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TV Review: The X-Files - Season 11 Episode 1 "My Struggle III"

Episode: "My Struggle III"

Synopsis: Picking up after the last event series’ cliffhanger, Mulder and Scully learn that they aren’t the only ones desperately searching for their long-lost son, William. The very fate of the world may depend on it.

The X-Files, TV Review, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi, Gillian Anderson, FOX

REVIEW: Over the course of nine season, The X-Files built up a massive mythology that kept fans wanting more long after the second feature film hit theaters in 2008. When the series finally return for a shortened tenth season in 2016, it ended with a cliffhanger that finally brought what seemed like the alien invasion that Chris Carter’s paranormal drama had been building towards since 1993. While I was a big fan of the tenth season, I admit that it was an uneven return that spent too much time trying to introduce new viewers to the sprawling odyssey of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. The promise of this eleventh season was that it would finally deliver on what dedicated fans have been waiting to find out: Will Mulder and Scully find their long lost son? Will the alien invasion spell doom for our planet? Will our heroes save humanity?

The answer is a difficult one as the eleventh season premiere, “My Struggle III”, itself struggles to deliver on that epic cliffhanger. While rooted deeply in the X-Files mythology, tonight’s premiere is much more focused on fixing the failures of Season 10. Namely the fact that everything that happened in the prior finale, "My Struggle II", didn't actually happen. Instead of the Spartan virus initiating the end of days and ushering in the alien colonization, it turns out that Scully just had a seizure and has been in the hospital. It is a dangerous decision by Chris Carter to essentially pull a Dallas/St. Elsewhere and make a major narrative path into a dream sequence. Putting Scully into harm's way is not a new direction for this show and may have contributed to Gillian Anderson's recent comments about this season being her last as Scully. Most of this episode is spent in hospitals but there were some significant revelations made that set the tone for where this season will go.

First, there is the fact that this episode features the return of Jeffrey Spender, son of Cigarette Smoking Man. This combined with flashbacks featuring the CSM in his younger days fill up a good portion of the episode while also explaining away the extraterrestrial threat Mulder has been searching for since his siter was abducted. Instead, it now seems that Chris Carter wants to make the Cigarette Smoking Man the central villain by saying that the aliens no longer want to colonize Earth because of how humanity has treated the planet by decimating the environment. Instead, CSM wants to use the virus Scully saw in her seizure dream (or was it a vision?) to enslave humanity. Nevermind the fact that we still don't have a clear explanation as to how CSM survived the events of the original series finale. Needless to say, a lot of retconning takes place in this episode which is poised to set up the direction of this season. On top of all this, we also learn the biggest confirmation in the show's history: CSM is both father to Mulder and Jeffrey Spender. But, it doesn't end there. He also confides in Skinner that he is the "father" of Mulder and Scully's baby, William.

I will let that sink in for a moment. Mulder's son is not actually his biological offspring but was instead created by CSM, Mulder's father, and implanted in Scully as a surrogate. Whether this is actually true or not, it is a bombshell revelation. The problem is that it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. The episode tries to explain this by flashing back to events from earlier seasons, including the Season 7 episode "En Ami" which featured Scully and CSM sharing their most screen time in the series' history. In the end, if CSM did "father" William as he claims, then that is another nail in Season 10's coffin as it means Chris Carter has all but backtracked on the focus of that series of six episodes. I am not sure I agree with such a decision, especially in light of the fact that this series has never played so loosely with it's mythology before. The X-Files has always taken the core storyline as seriously as any non-genre series and they are bordering on alienating their fanbase if they are not careful.

The X-Files, TV Review, David Duchovny, Mitch Pileggi, Gillian Anderson, FOX

A lot of the issues with this episode stem from the fact that it was written and directed by Chris Carter himself. Like George Lucas, Carter can often get in his own way as a filmmaker and indulge in some lackluster directing decisions. The action throughout this episode is mediocre at best but Carter still gets some great acting out of David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and Mitch Pileggi. The biggest benefit The X-Files has over most series is the chemistry between it's leads. Anderson looks better than ever and Duchovny slips right back into playing Mulder as if he never stopped. Even William B Davis feels more natural as Cigarette Smoking Man than he did in his limited screen time during Season 10. While it is clumsily executed, The X-Files seems to be heading back into familiar territory, it just had to dig itself out of where it has been heading since Season 8 to try and get back to what made the show as iconic as it is.

"My Struggle III" also introduces a new conspiracy theorist played by Barbara Hershey, effectively replacing Joel McHale's useless character from last season. It may seem hard to believe, but all of this is crammed into a single hour long episode (44 minutes minus commercials) and features some of the worst voice-over in television history. To make matters worse, this episode also showcases the most ridiculous use of Morse code ever. Overall, I do not feel as confident about Season 11 as I did at this point in Season 10. At least with Season 10, we knew we were in for a partial restart to the mythology. I just didn't expect this season to reboot the reboot, With the longer ten episode run this time, Season 11 at least will have more space to expand the mythology while also playing around with some fun Monster-of-the-Week episodes. I just hope that Chris Carter isn't planning on saving the next dose of mythology for the season finale titled "My Struggle IV". I have it on good authority that the next episodes are really good, so even if you are as disappointed in this premiere as I was, stick with it until next week.

 
Next on The X-Files: "This" airs January 10th - An old friend reaches out to Mulder and Scully in a seemingly impossible way, revealing a chilling secret..
 

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