Skip to main content

The aliens are not coming, just so you know.

The X-Files
11.1: My Struggle III

(SPOILERS) Good grief. Have things become so terminal for Chris Carter that he has to retcon his own crap from the previous season, rather than the (what he perceived as) crap written by others? Carter, of course, infamously pretended the apocalyptic ending of Millennium Season Two never happened, upset by the path Glen Morgan and James Wong, left to their own devices, took with his baby. Their episode was one of the greats of that often-ho-hum series, so the comedown was all the unkinder as a result. In My Struggle III, at least, Carter’s rewriting something that wasn’t very good in the first place. Only, he replaces it with something that is even worse in the second.


So Scully wakes up in hospital, and everything we saw in My Struggle II was a foretelling at best. Or just a dream, like that season of Dallas, only she isn’t in the shower and now not enough people are watching to give a shit. And Mulder, as is inevitable with these unimaginative Carter envisionings, must turn sceptic when Scully turns prophetic (we had the same thing when they introduced disbelieving Doggett).


Scully has very little to do but lie in bed, and God knows she’s done enough of that during the series, while Mulder eventually races off to find CSM, accompanied by a ridiculously apathetic – even by Carter’s standards – voice over (“I was running only on adrenaline and Scully’s premonitions”). Mind you, he isn’t any worse off than Dana, who is experiencing some pretty Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place-standard medical care (“Neurologically speaking, her brain’s on fire”), and is somehow able to transmit a message in Morse Code while comatose.


Carter’s always been all over the place as a director, but here he’s as borderline incoherent as his teleplay. Nothing hangs together, and his instinct to rake over the coals of long dead embers of X-lore and characters elicits no sparks whatsoever. The best I can say is that Chris Owens (Spender) has aged more interestingly than Duchovny, who between finishing up Californication and taking on this new run has become a cross between Walter Matthau and Bob Mortimer, such that he seems to be uncomfortably squeezed into his traditional FBI suit. I suppose you could regard his graphically slitting the throat of Scully’s would-be assassin as something different, but by this point in the episode, no tonal aberration on Carter’s part really surprised me.


Besides Spender, who was never very interesting in the first place and for some reason seems to have been entrusted by our intrepid duo, we have William, their son, one of the least productive elements of the ailing later stage arcs of the original run, who rather than being Fox’s son is revealed as the product of Scully being artificially impregnated by his dirty old dad (during En Ami, it seems). What’s the betting we find this wasn’t so at all by the end of the season? Or at the start of the next. Is there a less called for returnee than CSM? I felt he was past his expiry date around the point he had an episode devoted to his memories (and that was only Season 4), and Carter’s really flogging a dead horse here, making him the Big Bad again and in so doing shrinking the size and potential of the X-universe irreparably. Do something new, for goodness sake. His mere invocation is a surrender to the absence of the creative impulse.


Poor old Skinner, meanwhile, would actually be a welcome presence if they gave him something to do, other than be on the receiving end of the umpteenth unnecessary string of accusations from Mulder (“Whose side are you on?!”)


Is there anything good to be said about My Struggle III? The one great coup of is the faked Moon landing pullback one-shot in a TV studio. There’s also more from the Georgia Guidestones by inference (although none of that happened now, or yet), and mention of a secret space programme, one of the more buzzed about assertions of conspiracy lore these days. Oh, and CSM clears up that the aliens aren’t coming anymore, because it’s all a bit of a lost cause down here. Why, precisely? I think it must be Trump – everything suddenly is, after all – if Carter’s hilarious incontinent opening montage is anything to go by. Who knew the X-world had only suddenly turned to shit, when in fact its covert shitness had been the series’ theme all along? But Carter’s always been at his worst when trying to be political/topical. We’re told at one point that Mulder doesn’t want to believe. With an episode this pitiful, who can blame him?


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How would Horatio Alger have handled this situation?

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) (SPOILERS) Gilliam’s last great movie – The Zero Theorem (2013) is definitely underrated, but I don’t think it’s that underrated – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas could easily have been too much. At times it is, but in such instances, intentionally so. The combination of a visual stylist and Hunter S Thompson’s embellished, propulsive turn of phrase turns out, for the most part, to be a cosmically aligned affair, embracing the anarchic abandon of Raoul Duke and Doctor Gonzo’s Las Vegas debauch while contriving to pull back at crucial junctures in order to engender a perspective on all this hedonism. Would Alex Cox, who exited stage left, making way for the Python, have produced something interesting? I suspect, ironically, he would have diluted Thompson in favour of whatever commentary preoccupied him at the time (indeed, Johnny Depp said as much: “ Cox had this great material to work with and he took it and he added his own stuff to it ”). Plus

No matter how innocent you are, or how hard you try, they’ll find you guilty.

The Wrong Man (1956) (SPOILERS) I hate to say it, but old Truffaut called it right on this one. More often than not showing obeisance to the might of Hitchcock during his career-spanning interview, the French critic turned director was surprisingly blunt when it came to The Wrong Man . He told Hitch “ your style, which has found its perfection in the fiction area, happens to be in total conflict with the aesthetics of the documentary and that contradiction is apparent throughout the picture ”. There’s also another, connected issue with this, one Hitch acknowledged: too much fidelity to the true story upon which the film is based.

