TV Review: The X-Files (Season 11, Episode 1)
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When The X-Files made its return last January, it was jarring. It returned to a different television landscape; the days of watching weekly episodes of a series were gone, replaced with seasons being released in their entirety, thanks to the rise of streaming services allowing audiences to binge-watch to their heart's content.
For its tenth season, however, The X-Files stuck to the nostalgic formula of airing weekly, a formula which – in theory – should have worked. In practice … it did not.
The X-Files is known for its often-confusing mythology, it’s what the series revolves around. It was no surprise that this aspect would feature heavily in its tenth season, which unsurprisingly did disappoint. With only six episodes to cram sixteen years’ worth of events amongst a myriad of characters, there was no room for any meaningful growth in mythology or the show’s history.
Three episodes (‘My Struggle’, ‘Babylon’ and ‘My Struggle II’ – all written by creator Chris Carter) were hammered by fans and critics for their rushed, convoluted narratives and unbelievable portrayals of beloved characters, presenting a non-sensical story arc upon the already perplexing mythology.
On top of this, Carter decided to end the limited event series on a cliff-hanger, leaving fans with a sour taste in their mouths for the remainder of 2017. Unanswered questions were left up in the air, alongside the possibility of Mulder (David Duchovny) on the cusp of death (again) until season eleven was announced in April 2017. So, for the show to return in 2018 with the revelation that the season ten finale – and possibly ‘Babylon’ – were visions of what could have happened (and are therefore not canon), was even more shocking than an actual resolution to the events of said finale.
Season eleven’s premiere episode ‘My Struggle III’ introduces Scully (Gillian Anderson) suffering from what seems to be a seizure, which turns out to be some sort of telepathy between herself and her and Mulder’s son, William. William manages to forewarn Scully of the events that unfolded throughout ‘My Struggle II’, and it's up to Mulder to believe Scully and try to prevent the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) from unleashing an alien pathogen that will end civilization.
A similar plot-line occurred in the season six finale ‘Biogenesis’ and season seven’s two-part premiere, ‘The Sixth Extinction’ and ‘The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati’. Mulder suffered from similar brain activity to Scully, with Mulder suddenly being able to read minds and envisioning an alternate future for himself where his sister Samantha is alive, after viewing a mysterious alien artifact. This three-part episode arc is extremely convoluted and is never fully explained in the rest of the series. As with much of the mythology, it’s up to the fans what they make of it and how far they are willing to go to make any sense of it in a linear way.
As innovative as the mythology can be (and has been), Carter tends to not know his limits, let alone remember what has happened in the series before. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Carter stated that the mirage of events in the season ten finale had been in the cards the entire time, and that the episode had been staged in a way to “play with the story, the characters and the history of the characters […] in an interesting way that will be satisfying”, and that “it will make sense once we get to this season’s finale.” Right … but why does it need to be so exhausting?
Why go to all the trouble of creating such a jaw-dropping ‘ending’ when it wasn’t known if the series was returning for an eleventh series? ‘My Struggle III’ punched fans in the gut after letting them get wound up within the mythology again for nothing. It sounds petty - I mean, it’s only a TV show. But for a lot of people – myself included – the show and its characters mean much more than that.
Time and time again, fans have voiced their opinions on the way that Carter treats Mulder and Scully and the mythology surrounding them, to which Carter seemingly decided to actually listen and fix this time around by scrapping two of the worst episodes of the entire series as a dream/vision on Scully’s part. Yet in the last two minutes, Carter throws yet another wrench into the narrative by implying that Scully was ‘impregnated with science’ i.e. medically raped (really, Chris?!) by the CSM in a one-off, forgettable episode back in the middle of season seven – ‘En Ami’ -- to allow her to become pregnant with what was assumed to be Mulder and Scully’s child in season eight; an episode that wasn’t even written by him, rather William B. Davis.
Carter believes that this will “add to the characters in an interesting emotional way”, when all it does is violate Scully further after years of medical abuse, rape, and sexual assaults throughout the original series, with these violations of her body acting as some sort of tool to drive the plot. Carter hit a raw nerve with his ‘revelation’, and now it’s just getting ridiculous.
For all we know, CSM is lying. The title card at the beginning of the episode changes from ‘I Want to Believe’ to ‘I Want to Lie’, but it’s the thought of Scully being unconscious, violated and raped by the CSM in ‘En Ami’ that is absolutely disgusting. Scully is put through so much grief throughout the last three seasons, the only light within it was that herself and Mulder made a child – consensually, Chris, a word you should become familiar with – that they ultimately had to give up to protect.
All that history is now hanging on a thin thread until we are given an answer in the remainder of season eleven. Carter has said that there are only two ‘mythology’ episodes in season eleven (the premiere and the finale), and the rest are monster-of-the-week. As is seen in the promo for the second episode ‘This’, there does seem to be a mixture of both with a larger focus on the strong bond between Mulder and Scully, intertwined with their investigations into the paranormal and extraterrestrial; a sentiment that has always been the heart of the show, no matter what Carter puts in their way.
The X-Files airs on Mondays at 9pm on Channel 5.