Tag Archives: My Struggle

The Art or the Artist?


In the aftermath of the severe disappointment that was “My Struggle II” (10×6), the hullabaloo on the internet has been, well, loud. And is that a cry of mutiny I hear rising from the din?

Well, our guest post today is from Michael O’Connor who adds his very astute, not to mention loyal, 2 cents into this mess and it’s about friggin’ time. His original post can be found here, and since he appears to be a glutton for punishment, do check out Why I Love The Phantom Menace over on his blog

 

i want to believe

Comments sections are rarely a place to go for insightful discourse. Even so, there’s one recurring comment that rankles me more than most in any conversation about a particular creative property, and it’s this: suggesting an artist be forcibly removed from his or her own creation.

The latest call for revolution has been directed at Chris Carter, the creator and showrunner for The X-Files. Some folks claim that he doesn’t “get” the X-Files, and someone else should be brought in who understands the concept better than the guy who created and ran it for nine seasons going on ten (and two movies).

That kind of sentiment deeply aggravates me; it demonstrates a really ugly side of modern criticism and fandom: a profound lack of respect for the creator of a beloved property, impatience with anything that doesn’t recapture one’s original passion for the material, and arrogance that the critic or fan somehow knows better than the progenitor.

I’m not saying that Chris Carter is perfect, but I would rather suffer through the occasional dud of a mediocre episode than see anyone else at the helm.

In other words, I’m for the artist. How about you?

Before you answer, let me explain my position and also my struggle. When I look at an episode of The X-Files like the recent mini-season premiere (aptly named “My Struggle”), I’m perplexed. This is the guy who gave us “The Post Modern Prometheus,” “Paper Clip” and “Duane Barry,” to name just a few stellar episodes with his name attached. But “My Struggle” is not only a victim of wonky pacing and cardboard one-dimensional characterization; its greatest sin may be its misguided aim to clumsily dispose of the entire alien colonization conspiracy developed and fostered over the course of nine seasons.

It’s almost enough to make me question my faith in the man.

For the record, it wouldn’t be my first crisis of faith with a beloved creator. Comic book writers Frank Miller and Alan Moore could do no wrong for at least a decade, with works like Miller’s The Dark Knight ReturnsDaredevil: Born Again, Batman: Year One and Sin City and Moore’s V for Vendetta, Watchmen, and From Hell still ranking among my favorite series I’ve ever read. But now I’m hard-pressed to say something positive about any of their more recent works.

Even George Lucas, whose prequel trilogy I would argue is nothing short of a masterpiece (your mileage may vary, though you should at least hazard a look at my argument in favor of The Phantom Menace), is equally culpable with Steven Spielberg for a disappointing entry in the Indiana Jones series with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

crystal skull

But so what? Nobody’s perfect, and rather than treat our favorite creators like incompetent Imperial officers who have failed Darth Vader for the last time, let’s step back and embrace the things we love rather than dwell on those that didn’t work for us.

And let’s also consider that maybe, just maybe these geniuses that invented The X-Files or Star Wars orWatchmen might still have some brilliance left in the tank. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t feel confident with anyone at the reins of Indiana Jones except for Lucas and Spielberg. Ditto with Watchmen and Alan Moore (although props to Darwyn Cooke for a noble go of it with his Before Watchmen: Minutemen miniseries). And The Dark Knight Returns IV without Frank Miller–? Well, you get the point.

But you might also see a contradiction. Frank Miller may have created the world of The Dark Knight Returns, but he was using a character who had already been created by someone else: Batman. Isn’t the success and brilliance of a piece of art like Returns proof positive that the original creator should get out of the way at some point (either voluntarily or by force)? I’d say it all depends on where your sympathies lie.

Let’s take a quick detour into the origin of Batman’s creator, Bill Finger. I’d say it’s entirely possible (and even likely) that you could be a fan of the character and never have heard of Bill Finger or never have read a Finger-penned story. That isn’t because Bill didn’t write plenty of them or create the characters you know and love, because he most certainly did. He contributed to the Batman mythos for over two decades. And The Joker, Two-Face, The Penguin, Catwoman, The Riddler, Robin, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, etc. etc? It was all Bill (with a little help from Jerry Robinson).

batman v joker

And the stories still hold up. If you want original, unfiltered Batman direct from the source, you can’t go wrong with “Robin Dies at Dawn” (Batman #156) “The Origin of Batman” (Batman #47) or “The Joker” (Batman #1). Finger built the foundation upon which all other Batman stories have grown and thrived, and yet his name is completely absent from the art he created. Part of that is due to his shady partner Bob Kane taking credit and financial compensation for Bill’s creations. But part of it is also due to the fact that Batman has now been around for over 75 years and prospered in film and television with hundreds of different creators lending their considerable talents to his ongoing myth. It’s easy to be introduced to a Finger-less Batman.

