The X-files’ season finale, “My Struggle II”, was a non-stop 45 minutes of action and medical mumbo-jumbo that saw Mulder & Scully working with allies old and new to try and combat a deadly, global contagion. Read on for our spoiler-filled recap.
The 10th season of The X-Files ends where it began, with a long, rambling monologue. After an obtrusively long recap of the season opener (because apparently we can’t recall what happened six weeks ago), we are treated to yet another show history as in the season opener, this time from Scully’s point of view. This feels like a waste of several minutes of precious screen time, especially given how rushed the rest of the episode feels. At the very end, we get to see Scully herself transform into an alien, presumably to use up some leftover special effects budget. This takes up the entire cold open and the first five minutes of the episode.
Scully arrives at work, after miraculously finding a parking space right in front of the FBI building despite the parking garage being under lockdown. She finds Mulder missing but his laptop cued up on a brand new episode of Tad O’Malley’s Truth Squad, an episode bringing to light alien DNA “in virtually every American citizen”. After an obnoxious camera move, the phone rings and Scully answers, “Agent Mulder’s phone”. It’s been 23 years, isn’t this a shared office by now? Tad is on the line calling from Mulder’s house although Scully doesn’t recognise him at first – score one on our “Scully acting dumb” tally. Scully meets him at Mulder’s house only to discover the place ransacked, files all over the floor, and Mulder missing. The two have an argument over whether or not Tad’s broadcast was irresponsible, but Scully is more concerned about where Mulder has gone.
Back in the basement, Scully meets up with Skinner and Einstein who are both concerned about Mulder’s disappearance. Scully shows them the laptop with Tad’s broadcast on it (apparently none of the three FBI agents in the room have noticed the very obvious “Phone Finder” app on the desktop yet). Einstein laughs off Scully’s suggestion that O’Malley’s revelations cannot be “discounted out of hand” but is apparently convinced enough by her and Skinner’s attitudes to help out.
Scully and Einstein (or “Scully!Lite” as I’ve seen her nicknamed) head back to the hospital where Scully works/worked – it’s somewhat unclear at this point. They find a man wandering around with a deeply concerning rash on his arm and direct him toward the medical staff. The pair begins what will play out as the most ludicrous episode of House ever written, firstly by taking Einstein’s blood to sequence her genome, for no obvious reason – they never even look at the results. Scully takes the time to fill Einstein (and us) in on some of the show’s history, including the link to the smallpox vaccines that we first saw way back in season two which, admittedly, is a nice touch.
Miller arrives with news that the public is beginning to panic over another story on Tad’s show. In this broadcast it is explained that the vast majority of American’s have had their genes tampered with and been infected with a virus that acts “as a fast-moving AIDS, without the HIV”, decimating the immune system to allow contagions like flu, measles, mumps, and even the plague to rampage through the population. Scully determines that these contagions are already taking hold, the man she saw downstairs had been infected with Anthrax. What she cannot determine, is what has triggered the shutdown of people’s immune systems. Scully receives a call from a mysterious woman (mysterious only to Scully who clocks up another dumb point, not to fans who recognised her voice from the first word) who claims to have information on what’s happening.
Meanwhile, an injured Mulder has been driving south toward South Carolina and studiously ignoring his phone as both Scully and Skinner attempt to contact him. Agent Miller, apparently the only person at the Bureau with any detective ability whatsoever, notices Mulder’s phone finder app on his laptop and sets off to track him down.
Scully meets with old friend Monica Reyes (our “mystery” woman) who explains to Scully where she’s been during the previous decade. She reveals that many years ago she was approached by the Cigarette Smoking Man who made her an offer. She could become one of his “chosen elite”, engineered to survive the coming apocalypse if she helped him. In defiance of everything we have ever known about her character, she agreed. Scully is disgusted, as are most of the fans, but Monica has information on Mulder. She tells Scully that the CSM sent a man to offer him the chance to join the elite and survive.
Here I pause for a moment. Reyes describes CSM’s injuries as “badly burned”, and that corresponds with the horrific injuries we see him recovering from onscreen. However, for those who have forgotten, in the season nine finale, we saw him blown apart by a missile to the face. This was a full on Raiders of The Lost Ark style face-melting event. One does not survive being hit directly by a missile that literally rips your face off down to the skull, to be merely “badly burned”, unless you have some kind of superhuman Deadpool-style ability, something that has never once been suggested with the CSM. It’s frankly ridiculous, and that says a lot given the scientific nonsense we’re about to watch. For this to have any believability at all, he should have stayed dead.
We jump back a little to see CSM’s man, whom I nicknamed Son of Krycek, arrive to pass CSM’s offer on to Mulder. For a man tasked with delivering a message, he certainly seems hell-bent on injuring the recipient as much as possible in the process. Catching back up to the present, Mulder arrives at CSM’s side, gun drawn. Mulder demands CSM stop his plan but is told it is “too late for [his] heroics”. CSM offers Mulder the chance to “start the world anew” along with him and Scully, but Mulder refuses, stating that he wouldn’t be able to look himself in the mirror if he accepted the other man’s cure, even though he is already starting to feel feverish.
