Let’s get real, X-Philes: I’ve been waiting to write this review for a long time… Actually, younger me would be stoked by the fact that there could even be a chance of new X-Files episodes to review. We as a community have fought hard for new stories - whether it was a movie or a series - and now we get to celebrate that it’s finally happening.
We had the fantastic treat to watch “My Struggle” during NYCC ‘15 back in October with a crowd that made the floors vibrate with nervous energy. It was a surreal experience that right off the bat left me wanting to immediately hit replay. Since then, I’ve had the chance to rewatch in a few different opportunities - at different events - with cast and crew and fans, with 250 “serious people,” and then with 400 amazing fans. We’ve watched in private, and in even more private, we’ve discussed it with other reviewers, bloggers and entertainment professionals. Talking about “My Struggle” has become a daily thing for me in one way or another, for many reasons, and it seems surreal. But this is in no way to make it seem like I’m bragging, I actually think my level of excitement about writing this review can be compared to my level of hesitation.
There’s a lot of investment - emotional, financial, and otherwise - put into this revival from everyone involved. At the same time, I’ve wondered just how important or relevant my review would be to anyone outside of this fandom. And it’s with a fair level of mental exercise that I get to say for the first time: I reviewed a new X-Files episode… or two.
I don’t think I have to remind you that from now on you will encounter spoilers in this article, so turn around if you’d like to stay pristine until it premieres on your local station.
Click after the jump for our Recap & Review of “My Struggle”.
The episode starts with the montage that has been released by FOX. Fox Mulder narrates what his life was before, during and beyond the X-Files days, citing the events confirming UFO phenomena - from official and unofficial sources and establishments - that laid the groundwork for his obsessive beliefs. Now, he finds himself questioning the nature and veracity of them. And then we witness the crash of an UFO.
After the original titles roll, with the addition of Mitch Pileggi this time around, we land in the High Desert of New Mexico, 1947. A mysterious Man in Black (Gardiner Millar - The 100) rides an Army bus with a fidgety military doctor (Giacomo Baessato - Wayward Pines). They arrive at a spectacular UFO crash site and the doctor steps out in awe. The craft stands, half buried and destroyed, while military crews work to clear the area.
Cut to Scully; still working at Our Lady of Sorrows, she’s now branched into pediatric surgery and assists doctors to correct genetic deformities. Nurse Sandeep (Aliza Vellani - Mistresses) announces that Skinner is on the phone.
Mulder has been holed up at his home watching humorous conspiracy videos on his laptop; this time around it was Obama on Jimmy Kimmel. We all know he’s an X-Phile. Mulder grumbles to Scully through the phone about how their lives have become a joke. Skinner had to reach out to Mulder through Scully because he has isolated himself. The AD wants to know if he has seen the work of Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale - Community) on the net. Mulder immediately thinks that the guy is a joke, checking up on his via the web, we find out why:
We watch as O’Malley goes on to say that 9/11 was a hoax and a setup for WW3, going back all the way to the Roswell crash, and other various conspiracy theories, which has Mulder scoffing and questioning why Scully is opening this door again. Mulder says these beliefs were a “strangle hold put on her very existence.” But she’s just the messenger for Skinner and Tad wants to meet. Mulder agrees, but he won’t do it without her.
Mulder and Scully meet in Downtown Washington. He’s hitchhiked or Ubered - depending on who you believe - to their meeting. She worries about his ways, but he assures her that he’s taking care of himself. She wants him to get out of the house and he counters with just how much good it did for her to get out of that house. Oh, snap. She doesn’t bite. She’s always happy to see him and he’s always happy to find a reason to see her. Be still my heart.
Tad O’Malley arrives in a limo, rapidly approaching them and introducing himself to Fox Mulder and former agent Dana Scully. She’s not buying into his ostentatious ways and Mulder jokes about how she’s shot men for less provocation than that. She smiles, the complicity is there. O’Malley invites them to ride with him as he’s paranoid they will be spied upon. Mulder and Scully are already rolling eyes at this.
Inside the limo, Tad starts showing off and hitting all the wrong buttons by offering drinks and calling Scully by her first name. Mulder feels claustrophobic but the windows won’t go down as Tad has made the car bullet proof. This triggers a slew of Mulder!Snark that Scully feels she has to apologize for.
Tad has been going after the UFO phenomena himself and that’s why he sought them out, but Mulder clarifies that while he was part of the X-Files, he just wanted to believe. Scully adds that the X-Files are closed and they’ve moved on with their lives, “for better or for worse” - a phrase that Mulder repeats suspiciously.
Mulder doesn’t believe in O’Malley, calling his bluff and doubting just how genuinely he is a believer and accusing him of doing this for ratings for his show, comparing him with Bill O’Reilly. So he tests his conspiracy knowledge and surprisingly enough, Tad passes. Tad needs his expertise because he’s rattling big cages in the intelligence community, preparing to blow up the biggest evil conspiracy. He needs their background to verify that he’s not resting his case on shaky facts and he has something and someone to show them.
O’Malley takes them to see Sveta (Annet Mahendru - The Americans) - According to her, Mulder had interviewed her family when she was a child about her abductions and that’s why she suggested Tad contact him. But Mulder doesn’t remember her. She’s had multiple events, multiple fetuses taken out of her body, multiple scoop marks on her abdomen, and every time they tried to erase her memories. They being the aliens. While Mulder and Scully question her about her experiences, O’Malley is very involved in the narration, making Mulder suspicious that he’s leading her. Sveta claims that she has “Alien DNA, for sure.” - I'll be making fun of this line for eternity. They agree for Scully to examine her and see to this claim.