On the one hand, Bill got screwed. He ended up unknown, penniless and ignored, even as Bob Kane and DC profited handsomely from his creation. On the other hand, would Batman be the cultural touchstone he is today if DC had given sole creative control of the character to Finger? If they had stopped publishing Batman stories after he died or given creative control of the films to his estate?

Who do you side with? The artist or the art? The human being affected or the fiction that inspires so many (and makes so many others wealthy)?

I’m not saying it’s easy to choose. We love the art. We want it to be around forever and we want what we feel is best for it. But we must also understand that the reason we love the art is because someone created it. They had something to say, and we listened, and it touched us and improved our lives in some way.

billfinger

Speaking for myself, I’ll say this: I prefer my art straight from the source, from the original creator. And yet, while I genuinely believe that some of these franchises shouldn’t survive beyond their creators, I don’t know if I’m strong enough to ignore whatever comes after. I can’t deny that I will probably at least take a glance. Whether that’s merely satisfying curiosity or indicative of a deeper addiction I can’t kick, I don’t know. Maybe a little of both.

Regardless, I would question any critic or “fan” who would posit that the solution to the problem of a television show (or film, or series of novels, or comic book) that they no longer enjoy is finding someone else besides the creator to run it. The far more reasonable solution to that problem is simply walking away from it.

If you’ve reached the point with a beloved franchise where you simply can’t stand it, you’ve probably gotten everything you’re going to get out of that universe, those characters, and the scenarios and themes it presents. Insisting that it can be fixed by “someone else” is playing armchair executive. You’ve ceased to engage with it as a piece of creative art and storytelling; instead you’re seeing it as a product that can be exploited and transformed to favor your tastes and predilections.

Speaking personally, I always expect that an artist I admire knows what they’re doing. I operate from that optimistic–perhaps even naive–viewpoint. When I’m confronted with something that challenges my expectations or even upsets me, I’m intrigued to explore further rather than denounce outright. I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you truly love something (or someone), you don’t waste your time and passion demanding for it to be better; you try to understand it and appreciate it for what it is.

Which is why I’m eagerly anticipating Monday’s finale of The X-Files mini-season written and directed by Mr. Carter despite the premiere’s shaky start. Ultimately, my faith can be challenged, but when it comes to art and its artist, and especially where it concerns The X-Files, I still want to believe.

—————–

Michael O’Connor is a writer, filmmaker and designer based out of Portland, Oregon. A graduate of NYU and former editor for Marvel Comics, he has been published in numerous print newspapers like The Winston Salem Journal, The Willamette Week, and The Portland Tribune as well as online sites such as Brewpublic, The New School and RetroZap! He is passionate about art in all its forms, but is particularly fond of novels, comic books, movies… and craft beer.

My Struggle II 10×6: Spoken like a true psychopath.


MyStruggleII273

The (un)emotional reunion we’d all been waiting for.

I do understand, Chris. I want to forget about the Super Soldiers too.

It seems that in order to facilitate said forgetfulness, we’re going to take it back… alllll the way back to the perverse politics of “Paper Clip” (3×2) and the Hitler-esque horrors of “Herrenvolk” (4×1).

Ah, yes. Hitler. I’d been wondering since “My Struggle” (10×1) what the connection would be between the hijacked title of Hitler’s defining autobiography (“Mein Kampf” in German) and this new era of conspiracy on The X-Files. It would seem that old is new again, and Chris Carter is reeling back in the real world fear of eugenics and calculated experimentation by humans on humans, humans unfettered by morality and governed by nothing but humanism and ambition. (Maybe he should have named this two-parter “Babylon” and “Babylon II”?)

We’ve eschewed the supernatural for a super human evil: Heil Cigarette-Smoking Man, the new Hitler, who is almost single-handedly punishing mankind for its failure as a species — or for his own failure to bring about Colonization, take your pick as to which — and is ready to to wipe out humanity as we knew it and repopulate the planet with the Ubermensch: the human species upgraded with alien DNA. If Mulder would just cooperate, together he, Daddy Dearest, Scully and William could become the new master race, the Herrenvolk.

Oh, and Monica Reyes. I can’t forget about Monica Reyes.

What the heck now??? Monica Reyes as the new Diana Fowley? Stah-ap!!

What’s most insulting to the character is that she’s so easily manipulated by CSM with nothing but the vague threat of impending doom. She already knew there was a battle for humanity; that’s why she helped Mulder and Scully escape in “The Truth” (19/21). What kind of science could have proven to someone who was not at all a scientist that hope was hopeless? How did she explain herself to John Doggett?? And you’re telling me he was willing to save her life purely in exchange for lighting his smokes???

