes were, I had a great time revisiting the characters, mythology and exploring how a more mature Mulder and Scully see the world and their place in it today. That being said, "My Struggle II" was my least favorite episode of the bunch for a number of reasons.
Primarily disappointing was that after five episodes rebuilding the rapport and partnership of Mulder and Scully, 98% of "My Struggle II" kept the power duo apart. Seriously? The entire miniseries served to remind us that these two work best together, even if they are disagreeing at every turn. Their dynamic is the show, so putting Mulder in mortal danger in South Carolina with CSM while Scully was laboring with syringes in a hospital was underwhelming. Bringing them back together in the final seconds of the hour didn't cut it.
Next, Chris Carter stuffed a whole lot of exposition and global pandemic and alien genomes and everything else (except Mulder and Scully in proximity!) into this episode, and it felt bloated and rushed. Having the episode order cut down to six was acutely felt in this finale. "My Struggle II" was begging to be a two-parter, not in a bookending the season way as presented, but in the traditional "there's too much X-Files story to wedge into 45 minutes" way, so it gets at least 90 minutes.
The bookending also felt very strange coming off the relationship-building and contemplative nature of what happened between Mulder and Scully in episodes 10.2 through 10.5. At the end of "Babylon," there was real depth between the characters that came out of their building episodic explorations of death via Scully's mother, and loss via their regrets involving William. All of that interesting stuff was wiped out for bombastic plot machinations in the finale which ended up being far less interesting than what happened on the micro level all season.
I don't blame Carter for trying to take advantage of tempting Fox, and us, into wanting more The X-Files stories by throwing every bell and whistle he could at us. Plus ending on a cliffhanger was certainly expected if you know this show. I just wish it was more artfully done. If Mulder is going to be left on death's door and William's stem cells are the key to his recovery, why not bake that into previous episodes? Why not tease that someone outside of Mulder and Scully actually knows where William is now? It would certainly create a more plausible point in which to continue that critical story rather than the Grand Canyon-sized chasm of no leads that is the actuality. It would have even felt more satisfying if CSM dangled to Mulder that he knows William's whereabouts so there's a reason to go back to that creeper once more. Instead, there's a pandemic that Scully oddly buys into incredibly fast and a resolution that, while interesting (infecting us all with alien DNA to save us is a mess of repercussions waiting to fill episodes), is executed far too easily and fast.
Did I like anything? Absolutely. This was a very Scully-centric episode and that worked nicely considering the season opened with a very Mulder-centric episode. I like balance. I also think Einstein and Scully science'd the hell out of the episode and that was great to see. It was a lot to process but Anderson and Ambrose did a fine job adding some urgency to the exposition. Finding out that Scully isn't immortal BUT is special because of her government tinkering and alien DNA is a cool answer finally revealed. Finding out that CSM is alive because of his own DNA tinkering is weirdly plausible for the character and satisfying too. Plus, now he can play the most horrifying game of "Whose got your nose?" the world has ever seen.
There was also something cool about ending the season on a rather iconic overhead shot of a UFO looking down on Mulder and Scully, which is a familiar angle fans of the show instantly recognize. There's a full-circle aspect to it and we can only assume (hope) the change in the opening credits verbiage to "This is the end" is but a throwback to the show's history and not a coda to the world.
Best Fan Service
The very dazzling cold opening shot of Scully morphing into an alien was earned on the back of 20-years of VFX improvements. Could fans even imagine that happening, and looking that great, back in 1993?
Reyes returning to help Scully once more was also an appreciated moment. If you disliked the later seasons of The X-Files, so be it, but Reyes was a true ally to Scully in some of her darkest days, so having her back to serve in a supportive capacity worked. However, why Reyes would ever deign to become CSM's human cigarette holder made no sense. There were no personal stakes revealed that would make her unholy alliance with the crispy bacon version of CSM plausible. Maybe if she had a threatened child, or even that Doggett would be in mortal peril without her acquiescence, I'd buy it. But Carter never offered anything that made Reyes' choice feel anything but weak or just plain selfish.
Revealing that the Spartan Virus has been percolating since 2012, which is when Mulder was convinced the world would end, was a nice tip of the hat that he wasn't exactly wrong.
With "My Struggle II" Chris Carter has certainly thrown a lot of stuff at the wall that can be picked up if/when the show returns but as a finale and episode, it's not an example of The X-Files doing what it does best. There's certainly epic ambition and a bravery to go big with the conspiracy theories the show has been playing with for more than a decade. But in the end, I was reminded in this episode that I love the show most when it breathes life into small moments: a quiet vigil around a hospital bed, a philosophical Were-Monster a foot , or a small hand-hold between two friends who are always searching for our common truths.
What did you think of “My Struggle Part 2”? Do you want more episodes or was this mini-series event enough?