The X-Files season 11: Too many bodies, not enough story


“My Struggle IV,” the last episode of The X-Files season 11, tried to wrap things up. Unfortunately, it was a clumsy effort that undermined the show.

It is strange that for an episode that claimed to have such high stakes — Mulder and Scully finally meet their son! An alien virus will be released! The CSM returns! — so little happens. “My Struggle IV”, the season 11 finale of The X-Files, was more often confusing and frustrating than anything else.

For one, that whole plot about the alien virus sort of fizzles. Weird, given how huge it seemed in the season opener, “My Struggle III.” Indeed, apart from a few scenes with Alex Jones stand-in Tad O’Malley discussing the virus on his show, the whole thing could be easily forgotten. Never once do we get the gory satisfaction of seeing someone infected with the virus. We don’t even receive a consolation prize such as a creepy lab scene or ominous crop dusting, really.

And what about the longed-for meeting between Mulder and the boy he believes is his son? Oof. It’s painfully awkward. Mulder declares that he is William’s father with about as much excitement as an office manager telling everyone that they’ve ordered new paper clips. The stilted hug that followed only made things worse. It was an unfortunate combination of a lumpy script and oddly flat acting choices by David Duchovny.

“But I was never a mother to him”

Strangest of all is Scully’s reaction to her son’s death. For most of this season, she has been deeply connected to William. In “Ghouli,” she seemed devastated by his apparent death and uplifted by his survival. But, now, Scully could hardly be bothered to care. “William was an experiment, Mulder. He was an idea, born in a laboratory,” she says. “I carried him. I bore him. But I was never a mother to him.”

According to episode writer and director (and series creator) Chris Carter, this is Scully acknowledging that she was not able to raise William. But, regardless of Carter’s intent, this reads more as Scully casting off her biological child. Oh well, she might as well say while shrugging. Guess it was good while it lasted.

In what may be the worst twist of all in an episode that was one clunker after another, she takes the edge off William’s sudden demise by revealing that she is pregnant. The old miracle baby was getting annoying, I guess, or else the shine had simply worn off.

This is all especially awkward given that Gillian Anderson will not be returning to the show. Carter has said that he envisioned “My Struggle IV” as a season finale, but not a series finale. However, it’s hard to imagine an X-Files without Scully, especially with huge reveals like this. If we really get a season 12, will it just consist of Mulder telling everyone that Scully is home with the baby? What a disappointment.

Too many bodies all at once

Comparatively speaking, the spate of deaths was not quite as annoying as miracle baby Mk II. Still, the abrupt deaths everyone started to get grating rather than emotionally affecting or narratively important.

Used as a kind of narrative device, the sudden death isn’t a terrible way to go about things. But, in this episode, it seemed like people were being dispatched left and right simply to get them out of the way. Erika Price made it through a grand total of three episodes with little to no character development before she was unceremoniously exploded.

FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner, a longtime friend of Scully and Mulder, was apparently run over by a car. Mr. Y, who could have at least enjoyed a future as another creepy antagonist, was unceremoniously shot in the head. Agent Monica Reyes was also shot, this time by the CSM. Sure, she was a second-string character from later seasons, but surely she deserved better than this.

Perhaps worst of all is the apparent end of the Cigarette Smoking Man. Here is a character who has been with the series since its very first episode. He has been a major antagonist and instigator of the soap opera side of things on The X-Files. He’s even Mulder’s father and (probably) the reason William exists. And then Mulder just shoots him in the head?

The CSM might as well have had a villain mustache

Plainly evil characters like the CSM don’t need a grand finale of a death, like Breaking Bad’s Walter White. Still, surely we viewers could have gotten a little something out of the whole confrontation between the CSM and Mulder. Instead, the CSM leers and talks about shooting his sons and decimating the human race. He might as well have been tenting his fingers and whispering “excellent!” to himself.

At least he had the chance to ominously monologue earlier in the season before his abrupt passing. It was annoying at the time, but I’d rather rewatch that sequence again, honestly.

Couldn’t the CSM have at least pretended to be more complex? He might have had an emotional moment with his son — or, at least, William pretending to be Mulder. A beat of regret or perhaps even hesitation would have done nicely. The writers and directors could have also done a bit more work building up his case for destroying most of humanity.

They could have given us some uncomfortable moments where one of the greatest antagonists of The X-Files was maybe right. No need to go full grimdark (though this episode attempted it plenty of times) or make us sympathize with evil. Just give us something more complex than Snidely Whiplash, please.

Someone must be running at all times

Speaking of abrupt and unnecessary deaths — why pretend to kill off William? Was it really only so Mulder and Scully could go about their lives with a new, shiny baby? Had William proven himself to be too troublesome? Did the writers somehow think that he was better off as a tragic, sullen teenager on his own? Furthermore, William’s miraculous recovery was both entirely expected and eye-roll-worthy.

The whole episode seemed to consist of long, drawn-out arguments and car rides. It often felt as if we were there in real time, watching Mulder fiddle with the radio dial or William making small talk with a trucker. And everyone runs. At all times, somewhere, a character must be sprinting, jogging or loping in some fashion. Mulder, Scully and William must all have lungs like marathon runners at this point.

Next: The X-Files season 11 episode 10 recap and review: My Struggle IV

It’s not that The X-Files needs to be wrapped up in a neat package with a pretty bow on top. Things can remain messy. Really, they have to be, with all of the conspiracists and aliens running around. The “logic” of The X-Files is predicated on its inherent chaos. Still, “My Struggle IV” left us with an unsatisfying mess. Maybe we should all just pretend that this season ended with “Nothing Lasts Forever” and leave it at that.