I’m so done with this desperate attention seeker of a plotline. Moving on.

Scully: The technology wasn’t there, Mulder. DNA wasn’t even identified until 1944. This is all a lie! – “Paper Clip”

Scully’s doubts reflected my own for much of this episode. How could CSM & Co. have been manipulating human DNA through the Smallpox vaccine when we hadn’t yet mapped the human genome? Well, kudos to Chris Carter for harkening back to what he established way back in Season 3, that the government had long been keeping its scientific knowledge from the public.

But I’m going to have to dock a few kudos for not keeping more of this scientific knowledge from the public. “My Struggle II” is 90% science and 10% story. If in order to pull off the plot the science is so complicated that you have to take your audience back to school for half an hour for them to understand it, it’s too complicated. Leave it out. Way too much time is spent listening to Scully and Einstein explain things to each other that doctors would never have to explain to each other. What’s more, as always, Scully has special knowledge far beyond her speciality. But I suppose I’m used to that by now.

I’m also used to William being treated like a prop. Yet it would seem that if we do get a Season 11, FINALLY, the hunt for William will become paramount. That’s all I ever wanted and it was not too much to ask.

The ending leaves much to be desired. The episode leaves much, much to be desired – less exposition, more Mulder and Scully some, any, a crumb of Mulder and Scully would have sufficed. The whole point of this revival was to put the team back together. I didn’t campaign like a house-bound otaku for Miller and Einstein.

But it’s not “Babylon” (10×4), and for that, let us all give thanks.

Verdict:

Let me tell you about my struggle. It’s the struggle of a teenybopper fangirl who desperately wants to believe in her first love with the enigmatic skeptic inside. If The X-Files keeps going, will it get better or will it get worse? Are we apexing toward another Season 5 or are we snowballing toward more of Season 9?

I’m betwixt and between. And “My Struggle II” leaves me feeling little more than apathetic.

Though at last, AT LAST we’re seeing something akin to an apocalypse. Colonization has been threatened for so long without any significant movement in that direction. True, this large scale immunological breakdown is the machination of man, not of aliens… or is it? Chris Carter giveth and Chris Carter taketh away; he’s won’t to take back a plot he’s discredited only to discredit it again. We might find that CSM put this current drama into motion in 2012 for a reason.

There may be a master plan here, but even if I make sense of it I’m not sure it will be satisfying. The ending left me with neither a sense of completion or anticipation. I get both out of “Requiem” (7×22) and even “The Truth”. “Existence” (8×21) has its faults, but at least the characters’ story arcs are made whole. “My Struggle II” ends with a pure cliffhanger, but not the kind of cliffhanger that makes you pick up the phone and call your mother screaming. The characters haven’t evolved and they’re not in any sort of emotional crisis. Mulder’s sick, but he’ll be healed. Scully’s likely been abducted… again… but she’ll be back. Then what? More giant jumps of assumption from our level-headed scientist? More mini Moose and Squirrel? More Truth Squad?

C+

Musings of a Madwoman:

If I’m reading this right, CSM is behind the murder of Sveta and the abduction of Scully, the first to keep her quiet and the second to keep her from saving lives.

Seeing Well-Manicured Man and Krycek in the teaser made me all kinds of nostalgic. That helped propel my “Paper Clip” and “Herrenvolk” rewatches, which in turn were the best parts of watching and rewatching “My Struggle II”.

Mulder’s beat up and Scully doesn’t know where he is. It’s like old times.

Speaking of beat up, the fight scene was a little long, but it was bomb.

Scully looks the best she has the whole revival.

Okay, are we just going to utterly ignore CSM and Mulder’s familial relationship? One “S’up, Pop!” would’ve sufficed.

Scully wouldn’t have had room to weave through traffic like that if the world was in a real panic.

That’s it, huh? Scully gets abducted… again? Time for another ride on the abduction merry-go-round? How about taking Skinner next time, hmm? I guess he’s overdue for a turn.

Inevitable Questions:

I could have sworn that somewhere in the previews for the revival I saw a glimpse of the old warehouse used to store vaccination records in “Paper Clip”, but then it never materialized. Or did I just imagine it? It would have made perfect sense with the plot.

What about the people who either somehow avoided or missed the vaccine, or those who came to the country after the vaccine? They wouldn’t be affected and neither would their children.

Mulder, the Patriarch of Paranoia, has a GPS tracker on his phone? But really now?

Best Quotes:

There are times when the awkwardly formal dialogue of The X-Files can be endearing. This was not one of those times.

Founder’s Mutation 10×5: You don’t like cats?


