Well, this is it. The finale. Was it a finale to end all finales? No. Was it a season finale or a series finale? One can only hope it was the latter, but well, the answer is uncertain. I spent most of the season being unreasonably nervous for the Season 11 Finale “My Struggle IV”, and the premiere “My Struggle III” did nothing to make me feel secure, and yet, none of those fears really came to pass. All together, this season was a mix of good and okay episodes. Maybe one or two were truly stand out but, to be perfectly honest, I could still have lived without it (yes even without the confirmed sexcapades and the DPO reference). It lacks the spark and, honestly, the nuance that used to be at least semi-characteristic of the show in its heyday. But that’s not what this column is for. I digress.
The single biggest issue with this season is the timeline, especially in comparison to season 10, which is what makes this episode – and indeed, the current parameters of Mulder and Scully’s relationship – so difficult to understand. In fact they barely spend 5 minutes of screentime together in this episode. What from Season 10 actually happened? The only thing truly confirmed not to have been a figment of Scully’s future visions is her mother’s death. In what order did those events happen, if they indeed did? Does Scully live in the Unremarkable House? Are she and Mulder (as Duchovny actually said) married? Or what? Maybe none of that really matters, but it is simply too murky for the likes of me. Perhaps this is the one thing we can be certain carried over from the original seasons of The X-Files, if only the later ones: poorly executed timelines.
What’s so strange is how little of what was introduced to viewers in “My Struggle III” ended up mattering in “My Struggle IV”. Scully’s visions never come to pass and she plays an strangely small roll for all it seemed she would be the important one this season (especially considering that she won’t be back). Barbara Hershey is exploded by William. Mulder (sexy badass Mulder) takes out the new pseudo Smoking Man. What was so important about the secret space programme? Why did they even need to exist? They contributed exactly nothing to the story line, which is a real shame, honestly, because Barbara Hershey is brilliant. It was an empty plot that did only one thing – eat up screen time.
Each “My Struggle” episode shares one distinct characteristic: they all feel rushed, and in more ways than one. My heart was pounding erratically in my chest. Car chases, running, lots of death and disaster; there is no quiet moment in any of these episodes. They feel like run away trains which kept leading to other run away trains which ultimately led to…nowhere? Not even a cliff! In this episode, we lost not only two completely forgettable, unimportant villains, we also lost Monica Reyes (Good? Bad? Motive? Who knows? We certainly don’t!), CGB Spender (I forgot what his ‘real’ name was supposed to be) and even (probably) Walter Skinner. I love Skinner, and I didn’t even care. I should have cared, but it was too rushed. Too meaningless. What did he die for? What was the plot he was trying to prevent?
For a grand total of 0 seconds did anyone believe Mulder was dead (but it was David, so maybe I had a glimmer of a tear). And, if anyone was paying any attention to “Ghouli” it came as no surprise to see William pop up out of the water. Even Scully’s big reveal was the big speculation around the internet (notably tumblr) for weeks! She’s pregnant. Literally everyone saw it coming. So the big cataclysm that poor Tad was hyping never comes to pass and Mulder and Scully don’t even kiss at the revelation of their second miracle pregnancy.
Where is the payoff? What was the point of this storyline?
I’m frustrated, underwhelmed and actually, a lot less disappointed than I thought I would be. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good. I guess, more importantly for me, it wasn’t world ending. What it comes down to really, is that there wasn’t any progress made in terms of the plot, and the pacing was atrocious. Did we ever really know what the plot was? I can’t even call this a mytharc. I’m not really sure of what it was at all, except a half–baked unfortunate mess.
