PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


The X-Files: Season 10, Episode 6 - "My Struggle II"

J.M. Suarez

Season 10 of The X-Files was a true revival; it brought back much of what made the series so beloved as well as some of its weaknesses.

The X-Files

Airtime: Mondays, 8pm
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, William B. Davis, Robbie Amell, Lauren Ambrose, Annabeth Gish, Joel McHale
Subtitle: Season 10, Episode 6 - "My Struggle II"
Network: FOX
Air date: 2016-02-22
"I quickly came to understand Mulder’s work on the paranormal wasn’t such as I’d been led to believe, that the X-Files were worthy of Mulder’s investigations and of mine, that a world existed on the far fringes of accepted science, a world where a scientist would have her strongly held beliefs tested and retested. I would also come to fear that the institution I’d joined and invested with my trust was subject to the influence of dark forces outside the Bureau and sometimes within, forces threatened by Mulder’s work and increasingly mine."

-- Dana Scully's opening sequence voiceover

The final episode of The X-Files revival, "My Struggle II", serves as a companion to the first episode, "My Struggle". Told from Scully's (Gillian Anderson) point of view, as opposed to Mulder’s (David Duchovny) in "My Struggle", "My Struggle II" delves right back into the big conspiracy mythology Chris Carter favors. Unfortunately, the episode often feels more silly than serious, and is further proof that the show's larger mythology has only managed to bog the series down with its self-importance.

"My Struggle II" is also hampered by the amount of characters brought back for the episode. Agents Miller (Robbie Amell) and Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) both return to help Mulder and Scully, Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) continues to serve as the conspiracy theorist telling the truth, former Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) makes an especially well-timed appearance, and the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) is, as always, the ultimate Carter villain. There are too many people to follow and threads to unravel in one episode for it to be ultimately satisfying, particularly as it constantly shifts focus between them all.

Much of what weighed down the end of the series' original run was the over-reliance on the government conspiracy mythology, because it only grew more convoluted and difficult to follow as it went on. Certainly, Duchovny's departure and Anderson's lessened role didn’t help matters, but Carter's always valued the conspiracy theorizing to the point where he’s clearly emphasized plot over everything else.

Although this season has shown Scully as much more ready to believe in the supernatural and seemingly unexplained, her almost instant acceptance of the grand government plot to infect all Americans with the Spartan Virus through systematic smallpox vaccination, and her and Einstein’s subsequent theory that the alien DNA in her own sequence is what has made her immune, is ludicrous. Yes, at this point Scully has seen and experienced the unexplainable over and over again, yet the speed with which every plot point is revealed makes for a rushed, and eventually, an unbelievable story.

As the episode is told from Scully's point of view, it’s much heavier on the science side and the actual medical ramifications of alien DNA being implanted in humans. In fact, Carter consulted scientists to aid in the dialogue and believability of such an infection. Although the episode benefits from the obviously well-researched scientific hypothesizing, again, it’s all worked out too quickly for it to seem plausible. While Scully and Agent Einstein search for a cure, Mulder is beaten up (in an extended and well-choreographed fight sequence), and eventually tracks down the Cigarette Smoking Man. He offers Mulder the chance to be saved from the virus, but Mulder refuses and is eventually saved by Agent Miller.

In many ways, the Cigarette Smoking Man is at the center of the episode, even more than Mulder and Scully. He's the reason Reyes contacts Scully to tell her of their deal from a decade earlier that has saved her from the current epidemic. The flashbacks of a horrifically burned, and then a partially healed Cigarette Smoking Man, still asserting his power offer Davis the opportunity to play up his villainy with relish. He’s orchestrated the entire epidemic, even from a hospital bed. He's also chosen who will live, including Scully.

Davis' scenes with Duchovny straddle the line between monstrous and cartoonish. In one scene, the Cigarette Smoking Man removes the lifelike mask that covers half of his damaged face (Mulder laughs and says "I wish Scully was here".) and it's both gruesome and ridiculous. Later, Carter subtly makes reference to the show’s past when Mulder tells the Cigarette Smoking Man that all his insane explanations are merely the "musings of a monster". It’s a wonderful callback to "Musings of the Cigarette Smoking Man" from season 4, an episode that linked him to assassinations and alien conspiracies since the '60s, but still left some ambiguity to their truth.

"My Struggle II" eventually ends with Scully using the alien DNA in her own sequence to create a cure, but by the time she reaches Mulder and Agent Miller (in a scene that seems straight out of a disaster movie) Mulder's too far gone for the treatment to work. He needs stem cell treatment that can only come from their son, William. As she reveals this to Agent Miller, an alien spacecraft looms overhead and again, the camera zooms into Scully’s eye just as it did at the start of the episode. It's a terrifically cinematic device that works to link Scully's perspective from the beginning to the end of the episode. Unsurprisingly, the season ends on a cliffhanger.

Six episodes, and the tenth season of The X-Files has come to an end. A true revival, it brought back much of what made the series so beloved; it also showed some of its weaknesses. Even when it wasn't at its best ("My Struggle" and "My Struggle II"), the series still managed to include enough of what made The X-Files such a phenomenon the first time around. Perhaps most importantly, the revival has always felt like The X-Files. Part of accomplishing that daunting task was the number of original cast and writers that stepped in to continue the story, but also Mark Snow's unmistakable score, and the many smart and clever references to past episodes.

The revival can also add at least one excellent new episode (“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster”) to the list of classic ones from the original run. It seems impossible that the show wouldn't return for another season at this point, but regardless of its future life, The X-Files revival has reinvigorated the series in both familiar and unexpected ways.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.