THE X-FILES SEASON FINALE REVIEW
“MY STRUGGLE IV”
BY CHRIS B
Jackson Van De Kamp (a.k.a., William) is back, and he wants answers. He knows they have to come from his father, whom he’s only seen in visions and already hates: Carl Bush, everyone’s favorite tobacco freak.
He’s not the only one who feels this way.
Immediately, we see Mulder pulling into a motel in Norfolk, Virginia, looking for William, while Skinner gets a dressing down by Kersh over Mulder’s wild statements on television (broadcast on Truth Squad with Tad O’Malley) about a global conspiracy, compounded by blurry footage of Mulder loping past the front of the motel in Norfolk like he’s a sasquatch, the quote, “Death will hunt you down,” screaming from the banner at the foot of the screen.
Kersh is done with this mess: “I’m closing the x-files. I want Mulder and Scully’s badges.”
But nothing is as it seems. The conspiracy is the very kind of phony “fake news” that Dr. They would drool over, and Mulder is not the one to have made the “outrageous statements”; this time, it is Scully, and she pleads with Skinner to help her, Mulder, and their son.
Fifteen hours earlier, a frantic call from Monica Reyes had alerted Mulder and Scully that their son may have been captured and is being flown to Maryland on a private plane. Monica refers to this as their “last good chance” since “the person who controls [their] son is the person who controls the future.”
Scully can’t explain why, but she is certain William is not on the plane; however, she allows Mulder to go in search of him, imploring, “Just come back alive.”
Scully’s hunch is right; off the plane in Maryland rolls only Mr. Y, who disappears into a hangar office while Mulder overcomes four armed guards to corner him. Before any answers can be extracted, Mulder’s forced to kill Mr. Y and escape.
Jackson, in the meantime, still flees from his pursuers. Like a parkour champion he leaps over and across rooftops to elude a pack of armed agents in black. He had been discovered in Tennessee thanks to a bizarre “lotto cluster,” which Mulder traces to the convenience store where the last winner had been. Security footage shows Jackson at the counter.
Scully continues to have visions while Mulder is on the road, following the trucker from whom Jackson had hitched his ride, heading northeast. “Every last thing in the world” depends upon finding him, but Mulder is in no way deterred by the enormity of the battle: “I’m tired of looking at him on video.”
It’s too bad that, in his fervor, Mulder didn’t also clock the guy who put a tracker on his own car.
Scully panics and calls Tad O’Malley, feeding him the story of a lifetime: “There’s going to be a contagion. A virus is going to be unleashed; people’s immune systems will be decimated…a man-made contagion from an alien pathogen…Death in the streets, Mr. O’Malley.” She allows that “a federal agent” is the source of the information, but doesn’t specify which.
Jackson ditches both the truck and Mulder, but he’s spotted by the man trailing Mulder. This man pulls up and volunteers to give the boy a ride to Norfolk. Reluctantly, Jackson slides into the car, seeming to know all the while the danger he’s put himself in, one step closer to the cage he imagines he’s destined for, to be poked and prodded like the “freak” he believes he is.
Jackson later leaves the car. His driver ends up with his internal organs and fluids sprayed around the vehicle’s interior, but his phone and its tracking app are still working when Erika Price shows up.
Mulder and Jackson both appeal to the boy’s girlfriends for help. The blonde one, Sarah, agrees to go with Jackson to keep the boy from harming himself, promising to meet him at the very motel that Fox-squatch had been filmed leaving earlier.
When they converge on the motel, Mulder finally gets his wish. Before the military goons and camera crews arrive, he is able to finally give William a hug, the first since he’d been a tiny baby. He recognizes the child’s anger and vows, “If you trust me, I’ll protect you.”
No one can help him, they’ll never stop coming after him, and he thinks the terrible future will right itself if Jackson ends himself. But can’t Mulder help him stop it? Sorry, Dad. “You can’t. You die, too.”
Before Mulder can convince him otherwise, Ms. Price and her crew burst through the door. No worries. One by one, Jackson makes each of them explode and, while Mulder writhes on the floor in disbelief, sprints out the door into the night.
Scully is insistent that Jackson may not listen to reason, but he will listen to her, so she plans to join Mulder in Virginia. Skinner tries to deter her, as he is supposed to “rein [her] in” per Kersh’s orders. Scully has no time for that detritus: “This isn’t about the FBI, sir; this is about our son.”
Skinner barely hesitates: “I’ll drive.”
On the way, she (yes, again) grills him on his loyalties, and he confesses to her the truth about her son and who his creepy, lecherous father supposedly is. Her tight expression as he does so, her temporary loss of hearing, rather speak for themselves.
Reyes and the Cigarette-Smoking Man arrive on the scene, and while Monica chats up the local police, Carl locates the phone with the trace of Mulder’s vehicle.
The whole gang ends up at a factory by the docks, and while Mulder and Scully run about looking for the boy, Skinner approaches the car of Reyes and the old man, pulling his gun. She tries to put the car in reverse, but Carl cranks the car into drive. Walter fires on them repeatedly, killing Monica and allowing Carl to steer the car directly toward him. Skinner runs and dives for cover below his own car (because, of course, why would anyone simply fall to one side?) just as the other vehicle crashes into it, leaving his fate uncertain.