Screen-Shot-2016-01-27-at-1.26.26-PM-680x433.png

All right. There were a lot of feelings to sort through for this one. I’m still not sure I’ve sorted them through completely. I’m not sure I ever will.

I was thoroughly bummed out at the end of this episode. And, no. I don’t mean that I was an emotional wreck grieving the plight of Mulder and Scully. I mean I was disappointed, out of joint, and incurably grumpy.

I realize that doesn’t make sense on the surface, especially since the storytelling has undeniably improved this week. “My Struggle” (1×01) was an aging crackpot of an episode, talking loud and fast, writhing in labor and giving birth to wind. But it was a familiar wind, so supersized shenanigans though it was, I couldn’t help but feel the daffy draft as a gentle breeze, cerulean blue style. Yep. Chris Carter put the whammy on me.

The truth is, though, that I never held out much expectation for the premiere to begin with. Most of the bad habits The X-Files ever had were connected to the mythology, and those habits manifested in increasing frequency and strength the longer the show went on. The mythology was epic in its heyday, but it self destructed somewhere in Season 6 and, unlike Mulder, it never made it back from the grave. Nothing could be worse than the mythology of Season 9 and the nosedive nadir of “Provenance” (9×10) and “Providence” (9×11). If my obsession could survive those, it could survive anything.

I was always more of a Monster of the Week gal, anyway. So who cares, right? But what I didn’t realize was that while I had steeled myself against disappointment in terms of the overall six episode storyline, there were still hidden hopes that I didn’t know I had. Those hopes, as always, centered around Mulder and Scully.

Things start out well enough. Better than well, even. There are little things, like the acting and direction around Mulder and Scully being distinctly of a modern style, for better and worse. Some things can’t be helped and when it comes to acting especially, times have changed – Ironically, they’ve changed largely because of the influence of The X-Files and other shows born in that era. I certainly didn’t expect things to be exactly the same and in fact am rooting for the show to evolve. No, we were still good.

Then we get a few cracks about just how 90’s Mulder and Scully are and it’s sorta cute. Okay. And then the show reverses its position and tries to prove that we’re not in the 90’s anymore, Toto. I get it. You can stop namedropping current events. You’re relevant. I know.

Like I said. Little things. Things that didn’t really bother me in and of themselves, just things I noticed. What mattered was that Mulder and Scully were back in my life calmly discussing theoretical science while a cadaver chilled in the background. YES.

The cherry on top was Mulder breaking the rules and stealing evidence. “Rebel.” It was almost like old times. Almost. It was somewhat disguised by the chaos of urgency and exposition in “My Struggle”. But now I’m sure: Something’s missing between Mulder and Scully.

I know, I know. It’s William, you say. Their grief over William has come between them and there’s some tension what with the breakup, that’s all. The distance is supposed to be there!

Maybe that’s what I’m meant to be seeing, I don’t know. But this doesn’t read as tension to me. Tension is not disconnect. There was tension in “My Struggle”, but at the same time there wasn’t this distance between them. There was tension between Mulder and Scully loads of times in the series proper, and sometimes they were going in polar opposite directions personally and emotionally. Yet they were always connected.

This may sound blasphemous, but their chemistry is wanting. There’s a spark missing. Where’s the Mulder/Scully bubble that existed as early as Season 1? That little world between the two of them that they used to create subconsciously? Fear not, NoRoMos. It’s not MSR I’m talking about or looking for, it’s the bond that set the ship a sail.

It probably shouldn’t concern me as much as it does. However, while this is the second episode to air it was the fifth episode filmed. Fifth! And there are only six. Their game should be on point by now. The fact that I’m seeing so little chemistry in what is effectively the penultimate episode… yeah, I am concerned.

You’re never just anything to me, Scully.

You know, there was a time when Dana Scully never had to say a word. I could read her every nuance of emotion, her every changing thought in her eyes. Scully was aloof. Scully was reserved. Scully was composed. Scully was in control. But Scully was not inscrutable. And her mouth wasn’t immovable.

Move your mouth, Scully. You’re allowed. Then again, maybe Scully shouldn’t open her mouth because every time she does, the croak of a ninety-year-old ex-smoker comes out. This bothers me. I’m bothered.

And what do you mean, “My baby”???

Mulder’s voice isn’t much better. And both of them are noticeably lacking in energy. Somebody get them some Wheaties, stat, because things can’t continue like this. I know they’re older and I want them to act like it. They can’t be wide-eyed with wonder the way they were in the early seasons of the show. That would be disingenuous. But that’s no excuse for Mulder and Scully on Valium. They’re middle aged, they’re not aged.

Again, I hear perfectly reasonable voices telling me this is all because of William. They’re emotionally beaten. They’re tired, they’re worn. They’re grief-stricken and world-weary.

