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The X-Files 11.1 Review – “My Struggle III”

January 4, 2018 | Posted by Wednesday Lee Friday
The X-Files - My Struggle III THE X-FILES: L-R: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in the "My Struggle III" season premiere episode of THE X-FILES airing Wednesday, Jan. 3 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Robert Falconer/FOX
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The X-Files 11.1 Review – “My Struggle III”  

The opening montage of My Struggle III does one of the things X-Files does best. It forces us to acknowledge that the aliens, conspiracies, and population-decimating events are happening in our world, today, to us. An imagine of Kim Jong Un was seen over the word “tyrant,” and one of Trump over a statement about hubris and personal gain. Tonight’s episode might have maintained that sense of urgency, had they not backed away and allowed not one—but two major characters engage in long monologues and bits of overhead narration. I hate overhead narration. As always, expect spoilers to follow.

We begin with “Carl Gerhardt Busch,” more commonly known as CGB Spender, Big Spender, Cigarette Smoking Man, or just Smoking Man. He’s probably also referred to by colorful swears, because he’s a bad man who does bad things, yet inexplicably remains alive to do more bad things. He’s back to bad thing doing this week. Smoking Man reminds us that Nazis are bad and progress is an exercise in futility. The camera pulls back to reveal the moon landing being staged. I knew it! LOL We’re also reminded that Fox Mulder is Spender’s biological son. Ew.

X-Files creator and staple writer Chris Carter wrote tonight’s ep, so you know it’s going to be super heavy on mythos. Further alien conspiracies, Area 51, biological pandemic contagion—you know—the usual stuff is all front and center this week. It seems forced, and a little labored, honestly. Mulder and Scully love each other. They wouldn’t stop looking for their son ever—simply because he’s their son. Making the kid they key to saving or preserving all of humanity seems like overkill. This week, many things do.

The events of last season landed Scully in the hospital, where a Dr. Joyet proves herself as a highly competent badass. I love how she’s as skeptical as Scully, but suspends her commitment to established science once the evidence clearly demands it. We’ll no doubt be hearing more about Joyet and her experiences, since she’s a strong candidate to be a regular character (or a spinoff with Kyd and Einstein). We have to laugh when Fox says, “I just want someone to tell me what the hell is going on?” That’s what fans have been saying since the 90s. What IS going on? She’s got abnormal brain activity that’s making a flashing code telling Mulder and Skinner to “find him.” Find who? Why, William, of course.

When Mulder tells Skinny that he doesn’t believe his hypothesis, Skinner fires back with, “I’ve seen you believe in far more absurd things, Mulder.” Ha! He’s got you there, handsome! I’ve always liked Skinner. He strikes a good balance between being a company man and paying attention to reality as the team sees it. And of course, he’s a great foil for Mulder because they both make good points; they just never seem to agree.

Scully’s visions (which may be causing, or caused by her seizures) conveniently sum up what’s going on. There’s a pathogen, Smoking Man is gonna start some bullcrap, and he wants Mulder dead. I have to say, I love Fox Mulder and all. But he’s over 50 and has been intentionally involving himself with aliens, government conspiracies, monsters, and all manner of criminals for decades. At what point would his death be less ‘unimaginable tragedy’ and more ‘the expected result of a lifetime of enormous risks?’

The highlight of My Struggle III comes in the form of Jeffery AKA Little Spender. He’s a good, upstanding, moral man. He defied his own father when he realized he was evil. Jeffrey hid William from Dana and Fox, keeping the boy safe in the face of–*gestures broadly*. Having in appear before as a badly burned different actor, I did not like. So his appearance this week was awesome. Seeing that Reyes is still doing the bidding of the Smoking Man (Fox and Jeffrey’s dad) was less awesome. At one point I found myself thinking, “Oh, that’s right. Reyes sucks now.” She sold out all of humanity to save her own skin. Gross.

Scully is having visions that say Smoking Man wants William for some nefarious purpose, and wants Mulder dead. When Mulder chases Smoking Man, he encounters a mysterious Mr. Y and Barbara Hershey, who TV still doesn’t seem to know what to do with. These two reveal that SM plans to release a pathogen that kills pretty much all of humanity (except Scully and William). We already know that Spender/Smoking Man has been cool with humanity being destroyed a few other times—so this development lacks the impact it might have had, say 25 years ago. Smoking Man referring to “fake news,” was either annoying or hilarious. I can’t decide.

Little Spender reveals that William is living with a family called Van DeCamp. Presumably, they catch and sell frozen fish planks. Spender’s role in keeping William safe makes him seem even more heroic. Does Jeffrey really not believe his dad is alive? Or does he just really want to believe he’s dead? Smoking Man is up and around, posing the same deal to Skinner that Reyes went bad for—immunity from the pathogen. Skinner won’t take it. We know he won’t. Smoking Man does reveal that William and Scully are immune to the pathogen. William being “a very special child,” sounds downright banal at this point. It would have been more surprising if Mulder and Scully’s son had been normal, boring, and completely uninterested in science or aliens.

Einstein and Kyd, the young agents everyone thought would get a spinoff, appeared this week just in time to not know an assassin when they see one. Mulder uses his brute man powers to murder the assassin and save the mother of his child, before launching into more overhead narration about how slam-bang-awesome it is to be a dad with dad responsibilities. Which is why…

…it’s supposed to break our collective hearts to learn that William’s father isn’t Fox. It’s the Darth Vader of X-Files, Smoking Man. Personally, I’m more grossed out than shocked. So William isn’t Mulder’s son; he’s Mulder’s brother. Skinner knows this and doesn’t reveal it to Mulder immediately—though he might have had Scully not been in the room. She’s had enough unpleasantness for one week.

We’re left with a blatant reminder that the truth is still where they left it…with the X-files. Scully feels certain that Smoking Man won’t harm her or William. We’re still not sure of the motivations of Mr. Y and his companion. Mulder doesn’t trust them, nor do we. Reyes accuses Smoking Man of being in love with Scully—but her Dana-jealousy is nothing new. My Struggle III ends with a shot of a boy, presumably William, having some kind of supernatural looking seizure.

In terms of X-Files mythos, this episode developed a fair bit of existing story. It’s just that the story is so tired by now, so overdone, that it’s hard to care or even remember all the twists and turns. Those of us who remember when the kidnapping of Samantha Mulder was the most important mystery in the universe might find these recent developments to be borderline silly. I’m in the mood for a classic, monster-of-the-week episode. Scully’s quip that they’ll just be getting back to work while they wait for William to find them suggests that we’ll get this in episode two. I can’t wait!

See you’s next week!

The final score: review Good
The 411
Is there a happier time for sci-fi fans than a new season of The X-Files? Unless or until Firefly comes back, no there isn't. We're all pretty stoked to follow Mulder and Scully's adventures in the paranormal, their search for their son William, and to see if the Cigarette Smoking Man can actually be killed. Some of this premiere was amazing, and some, downright cringeworthy