Elsewhere, for the third time in the series, Scully thinks she is speaking to Mulder as he pleads for her to let William go and assures, “He knows that you love him.” But when another Mulder appears at the end of the corridor, it’s evident that dear William’s been shape-shifting again. He bolts, leading them in pursuit to the next building. As Mulder rounds a corner, he’s abruptly intercepted by a gun-wielding Carl Bush who delights that William now knows that he is “the one who made him,” referring to himself as “William’s creator.” Mulder doesn’t think that the old man can kill his first-born son, which is quite a gamble since Cancer Man already shot his second son once, yet Mulder is still skeptical. Carl, evil gleam intact in his eyes, claims, “Then, you don’t know me very well,” and fires a bullet into Mulder’s forehead, sending him into the water.
Or did he?
Behind Smokey is a yell, and the real Mulder strides forward, emptying his magazine into the old man, finally ending his reign (presumably) as dark lord and nicotine poster child. He shoves him into the depths so he can float away as the grotesque driftwood.
As Mulder tries to cope with what’s happened, Scully catches up to him, trying to soothe him by convincing Mulder that William was never their son. “He wasn’t meant to be…He was an idea, born in a laboratory…I carried him, I bore him, but I was never a mother to him.”
Mulder cannot wrap his head around it: “For so long, I believed. What am I now if I’m not a father?” His dismay rings oddly dissonant in the backdrop of what his partner’s just said; if Scully was not truly William’s mother, how could Mulder have defined his whole existence around being the child’s father?
Still, Scully has an outrageous and impossible answer for him. She grabs his hand, places it on her stomach, and informs him, “You are a father.”
Preoccupied as they are on the dock, they miss Jackson popping his head out of the water, undeterred by the round bullet hole above his eyebrow.
The Ongoing Fight for the Future
If this is indeed the end of the road for The X-Files, then it leaves us achieving more than some could expect, and for others, accomplishing far, far less.
Walter Skinner has been a stealthy but reliable figure in the bigger picture of Mulder and Scully’s adventures. This season, he reinvests himself in their fight, a means to honor the struggle of those he fought with in war. Therefore, it is a bit disheartening to have him left as an afterthought, a potential casualty in this battle for justice in the shadowy and unjust world of politics and power. His character’s arc deserved more fitting an end than impromptu speed bump.
The opening voice-over du jour is provided this time by William, who muses about his birth mother, whom he’s never properly met, but with whom he feels connected via “violent episodes” that link to the future. This future is one he sees as a source of “confusion and pain and loneliness that [he] can’t escape,” and it’s one of which he wants no part.
Jackson’s childhood had been a happy one full of dreams, though he knew he had “special powers,” which apparently included shattering glass with the force of his anger or birthing a chicken at will. Then, when he was eleven, he sent a bully to the hospital—not from punches he’d thrown, but from the mental surge of energy that caused blood to pour from every opening on the kid’s face.
Long story short, he changed schools a lot. And he “just kind of became a criminal,” doing such things as causing a six-car pile up so that he could cross an intersection more quickly on his bike. This causes him to be sent away to an institution for “bad kids,” and he toys with therapist after therapist until he is accosted by a man working for the government. Jackson lays low after that, knowing his house is being watched, until he makes the fatal error of playing Ghouli with his two girlfriends.
That ends his life as he’s known it: his parents are killed by the government voyeurs, and he’s on the run, being hunted by the same men. He’s convinced that if they catch him, they’ll kill him.
As the very definition of an extraordinary human, William never really had a chance at a normal life. Despite his tender age, his musings at the opening of the episode show him as every bit as disillusioned and damaged as those who’d created him. Worse for us, he never gets to be seen as a defined character. Is he really a good kid? He hints at his concern for his birth parents and shows their imaginative penchant for writing and the macabre, and we want to love him for it. But we don’t know him any better than Mulder and Scully do. Jackson has committed criminal acts with little remorse, lied for fun to those who tried to help him, and shamelessly used two girls at once. This leaves a sour taste for his character, and though he ultimately gets his wish and is able to disappear into anonymity, we can cheer for him only in the vain hope that he can make more of himself as a person if he’s left alone to do so.
Our heroes have endured much over the years. Personal loss had become their constant as both watched the members of their family fall like dominoes. They’ve had each other, but not completely, spending much of the last quarter century circling one another, a dance that’s brought them close but just far enough away, periods of solace that keep the persistent loneliness from overwhelming them both.
Are they together? Scully asked that very question in the penultimate episode of the season, but there is no clear answer for her, nor has there ever been. There have only ever been suggestions of this, brush strokes that never coalesced into a definitive image. The surprise of a child late in the original series run did not solve that problem since the current season seemed intent to strip them of that by suggesting that the boy was never Mulder’s to begin with, and ultimately, not Scully’s, either.
Science can do many things, and Nature will always surprise; however, granting a child to a woman in her fifties who had been barren for two decades strains credulity, even for a show laden with alien conspiracies and all manner of monsters. While I’d like to say that this bizarre twist is one that will provide a solid link for Mulder and Scully, will allow them to bask in some kind of joy and togetherness at last, their history at the hands of their creator does not make me overly optimistic. Chris Carter has remained vague on the point of their relationship, referring to them as “platonic” one moment, then letting them hop into bed together the next.
Given these persistently mixed messages, I suppose having the last shot of the season—perhaps of the whole series—be of these two in one another’s embrace, an intertwined tableau of devastation and hope, is the best representation of them and who they have been to the loyal audience who has loved them from the start.
In the end, we all want to believe.