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THE X-FILES “My Struggle III” Review

By on January 4, 2018

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





Just when you thought you’d forgotten the dubious joy of dueling voice-overs, The X-Files returns for its eleventh season.

Dana Scully’s last vision had been, for the second time in her life, overwhelmed by the intense beam of light from an unknown source above.  However, when we encounter her again, she is not found on a congested bridge at the end of a frantic night; she is found on the floor of their office, non-responsive, while blood trickles from her mouth. 

When Scully is rushed to the hospital, her neurologist cannot determine a cause of her patient’s lack of consciousness, but Scully’s scans show she is exhibiting unusual brain activity; “neurologically, her brain is on fire.”  The doctor obligingly shows Mulder and Skinner her MRI, and Walter reads the flashing in her hypothalamus as a code, dots and dashes that equate to a command:  “Find him.”

Ever the skeptic, Mulder labels Skinner’s conclusions “insanity.”

Wait, what?

Skinner rightly calls out Mulder for his insistence in the absurdity of what he’s proposed as he’s witnessed the latter believing “far more absurd things.”  Apparently both Mulder’s willingness to turn to the fantastic for explanation has deserted him, along with his intuitive nature, as he cannot even apprehend who Scully would want to find when the obvious answer is William, their son.

One thing Mulder has not forgotten, however, is the lesson he learned well in “One Breath.”  The answers out there are not more important than the people he truly loves.  Then, as now, he returns to Scully’s side and allows Skinner to go in pursuit of the truth.

Abruptly Scully awakens and tries to explain to Mulder the danger of the Spartan virus which shuts down our immune systems, a pandemic that spells the end for humanity.  She implores him to find the Cigarette-Smoking Man, to find their son, whose stem cells are the only cure for Mulder himself, whom Scully can see quite clearly dying from the contagion. 

Mulder attempts to make her see reason—he is fine, and the CSM is dead—but she will not be dissuaded; from Spartanburg, South Carolina, that evil man “unleashes Hell on Earth.” 

She implores, “It’s me, Mulder; I’m not an irrational person.”  While he claims not to doubt her, he puts her off and insists upon talking to her doctor first.

The doctor insists upon the subjective reality of the “visions” which Scully has had, suggesting that they may have had a source, something not uncommon in the “nexus of certain governmental agencies” and their experiments upon the population, with or without their knowledge.

Only when Scully threatens to climb from her bed for answers does Mulder agree to investigate her claims.  He needn’t have waited long for corroboration, however.  It seems Jeffrey Spender, Mulder’s half-brother, is having his own bad day.  Jeffrey is nearly run down in a parking garage by a fuming figure who barks at him, “Where’s the boy?  All we want is the boy!”

William is in very high demand.

The Struggles of the Tobacco King

As all Americans are intimately familiar with of late, smug men of power love to pontificate before a captive audience and paint themselves simultaneously as hapless victims and sole saviors.  Thus, the opener of the recollections of one such man seems oddly appropriate.

Carl Gearhart Bush, a.k.a. The Cigarette-Smoking Man, reflects upon his life as the unseen backbone of all men of power, often holding the reins, “making sacrifices few are capable of, of which even fewer are willing.”  He scoffs at the popular notion that somehow all has not been decided for us in advance by men such as he, along with our “rigid impulse to self-destruct.”

Co. Cr: Robert Falconer/FOX

Dear Carl flatly proclaims himself a father to two men:  Jeffrey Spender and Fox Mulder; he labels them “complex and dedicated men” who had doggedly pursued the truths as Daddy had parceled them out, his kindly or pathetic breadcrumb trail to keep his boys tottering after him.  He chuckles at those who doubt that there is life beyond our planet, “a failure of more than the imagination…a failure to recognize the limits of our own stupidity…”  As an old man, he primly declares he will leave his own mark upon history, “more than presidents or tyrants,” though the accompanying montage of dubious figures of our present administration handily blurs the lines between these two concepts.  He wishes ultimately to show his sons that “what their father did had to be done.”

Such as getting the staging of the moon landing exactly right before the director screamed, “Cut!”  One small step for man, indeed.

While Scully is sure that CSM is behind the pursuit of her son, as he has been behind much of her personal pain for decades, Carl reveals that he does not know which enemy of his could be after William or why they would pursue him now as his plans are “air-tight.”