Tad O’Malley broadcasts again, claiming that aluminium in chemtrails (yes really, they went there) is triggering the genetic response that allows the various contagions to take hold. Of course, another thing that might be helping is that nobody in the hospital appears to be wearing so much as a mask to help slow transmission. With Monica’s information, Scully explains to Einstein that her alien DNA is the only thing keeping her immune from the so-called Spartan Virus which has lain dormant in nearly all Americans until now. Together they plan to use Scully’s DNA to create a vaccine which will defeat it. The two continue their mini-episode of House by running a PCR on a cheek swab from Scully, but Scully is shocked when the marker for her alien DNA doesn’t appear in the results.
Back at CSM’s house Mulder has collapsed, but he refuses to give in and accept the old man’s help. The Smoking Man removes his facial prosthetic, revealing a disfigured face and a gaping hole where his nose once was. He could do a truly amazing Voldemort cosplay these days. Mulder finds the reveal funny, calling him a monster, but beyond that there seems to be no reason to take up yet more screentime with this reveal. Tad broadcasts again, clearly becoming sick himself and reporting that the contagion appears to be happening in Europe as well. He vows to stay on the air as long as there is hope, despite his rapidly ailing crew.
Scully and Einstein go through the typical medical show “what are we doing wrong” scene, explaining as they go that something is removing the “ADA gene” which is, in turn, causing people’s immune systems to “vanish”. Scully tells Einstein that without alien DNA, nobody stands a chance. They waffle in science speak before realising that they made a mistake in their sample, something any rookie scientist could have pointed out before. They run the tests again using blood rather than a cheek swab as it will provide a bigger sample, this time finding the marker. However, by now Einstein too is becoming seriously sick.
At the CSM’s house, Miller arrives to rescue Mulder. A rapidly deteriorating Mulder encourages Miller to take CSM’s cure, even though he refuses to take it himself. Miller is clearly curious about the disfigured man, but if Mulder won’t do it then neither will he. Instead, he bundles Mulder into the car and speeds away, calling Scully to tell her that they are heading north but unsure how far they’ll get. Scully promises him that she is on to a cure and will find them “wherever [they] are”.
A very sick Tad manages one final broadcast as communication and infrastructure begin to fail because no one is there “to man or operate” the systems. It would appear we go out “with a deafening silence” he growls. Receiving a text from Scully, he tells his viewers that there may be a miracle vaccine. “Don’t give up”, he tells viewers just as the signal breaks down.
Scully, having apparently performed some kind of medical miracle in the last few minutes, arrives at Einstein’s beside with bags of Miracle Alien DNA Cure, hooking one up to the other woman via an IV. Out on the streets there is chaos. Scully tries to calm people as she rushes through the streets with several bags of her miracle cure. She reaches her car and pushes her way through crowded streets, almost mowing several pedestrians down as she races to get to Mulder and Miller who are stuck on a bridge. She eventually finds them and is reunited with Mulder, only to discover that he’s worse off than she realised and her Miracle Alien DNA Cure may not be quite miraculous enough. “He needs stem cells in him right now,” she tells Miller. Stem cells that can only come from their son William, whose location is unknown.
As Scully realises the implication of this (and incidentally doesn’t even try to give Mulder the Miracle Alien DNA Cure to maybe, I don’t know, at least slow down the contagion), she and Miller are bathed in brilliant light. An alien spaceship, or perhaps an ARV, hovers above them, trapping the three agents in its beam. And there, we end.
Against general consensus, I actually like a lot of this episode. It has a lot of the elements that make up classic X-Files episodes: Mulder running off in an ultimately vain quest and ending up in peril, Scully medical doctoring and actually finding (wildly implausible) solutions, the Smoking Man being evil, questions answered with more questions. However, despite all that, this is an episode that doesn’t work where it exists.
What fans wanted from these six episodes was closure. A wrap up to the mythology that has been twisting and turning for over two decades. Mulder and Scully finding peace in one another. Instead, what we’ve been given is more of the same, and an almighty cliffhanger on the end of a series that isn’t guaranteed to be renewed. The ratings have been solid and renewal today seems likely, but back in the summer of 2015 when this episode was filmed that couldn’t possibly have been known, which makes it all the more galling that Chris Carter would risk a finale like this in a season which could have tanked.
The best word I can think of to describe this season overall is “messy”. Far too much has been crammed into six episodes, much of it unnecessary. We wanted a resolution to the mythology, not two episodes spent setting up an all-new one from the ruins. We wanted William, not a cliff-hanger teasing his return IF we’re greenlit again. Fans spent eight years campaigning for a real ending, only to be left, once again, wanting. So while it was great to see these plans of viruses, and vaccines, and alien DNA finally coming to fruition after decades of threats, I’m left with an unpleasant taste in my mouth. Once again, I’m praying for closure.
So what are my hopes for the future? First of all, obviously, a green light for season 11. Second of all, someone to wrestle all writing implements away from Chris Carter, who I think we can all safely say has had his George Lucas moment and needs to have his keys to this car taken away before he wrecks us all. I’d love to see Frank Spotnitz and Vince Gilligan on board again, both passionate, nuanced writers who understand the characters and respect the journeys those characters, and we as fans, have taken over the years. More than anything, I just want to be able to say goodbye to this great love of my life that is The X-Files by watching it drive away happily into the setting sun, not teetering precariously over yet another cliff edge. Is that really so much to ask?
Sophie is a staff writer at X-Files.News where you can find all the latest news about The X-Files, and the latest news from the show’s cast and crew.
Top image: Miller, Einstein, and Scully in “My Struggle II” © 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions