Season 10, episode 6: “My Struggle II”
Story by and directed by Chris Carter
[Photos courtesy Ed Araquel/FOX]
For this, the sixth and final episode of the revival X-Files episode, the ‘previously’ — narrated by Ted O’Malley (Joel McHale) — is a basic summary of the first episode, “My Struggle”. (Read our recap of that episode specifically here, and read all our recaps here.) Then, since that one had Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) continuing the story, this time we’ve got Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) giving the basic ‘in case you never saw the show and for some reason are only tuning in to this last episode’ summary.
She goes into how she learned there’s a world that exists on the far fringes of science, and how the world (and the FBI specifically) were under the influence of dark forces, and we’re reminded of her abduction and how that during that time she was subjected to tests that gave her a deadly disease that was only cured thanks to the larger conspiracy. This then segues into the mythology arc bits we’ve gotten this season, talking about how there’s a consolidation of power, and that there are questions that remain unanswered — mostly, motives and goals. She then brings up that she has anomalies in her DNA that can only be classified as alien.
We get the opening credits, which — in true Carter fashion — doesn’t end with the typical “The Truth is Out There’, but instead “This is the End”.
We start out the main part of the episode in the X-Files office, with Scully shows up talking about how she was late because the parking garage was locked down. But there’s no Mulder. She sees that he’s been watching the (back online) “Truth Squad with Tad O’Malley”: O’Malley’s gone public with the news of the alien DNA. She gets a call, and it turns out it’s Tad. He’s at Mulder’s place, and it’s a mess … and there’s no Mulder to be had. He says there’s anomalous DNA in him, and might be in everyone.
Back at the office, AD Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) is with Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose), finding out there’s no word on Mulder. Einstein takes on Scully’s skeptic role, stating that no one has the right or the ability to tamper with our DNA. Scully counters that we very well may have given that right.
Einstein and Scully go to the hospital to check on the DNA, and run across a guy who’s been exposed to something. This is important, but is dropped for now. We flip to a quick scene of Mulder in a car, having a Californication vibe about him, obviously barely survived a fight. As he drives, he gets a phone call. He sees that it’s Skinner, ignores it, and just drives faster.
Meanwhile, Einstein and Scully are at the hospital, taking Einstein’s blood to see if she also has the DNA. Scully provides the basic outline of the season 4 story arc of the smallpox vaccine being a way to get the alien DNA into a whole lot of people very fast. Unfortunately, Carter is still stuck in the ’90s and it veers very close to anti-vax rhetoric in the dialogue as a result.
Miller arrives, telling the two about how there’s ‘talk on the internet’ about O’Malley’s show. They pull up the latest episode, and O’Malley’s with a doctor talking about the scale and scope of the contagion. We run into the guy from before, and find out that he has anthrax. Scully (turning into Mulder) states that many soldiers going to Iraq were vaccinated for it, and that this is (somehow) a sign that the vaccines are now on the attack. This is just the beginning, and there’s going to be a global contagion if they’re not careful.
We have a quick scene of Mulder taking a short nap in his car, when he gets a call from Scully — which he also ignores. He gets back on the road, and we find out he’s on the way to Spartanburg, South Carolina. Back at the X-Files office, Miller comes in, sits in Mulder’s chair, and sees that the computer is open to the latest episode of O’Malley’s show. Tad is apparently very plugged in, as he’s now bringing up the anthrax side. As Miller goes to close it down, he sees a shortcut icon on Mulder’s computer (which apparently doesn’t have a password on it) to phonefinder.biz — and just like that, Miller’s able to get the GPS signal of Mulder’s phone (I’m guessing Mulder doesn’t know how to disable something like that), and sees Mulder’s location.
Back at the hospital, Scully and Einstein talk over the contagion, as well as the DNA. Einstein asks the question that if something triggered this contagion, why now? Scully gets a call from someone she doesn’t recognize, but that anyone who watched season 9 will know is Agent Reyes (Annabeth Gish), with news that will help.
We cut to the outside, and Scully meets up with Reyes. Scully lets the audience know that Reyes was gone from the FBI for a decade, and left in a hurry. Reyes says she had to make a choice. We flash back to a scene of Reyes walking through a hospital hallway, and gets told that “someone” wants to speak to her. It’s Cigarette Smoking Man (William B Davies), recovering from the explosion that ended season 9 (and presumably the series). He has an offer to make to her. She tells Scully that she made a deal that left her very little choice: he will spare her life if she helps him, and that he’s got the ultimate weapon to depopulate the planet. They got this ability thanks to science acquired in the ’50s, given to them by an alien race. We then flash to the end of “My Struggle” — and the person who had handed CSM his smoke was Reyes. (No word on whatever happened to Agent Doggett.)
CSM has a plan — “the world will go on: just in my image, not in God’s.” After he goes a little sexually creepers on Reyes, we learn that Scully is protected. Her abduction was her way to get vaccinated from this, and she’s one of the elite. This plan has been in motion since 2012. CSM wants Mulder to survive as well, and had sent someone to offer him a deal. (Hence Mulder’s absence.)
