THE X-FILES, 11.10 – ‘My Struggle IV’

the x-files - my struggle iv
2 out of 5 stars

While nowhere near as shambolic as season 10’s finale, “My Struggle IV” was still a disappointing end to The X-Files — perhaps forever? Although without Gillian Anderson as Scully, one has to wonder what the point of making more would be, without overhauling it. It just seems like creator Chris Carter, who wrote and directed this hour, can never bring himself to end the series that made his name, and has hung around his neck like a millstone ever since.

The frustrating thing is there’s room for a revamped X-Files today, but it requires the kind of radical thinking I don’t think Carter’s capable of. While it may sound like heresy to X-Philes, leaving Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Anderson) to retire in peace, to focus on two new agents for the 21st-century, was probably the way to go. These revival seasons could have segued into that, which I thought was happening when Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose joined the cast as younger Mulder and Scully-alikes.

It didn’t bode well for “My Struggle IV” when right-wing conspiracy theorist Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) made an unwelcome return, but the story wisely focusing on an extended chase with Mulder tracking down to his son William (Miles Robbins), last seen running away in “Ghouli”. Once Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) informed him and Scully that William’s been taken into custody and is being moved to a secret government warehouse, the episode became a race against time to find him. But why is everyone after William? It was established that his half-alien DNA is natural source for a vaccine against the Cigarette Smoking Man’s (William B. Davis) doomsday virus last season, but this episode now suggests his gift of clairvoyance is also highly prized.

To be honest, I’m past caring.

All you need to know is the bad guys are after William because he’s special, and our FBI heroes want to protect him because they’re his biological parents. It makes sense to give audiences a relatable connection to what was going on, as viewers don’t generally care about the show’s mythology nowadays, so I didn’t dislike how “My Struggle IV” pared everything down to two parents trying to reunite with their long-lost son. There were even some entertaining moments peppered throughout, such as the scene where William caused a motel room full of bad guys to explode into bloody chunks just by thinking about it. Although once it was shown he can do that, I stopped fearing for his safety…

On the other hand, there was a sense of desperation to this hour. It was a simple story, executed poorly. Chris Carter had a finale to write, that was quite possible a final farewell to the show as a whole (again), and the groundwork wasn’t there for many of its dramatic peaks to work. Recurring characters unceremoniously died, but the deaths landed without any weight. Erika Price (Barbara Hershey) and her boss, Mr. Y (AC Peterson), who were introduced in the premiere and haven’t been seen much since, died so quickly it just seemed odd two actors like that were wasted — especially Hershey, who fits into the X-Files world so well.

While season 10 was overburdened by mythology episodes far worse than this year’s, season 11’s suffered from having too little of them. Not that I’m complaining as someone who dislikes then over the monster-of-the-week tales, but it does mean a few of this finale’s “notable” deaths evoked confusion that seemingly important characters got short shrift. The only major death this week was of Monica Reyes, shot in the head in self-defence by Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), who was subsequently run over by her out-of-control car.

I bailed on The X-Files during the late-1990s when Gish joined the show to help plug the Mulder-sized gap with Robert Patrick, so her demise didn’t cause much reaction, but I’m sure a few fans were left feeling shortchanged.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the finale was how it left things by the end, because we’re ultimately not much further along in the revival’s own storyline. The only lasting change is that the Cigarette Smoking Man was shot multiple times by his son, Mulder, with less chance of that being a fake-out this time. Although it’s possible his body will be quickly found and healed using alien tech, or something, if William B. Davis wants to return. But he is 80 years old now, so maybe it’s asking too much.

It wasn’t a grand ending for the show’s biggest villain after all these years, and possibly one of TV’s greatest bad guys, but it was cathartic enough to see Mulder pump his evil father full of lead. The moment was also given enough dramatic weight because the CSM had unwittingly just killed his own son William (disguised as Mulder), so the real Mulder was effectively avenging the death of his son. Or, more accurately, his half-brother. It’s all a bit confusing. Also, the whole sequence may have worked better if they hadn’t reminded viewers, moments earlier, that William can appear like other other people to fool them.

Scully was oddly separated from much of the action, too. It’s almost like Anderson has little interest in running around nowadays, so has it written into her new contract that most of her scenes will involve talking in corridors while Duchovny does the physical stuff. Her voice also seems to be on the verge of cracking for some reason, or she just needs a good cough, which is something I noticed and now can’t stop hearing every time she speaks. Still, she’s a good actress, and although I’m cynical enough to believe her involvement in the X-Files revival is driven foremost by money, Anderson often delivers moments of emotion that seem to raise Duchovny’s game if he’s sharing a scene with her.

Mulder and Scully’s last moment together on the pier, with Scully announcing she’s pregnant again (this time with a normal baby they can raise like a normal couple) was quite touching. Even if the scene required them to effectively get over William’s death seconds after it happened, with Scully suddenly unhappy to call herself a mother (she just “bore” him) and then labelling William an “experiment”. Ouch.

Of course, I should say death with inverted comas, because the last shot of “My Struggle IV” found William emerging from his watery grave despite receiving a bullet to the head from his real dad. It must be another benefit of his alien DNA, or something. But if William’s been kept on the table for a theoretical season 12, how will that work knowing Gillian Anderson has confirmed she won’t be returning as his mother? Is she going to be written out while Mulder takes over, treated Scully like “Mrs. Colombo”? Will they both step aside for new blood, but their legacy will live on in William being an ongoing loose thread for new characters to investigate? Maybe the suggestion is that William can simply disappear into obscurity, now everyone thinks he’d dead? Let’s go with that.

Oh, and did you notice the tanker William hitches a ride in was from a company called MILLENNIUM? A nod to Chris Carter’s other ’90s TV series, there. Now that’s a revival I’d like to see, even if it would probably make less sense to bring Millennium back 18 years after the turn-of-the-century…

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