Fox's enduring sci-fi series, The X-Files, returns for its 11th (and final?) season tonight. I was a die-hard fan of the series (and a closeted Mulder/Scully 'shipper) since the first episode, and even defended the uneven 10th season that revived the series in 2016, after over a decade off the air. I have seen the first episode of Season 11 ("My Struggle III") and have spent an entire afternoon trying to figure out how to give a spoiler-free preview of the new season.
So let's back up and start at the beginning. If you are tuning in to the new season, you are probably familiar with the show: Dr. Dana Scully, a skeptic, is assigned to work with Fox Mulder, a believer, on the X-Files. The X-Files contain the unexplained cases that come through the FBI, everything from inexplicable disappearances to inexplicable creatures, the kind of thing "respectable" agents don't want anything to do with. Scully is meant to be a babysitter for Mulder, and report on his activities to their superiors.
Over the span of the nine seasons of the original run, we met a number of shady government "big bads," most notably Cigarette Smoking Man, who is the "big bad" in the revival and reveals himself to be the personification of the Deep State. It is also later revealed that CSM is Mulder's biological father. Both Scully and Mulder have been abducted, presumably by aliens. Scully has given birth to two children: one unknowingly, while she was abducted; the other (presumably) fathered by Mulder, and knowingly given away to keep the child, William, safe. I use "presumably" a lot because when it comes to The X-Files, you learn quickly that nothing is as it seems and to never accept anything as 100 percent truth.
Mulder and Scully, platonic for most of the show, were never really "couple-y" even after you saw them getting ready for work after an evening together. That was always the best thing about their relationship: You knew it was there, but it was never a focus of the show. When Season 10 premiered, you learned that, over the last decade or so, the pair had become estranged. They no longer lived together, and they hadn't spoken in a few years. Mulder's mental state seemed to have deteriorated: His depression was what eventually led to their estrangement, and Mulder is manic in the first episode of Season 10, which led me to wonder if Mulder was bipolar, a question that is never answered.
When the two former agents reconnect in Season 10, it is because Tad O'Malley, a right-wing conspiracy nutjob (think Alex Jones, but good-looking), brings them together. He has met a woman, Sveta, who claims to have been spliced with alien DNA and had multiple babies harvested through her belly button. Scully tests Sveta's DNA and claims that there is nothing weird, which makes Sveta take back her story entirely.
Alas, she is blown up by an unidentified aircraft by the end of the episode. During the episode, Mulder suggests that aliens were drawn to Earth after the H-bomb explosions, for fear that humans would bring about their own extinction. O'Malley goes bigger with the conspiracy, believing that a multinational group of elites is planning on taking over the country under the guise of an alien invasion.
Episodes 2 through 5 of Season 10 are fairly "normal," at least for The X-Files. The season finale, "My Struggle II," picks up on the crazy. Mulder goes missing. It turns out that he has hunted down the Cigarette Smoking Man in South Carolina, and Mulder is grievously ill. He passes out before he can kill CSM, but another FBI agent, Miller (he and his partner, Agent Einstein, are basically younger versions of Mulder and Scully, but without the chemistry), collects him and takes him to meet Scully.
Scully has figured out that the big bad Deep State has released the Spartan virus in smallpox vaccines, which eradicates people's immune systems. Those with alien DNA — like Scully, like William, like Monica Reyes (who is CSM's "companion") — will be immune. Scully starts working up a vaccine with her own alien-laced DNA.
When we last left The X-Files, in the final scene, Scully finally connects with Mulder in the middle of chaos as the worldwide infrastructure is falling apart and people are going bonkers. Mulder is near death, far too far gone to be saved by Scully's vaccine. She needs stem cells from William, their son. Then an alien ship hovers above and seems to be sending a beam of light for Scully.
That's it. The screen goes black, Season 10 is over, and with no knowledge that a Season 11 was coming, I was left to scream at the television screen.
When Season 11 opens, with the appropriately named "My Struggle III," answers are given. In fact, answers are offered up in the cold open of the show. And this is where it gets difficult to preview the new season without revealing how "My Struggle II" was resolved. Honestly, I am still not sure how I feel about the resolution. It's kind of a cop-out, but by the end of the episode, I am so involved in other revelations that I kind of forget about it. Saying anything else would unravel a lot of plot, and I promised this would be spoiler-free.
"My Struggle III" also ends with a major "WTF" moment. Again, I can't even give a hint at what that is, but I will say this: It's the kind of thing that will make you gasp, creep you out, and say, "Yeah, that isn't a surprise," all at the same time.
CSM is front and center of this episode. I suppose I can say this: CSM has a name. A real, full name, not just "C.G.B. Spender." This is probably as legit a name as CSM will ever get, because he reveals it himself in an episode-opening voiceover. He will always be Cigarette Smoking Man to me, though.
There are some nice, 'shippy moments in "My Struggle III," so there is that to look forward to. Lots and lots of hand-holding and fretting over. The episode ends with a wait-and-see attitude that sets up the rest of the season as being non-mythology episodes. It is unsatisfying, yet totally acceptable to get on to the next episodes. (I am dying to see Mulder go "squatching.") The mythology is set to be wrapped up in the season finale, with "My Struggle IIII."
I guess I am going to pace until the episode airs and I can finally return and discuss it with you good people.