Hey, The X-Files is back again! During the break, it seems like everybody jumped on the revival train and we’ve seen new seasons of long-defunct shows like Twin Peaks, Will & Grace, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Full House with Roseanne to follow shortly. Everybody’s jumping on that bandwagon.
The second season of the revival began in the weirdest possible way – after a two-year break it came back and immediately revealed that the season finale had been a dream Scully had after having a seizure and hitting her head. And ordinarily I’d find that frustrating, but I think they handled it well. “My Struggle III” is so focused on preventing the specific events of her dream from happening that the previous episode still feels like it mattered. And let’s be honest, the cliffhanger had a highway full of people watching actual UFO’s materialize at a very low altitude. Once that happens, The X-Files isn’t a workable concept. The premise of the show hinges on the public not knowing things. Once everybody sees the aliens, Mulder and Scully don’t have much to work with.
I’m going to try not to get too political because we’re all having fun here. (Though I did recap seven seasons of Celebrity Apprentice, so my feelings on certain people are well and exhaustively documented.) That said, it definitely feels like this episode would have been substantially different had the election gone the other way. I think we’d have seen a different version of Cigarette Smoking Man’s opening speech. Not just the video clips either. The mention of “fake news” and the specificity of the Trump images really made it feel like Chris Carter was fired up when he wrote this. I mean, you don’t include an image of Trump rubbing heads with a white supremacist / swamp monster like Bannon unless you’re calling him out. Even the fact that two former Trump Press Secretaries made appearances (including the Mooch, who resigned ten days after being hired) speaks to where Carter’s head is.
The current political climate is impossible to ignore, even in this fictional universe, because we have a Conspiracy President. Trump’s ongoing message is that the media lies, his opponents lie, scientists are lying…. everybody who’s telling you something different is lying but he’s the one telling the truth. Trump’s worldview required everything to be a conspiracy against him even though he’s the guy with the big chair and the gold toilet. The original idea behind The X-Files is that the government is keeping things from us. In 2018, the government is telling us that everybody else is keeping things from us. Trump is a guy who will call you a liar even after you show video of him saying the things that he’s denying saying. The very concept of truth is in question, and if “The truth is out there” is Mulder’s north star, well, he’s in for some hard times.
And man, the conspiracy folks love Trump. If he struggles to drink from a bottle of Fiji water, it’s his way of communicating to them that Fiji is involved with something nefarious and he’s getting out a secret message. It’s such a different world than the one the X-Files initially inhabited, and it’s even different from the one where we last saw Scully and Mulder in 2016.
Within the show, Trump would be Cigarette Smoking Man’s endgame – a President who’s not just keeping secrets but one who tells you that nobody can be trusted and everybody is lying to you all the time. CSM’s job is a lot easier these days, you know?
And while I’d like to pivot away from that particular topic, I have to say that I’m still confused by the timeline of the new episodes. Are they happening in the order in which they’re airing? If so, it seems weird that Mulder and Scully are investigating Werebeasts with all of this going on. Though making “My Struggle II” a dream opens up the timeline a little. I’m not going to dwell on that too much because I recap Game of Thrones and their chronology and geography turned into utter hash this season.
Speaking of time, it’ll be twenty-five years this September since The X-File premiered. How much have Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny aged in that time? Five years? Are they the same kind of vampire that Paul Rudd is?
There’s not a huge amount to say about this episode for the most part, because it’s a bridge to the finale. That’s not to say I didn’t like it – I thought it was great. But it’s mostly here to lead us to Part IV in nine weeks. So rather than dig too deep into a conspiracy that could be completely overturned next time around, I’ll hit on some of the high points.
Once again, it was great to see Mulder, Scully, Skinner and CSM. I love the way that all four of them can just step back into those characters and it feels like they’ve been making X-Files episodes all along and we just didn’t see them. I especially liked seeing Skinner and CSM together this episode. I love that Skinner hates CSM more than he’s ever hated anybody and CSM doesn’t really care about him one way or the other. Skinner’s archenemy has a different archenemy and now that I think about it, that’s actually the plot of the LEGO Batman Movie.
Oh, also Cigarette Smoking Man’s real name is Carl Gerhard Busch Spender. If you don’t think I’ve been trying to figure out if that’s an anagram for anything, you are sorely mistaken. No luck. (X-Files isn’t really a big anagram show, but my years with LOST have taught me to always look for the anagram.) I like that his real name is actually longer than his already lengthy moniker. You think I like typing “Cigarette Smoking Man” over and over again? Well, it’s better than typing “Carl Gerhard Busch Spender”.
I loved Mulder in this episode, especially the way he slipped into P.I. mode. He’s all intense and getting in car chases and doing voiceover narration and it’s such a different thing for him. It’s pretty rare for Mulder to narrate and if you notice, on the occasions where Scully narrates, she usually talks about big ideas. Mulder’s narration is literally about what he’s doing at that very second. It’s a lot of fun and it really does make me feel like if Mulder had a normal childhood, he’d be a private detective instead of a paranormal investigator.
There’s more to talk about, including the people who want to colonize space, but I feel like we’re being fed a lot of false leads. With the mythology episodes specifically delineated, I’m OK with not overthinking everything. When you could get new information at any moment, you have to be on your toes. But now that I know exactly when this is going to be followed up, I’m comfortable waiting to pass judgment. But there’s one thing we have to get into, and you know what that is.
Cigarette Smoking Man is William’s father? Wha?
OK, first off, I’ll note that the events he’s referring to happened in Season Seven’s “En Ami”. (The episode written by CSM himself, William B. Davis.) And while the clip they show has dialogue slightly altered from the original episode (Remember how the nature of truth is in question?), it does fit. It was heavily implied that he drugged her during that episode, and either that was always intended to come up again later or they just got lucky. But do we believe him?
So, in the opening, “I Want to Believe” changes to “I Want to Lie”. Any alterations in the titles usually means something, so I have to assume that this episode contains at least one big lie. Unless it means that somebody who learns the truth, say, Skinner, wants to cover it up.
My natural inclination is not to believe him. CSM lies. That’s his thing. His opening monologue even mentions being the father of “two men” and then we see Mulder and Spender. Wouldn’t William be number three? And even if he’s telling the truth, there’s the possibility that Scully was already pregnant (I think that’s a possibility – I’m a little fuzzy on the chronology) or that her body rejected the CSM-spawn shortly after that episode. If CSM doesn’t have access to William Scully, he wouldn’t be able to confirm one way or the other. It would be a great twist if the puppet master built everything on this superhuman child and turned out to be wrong.
The glimpse we see of William at the end makes it clear that something is wrong, but there are so many possible reasons for that. And as for him possibly being superhuman, well, I’d say that’s a given. Remember what Clyde Bruckman told Scully? She’s not going to die. Any child of hers is going to be special, alien technology or not.
Is Mulder really William’s father? Man, I want to believe.
New episode tonight and it involves the return of somebody who really shouldn’t be able to return. I am very excited about this. We’re back in business!