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THE X-FILES Return Raises More Questions Than Answers

The following contains SPOILERS for The X-Files season 11/event series part 2 episode “My Struggle III.” If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish to be spoiled, please click away now and come back when you’ve watched! 

The mythology of alien invasion and government conspiracy in The X-Files has always been complicated and twisty, made even more so once the series had to extend itself past its original five-seasons-and-a-movie plan. (Click here to read the whole history of this tangled web.) But ultimately, for nine years plus six episodes in 2016, we were led to believe the aliens have been on Earth for a while, striking shady deals with people in power in the USA’s corrupt and secret government. The mythology arc episodes have always, more or less, played fair, but “My Struggle III” feels a lot like it’s starting to cheat.

“My Struggle II” which ended the event series in February 2016 was all about the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis), not dead like we thought, using former FBI agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) as a pawn to enact worldwide devastation. His plan included an alien virus that had been given to the population through regular inoculation, and awakened by chemtrails that would kill all but the immune, people like Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson). That episode ended with a cliffhanger in which the alien ship appears as the world is going to hell. Quite the place to leave the story, but if you thought “My Struggle III” was going to resolve this–like I foolishly did–you’re left scratching your head.

Apparently, if I’m piecing all of this together, none of the previous events actually happened. It was actually a prophetic vision of the future that Scully had and she has a seizure and passes out, leaving Mulder (David Duchovny) and Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) to take her to the hospital and get answers. Scully, in and out of consciousness, relays to Mulder what’s happening: the Cigarette Smoking Man is behind everything, Mulder needs to find and kill him, and they need to get their son William back.

Scully has always been an integral part of the alien mythos, stemming from the real-life issue of having to write Anderson out for a few episodes during season 2 when she went on maternity leave. Creator Chris Carter had Scully abducted by aliens, implanted with an alien chip, and given an alien strain of cancer. Eventually she’d become the catalyst for the immunity to whatever disease is on its way. But she’s never, to my recollection, been clairvoyant to this degree: she’s seen an entire episode that apparently didn’t happen yet.

This is how the show cheated. As much as I didn’t care for the Carter-written-and-directed episodes of season 10, he’s always given us the information we need. Yet his entire previous finale amounts to “it was all a dream.” What is the timetable for this actuality? It sure seemed like it was all happening immediately after the previous episodes. Was all of last season a dream?

More likely, the reset button was used to get Carter out of the corner he’d backed himself into. A lot of the other given circumstances have changed now too, and just about all of them feel cheap. Agent Spender (Chris Owens) is evidently the only person who knows the whereabouts of William, and that seems to be because Carter now needs William to show up in this new season, since he is immune to the effects of the virus. There is now a group of shady people working against CSM and Reyes, another guy who smokes, and Barbara Hershey, who all want to use Mulder as an assassin. We also learn that the CSM faked the moon landing to make America the world leaders he wanted them to be.

It’s all a bit ridiculous, and that’s not even the thing that bugs me the most. CSM has struck a deal with Skinner to help him find William, because, as it turns out, William is NOT the biological son of Fox Mulder, but he is, like Mulder and Spender, a child of the CSM himself. Both of these things completely undercut some of the series hallmarks. Skinner hasn’t always been easy to get along with, but he’s always been on the side of the truth, and a skeptical but crucial ally to Mulder and Scully. Suspicious Skinner was a plot point in the first damn season. And if William is indeed the child of Cigarette Smoking Man and Scully, then so much important character development between Scully and Mulder in the last few seasons will be for naught.

It’s hard to get excited for the rest of the series when there’s this much rewritten history. Do I think all of this will remain the status quo? I don’t; in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of THIS season were Scully’s hallucination after the aliens arrived at the end of “My Struggle II.” Because honestly, this episode felt very haphazard.

But the main reason I am still excited for the rest of the season is to see the monster-of-the-week cases. If nothing else, “My Struggle III” staved off a full-fledged worldwide epidemic which would have changed the fabric of the show, and it ended in relative normalcy which then allows the next several episodes to go on with business as usual. Not the way I’d have enjoyed it, but if this storyline ends up allowing good one-offs to happen again, then I’m fine with it.

Images: Fox

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

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