Yet the answer that they lost their baby can’t be the excuse for every problem. Their chemistry is lacking – they lost their baby. Scully’s face is frozen – they lost their baby. Their conversations are stilted and subdued – they lost their baby. It gets old fast, doesn’t it? If they’re here to fight then there has to be some fight left in them.

I’ve ranted and I’ve snarked, but in all honesty I’m 80% sure that this discomfiture is a temporary state of affairs. And while I don’t think William should be a blanket excuse, this is an episode about William and it’s Mulder and Scully’s long overdue chance to mourn him.

In fact, the fantasy sequences prove to me that the Mulder and Scully I know and love are still alive somewhere in their own souls. Scully’s still Scully in her head! She even has her voice back! And you know what? Both of their individual scenes with imaginary William were more powerful than all of their scenes so far together.

These daydreams aren’t just fantasies about what life would have been like with William. They’re also their worst nightmares given a voice. Both Mulder and Scully long for their individual relationships with their child, and at the same time, they suspect that William was never theirs at all. Not really. It’s the same fear that torments Scully in “Per Manum” (8×8), that something was wrong with her pregnancy and her child from the beginning. But these are fears that should have been put to rest long ago.

These scenes, beautiful as they are, resolve nothing. They’re exercises in emotion. Mulder and Scully still don’t know whether or not they owe the birth of William to a sinister science, despite the fact that that question was answered in Season 9. (In case you were wondering, Season 9 no longer exists.) And they have absolutely no idea where William is or what’s happening to him, a question that I suspect will be revisited later in the season.

If these poignant daydreams accomplish anything, however, they succeed in amplifying my not so latent frustration over the William storyline. I know the world of The X-Files isn’t exactly family friendly, but I don’t think I’ve crumbled my cracker when I say I can easily imagine Mulder and Scully as parents… good parents. That’s why despite the weakness of “Existence” (8×21), its final scene felt right as a potential series finale.

For Mulder especially, who had spent the entire series trying to make sense of the loss of his sister and the destruction of his family, to find through his quest the family he had lost, to find something he was willing to leave the X-Files behind for, to find the very meaning he had been searching for in the X-Files, that was a great evolution for his character. In many ways, I think Mulder needed fatherhood more than Scully needed motherhood, despite the fact that the focus has forever been on “Scully’s baby”, even here where Scully still refers to William as her own. Yet, as sweet as Scully’s scenes with her imaginary son were, Mulder’s were gut-wrenching. That was exactly how I’d always imagined he’d be as William’s dad. And now I’m emotional all over again. Thank you, everyone. Thank you soooo much.

And thank you for making me more sure than ever that William” (9×17), the adoption, and the entire plot surrounding Mulder and Scully’s son was the worst sin The X-Files ever committed. I know it would have been harder to write our leads crusading against epic alien invasions with a baby in tow (Colonization with The Mulders), but good things don’t come easy. And you know what? The epic alien invasion never happened, which only adds insult to unmitigated injury.

Scully is already a bad mother shut-your-mouth. But if she had been fighting for her home, her family and her baby, she would have been a BEAST. It could have been done. It should have been done. It has been done… in my head.

Verdict:

As you can see, the William issue doesn’t make me sad so much as it makes me resentful and indignant. I can’t cry over it. I’m too annoyed to cry.

Mulder and Scully don’t seem to have moved on either. This episode was not a catharsis. It was not a release like “Closure” (7×11). This was a glossy 8×10 of sadness and guilt put in a pretty picture frame and hung on a wall for all to see. If an angst party was the point, they have proven it. They have partied the house down.

And so my resentment roosts in an episode that is otherwise decent. It’s not great television but it’s a distinct improvement over last week. The case itself is only moderately interesting and the resolution even less so, but the theme of it ties in perfectly to the William storyline and consequently, “Founder’s Mutation” is an emotional continuation of the premiere. Now I understand why they moved this episode up from when it was originally scheduled to air. Per “My Struggle”, Mulder and Scully got back in this paranormal rat race in order to investigate the genetic manipulation of humans with alien DNA, a horror that hits all too close to home for them. This episode connects their work in the paranormal to the mythology at large as well as to their individual lives and their relationship. They have ample reason to be back on the X-Files.

Now if they would just get back that old Black Magic…

Then again, it occurs to me that diamonds are born under pressure. Since I’ve already exposed myself as a heretic, before I close I’ll add some wood to my own flames. It’s quite possible that the intensity of the Mulder and Scully relationship was directly tied to the intensity of the circumstances Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny found themselves in. They were young, relatively inexperienced actors who were hungry for work. They were on a show that wasn’t just a hit, it was a cultural phenomenon. They spent nearly nine months a year, sometimes eighteen hours a day, being Mulder and Scully. Gillian has even said (somewhat facetiously?) that she spent more of her 20’s as Scully than as herself. On top of that, the show itself became progressively more intense plot-wise, and their characters progressively more isolated together.