What this all adds up to is the same thing fans have said for a long time. What really mattered this season was Mulder and Scully. Flirting, in love, grousing at each other, indulging one another, supporting each other infallibly. Growing old together. They are the core of the show because, even for them, when it really came down to it, their lives weren’t about the X-Files (Kersh got to say his infamous line again!) but about each other. Mulder could live without the X-Files because Scully became more important to him. Scully never needed the X-Files, or Mulder, but rather learned to want Mulder in her life, a far better alternative to needing. Maybe that’s why this season (and last), despite all it’s indisputably good things, still manages to fall flat. We already knew Mulder and Scully were at that point. We didn’t need to see their relationship torn down (S10) and built up again (S11) to know that they love and support each other, through better or worse, in sickness and health, forsaking all others. 9 seasons and 2 movies and countless forehead kisses, hand holding and “gazing” and “you’re my constant, my touchstone. And you are mine” already solidified that long ago. So what was the point? And, what’s the harm in throwing in another impossible pregnancy while we’re at it? (Sarcasm intended.)
This has always been the danger of revivals. I understand, as an invested fan, that The X-Files has never been about giving us answers. We have always struggled alongside Mulder and Scully to wrest the truth from the lies, to see the light in the darkness. But at least when Deepthroat was killed, or when Mulder was abducted, or when the X-Files was shut down the first time, we knew a little bit more about what was going to happen, about why these things were happening, about the scope and the direction of the plot. With this revival, nothing has ever been certain. Despite what Chris Carter says, I find very little evidence that any of this was pre-planned, especially when (through no fault of his own) it was uncertain whether or not there would be a Season 11 or, now, a Season 12. How can you plan, realistically, when it seems like it might not be worth bothering? How can you plan when the spark is gone and you’re just doing it because it was greenlit? And even further, when it’s uncertain if your lead actors will even be willing to come back? Revivals exist because people want more, want to bask in nostalgia, but, as the old adage goes, more is not always better.
The moral of this story for me? If there isn’t a story worth telling, don’t even bother.
The standalone episodes worked well almost 100% of the time, and the mytharc fell flat. it kills me to do so, but I’m hardly the first person to say this. Look as far back as Season 5 and I’m sure you will find similarly–worded statements, even if I might not have agreed with them then. I love the mythology of this show. I love aliens and colonization and Mulder and Scully fighting against the clock and Shadow Governments and Syndicates. I love spaceships and abductions and alien baby baby mommas and daddies. I love that. But this mytharc, told in 4 parts, simply doesn’t have enough substance. What were the stakes this season? What exactly is it that they wanted William for? And who wanted him for what? If we thought the villains intentions were unclear during the original run, this revival simply goes too far. I honestly don’t think Chris Carter even knows. Maybe he thought he could get away with not even coming up with an idea. Maybe it’s all so convoluted in his head at this point that he simply didn’t realize he’d left out some crucial details. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
If this was to be done successfully, it should have been done as a movie, and focused on the mytharc. The rush, the adrenaline pumping, nerve wracking sprints that comprised the 4 “My Struggle Episodes” succeeded in creating a mood and emotion, but failed in that they ultimately meant nothing. No payoff. No real climax. The tension was dense but the stakes were so confused that it didn’t matter.
Get William. That was my most common chant. I wanted Mulder and Scully to protect William because people were coming for him. That’s it. That’s where everything stemmed from. I should care that Skinner died. I should have enough information to be intrigued about the new conspiracy. I should want to know what Spender’s intentions were. It was a cop out. None of the season long build, none of what I hoped and anticipated would be relevant was.
Instead of “This is Not Happening” we got “Nothing Really Happened at All”, an empty shell of beautiful, tense action sequences without the emotional and intellectual substance to make it all mean something.
“My Struggle IV” wasn’t bad. It wasn’t even terrible. It might even be an enjoyable hour of television. But it was empty of any meaning. And that is the true disappointment. What a shame.
Even though the show is over, our coverage of the X-Files isn’t! Get into the comments and tell us what you want to see!
Be on the lookout for:
- A pre-release review of David Duchovny’s new book “Miss Subways”
- A review of the “original” Seasons 10 and 11 in their comic book forms!
- And more to come!