“Someone has to stop these sons of bitches.” – The X-Files Recap – My Struggle

The X-Files Season 10 (!!!!!!!!!!!), Episode 1
“My Struggle” 

Posted by Kim

Confession time. The first time I saw “My Struggle”, I was in a room with several thousand X-Philes at New York Comic Con. The energy in the room was ELECTRIC. It was Day Three of the Con and everyone was slightly delirious thanks to the combination of very little sleep, pop culture over-stimulation, and the fact that OMG WE WERE SEEING AN ACTUAL NEW EPISODE OF THE X-FILES AND GETTING TO TALK TO CHRIS CARTER, DAVID DUCHOVNY, AND MITCH PILEGGI AFTERWARDS. It was insane and I will NEVER forget that emotional high.  Between that high and the fact that my expectations for “My Struggle” had been drastically lowered thanks to the response from the TCAs, I walked away from the screening having thoroughly enjoyed the episode. Now that I have some distance, I can see “My Struggle” for what it is: a poorly written mess that banks on you being too excited to see Fox Mulder and Dana Scully on your screen to really care.

Don’t get me wrong. When the voiceover began with “My name is Fox Mulder…”, I got chills.  When the theme song and the original credits (with the deserved addition of Mitch Pileggi) rolled, I had tears of joy in my eyes. As a fandom, we have waited SO LONG for this. But we can’t let our joy cloud our judgement and this episode was sloppy as hell. Look, I am forever grateful to Chris Carter for the world he created. But like George Lucas, his genius is often best left to ideas rather than execution. The writing of “My Struggle” was awkward and overly expositioned at its best and downright awful at its worst. The porch scene between Mulder and Scully was like bad fan fiction. Did you really have to insert all those catchphrases? I worship at the altar of Gillian Anderson’s acting but even she couldn’t make that scene work. David and Gillian were so disconnected in that scene and it just felt like they were spouting lines at maximum intensity rather than believing in their words. And the whole new conspiracy? To borrow from Sage’s tweets, it felt like Carter just went to Wikipedia and searched for conspiracies for the basis of the plot. Basically, the government is shady as fuck, using alien technology to fuel a planned and calculated Armageddon. People (women mainly) have been repeatedly abducted to be part of experiments and MAYBE their DNA has been fused with aliens for whatever reason. Any proof vanishes when it’s needed most. It’s really a means to an end and that end is getting The X-Files re-opened, because there is no way this arc can be resolved in less than 6 episodes.  Alrighty? So let’s just talk about what “My Struggle” did with our beloved characters, shall we? Because really…that’s why we are all here.

Another similarity between George Lucas and Chris Carter is that they both like to rewrite history. Lucas does it by adding Jabba the Hut into A New Hope and Hayden Christensen into Return of the Jedi, both of which are insulting to the original films. Chris Carter does it by ignoring character growth and regressing relationships to a point that is insulting to long time fans. Carter is/was notoriously against the Mulder/Scully romance, despite accidentally writing the greatest and deepest love story of all time, so I’m not SURPRISED that they are broken up. I’m just disappointed. Not that I expected/wanted everything to be puppies and rainbows with Mulder and Scully. They’ve been through and seen too much for that. But what I did expect was for them to be a united front. They are each other’s constants, they are each other’s touchstones. That is CANON. Hell, even at the end of I Want To Believe we had them choosing each other, once again. The movie ended with them LITERALLY sailing off into the sunset. So this “estrangement” nonsense is just that. It’s nonsense. It’s insulting to the characters he created. Are you really telling me that after EVERYTHING they have been through that Scully’s self-diagnosis of Mulder’s depression is the straw that broke their relationship? Sure, Jan.

(Also, I SEE YOU trolling with that “for better, for worse” line, Chris Carter. I don’t appreciate it.)

Look. When you look at it objectively, Scully has every reason to walk away from Mulder. He’s no picnic even without the weight of a massive global conspiracy bringing him down. Scully has lost so much thanks to the fact that on a dreary night in Oregon, she chose to trust Fox Mulder. She’s lost her sister. She’s lost TWO children. She’s lost her fertility. (Yeah, I know those contradict each other BUT THIS IS THE SHOW.) She’s become estranged from siblings, she’s had her career in shambles, and she’s had her personal faith tested. It’s too much for any person to bear. But this is what I love about Dana Katherine Scully. In the face of all of that, time and time again she charged into the darkness after Mulder. She’s ALWAYS chosen him and she’s always chosen the fight that they were in together. Having her estranged from him now is an insult to the character’s legacy. To quote Scully herself, SHE WOULDN’T CHANGE A DAY OF HER RELATIONSHIP WITH MULDER. Except for Flukeman. Again, that’s CANON. So why all of a sudden has Scully decided it’s all too much for her?

Don’t get me started on the Scully/Tad O’Malley dynamic. First of all, Joel McHale, ILYSM but I would love for you to talk to your agent about playing a non-smarmy character for once. It’s a good performance but it basically felt like Jeff Winger in one of his Goldblummy meltdowns. Secondly, are you really telling me that Dana Scully, who can make men wilt with a single arch of her eyebrow, would fall prey to Tad’s “charms” and insincere flattery? Okay. Everything about Scully and Tad is off from the very beginning. He goes straight to calling her Dana as opposed to maintaining a professional distance (Mulder’s FACE though. And I love how he mocks her for that later in the episode). He shows up AT HER WORK just to chat because he wants to see her again and he somehow gets Scully to join him in his car for Champagne. THEN he goes off about her wonderful (I mean it is wonderful, but still) work at the hospital for no apparent reason.  It’s all SO WEIRD. The Scully *I* know would have just given him a bitch face from the very first “Dana” and wouldn’t have let him get near her. So I really don’t get what Carter was going for here. Do they have a past? Does Scully DATE? Why are you doing this?

