The X-Files My Struggle II is meant to be the conclusion of the two-part sequence that bookends season 10 of The X-Files. But Chris Carter’s follow-up does little to build on “My Struggle’s strengths except to use the subject of alien DNA to further a Syndicate/Cigarette Smoking Man storyline about pathological warfare. Carter, in his attempts to craft a mythological episode that pulls in government conspiracies, alien technology, and Cigarette Smoking Man all at once, provides a compelling argument for why The X-Files should really stick to a more formulaic one-shot approach.
The biggest flaw in The X-Files My Struggle II is the overstuffed nature of its plot. Carter spins off from the first episode of “My Struggle I” not by focusing on the government cover-ups that Mulder and Scully uncovered, but by eliminating most of that in order to get to a poorly explained event where human immune systems are breaking down based on the administration of unknown genetic material that destroys the body’s ability to protect itself. All of this is predicated on Cigarette Smoking Man and the Syndicate’s work to bring down humanity at every turn.
“My Struggle II” works hard to keep all of the facts in check, and for the most part, a large chunk of the episode focuses on Scully and returning Agent Einstein battling back and forth with different scientific theories about alien gene manipulation and the potential for a pandemic to spread. Carter certainly understands the tension of a disease outbreak, but the episode is often too caught up in the scientific ramblings to really feel suspenseful.
Carter separates Mulder and Scully, too, which leads to a fractured plot that often has to juggle two disparate storylines. As Scully and Einstein race to stop the pandemic, Mulder – and later Agent Miller – heads to South Carolina to confront Cigarette Smoking Man after he offers Mulder a cure for the illness. Mulder is given little to do in this episode, and unfortunately that leaves the rather unlikable Einstein as a partner for Scully. Since last episode’s “Babylon” already separated Mulder and Scully for long periods of time, this finale’s similar manoeuvring eliminates a lot of what fans love about their relationship.
It doesn’t help that The X-Files My Struggle II messily tries to pull in Tad O’Malley, the TV anchor who has stumbled upon these government conspiracies. The cuts to O’Malley’s TV show take up too much time for no reason, and it seems Carter doesn’t really know what to do with the character. Likewise, Cigarette Smoking Man is given such long expository diatribes about his alien DNA terrorism that the mystery and pathos of the character is lost.
“My Struggle II” is a difficult episode to write about, especially because The X-Files’ fate is up in the air. The opening credits exchange “I want to believe” for “This is the end,” but Carter and FOX have repeatedly mentioned bringing the show back for more. Carter’s cliff-hanger ending – not only putting Mulder in danger but conveniently calling back to why their son William has been such an important part of this tenth season – begs for at least a few more minutes of explanation. As a season finale, it’s frustrating and nonsensical but at least acceptable given the show’s return; but as a series finale, it really forces the viewer to question the impact of bringing the show back in the first place to end on such a sour note. Because “My Struggle II” is frankly the worst hour of this six-episode run.
Carter’s initial mythological premise at least gave the semblance of structure, setting in motion a new angle on aliens and the government conspiracy that forced Mulder and Scully to return to their work. This season finale muddles that, calling attention to Carter’s consistent wavering around the truth. “My Struggle II” is an episode that viewers will remember most, too – and that’s a shame, considering the strong stand-alone episodes that have made up this season. The struggle doesn’t just reference Mulder and Scully’s fictional exploits, but Carter’s attempts to settle on just what he wants to do with the mythology of the series.
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