It’s no secret that under those high pressure circumstances, David and Gillian didn’t always get along. But they always managed to perform like their lives depended on it. Maybe they did. And maybe… though this is pure speculation on my part… maybe that tension drove them into a place where they had to be Mulder and Scully in order to git-r-done. Because on screen, they would go into a mental and emotional place between the two of them where they became just the two of them. And all the way up to the series finale, these characters and their relationship flowed from them like it was second nature.

Now we’re down to six episodes from up to twenty-four. Now everyone’s in a great place emotionally and relationally. And our leads only see each other every once in a while. In summary, it’s quite possible that our favorite duo will never be the same outside of the extreme possibility of circumstance that created them.

I’m at peace with that… I think? Or am I pouting because I wanted this MOTW to feel like old times? It kinda, sorta, almost did there for a minute. I know we can’t go back again and we shouldn’t. Consciously, I don’t want to. It wouldn’t be believable or even healthy. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keenly feel the bitter in the bittersweetness of “Founder’s Mutation”.

B

Mutated Musings:

Kyle Gilligan. Kyle “Gilligan”. GILLIGAN.

Skinner’s beard is everything to me right now. It’s the unsung hero of the episode.

Closely followed by Scully’s 9ft. legs in Mulder’s office. Dang, our cast is hot.

Help me, Darin Morgan. You’re my only hope. #GreatWhiteHope

It’s good seeing them in Skinner’s office again, though it’s almost jarring how easily Skinner accepts their crazy theories now.

The new, modern office is right, but it’s going to take a little getting used to. Meanwhile, the F.B.I. must be flush with cash.

The new “I Want to Believe” poster in the back corner… I guess we’ll hear that story soon.

I’m sorry. I was watching The X-Files when the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver showed up. Did I cross fandom beams?

And now that I think of it, this episode would fit well in the X-Men universe.

The scene in the bar was an excuse for some much needed humor. It didn’t end up being relevant to the plot.

To me, this feels more like modern TV does The X-Files than The X-Files does modern TV. Yes, Virginia, there is a difference.

I don’t just hate that she says, “my baby,” I hate the way she says it. I keep hearing it on repeat. Anybody got a letter opener?

Why does Scully stand outside the school just to say hi and bye?

There are echoes of Mulder’s brain pains in “Demons” (4×23) here and of the victims’ symptoms in “Drive” (6×2). There’s also a government conspiracy behind the genetic manipulation of babies in vitro as early as “Eve” (1×10).

Scully takes Kyle into custody a little too easily considering his powers. And Mulder recovers the pain without showing any signs of having been in any.

Sister Mary was Scully’s psychologist in “Irresistible” (2×13) and “Elegy” (4×22).

What are the odds that Kyle Gilligan would get a job working as a janitor at the same mental hospital that his mother was institutionalized at?

Best Quotes:

Scully: I’m a doctor. You can tell me anything.

—————–

Mommy Gilligan: Bad things happen when the birds gather.

—————–

Scully: This is dangerous.

Mulder: When has that ever stopped us before?

—————–

Mulder: All we can do, Scully, is pull the thread and see what unravels.

 

My Struggle 10×01: Now you got my number.


Scully-and-Mulder-1200x675

Babies!!

These musings are a mixed bag of television emotions. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to some… not disappointment but, let’s say, validation of my carefully regulated expectations. But this is my longed for Mulder and Scully, The New Adventures of Moose & Squirrel we’re talking about. Even so, it is well with my soul.

This truly feels like a reboot, and by that I mean that Chris Carter & The Spooky Bunch have taken things back to the old school. This isn’t just Mulder and Scully getting back together, this is The X-Files rediscovering its Season 1 roots. This is the original vision revisited. This is “Deep Throat” (1×1), “Conduit” (1×3), “Fallen Angel” (1×9) and “E.B.E.” (1×16) reborn in the 21st Century and polished with a digital shellac.

I’m probably a bigger fan than most of Seasons 1 & 2, so I’m excited about that.. excited and still slightly concerned. “My Struggle” is all out distrust of everything and everyone with money or power, written by a generation scarred and jaded by Watergate, a generation with a knee-jerk distrust of authority. We’re back to vague government cover-ups and father figure informants hedging their words in the dark. There’s something nefarious going on, but it’s nameless, faceless, and overarching.

