Review: ‘X-Files’ Finale ‘My Struggle II’ Leaves on Hugely Alienating Cliffhanger

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Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Tonight’s “My Struggle II”:

Whoo boy. I think we knew by the balance of bookending mythology episodes and a whopping four standalones that tonight’s X-Files finale had more ground to cover than realistically possible, especially given how heavy on exposition the premiere went. Writer-creator Chris Carter even more or less told us to expect a cliffhanger, or at least some intimation these characters had more story to tell, but I’d doubt if fans were prepared to leave as much unresolved as “My Struggle II.” Did Scully save the world from a virulent alien conspiracy? Did she at least save Mulder? Tune in maybe never, kids!

On a structural level, I like the idea of “My Struggle II” mirroring the premiere with a focus on Scully (though given valuable real estate, I question how much we needed Scully rehashing her own perspective on the series). If there’s any viewpoint to close the series with, it’d be Scully’s, but how closely to the letter Carter follows that notion is disconcerting. The first “My Struggle” nearly drown in Mulder’s nonsensical conspiracy jargon; I never expected how much time a finale could spend on Scully and Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) spouting urgent (and equally inaccessible) medical banter.

Seriously! The world’s population all succumbing to depleted immune systems from a “Spartan Virus,” borne of alien influence and an evil conspiracy, and half the finale could still be broken down into:

Scully: Stuff is happening! It must be alien stuff!

Einstein: That’s not good science, Scully.

Scully: But what if ... different science?

Einstein: We should science more.

Scully: (Calls Mulder)

I’m reminded of complaints against the Fantastic Four reboot, in that so much time is seemingly spent indoors through drab corridors, strange considering “My Struggle II” had at least three scenes outdoors, between Mulder driving, Scully meeting Agent Reyes in the rain, and the ultimate highway climax. That overall claustrophobia likely stems from the finale moving so quickly from beat to beat, there’s scarcely any time for its characters to even react, let alone emote anything meaningful. One might not even realize that Mulder and Scully have no interaction whatsoever until the final scene, and even then, we’re cut off for whatever cliffhangery nonsense Chris Carter wanted to extend the story with.

Metaphor not unrelated.

The first “Struggle” made reasonably clear that Carter intended to re-contextualize much of the series’ mythology as a conspiracy of men, and to its credit, the Smoking Man’s return does put a compelling face (or lack thereof) to that evil. I’m at a loss to remember William B. Davis as the kind of cackling malevolence on display tonight, but his particular affinity for Mulder and imposing menace in the flashback with Agent Reyes shone through clearest in an otherwise jumbled hour.

Of course, the ending did its damndest to jettison any anchorage that return might have brought anyway, offering no context to the UFO’s appearance, or significance. Scully seemingly cured the worldwide illness with her science. Okay! Off she goes, desperately hoping to find and cure Mulder before it’s too late. Cool! He’s too far gone, and we need stem cells. WILLIAM’s stem cells! Also, now a UFO is here. It might want to blow you up, like it did Sveta. Oh. Sure?

Perhaps Carter wanted to wring another movie out of the franchise, or at least guarantee another shortened season down the line, but that’s a terribly bizarre way to reward fans whose fervor essentially bought this revival. Had the conspiracy angle enough gravity beyond and increasingly haggard Joel McHale eye-humping the camera with exposition, or the William rhetoric produced anything tangible in six episodes, this might have been enough. Instead, we’re left to ponder whether any of these TV revivals are worth the trouble, and how much worse The X-Files might feel after another go.

Oh, and Robbie Amell was there. He didn’t science.

AND ANOTHER THING …

  • Was Skinner in more than one scene tonight?
  • I’d have been fine losing the phrase “fast-moving AIDS, without the HIV.”
  • … Why was Reyes needed to help the Smoking Man smoke? He did it just fine on his own later.
  • “It’s been in motion since 2012!” Yeah, you keep trying to cover that pothole.
  • You wish David Duchovny could believably fight that well.
  • Was the attack only happening in America? I feel like we glossed over that.
  • Yeah, I don’t think William could be found that quickly, so I’ll presume he was aboard the ship, for whatever reason.

The X-Files will return … someday.

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