“You think it’s power what you’re doing, but it’s not… it’s sickness”
— Fox Mulder
Unable to reach Mulder, Scully has to deal with a frightening escalation of medical cases that may be linked to the biological threat of extraterrestrial DNA.
Max: I wonder — if The X-Files revival might not have gone as well as it has ratings-wise — where the hell that would leave us if this episode was the last we’d see of Mulder and Scully for the foreseeable future. Certainly, we as viewers are left with a doozy of a cliffhanger that portends that the race against time might be all for naught. At the very least, “My Struggle II” improves significantly upon the season premiere, but not without scores of unanswered questions and narrative revelations that still do not quite feel in step with the classic conspiracy mode we all know and love.
Scully is approached by both Skinner and Agent Einstein when Mulder seemingly disappears, called to alarm by a new Tad O’Malley report that the alien threat in the form of mass illness and casualties is upon us. In the midst of all of this, droves of afflicted people begin to arrive at Our Lady of Sorrows hospital, leaving Scully and Einstein racing against the clock to locate and isolate alien DNA in Scully, in order to create a vaccine.
But being that this is The X-Files, things aren’t that simple. Monica Reyes reemerges with some startling new information, including what she has been doing for the past decade. Turns out she was called to the bedside of a very badly burned Cigarette Smoking Man, who got her to work for him with promises that she would be saved from a coming biological attack. She reveals that the alien genome is what is needed to save people from certain death and only a select few — like Scully — have it.
An increasingly debilitated Mulder, who tracks down and confronts the CSM, is given the choice to be spared as well but refuses to give his longtime nemesis the satisfaction. Luckily, Scully is able to isolate the necessary genetic material and fabricate a crude vaccine, but Mulder (finally found by Miller) has gotten far too sick for it to work. He could be saved by stem cells from William — but the episode ends with a UFO hovering over the agents on the Potomac River.
This may not be the rally that we were all hoping for after slogging through the unevenness of this season, but it is a start — a step in the right direction — and with Fox likely to order more episodes given the stellar ratings, something I am looking forward to. But this is latter day X-Files, so we have to deal with leaning into the wrong things story-wise. The episode continued the push into the unfounded paranoia surrounding vaccines and chemtrails, for example, which comes off as nearly a ringing endorsement of what people like Alex Jones have been feeding people for years. Also, the pacing and structure of the episode was off, and didn’t get corrected until the final act. It’s also a bit jarring to see the kind of doomsday scenarios of countless Hollywood blockbusters see their way into a show that was more low key and subtle about its threats.
On the plus side, we get a brief nod as to why the so-called colonization of the planet by extraterrestrial forces did not materialize as we had thought it would in 2012 as revealed to us in “The Truth,” and the agents we were introduced to in the last episode were given some crucial roles. Agents Miller and Einstein came off before as caricatures of Mulder and Scully, but at least in terms of Einstein, we see a bit of character building as she helps Scully while coming to the necessary understanding that the way she viewed the world needs to adjust to the threat of massive population loss. And we get another delicious verbal sparring match between Mulder and the CSM, as they continue to get under each other’s skin. However, I was ready to throw my remote at the television set, because if William or someone like him was going to be beamed down by that UFO, that was going to be a bridge too far. I wouldn’t put it past Chris Carter to do something like that, but thank the maker he didn’t.
On the whole, this episode — and by extension this season — didn’t do much to push the story forward, other than a chance to see Mulder and Scully back at the Bureau and investigating creepy cases. I’m going to have to let things settle a bit before rendering a verdict.
Radhika: This was not a perfect finale, though I would argue it’s more enjoyable than original series finale “The Truth,” potentially damaging cliffhanger and all. But I had a good time watching it and I may have even liked it more than the last couple of episodes that aired (well, definitely more than the last one that aired). I know that Max felt this was along the lines of the big-budget Hollywood doomsday scenarios out there, but The X-Files — a show that grew increasingly cinematic over time — always had a bit of that in it and probably played a large part in influencing those tropes. While this wasn’t quite “old-school” or “classic” X-Files, I think this episode got the closest to bringing back the paranoia and atmosphere associated with some of the show’s more heart-pounding mythology episodes. And yes, it was indeed a vast improvement over this mini-season’s premiere.
I found Miller and Einstein a little more tolerable in this episode as well, even though I largely viewed him as dull and her as grating when they were introduced. Miller still isn’t particularly exciting to me (he just has that harmless puppy vibe), but Einstein’s character seemed to feel like more of a person to me midway through this episode after initially still coming across as the caricature of a skeptic during the first 20 minutes or so.
And weirdly enough, as much as I was never particularly fond of Monica Reyes, I didn’t mind seeing her back on my screen again either. Just like I acknowledged it would be silly for the show to simply ignore the existence of William after he was given up for adoption, I realize it would be equally silly not to address what happened to those other agents who took over The X-Files for a while. Jury’s still out on what happened to Doggett in this universe, but now we have a better idea of what happened to Reyes, and it works — even if it seems a bit unfortunate — within the context of this story. We also got more back-story on the Cigarette Smoking Man’s apparent rise out of the ashes and while I’m still raising an eyebrow at the fact that he survived the events of “The Truth,” I guess I’m willing to let the show have him back. Because aliens.
The callbacks in this episode, both plot-related and visually, worked for me. I’m glad we got a reference to 2012 and I loved seeing things like the shot of rain before Scully meets Reyes — our, “yes, we filmed in Vancouver” moment. And as much as we have seen UFOs and bright lights on the show before, I got a serious (good) déjà vu moment of watching season five’s “Patient X” during the final minutes of this episode.
The science in the episode was a little messy. There was still a rushed element, a flaw that we’ve encountered this entire season (while I’ve grown fonder of shorter-order TV, perhaps six episodes just wasn’t right for this revival). But we got action, adventure and a spirit that reminded me more of The X-Files I have always known and loved. While I’ve grown less interested in the mythology over time, I do want to see the show runners wrap up this thread, and so I hope our conclusion that a season 11 is bound to happen ends up being true.
Traditionally, the credits end on a shot with the words “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.” However, in some instances new text emerges.
Is this really the end? We don’t think so, and we don’t believe Chris Carter did either when he sat down to pen this episode. But our heroes think that it could very well be the end for all of us, with hospitals brimming with new patients. Things aren’t looking good, and there is very little hope. Despite this, we here at Apt. 42 want to believe….