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

Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

People still talk about Pandapocalypse 2002.

Turning Red (2022) (SPOILERS) Those wags at Pixar, eh? Yes, the most – actually, the only – impressive thing about Turning Red is the four-tiered wordplay of its title. Thirteen-year-old Mei (Rosalie Chiang) finds herself turning into a large red panda at emotive moments. She is also, simultaneously, riding the crimson wave for the first time. Further, as a teenager, she characteristically suffers from acute embarrassment (mostly due to the actions of her domineering mother Ming Lee, voiced by Sandra Oh). And finally, of course, Turning Red can be seen diligently spreading communist doctrine left, right and centre. To any political sensibility tuning in to Disney+, basically (so ones with either considerable or zero resistance to woke). Take a guess which of these isn’t getting press in reference to the movie? And by a process of elimination is probably what it it’s really about (you know in the same way most Pixars, as far back as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc . can be given an insi

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

Well, something’s broke on your daddy’s spaceship.

Apollo 13 (1995) (SPOILERS) The NASA propaganda movie to end all NASA propaganda movies. Their original conception of the perilous Apollo 13 mission deserves due credit in itself; what better way to bolster waning interest in slightly naff perambulations around a TV studio than to manufacture a crisis event, one emphasising the absurd fragility of the alleged non-terrestrial excursions and the indomitable force that is “science” in achieving them? Apollo 13 the lunar mission was tailor made for Apollo 13 the movie version – make believe the make-believe – and who could have been better to lead this fantasy ride than Guantanamo Hanks at his all-American popularity peak?

He's not in my pyjamas, is he?

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) (SPOILERS) By rights, Paul Mazursky’s swinging, post-flower-power-gen partner-swap movie ought to have aged terribly. So much of the era’s scene-specific fare has, particularly so when attempting to reflect its reverberations with any degree of serious intent. Perhaps it’s because Mazursky and co-writer Larry Tucker (also of The Monkees , Alex in Wonderland and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! ) maintain a wry distance from their characters’ endeavours, much more on the wavelength of Elliott Gould’s Ted than Robert Culp’s Bob; we know any pretensions towards uninhibited expression can’t end well, but we also know Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice have to learn the hard way.

We could be mauled to death by an interstellar monster!

Star Trek Beyond (2016) (SPOILERS) The odd/even Star Trek failure/success rule seemed to have been cancelled out with the first reboot movie, and then trodden into ground with Into Darkness (which, yes, I quite enjoyed, for all its scandalous deficiencies). Star Trek Beyond gets us back onto more familiar ground, as it’s very identifiably a “lesser” Trek , irrespective of the big bucks and directorial nous thrown at it. This is a Star Trek movie that can happily stand shoulder to shoulder with The Search for Spock and Insurrection , content in the knowledge they make it look good.

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998) An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar. Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins , and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch , in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whet

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.