And he is protected by our recent glut of so-called “fake news.” We’ve allowed ourselves to become sitting ducks because “every day [there’s] a new disaster [and] the one thing no one’s prepared for will wipe the slate clean.”  This is what happens when “we’ve thrown science out the window in favor of scandal and opinion.”  Amongst this, Carl’s plans in the impending extinction are “merely the punchline.”

Offers They Must Refuse

Deals with the devil are all the rage these days.

When Daddy Carl intercepts Jeffrey’s call of warning to Mulder, it’s on:  “Mulder will be coming for me,” he opines to the helpful person lighting his cigarette.

That person?  Monica Reyes.

Not to worry, though.  Carl has his “alternatives” planned.  Besides, determination is irrelevant, for “you can’t stop what’s already begun.”

After a ridiculously extensive car chase, Mulder finds himself following his attacker across many borders into South Carolina, pondering if Scully’s visions were “a prophecy playing out in real time.”  He trails the man to a house, in which sits a man smoking a cigarette, but when he bursts into the room, he finds a different old man in the company of a dark-haired woman who is decidedly not Monica Reyes.

Co. Cr: Robert Falconer/FOX

These unknown individuals announce themselves as members of the Syndicate involved in the alien colonization.  However, they assure Mulder that the aliens are not coming after all:  they’ve “no interest in a warming planet with vanishing resources,” which frankly reads like a de facto tagline for current domestic policy.  Instead, these people wish to stop their colleague from unleashing an alien pathogen, “the end of history.” 

The threat?  Mulder will never see his son again.

But Mulder isn’t buying their flimsy altruism.  He sees their plan as a thin veil to implement their own destruction for the bulk of humanity, saving the select few to transfer off-planet to colonize space.  When he refuses them, the mysterious man announces that no one, then, can save them.

Mulder almost chuckles at this.  “I know someone who can save us, and I think you know her, too.”

As this unfolds, Reyes and Bush confront Walter Skinner in his car and warn of a contagion coming that can kill billions.  They offer him immunity to it.  In return?  Find the boy.

Apparently, while humanity had busied itself with trifles like Cuba and North Vietnam, Carl Bush had been “busy in the Nevada desert…playing God with lifeforms.”  He had been allowed the three things that all disasters require to come to fruition:  time, money, and freedom.

Skinner is asked not merely to betray friends, but to turn his back on the whole human race.

Does Walter accept?  That is left uncertain, but as Mulder will later note, Skinner smells like smoke.

Family Ties

Another thing which holds true from that time long ago:  Mulder finds himself tortured again by a thought “imperishable…that the person you care for most in the world might be hurt by you, by your actions, the simple fact of knowing you.”  It has always been assumed that everything that’s befallen Scully is due to her partner, but this episode suggests that it may well be the opposite.

Scully is the lynchpin in the conspiracy, not Mulder.

Scully’s memories of the birth and forfeit of her son flood her mind, and she awakens to Spender at her bedside.  He takes a risk coming to see her to tell her of his brush with death, to warn her.  Fearing for Mulder’s life, she makes him break his previous promise to her not to reveal the details of her son’s adoption, and he gives up a family name:  Van De Kamp.

Co. Cr: Robert Falconer/FOX

Scully checks herself out of the hospital and contacts Mulder, telling him of Spender’s visit.  She sees her visions coming true, Mulder’s confrontation with the CSM as a cog in that wheel.  Dana is adamant that she find their son:  “You need him, and I need you.”

At that moment, Scully is beset by visions again, the voice of her nemesis intoning the virtues of her “very special child.”  As she grasps her skull, overwhelmed, we see interspersed frames of a young man thrashing in an apparent seizure as well.

Scully and her son are some of the select few who are immune to the pathogen; Mulder is not.  But at roughly the same moment the deals are struck, Dana, vision whiting out, crashes her car and slips into unconsciousness once again.

Back at the hospital, a sleeping Scully is attacked by the same man whom Mulder had pursued, but his attempt to strangle her is aborted by a decisive scalpel to the throat, courtesy of Mulder himself.

Could it be that Dana’s source of brain fire, the cause of her prophetic visions, is her own child?  The two are said to “share a bond beyond science,” so has the secret chosen to reveal itself and disregard the Smoking Man’s careful timeline?

Has the Cigarette-Smoking Man been secretly in love with Scully all these years and using his own son as a tool to protect her so that CSM himself can impregnate her with the first superhuman?

The answers are yes and oh yuck please no, respectively.

In any case, Scully grows certain that her son is guiding them and that he will be the one to find them when the time is right.  Until that happens, they have nothing to do but their work.

Now, as always, “the truth still lies in the x-files.”

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