‘The X-Files’ return goes out like it knows best, a roller coaster of exposition and teasing things into the sunset
“You don’t want to believe.”
So here we are at the end of this mini-season, with what might not only be the final episode of The X-Files that we’ll get on television (although I doubt it). The X-Files makes it their business to go crazy with their finales, and with this really only being the second mythology episode of season ten, there is a lot that is expected here. Not only that, it’ll be the lasting impression of the series that is left on everyone, again placing very lofty goals on this entry. It’s not surprising that Chris Carter is the one behind it, but this also had me reasonably worried considering his two episodes were the least successful of the season, in my opinion (although I’ll be forever grateful for that shroom trip). Many people seemed to take contention to “My Struggle’s” first part, like I did (and seriously, when the “Previously On” sequence plays I was kind of astounded at how ridiculous the episode looks in piecemeal), but a lot of the X-Files operates like a well-done magic trick. Perhaps this second half of the story even re-contextualizes what we saw in the premiere in a more positive light?
Okay, “My Struggle II” is a problematic, busy finale, but what I love about it is how it very obviously plays parallel to the premiere, only moving forward with Scully’s perspective on things. It’s a smart tool considering this bifurcated point of view is a crucial point of the show, and it makes even more sense when you’re just devoting two episodes to mythology. PS: Very happy that we at least got one subversion to the The Truth Is Out There card during the credits. I was disappointed we didn’t get one during the premiere, but the finale’s This Is The End makes up for it. At the same time, Carter, I know you like your purple prose, your flowery intros, and your on-the-nose-ness of everything, but I could have gone without that silly shot of Scully morphing into an alien in the cold open.
It’s nice to see the threads from other episodes come together here with Skinner, Joel McHale’s Tad O’Malley, Ambrose and Amell’s Agents Einstein and Miller returning, not to mention—wait for it—Annabeth Gish as Monica Reyes! Okay, I might be the only one excited by that, but it’s gestures like that that go a long ways here. Also, the absence of Duchovny for the first chunk of things isn’t the worst and having Scully and Einstein run around as the Red Headed FBI Science Super Squad is something I could easily watch a lot more of.
Most of this episode is concerned with Scully’s discovery that her gene work revealed that she had partial alien DNA. This claim is doubled down on the leap that everyone has partial alien DNA, with this obviously being ripe for claims of colonization, the seventh extinction, and general doom and gloom pablum. It looks like a global contagion is on the plate, with this attack completely shutting down immune systems in the process.
This goes hand-in-hand with the ideas that the first “My Struggle” gets into regarding government manipulation and this all ultimately being the fault of the trust that we’ve given them. Surprisingly, even though what this episode tries to push forward is more incredulous than what the premiere tries to do, this manages to be easier to swallow because it doesn’t try to mess with the established continuity in the process. It’s a definite step up, at least. Seeing Scully act in paranoid conspiracy theorist mode is also never not fun, although I’m a little surprised the gene stuff moved in this direction versus getting closer to the hanging thread of William.
On the topic of hanging threads, using Reyes as the connective tissue to how the Cigarette Smoking Man has survived the aircraft missile to the body from season nine’s finale works well enough (although the plausibility behind it is all sorts of suspect). By proxy, Reyes becomes a big exposition box, and much like the last time The X-Files ended, a lot of this episode is swallowed in explaining things, What I do like though is the show’s continual insistence to try and connect its dots, so to hear that this cleansing plan of the Syndicate/aliens began in 2012—even though we didn’t see it happening—is exactly the sort of stuff that I want to hear. I didn’t exactly need Reyes being turned into a coward and pseudo traitor survivalist in this last appearance, but I thought she was going to originally reveal that Doggett was dead, so this is better than an offscreen spite death at least.
As the episode moves into its final act, it manages to stir up a lot of emotions. The incredibly pessimistic note that it rides out on is a surprising one, as is the fact that Mulder and Scully spend the entire episode apart (and Mulder barely says a word—it’s a really shitty Mulder episode). While I can appreciate a good cliffhanger, this felt really bait-y, almost as if all of this was simply meant to be prelude to a movie that wraps all of this up. I think a lot of people might be upset over the lack of closure provided here, I just ultimately wish we had gotten a longer season. Even if the premiere and the finale remained the same, and we just got seven more monster-of-the-weeks to round out a season of thirteen, I think this would feel a lot more complete. As it stands, the series certainly proved that it is still relevant and has stories to tell, but once more, this really just feels like, “Okay, can we finally do our third alien invasion now?”
Regardless of the machinations behind it and whether it leads to another movie, mini-season, or full on return, I’m just happy to go out on a solid mythology episode that actually operates on a global scales and manages to feel threatening. If nothing else, “My Struggle II” leaves you wanting more, and that’s certainly a lot better than a shrug or some missed landing. A question mark can be dissatisfying, but it can also lead to the best answers sometimes. The title card at the beginning tells us This Is The End and it feels like it, but in many other ways this is also just the beginning for the return of The X-Files.