TV: The X-Files - S11 E01 - My Struggle III - Reviewed

Anyone who knows me knows that The X-Files will always be my favorite show. It has its fair share of ups and downs, especially in the later years, but I love it regardless, as there is just something about it that I’ll always love. After several years off the air, The X-Files returned in 2008 with I Want to Believe, which was unsuccessful in re-launching the franchise and met with mostly negative reviews. It was later decided that The X-Files worked best as a TV show, and in 2016, the show returned with six episodes, two of which were near masterpieces.

Now, two years later, the show is once again back, this time with 10 episodes, more focus, and hopefully more fun. The premiere attempts to resolve the cliffhanger that ended Season 10, with Mulder (David Duchovny) barely alive after an outbreak of some sort of alien virus, and Scully (Gillian Anderson) desperately trying to save him before a UFO appeared above the bridge where both characters and much of Washington D.C. stared in awe. The camera zoomed into Scully’s eye and we were left wondering how, or if, the show would come back. Unfortunately, series creator Chris Carter’s solution is what I hoped it wouldn’t be, with the end result being a frantic, incoherent mess of a premiere, which is about what I expected given that the worst episodes of last season were all penned by Carter himself.

I have nothing against the man personally. I simply think he is no longer capable of writing a good mythology episode and that maybe the show itself would be better served if they did away with any mythology. The standalone episodes, for me, were always the most fun and the mythology episodes got bogged down by their own lack of fun. Notice, too, that I said Carter can no longer write a good mythology episode. Episode 3 is supposed to be quite good and is a standalone written by Carter.

You wanna make out right here in the hospital?

The best bits of My Struggle III involve William B. Davis as the Cigarette Smoking Man and his conversations with former F.B.I. Special Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) and Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi). Davis clearly still relishes playing a man so unapologetically evil, and I have to admit that while I will never understand why Carter decided to make Reyes evil, it was fun to see her match wits with him. Beyond these scenes, the episode can’t decide what it wants to be and it’s clear that Carter is throwing everything he can on screen to see what works. Most of it doesn’t.

The worst offense is the random voiceover from Mulder that play like Harrison Ford’s bad reading of Deckard’s narration in the original Blade Runner. It’s as if Carter thinks the audience is so stupid that we need Mulder to tell us directly that he’s concerned about Scully. Adding insult to injury, the editing and pacing of the episode is all over the place. Scenes are seemingly intercut to heighten the tension, but all it really does is undercut it, making the big moments feel choppy and, in the end, frustrating. The scenes to which I’m referring involve Mulder meeting supposed members of the former Syndicate played by A.C. Peterson and Barbara Hershey (they’re both fine), Skinner’s confrontation with Reyes and the Smoking Man, and Scully’s near fatal car accident. We get brief moments of each scene before cutting back and forth to the others, which took me out of each one and left me puzzled as to why that particular editing choice was made. It comes across as disinterest. Maybe Carter wasn’t interested in how last season ended and just wanted to get on with a new story, so this is what he came up with. Who’s to say?

Somewhere along this car ride, Reyes got mean. Maybe her blood
sugar is low.

Despite my issues with this episode, I’m optimistic about the season as a whole, as My Struggle III is one of only two mythology episodes (the second being the finale) and the other eight are all standalones. So far, I’ve read great things about the next four, with the consensus being that the show is finally back to doing what it does best: telling stories we’re not used to seeing on television.
With one or two exceptions, the premieres and finales of The X-Files were never my favorite. They were not this bad, but they mostly ended up feeling beside the point. My enjoyment stemmed from finding out what the next episode would be, because week to week the show could be what it wanted. True to that idea, next week’s episode, entitled “This,” features the return from beyond the grave of Langly, one of the Lone Gunmen, and Mulder and Scully’s attempt to find out just what exactly is going on.

So if you’re like me, watch the premiere begrudgingly, and then settle in for what will ideally be the return we’ve all been waiting for. As Scully says in the premiere, “The truth still lies in the X-Files.” In our current political climate, that statement could not be more true. Let’s hope the show lives up to its own hype. 


-Matt Giles