Skip to main content

I didn’t set out to destroy the world, Mulder. People did.

The X-Files
10.6: My Struggle II

So Chris Carter bookends what he began, and in so doing entirely ignores the prevalent trend of interconnected episodic TV during the intervening years. My Struggle II is pretty much an of-a-piece sequel to My Struggle, which is to say it’s a muddled mess of rewritten series mythology, exposition and would-be topicality (both in terms of mainstream media and the conspirasphere).


The series’ mythology episodes tended to pull the stops out in terms of action and spectacle, by virtue of their being openers, finales, or “sweeps”, so I can only assume Fox gave Carter and Co peanuts to play with for this speciality run. Throughout, I was continually struck by how cheap the production was, not just in terms of visuals (one bridge scene at the end does not a high budget make) but as a piece of writing. That might not be unusual for Carter, who’s a natural at B, or C, -movie dialogue, but My Struggle II could barely even muster Doctor Who’s approach to mass-panic (generally a mock-BBC news broadcast); instead we’re told early on that “There’s talk on the Internet” and from thence Carter obligingly cuts to Joel McHale’s shoestring online show (“It’s gone from bad to worse out there”; it’s so bad, even his Internet connection is breaking up!)


It might have worked better if there’d been a line about how the MSM simply wasn’t reporting these terrible events, but, as it is, insult is added to the injury of a broken-backed narrative whereby Scully attempts to mass-produce a vaccine, which involves her going out onto the street and yelling at people that help is on the way (that’s really sensible, encouraging a deluge of demanding citizens to occupy the hospital) before getting her priorities mixed up and charging off to save Mulder. The scale is all skewed, and one needs to look to an apocalypse Carter had nothing to do with, and reneged on, to see how this thing sort of thing should be done (the Millennium Season Two finale).


Talking of skewed, this is most definitely a Scully-centric instalment, with Mulder spending most of his time lying on a couch looking peaky while Cigarette Smoking Man (William B Davis, reliable as ever, but Carter completely fails to justify his resurrection) mocks his scruples. There’s a flashback fight scene, but that’s more distracting than engaging, thanks to Carter showing he has no idea how to make dropped frames and slow motion cohere effectively.


CSM is the author of all Mulder’s pain, just like Christoph Waltz (“I’ve controlled you since before you knew I existed”), but, as an embodiment of the elite/cabal, “the most powerful man in the world”, he’s rather a disappointment; you have to go back to John Neville for the show exuding the sense of a substantial, co-ordinated operation. CSM appears disconnected from any kind of coherent power structure. This protracted scene has little bite, because there’s nothing visceral about them meeting for the umpteenth time. Added to which, the Luke-Vader “Join me” business inevitably musters not so much as a glimmer of interest on Fox’s part. Lines don’t so much trip as cascade off CSM’s tongue (which we don’t see, but we do clock his hollowed-out visage, a combination of Tiger comic’s Death Wish and Red Skull) some of them holding a vaguely meta-irony (“You think you’ll get far? You’ve no idea how well we’ve planned”; have you, Chris? Have you really?)


Predictably, removed from last week’s quirk-fest, agents Einstein and Miller are altogether less welcome presences. Miller’s pretty much irrelevant, aside from offering Mulder a helping arm, while Einstein, at loggerheads with a scientist who wants to believe, is, because Carter doesn’t have any other character cards up his sleeve, effectively doing a Doggett-with-a-degree-in-medicine to Scully’s Mulder (“My prejudices are only against pseudo-science”). I get that there needs to be explanation of the “science” (and this one gives story credit to a couple of actual doctors, Anne Simon and Margaret Fenton, the former having been an advisor on the original series), but Carter’s entirely unable, or can’t be arsed, to offer any variety in how it’s done.


Except maybe in his out-of-the-blue turning of the returning Reyes (Annabeth Gish) into a turncoat. I’m reluctant to take this at face value, unless Carter simply thought no one would care about the character (I understand she was unpopular, but I always found Gish a decent addition to the cast; by that point it felt like Scully was more of the square peg), and Scully does tell Einstein that “a friend” gave her this vital information to locate a cure, so perhaps Reyes was biding her time, waiting for the right moment to save everyone. Regardless, her behaviour just doesn’t fit with the empathic, intuitive character of the last couple of seasons of the show, and one ends up pondering Scully’s “Why did you call me, Monica? To tell me what a coward you are?” perhaps more than was intended. By implication, Reyes is weak and manipulative, in contrast to Mulder, who is strong and stalwart, whether or not she turns out to have been on the side of the angels. As such, it’s an uncomfortable betrayal of her character.