Unlike the later focus and consistency of the mythology as it evolved in Seasons 3-5, this is a veritable kitchen sink of conspiracy. Why do I suspect Chris Carter’s been saving up random newspaper clippings for years like he was Fox Mulder, just waiting for the chance to info dump them on us all? In less than five minutes we get a condensed history of conspiracy theory from the end of Season 9 to now. It’s a mad burst of baloney.

Right now this new X-Files world is without form and void. Darkness covers the face of the Deep (Throat). Until this conspiracy is given a shape, it’s impossible to declare it good or bad. The only question right now: is all this teasing intriguing enough to hook a brand new audience?

Chris Carter has always been the king of high sci-fi drama. Like he did when he wrote and directed the Pilot (1×79), he can make you believe something world-changing is happening even though you’ve seen next to nothing and heard even less. “My Struggle” isn’t so much about establishing a new mythology as it is whetting our appetites to want to know what in the good Green Goblin is going on.

And this rediscovered scope means that Chris Carter can take the series in all sorts of directions again, the same way the show first found its footing by refusing to be tied down to one idea or one genre. That’s promising enough, but for any great good there must be something sacrificed and that something here is the history of the show.

Mulder and Scully getting back to basics means invalidating the mythology as we’ve known it to this point. It means Mulder and Scully have been deceived for over twenty years and we’ve been deceived for thinking they’re trustworthy investigators. It means Mulder and Scully have to go back to being merely partners and friends.

This certainly isn’t the first time Chris Carter has turned the mythology on its ear. Starting with “Gethsemene” (4×24), Mulder spent almost all of Season 5 believing that there were no aliens but that for years he had been led around like a (really cute) puppy on a paranormal string. Then it was clear that Mulder and Scully had already seen too much to be mistaken about the existence of extraterrestrial life. But now? Now that we know alien life is real but that the colonization story is false, does that make everything we ever knew clear or does that leave the whole thing fuzzier than a kiwi?

How does Mulder’s latest theory jive with Fight the Future and the aliens gestated by the Black Oil that the Syndicate was clearly afraid of? Because if aliens weren’t out to colonize the planet, Well-Manicured Man died for nothing. Of course, it’s entirely possible that there was a conspiracy above the Syndicate, that someone was deceiving the deceivers and using them to conduct tests on human subjects. Regardless, because of episodes like “One Son” (6×12), it’s undeniable that the Syndicate, at least, truly believed in a coming alien takeover via virus. If it wasn’t the aliens, who took their family members hostage and for what? Who exactly took Samantha?

And how does any of this fit with the mythology of Seasons 8 & 9? Where do the Alien Bounty Hunters come in? The Super Soldiers? William the Ubermensch and the messianic Navajo prophecies???

I’m asking these questions but I’m not foolish enough to expect to get the answers in the very first episode. I’m just wondering where it all leads and hoping it’s headed someplace good. The new broadness allows for flexibility. The lack of focus could potentially end in failure. I’m rooting for you, 1013.

The implications aren’t limited to the plot either. How do Mulder and Scully process as characters the fact that they fought to the death and back, sacrificed everything, and it turns out they’ve been on a fool’s errand for twenty plus years? Mulder and Scully are our heroes. What do we do when it turns out they didn’t know what they were doing for nine seasons? Climactic plot changes are cool and all, but I’m not a Clippers fan. I need to root for a team that wins.

Speaking of my team, by now you’ve heard about the big breakup. I have to say, it went down easier than I expected, probably because I was emotionally prepped for it… and there was champagne. But while I’m relieved that they didn’t go the I Want to Believe route, that Mulder and Scully’s romantic rumble didn’t become the focus of the episode, I still can’t say I’m behind it. Why? I’m glad you asked.

Mulder: How many times have we been here before, Scully? Right here. So close to the truth. And now with what we’ve seen and what we know to be right back at the beginning with nothing.

Scully: This is different, Mulder.

Mulder: No, it isn’t! You were right to want to leave me! You should get as far away from me as you can! I’m not going to watch you die, Scully, because of some hollow personal cause of mine. Go be a doctor. Go be a doctor while you still can.

Scully: I can’t. I won’t. Mulder, I’ll be a doctor but my work is here with you now… Look… if I quit now, they win. – Fight the Future

————-

Mulder: Scully, I was like you once – I didn’t know who to trust… In the end, my world was unrecognizable and upside down. There was one thing that remained the same. You were my friend, and you told me the truth. Even when the world was falling apart, you were my constant… my touchstone.