We flash to ‘now’ Mulder, and he pulls a gun on CSM. It’s the final showdown, and the two monologue at each other per usual. CSM explains: “I didn’t set out to destroy the world, Mulder. People did.” Apparently, all the environmental issues we’ve been having are part of this, and the aliens predicted we’d screw ourselves over. CSM believes we’re doomed anyway; he’s just changing when it happens. He now offers Mulder a chance to join him.
Back to O’Malley’s show, where he’s breaking the news of hospitals being overrun with infected. Apparently, the media isn’t covering it, and he brings up the chemtrails conspiracy theory as part of it. (Because, you know, we don’t have enough conspiracy theories in this already.)
Scully’s at the hospital, trying to find Einstein, who has been in contact with the CDC and is starting to realize Scully may be right about the mass contagion. Scully reveals what she learned from Reyes — that it’s the alien DNA that will save people, and that what’s causing the infection is “a virus within a virus”, something they’re calling the Spartan Virus. They need to amplify Scully’s DNA in order to create a vaccine.
We then have several small scenes that flip between CSM and Mulder, O’Malley’s show, and Scully and Einstein.
CSM and Mulder have a little talk — and CSM pulls off his face. Scully and Einstein try to get the vaccine, but Scully apparently isn’t showing alien DNA any more. The threat ramps up as now the doctors are all getting sick. O’Malley’s show is now talking about there are now deaths being reported, and that no immune system is safe.
Scully and Einstein have lots of SCIENCE! to explain why Scully’s DNA wasn’t showing alien-ness. Miller finally arrives where Mulder is. He has no idea who CSM is. Einstein is now starting to get sick. Miller rescues Mulder, who’s pretty sick by this time, and Mulder tells Miller that CSM has the cure. Miller doesn’t ask, as he sees that the price would be too high, and drives Mulder away.
Scully and Einstein finally see the alien DNA. Scully is sure she’ll have the cure within a few hours. Miller is driving Mulder back, and Scully calls him. Mulder’s condition isn’t well, and that they may run out of gas. Scully goes to Einstein to give her the vaccine.
O’Malley reports that the infrastructure is now breaking down (but apparently the internet still works? Proof that Time Warner Cable and AT&T are part of the conspiracy!).
Outside, Scully — instead of, you know, using the vaccine to cure the doctors — is setting out to find Miller and Mulder. She’s apparently super Scully, as she’s able to stop a riot just by telling people to go to the hospital. O’Malley’s information network is spot on, and he’s able to convey the news that there’s the potential for a vaccine.
We now get ‘battle action Scully’ as she manages to drive an SUV through traffic and somehow gets the most polite drivers in the world, as she’s able to wind her way through without any problems. She finally gets out of the car to try and find Miller, and apparently both she and Miller have excellent battery life on their cell phones. She manages to find them, but Fox needs more help than she can provide. He needs stem cells implanted. But where? We finally find out why she hasn’t been panicking about her child William, as she reveals that he’d be protected due to his DNA, and that he could help. Alas, she has no idea where he is.
As she reveals this, the spaceship we saw vaporize poor Sveta’s car in the end of “My Struggle” shows up overhead. As it does it’s scanner scan thing, the camera zooms into Scully’s eye … and we end the episode (and season).
Now, I’m the first to admit I’m not a big fan of endings that wrap everything up in a neat little bow. Duchovny himself, either responding to or predicting people complaining about the cliffhanger ending, tweeted basically that life tends to not give you answers, and so why should we expect our media to? And I understand that. I really do. HOWEVER …. There is a difference between deliberately leaving some questions unanswered to reflect life and not answering any questions at all.
Stories are stories because they follow a specific structure: there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. While there is talk for potentially more episodes to come, there is no guarantee. The promotion for this revival/reboot/whatever we’re calling it intentionally brought in the idea that we would get some answers to the questions we were left with when the show ended in 2002. Instead, we got a mishmash of episodes that had very little to do with each other, let alone the series we knew so well, that only brought more questions. We still have no idea about William (I was so certain after “My Struggle” that somehow O’Malley was an aged-up William searching for his parents). We have a complete re-write of the overall mythology plot of the series, but without explaining much else. And don’t get me started that if you were going to end the season with a plot line involving contagious diseases and you had The Lone Gunmen as a potential to bring in (who, you know, died because of a biological weapon, which is related), you might want to TIE THOSE TOGETHER MAYBE. It’s lazy writing at its most mediocre.
Back when The X-Files was such a hit, we had much more limited entertainment choices. Fox was just becoming viable as a fourth network, cable was just starting to break out of it’s ‘only rerun’ mindset, and the internet was still in its infancy. Audiences were much more forgiving of shows that had plot holes and bad character development. However, times have changed. Television is in another golden era, and the definition of what television is is being redefined with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.com all offering original content online. Storytelling has changed vastly, thanks partly to the influence of The X-Files. And the competition for what to watch is much more fierce. As a result, audiences expect more. Better characters, better diversity, and better storylines.
If Fox does end up bringing back more episodes, it’s going to take a lot for them to convince me to keep watching. I want to believe, but like Mulder’s own faith, actual proof that the show is still good has been strangely hard to come by.
You can see more of Angie’s work (and her social media connections) over at her website.