After the surprising return of The X-Files to Fox for a (very uneven) season 10 in 2016, Chris Carter and company have decided to give it another go once more in season 11, which debuted last night. The premiere, “My Struggle III,” had some decidedly huge shake-ups.
So, uh... last season never happened?
I laughed to myself when I realized what was going on. While season 10 had one really fantastic episode, it was weak overall. So Carter telling us none of it ever happened is amazing news for a lot of fans (or at least none of the finale happened, it’s a bit unclear). We were told season 11 would pick up right where “My Struggle II” left off, and it did... sort of.
After a Cigarette Smoking Man-focused intro (I’ll get to that later), we open with Scully having just had a seizure, Mulder hovering over her with paramedics. We see things from Scully’s point of view as she’s experiencing flashes of season 10. After neurologist Dr. Joyet gets a look at her she concludes they have no idea what’s going on. “Abnormal brain activity” is how it’s described, but when Mulder and Skinner are allowed to look at her scans Skinner makes a wildly astute observation—Scully’s brain is talking to them in morse code.
Skinner claims Scully’s brain is saying, “Find him.” At this point, even Mulder, a man who will believe literally any conspiracy theory, looks at Skinner like he has two heads. Skinner even says to him, “I’ve seen you believe far more absurd things!” Anyway, they assume she means Mulder and Scully’s son William but upon waking she says they need to find the Cigarette Smoking Man. With her visions, Scully believes she’s seeing the future—the “future” we all experienced in season 10—and she intends to stop the alien plague from wiping out most of humanity, including Mulder.
From this point, we’re able to view what CSM and Reyes (who better get some actual motivation this season) were getting up to a bit sooner than last year, but everything quickly skews into an alternate present like in Back to the Future II. The two play a little switcheroo that leaves Mulder on a wild-goose chase which leads to him talking to two old-school members of the Syndicate. In the meantime, Jeffrey Spender makes a big return to warn Scully someone is coming for William while Reyes and CSM put Skinner in a difficult position in Washington.
The entire episode up to this point was about what I expected from an X-Files mythology story in 2018 but then things took an incredibly terrible turn. While attempting to convince Skinner to help him, CSM tells a story in which he says he impregnated Scully with science, alien science to be exact, 17 years ago. One way you could take that is CSM found a way to put the entirety of scientific knowledge into Scully and that she’s some sort of superhero now. Another is that CSM assaulted Scully. Sadly, it’s the latter the series was going with here.
The show takes us back to the season seven episode, “En Ami,” in which CSM convinces Scully to go on a road trip with him to find a cancer cure. After attempting to stay awake for the entirety of the ride, she wakes in a cabin, dressed in different clothes. She accuses CSM of drugging her but he plays innocent, telling her he and his housekeeper got her into the house. Later in that gross episode, CSM reveals the cure he was teasing actually cures every disease, even extraterrestrial ones. Which leads us back to the revival storyline in which CSM is now claiming to be William’s father rather than Mulder. Sigh.
We know CSM lies any time he’s breathing—and of note was the opening tag of the episode, where he literally says “I want to lie”—but if any part of what he says is true, Scully was raped. She already had her eggs harvested without her consent previously and now we’re told CSM was the one to impregnate her, if not directly, then at least by directive. Creator Chris Carter certainly doesn’t understand the situation he created which just reminds us he shouldn’t be touching on this in the first place. It could all be an elaborate mind-game in the end but even if it is, this story thread is bad.
I think we’re seeing the same problem from last season being displayed in season 11. While we’re getting 10 episodes this time around (though Fox might want to check on that), Carter is having to bombard us with imagery and mythology once again in a sloppy way to get across what he might have in 15 episodes of a regular season. The intro with CSM was heavy-handed, as were the several references to current politics and Mulder’s voiceovers. Agent Miller and Agent Einstein make brief appearances (anyone else notice there was an incredible amount of irresponsible driving in this episode?) but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s all we saw of them the entire season. And the score under the premiere felt like a constant ticking clock meant to give a sense of urgency to the story no one else, at least not me, was feeling.