Okay, let’s talk about Mulder. I found HIS characterization to be a little more true to form. Mulder has always been the tormented genius who goes into a spiral when he feels like everything he’s believed in is a lie (see also: “Gethsemane”). Did I think that his dramatic destruction of the “I Want To Believe” poster was a little heavy-handed? Of course. But it wasn’t out of character. His puppy face when he saw the tangible UFO technology in front of him was CLASSIC Mulder, as was his reaction when all of his evidence was conveniently destroyed. What I had a harder time buying was how Mulder immediately accepted Sveta’s story as the gospel truth. Fox Mulder may desperately want to believe (as the episode kept hammering into our heads) but Fox Mulder has ALSO never been outright gullible. He’s never been one to instantly react with “everything I knew is a lie” because of ONE PERSON. Mulder is someone who will take someone’s story and then DIG DEEPER before he makes up his mind about it. Sure, he has all his shady informants (I miss Deep Throat) and he relies on their guidance as far as where he needs to look but being a believer does NOT mean he is free of logic. I don’t know if I am making any sense here, but to ME, it just felt off that he instantly ran with Sveta’s story because he just so desperately wanted to believe in SOMETHING. As Sage just said to me, he’s been lied to SO MUCH and as the series progressed he picked up some of Scully’s skepticism and that’s WHY their partnership was so beautiful.  They changed each other for the better and regressing Mulder back to blind believer makes no sense to me. Mulder has always been driven by the strength of his beliefs (CANON QUOTE) and that’s WHY the character works even when he is making maddening choices. Mulder doesn’t WORK when he’s adrift like this, he needs his beliefs to GROUND him, not make him look like a fool. And that’s what most of this episode did.

In the hours leading up to the premiere, various channels were having all sorts of X-Files marathons, which is how I found myself watching I Want To Believe on IFC. Other than remembering just how bad that movie was (remember how Scully A DOCTOR had to google stem cell therapy), what struck me is just how similar the dynamic was to “My Struggle”. You have a disillusioned and untethered Mulder, who is so desperate for something to believe in that he takes things at face value. You have a distanced Scully who really just doesn’t want this shit anymore but she gets into it anyway because despite her protestations, she just can’t quit Mulder. You have Mulder getting his hands on evidence only to lose it. You have Scully desperately trying to insert logic into the situation despite proof being flung in her face. Hell, even the same catchphrase is etched in the dust of Scully’s car. “Don’t Give Up”.  Scully finds something intensely personal in the stakes (this time it’s the fact that she too supposedly has Alien DNA now) and therefore does not give up. Mulder and Scully are a united front, even if their relationship is fraught. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. It’s lazy storytelling. But at the end of the day, we get a Phantom of the Opera-esque CSM fuming over the news that The X-Files have been re-opened. Is it worth it? We’ve got five more episodes to find out.

Case Notes

  • I critique because I care. I have to stress this rant doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the episode because I did. JUST BE BETTER.
  • Petition for Scully’s “Bitch Please” face to be added to Mount Rushmore.

 

  • I LOVED that Mulder’s opening voiceover accompanied a montage of their Greatest Hits. Flukeman! Tooms! But how did the FBI have pics of Mulder and Scully embraced? Creepers.
  • THIS HURTS. God, I just want to know more of what went wrong with them. If I was given something concrete, there is a high chance I would buy it.

 

 

  • Can we give it up for Sex God Walter Skinner and his stubble? Also, maybe I have just been reading too much slash fanfic lately, but there was some serious sexual tension in that scene in Mulder’s office. AND HE GAVE SKINNER HIS PHONE NUMBER. Help me. I’ve lost my mind.
  • How spectacular was the opening UFO crash? God bless big budgets and access to be better effects. The cinematography for the entire episode was top-notch.
  • If CSM is alive can we PLEASE see Alex Krycek? I don’t care how many times he’s died, I want to believe.
  • I don’t understand why Scully constantly needed to use a made-up search engine to get to Tad’s website. First off, wouldn’t she know the site name after visiting it so much? Does Scully just not know how to internet? Secondly, are you really telling me that no REAL search engine wanted to cough up that sweet advertising money to be featured?
  • I have to take a moment to remember the outraged shipper at NYCC who actually got up during the Q&A and called out Chris Carter by saying “After 20 years, don’t you think they’ve EARNED this?” Cue the room screaming and Carter floundering.

What were YOUR thoughts on “My Struggle”? Let us know in the comments! Look for Sage’s thoughts on “Founder’s Mutation” tomorrow. And remember…The Truth Is Out There.

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on ““Someone has to stop these sons of bitches.” – The X-Files Recap – My Struggle

  1. I sometimes think that certain creators get so pissy over their own ships or lack thereof that it makes them — hopefully subconsciously — spiteful. The problem is that they don’t realize how often they shoot themselves in the goddamn foot as a result. Any writer worth a shred of paper knows that sometimes your characters take on their own lives, and your original plan for them means nothing; this is even more true with some TV shows when cast members have significant and very real chemistry. Stories change. Characters progress. Everything moves along their respective arcs. Then the original creator comes back and smashes the arcs like a child with building blocks. Sure, it’s theirs to destroy, but sometimes it’s hard to watch it happen.

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