The X-Files season 11 did not start out well and I’m unhappy to report it didn’t end well, either. “My Struggle IV” was mostly boring, but by the end it turned a nightmarishly awful mess that marked a downright tragic end to Gillian Anderson’s time as Special Agent Dana Scully. But why anyone—actors, writers, or fans—would come back for more X-Files after last night’s episode is beyond me.
“My Struggle III” was good in that it wiped out the events of “My Struggle II,” but bad in that it posed the Cigarette Smoking Man as the “father” of Scully’s child. This bookend to season 11, however, barely progressed the grand mythology creator Chris Carter loves so much and did more harm than good.
There are at least two things that immediately became obvious in this episode: 1) Scully and Mulder (David Duchovny) were going to spend almost the entire thing apart and 2) their son William sucks. That makes for a terrible watch, especially when the episode starts with a William voiceover. His powers manifested early and so he had a shitty life that meant switching schools often to keep his gifts secret... but he also became a criminal and chose to date two girls at the same time, causing them to harm each other, so your sympathy for him may vary.
CSM is still trying to use Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) to find William and although she’s apparently been working with him for 15 years, Reyes (Annabeth Gish) is secretly trying to help Scully do the same (unbeknownst to CSM). While she informs Scully and Mulder at the same time of a possible location for William, Mulder insists on making the search alone... which means Scully has nothing to do. I’m not exaggerating. She’s relegated to having visions of the future, one of which includes Mulder’s death at the hands of CSM, although Mulder does not heed her warnings. Then Scully puts in a call to conspiracy talk show host Tad O’Malley (Joe McHale) to warn him of the super-deadly virus about to be unleashed; O’Malley cites Mulder as his source and we never see public reaction to the report, let alone anything else regarding the virus.
Instead, it’s primarily an episode of “Mulder: Impossible.” It feels like there’s an incredible amount of story we’re missing while he drives really fast (again) and kills a lot of people (again) in the hopes of finding his son. He does eventually locate him, after making stops at William’s girlfriends houses for clues to his location, but William doesn’t want to see him any more than he wants to see Scully. William has been hunted almost his entire life and he knows the people after him are evil. He even tells one of the girls, Sarah (Madeleine Arthur), he wants to die. Bad guys are dispatched in some particularly gory scenarios and William runs off once more.
William, Scully, Mulder, Skinner, Reyes, and CSM all wind up at the same remote dock for a whirlwind showdown. Skinner, attempting to buy Scully and Mulder some time to find their son, shoots Reyes in the head as the car she was driving runs him over. Yeah. Of course, Skinner is probably not dead but dispatching Reyes in such a way was a gross mishandling of the character who was, in fact, trying to help the good guys, not to mention an actor who helped keep the show together in its rocky years.
Scully finally meets her son, except he projects himself as Mulder, denying her 17-year hope of looking into the eyes of her child. Mulder!William tells Scully that her son “knows she loves him” and runs away from her for what feels like the tenth time, only this time he meets CSM on the edge of the water. After a bit of monologuing, CSM, believing it’s actually Mulder, unknowingly shoots his “son” in the head, and Mulder!William falls backward into the water. The real Mulder arrives a second later and shoots CSM repeatedly in the chest, and then he falls backward into the water, too.
But it’s the next scene that really put the nail in the coffin of the episode and, perhaps, the show. Having been told, mostly off-camera, by Skinner that William was conceived thanks to CSM and not Mulder, Scully is suddenly fine with her son getting murdered. And after years and years of dramatic stories involving her motherly devotion, she suddenly decides William was only “an experiment” and declares “I was never a mother to him.”
But wait, there’s more! Mulder, oozing with fatherly feelings this episode, is devastated at William’s death, asking, “What am I now if not a father?” (Uh, you barely cared about William previously and you’re still lots of things, Mulder.) To which Scully replies, “You are a father” and places his hand on her stomach.
Christ on a cracker. Chris Carter let Scully languish this entire episode only to use her as a baby vessel again. Because, you know, that’s apparently all she’s good for.
Oh yeah, and William’s not actually dead, but who gives a shit? In fact, should the show return—which it clearly shouldn’t—it’ll probably be revealed that Cigarette Smoking Man was wearing body armor and have yet another ridiculous resurrection, too.
Look, there are a lot of times The X-Files could have, or should have, ended. From season seven’s “Closure” to the more recent “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat,” Carter had ample time to put a stamp on this show and mail it off into classic scifi history. His persistence at keeping it open-ended and dragging characters through nonsensical muck is almost incomprehensible. But with last night’s finale, Carter has finally brought his once-beloved TV series to a low point it can never, ever recover from.
The X-Files cannot be salvaged. Do not attempt it again. Leave Gillian Anderson alone. The end.
- Kersh’s (James Pickens Jr.) contribution to the episode wasn’t nearly annoying enough to make those minutes worth it
- Shout out to Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) and Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) who literally had walk-on, walk-off roles this season. Not that I really wanted more of them, mind you, but them not showing up in the finale was odd, considering.
- Which reminds me, where the hell did Jeffrey Spender go?
- Will Scully continue to have connected visions with William since he’s not actually dead?
- No aliens at all? Really? For shame.