Scully: And you are mine. – “The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati” (7×4)

————-

Scully: You say this is greater than us, and maybe it is. But this is us fighting this fight, Mulder, not you! It’s you and me. That’s what I’m fighting for, Mulder. You and me. – “The Truth” (9×19/20)

————-

Scully: It’s what made me follow you… and why I’d do it all over again. – “The Truth”

Constants don’t bail because things get difficult. Constants don’t leave you when you’re down. True friendship is born in selflessness and self-sacrifice, because greater love hath no man than this. I have a hard time believing that Scully left a depressed Mulder for the sake of her own sanity, but I’m trusting it’s more nuanced than that and we’ll get the details later. Maybe she left him for his own good and not merely because she was sick of the darkness, because that’s been there, IWTBed that. Whatever the cause of this forced drama, one look at the two of them and you know they can’t stay apart for long, if they’re even really apart at all.

And you can call me Forest Gump because that’s all I have to say about that.

Verdict:

I was driving along on the way to work this morning thinking about The X-Files… you know, like any other day. And I realized that my musings were no longer about The X-Files as a piece of history. These are my musings on a real, live, brand spanking new episode. Hot. Dog.

Last night was the most excited I’ve been about television since The X-Files went off the air. I’ve never been so happy to hear a voiceover in my life. Mulderlogues… I even missed those!!! The first beat of that dulcet monotone and there was dancing and twirling and the raising of hands. And no, it was not a church service.

“My Struggle” isn’t perfect and I know it. But as a Phile, it’s mine and I’ll thank you for it. The clunky and obtuse dialogue, the conversations that threaten major revelations but never actually reveal them, the unceremoniously snipped plot threads… all mine.

The X-Files has its own rhythm, it’s own distinctive style of sci-fi drama. And you have to be able to appreciate the subtle camp of it in order to love it. Or maybe, you have to love it in order to appreciate the subtle camp of it. In terms of the history of the mythology, this doesn’t compare to anything that came between Seasons 2-5. But then, this was all just an excuse to get Mulder and Scully back anyway. Their reasons for working the X-Files are basically the same as before: There’s something big… big, big, big going on, something deeply sinister. And stopping it is personal for them both. Frankly, they both look like they could use some excitement, and so could I.

It’s funny, but as a long time fan, there are both more problems and fewer problems with this episode. More problems because we know the history of The X-Files, fewer problems because we have a history with The X-Files that trumps everything. In the words of the great theologian W. E. Houston, “It’s not right, but it’s okay.”

Despite Chris Carter’s best attempts to make government conspiracies relevant to a new generation, this was about drowning ourselves in a cool pool of nostalgia on a hot summer’s day. What a glorious way to go.

It’s not just the government. Everyone’s out to get you. Now go to sleep.

C+

Superfluous Comments:

Cigarette-Smoking Man – Phantom of the Space Opera

Sveta pulls a Gibson Praise on Scully. And like Gibson before her, she’s the “key to everything.”

“Gethsemene” turned the mythology upside down, put Mulder and Scully at odds, and presented more questions than answers too, but it was much more satisfying as a standalone episode, possibly because it came within the broader context of the series and not at the start of something new.

Mulder needs to stop picking on my “finally in the opening credits” Skinner!

If I were Scully, the fact that I had followed Mulder into a lie would have been a bigger emotional hurdle than his depression. Shouldn’t she have issues with trusting him? She’s lost her sister, alienated herself from the world, and gave up their son because she believed in Mulder and he was sure of what he believed. And speaking of William, the fact that she and Mulder live without fear for their lives means she could have kept him after all.

Not to be a troublemaker, but I wonder if Glen Morgan’s name getting top billing with Chris Carter’s in the closing credits has anything to do with the reverse trajectory of the show…

Mulder first heard from his Old Man informant ten years ago. That means he was onto the jagoff shoeshine tip before IWTB.

We even get a classic Mulder phone ditch. The earth does orbit the sun.

The Asian scientist –  I recognize him as the Asian scientist from “Firewalker” (2×9) and the Asian scientist from “Synchrony” (4×19). I wonder if he puts “plays a mean Asian scientist” on his resume.

You know what I could’ve lived without? I could’ve lived without Tad O’Malley hitting on Scully. You know what else I could’ve lived without? I could’ve lived without Scully mistaking Sveta for Mulder’s new love interest. Yeah. I could’ve lived without that just fine.

Best Quotes:

Mulder: My name is Fox Mulder. {Yeah it is!!!}

———————

Scully: It’s fear mongering, isolationist claptrap, techno-paranoia so bogus and dangerous and stupid that it borders on treason. {But what do you really think about The X-Files, Scully?}

———————

Mulder: She’s shot men with less provocation. {Yeah she has!!!}

Tad O’Malley: Funny. I heard you were funny.

———————

Tad O’Malley: Do you miss it at all? The X-Files?

Scully: As a scientist, it was probably some of the most intense and challenging work I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt so alive.

O’Malley: You mean working with Mulder?

Scully: Possibly one of the most intense and challenging relationships I may ever have. And, quite honestly, the most impossible.