He’s so persistent! He always gets his man.

Speed (1994) (SPOILERS) It must have been a couple of decades since I last viewed Speed all the way through, so it’s pleasing to confirm that it holds up. Sure, Jan de Bont’s debut as a director can’t compete with the work of John McTiernan, for whom he acted as cinematographer and who recommended de Bont when he passed on the picture, but he nevertheless does a more than competent work. Which makes his later turkeys all the more tragic. And Keanu and Sandra Bullock display the kind of effortless chemistry you can’t put a price tag on. And then there’s Dennis Hopper, having a great old sober-but-still-looning time.

But everything is wonderful. We are in Paris.

Cold War (2018) (SPOILERS) Pawel Pawlikowski’s elliptical tale – you can’t discuss Cold War without saying “elliptical” at least once – of frustrated love charts a course that almost seems to be a caricature of a certain brand of self-congratulatorily tragic European cinema. It was, it seems “ loosely inspired ” by his parents (I suspect I see where the looseness comes in), but there’s a sense of calculation to the progression of this love story against an inescapable political backdrop that rather diminishes it.

You were a few blocks away? What’d you see it with, a telescope?

The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) (SPOILERS) John Carpenter’s first serial-killer screenplay to get made, The Eyes of Laura Mars came out nearly three months before Halloween. You know, the movie that made the director’s name. And then some. He wasn’t best pleased with the results of The Eyes of Laura Mars, which ended up co-credited to David Zelag Goodman ( Straw Dogs , Logan’s Run ) as part of an attempt by producer Jon Peters to manufacture a star vehicle for then-belle Barbra Streisand: “ The original script was very good, I thought. But it got shat upon ”. Which isn’t sour grapes on Carpenter’s part. The finished movie bears ready evidence of such tampering, not least in the reveal of the killer (different in Carpenter’s conception). Its best features are the so-uncleanly-you-can-taste-it 70s New York milieu and the guest cast, but even as an early example of the sub-genre, it’s burdened by all the failings inherit with this kind of fare.

To survive a war, you gotta become war.

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) (SPOILERS?) I’d like to say it’s mystifying that a film so bereft of merit as Rambo: First Blood Part II could have finished up the second biggest hit of 1985. It wouldn’t be as bad if it was, at minimum, a solid action movie, rather than an interminable bore. But the movie struck a chord somewhere, somehow. As much as the most successful picture of that year, Back to the Future , could be seen to suggest moviegoers do actually have really good taste, Rambo rather sends a message about how extensively regressive themes were embedding themselves in Reaganite, conservative ‘80s cinema (to be fair, this is something one can also read into Back to the Future ), be those ones of ill-conceived nostalgia or simple-minded jingoism, notional superiority and might. The difference between Stallone and Arnie movies starts right here; self-awareness. Audiences may have watched R ambo in the same way they would a Schwarzenegger picture, but I’m

The game is rigged, and it does not reward people who play by the rules.

Hustlers (2019) (SPOILERS) Sold as a female Goodfellas – to the extent that the producers had Scorsese in mind – this strippers-and-crime tale is actually a big, glossy puff piece, closer to Todd Phillips as fashioned by Lorene Scarfia. There are some attractive performances in Hustlers, notably from Constance Wu, but for all its “progressive” women work male objectification to their advantage posturing, it’s incredibly traditional and conservative deep down.

What do they do, sing madrigals?

The Singing Detective (2003) Icon’s remake of the 1986 BBC serial, from a screenplay by Dennis Potter himself. The Singing Detective fares less well than Icon’s later adaptation of Edge of Darkness , even though it’s probably more faithful to Potter’s original. Perhaps the fault lies in the compression of six episodes into a feature running a quarter of that time, but the noir fantasy and childhood flashbacks fail to engage, and if the hospital reality scans better, it too suffers eventually.

One final thing I have to do, and then I’ll be free of the past.

Vertigo (1958) (SPOILERS) I’ll readily admit my Hitchcock tastes broadly tend to reflect the “consensus”, but Vertigo is one where I break ranks. To a degree. Not that I think it’s in any way a bad film, but I respect it rather than truly rate it. Certainly, I can’t get on board with Sight & Sound enthroning it as the best film ever made (in its 2012’s critics poll). That said, from a technical point of view, it is probably Hitch’s peak moment. And in that regard, certainly counts as one of his few colour pictures that can be placed alongside his black and white ones. It’s also clearly a personal undertaking, a medley of his voyeuristic obsessions (based on D’entre les morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac).

You don’t know anything about this man, and he knows everything about you.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s two-decades-later remake of his British original. It’s undoubtedly the better-known version, but as I noted in my review of the 1934 film, it is very far from the “ far superior ” production Truffaut tried to sell the director on during their interviews. Hitchcock would only be drawn – in typically quotable style – that “ the first version is the work of a talented amateur and the second was made by a professional ”. For which, read a young, creatively fired director versus one clinically going through the motions, occasionally inspired by a shot or sequence but mostly lacking the will or drive that made the first The Man Who Knew Too Much such a pleasure from beginning to end.