Where the episode possibly gains some currency is the notional purpose of the returned show as a vehicle for partial disclosure (as I mentioned when discussing Home Again); those of such a view will no doubt be heartened by the UFOs/ARVs on display to the mass public (a first for the series, I think), who doubtless all have working camera phones. Carter doesn’t just continue ticking off conspiratorial subject matter he began listing in My Struggle, mostly via McHale’s Tad O’Malley, he douses us with it. The remainder of this mini-season has had little apparent interest in such areas (unless Darin Morgan’s lizard from the dawn of time was intended as a nod to David Icke’s reptilians; it might just have been a reference to Doctor Who and The Silurians).


This time Gillian Anderson is subjected to the X-lore recap, complete with “Weren’t they all young and chubby-cheeked back then?” archive footage, that restates the idea of covert, advance tech (“a conspiracy of men, hiding science for almost sixty years, secrets kept from the American people by a self-interested cabal intent on the consolidation of power both at home and on a predominately global scale”). Carter’s patchwork retconning of the show posits that Season 10’s developments are a directly-intended result of science acquired in the ‘50s, given to men by an alien race, who didn’t want to invade in 2012 at all, they just wanted to set in motion the end game. Which is?


One of the most popular and monumental mischiefs levelled at the Illuminati, that of culling the population to a more modest level. It seems CSM was responsible for the Georgia Guidestones, or paid the man who was, and in his attempts to convey this Carter is reluctant to throw anything back from his prize catch of conspiracy topics.


Cigarette Smoking Man: I didn’t set out to destroy the world, Mulder. People did.

As such, suspect vaccines are a key tool (not just a cause of autism, or even Gulf War Syndrome, but a full-blown ticking time bomb of auto-immune failure, so embracing the conspiracy theory that AIDS is a man-made virus, intentionally unleashed). Beyond engineered diseases, McHale brings up chem trails, which “trigger a genetic response”, and indicates microwave radiation is also used. Carter gives the cabal’s motivation as saving the planet, rather than simply controlling it (CSM cites the hottest year on record, 40% less bird life, the decimation of mega-fauna, and comments that “Aliens predicted all of this. They saw it happening to themselves”). Einstein’s observation that “If this works, I’ll have alien DNA” might even be seen as a nod to the idea of man’s essential engineering via the combined DNA of 22 alien races.


So My Struggle II is pretty much a grab bag for any conspiracy theory going. Its undiscerning nature means it nestles comfortably near the bottom Carter’s roster of arc plots. While I didn’t actively dislike the episode, like a good half of this season, I was simply underwhelmed by it. At his best, Carter could deliver a kind of demented faux-poetry in his episodes, but this one’s most memorable line is the risible “You speak to me of hell, when you look to be the one who’s hellbound”. As for the cliffhanger, Mulder on death’s door and Scully announcing the desperate need to locate William for some stem cells (that’s right, go find him when you finally want something from him!), it’s further illustration of what an inward facing show this resumption has been. Unless wee William is piloting that ARV, Flight of the Navigator style. That, at least, would be unexpected.


Season 10 Ranked:

In the cold light of revisiting them over the next couple of months, the lower half of the season will probably end up as no more than **1/2s. It’s been good to have the show back, but it’s abundantly clear its ever-ready producer needs to become an erstwhile one.

6. My Struggle II

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke (the answer is: Mad Max: Fury Road )? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli

It’ll be like living in the top drawer of a glass box.

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) (SPOILERS) The first of a pair of TV movies John Carpenter directed in the 1970s, but Someone’s Watching Me! is more affiliated, in genre terms, to his breakout hit ( Halloween ) and reasonably successful writing job ( The Eyes of Laura Mars ) of the same year than the also-small-screen Elvis . Carpenter wrote a slew of gun-for-hire scripts during this period – some of which went on to see the twilight of day during the 1990s – so directing Someone’s Watching Me! was not a given. It’s well-enough made and has its moments of suspense, but you sorely miss a signature Carpenter theme – it was by Harry Sukman, his penultimate work, the final being Salem’s Lot – and it really does feel very TV movie-ish.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

Somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun.

The Sound of Music (1965) (SPOILERS) One of the most successful movies ever made – and the most successful musical – The Sound of Music has earned probably quite enough unfiltered adulation over the years to drown out the dissenting voices, those that denounce it as an inveterately saccharine, hollow confection warranting no truck. It’s certainly true that there are impossibly nice and wholesome elements here, from Julie Andrews’ career-dooming stereotype governess to the seven sonorous children more than willing to dress up in old curtains and join her gallivanting troupe. Whether the consequence is something insidious in its infectious spirit is debatable, but I’ll admit that it manages to ensnare me. I don’t think I’d seen the movie in its entirety since I was a kid, and maybe that formativeness is a key brainwashing facet of its appeal, but it retains its essential lustre just the same.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.