It’s night time back in 1947, and the troops detect a dark trail of blood on the ground. The MIB and the doctor follow the armed men and find a hurt alien crawling on the dirt. The doc is in awe but the MIB doesn’t give it a chance and shoots it, despite the medic’s horror. The troops follow suit and the doctor screams for them to stop, all to no avail.
Back in the present, Scully examines Sveta at Lady of Sorrows. The young woman knows that Scully is doubtful about her story, because she’s “kind of a mind reader” and can move things with her mind. This evolves in a very telling scene as Scully challenges the nature of her abilities and even when Sveta claims that she can’t quite control them, she takes a stab at it. She knows that Mulder and Scully were a couple and that they separated because she diagnosed him with endogenous depression, and that they had a child together. This rattles Scully, maybe not something you want to do as the woman is about to stab your vein for a sample. The two women challenge each other; Scully is not buying it and Sveta grows anxious and desperate, claiming that she doesn’t know what is it like to be abducted, taken against her will and experimented upon. Scully then looks at her, challenging, with which I honestly feel is the scariest and most amazing look I’ve ever seen on Gillian Anderson. Sveta backs away. Scully knows exactly what she means.
Tad shows up at Mulder’s home in a helicopter, not quite helping the image that conspiracies have made him a very rich man, which is not the case for Mulder. Whatever happened with all that money the fanfic writers always say he inherited?! Tad warns him that the men they’re about to visit are highly paranoid about the work they do.
Mulder arrives, hooded, at this secret location. A huge complex that houses a Faraday cage holding an ARV or Alien Replica Vehicle. Garner is in charge of this operation. Mulder is already upbeat about this as the man walks him through “the Science”, as Tad puts it; the scientist seems surprised that Mulder has never seen one before. They’re showing this to him at great risk; they’ve been hunted by the government and had their labs destroyed. As Mulder steps into the cage, bracing himself for what’s to come, he can’t help but grin like a little kid as the ship starts to levitate under his touch. The craft hovers, running on Zero-Point energy, or “the energy of the universe” - a free energy that’s been available, but the world has remained slave to the oil industry all of this time. But that’s not all, the ship can also do a gravity warp drive thanks to element 150 that they retrieved from the UFO crash.
Back in 1947, the Doctor picks up the body of the alien and the MIB questions why he bothers, but the doctor questions him as well, asking him, if not, why bring him all the way to the crash site.
At Lady of Sorrows, Scully is drawing her own blood when Tad O’Malley comes in, surprising her and suggesting that she’s testing herself for alien DNA. She dismisses him, claiming that she’s just testing for high cholesterol. He’s trying for empathy, commenting on how tired she looks, but this is the usual for Dana Scully. He peeks around the OR, noticing the pictures of her patients. They’re born with a disease called Microtia, children born without ears. She assists the surgeons who are “doing god’s work”.
The disease is apparently more common in Navajo indians but they can’t pinpoint that it is an exclusive genetic issue just yet. She dismisses Tad’s comment of how much it makes them look like aliens - it’s just a coincidence - and far from the work she used to do in the X-Files. He wants to know if she misses it and she admits that as a scientist it was some of the most challenging works she’s ever done; she never felt so alive. But what about working with Mulder? “Possibly one of the most intense and challenging relationships I’ll ever have… and quite possibly one of the most impossible.”
Tad clarifies that he came to her because he wanted to make sure that she was alright with Mulder having put her on the spot and having her examine Sveta. Scully is fine about this, she’s used to it… but then he confesses that he just wanted to see her again. Scully turns around like… “Excuse me!?” and so do we all. Now everyone sit down and stop throwing things at the TV.
Meanwhile, Mulder went and took a stroll to Sveta’s house in the middle of the night to have a one-on-one conversation with the girl without O’Malley’s intervention. His suspicions were right, there’s more to her story. She doesn’t quite believe that the aliens took her babies; these experiences have destroyed her life and she’s afraid it only gets worse. She actually believes men have taken them, abducting her, and she was afraid for her life if she told the truth. She couldn’t trust anyone, not even Mulder because he worked for the government once. He pleads with her to trust him now that he doesn’t, and she asks him if he didn’t wonder if they were lying to him as well.
Cut to Mulder calling Scully’s cell. She picks up the phone, in the back seat of a car, and Mulder is already on a rant about how everyone has been misleading them in regards to the alien conspiracy. So Scully asks to pull over… because she’s in a limo with Tad O’Malley, and as she grows more anxious about Mulder’s tirade, Tad tries to comfort her putting a hand to her shoulder… someone hold me back. Mulder thinks he knows why O’Malley came to them: Sveta is the key. He proceeds to tell her that he’ll have to call her back and performs his signature Mulder!Ditch™. Why must you? Why?
Mulder has gone to Skinner; they’re both at the empty and sad looking former X-Files basement. At least the pencils remain stuck in the ceiling tiles. But where are his files? Skinner doesn’t even know; he claims that they hadn’t been touched for thirteen years since they left the FBI. Mulder is bent on having access to them but Skinner wants to know why all of a sudden Mulder is back on this. He is wound up by his theory that “they” have been “controlling the past to control the future, science-fiction masquerading as fact”, he claims that Skinner owes him some answers but Skinner doesn’t bite and tells him to calm down before they both get pissed off. This was a brilliant improvisation by Mitch Pileggi.
He makes it clear that he doesn’t take orders from Mulder, and the former agent wants to know who Skinner’s boss is. Mulder should know better; the AD calls out to him, he brought him in for a reason, and he looks out for him as he always have. As Mulder commits the sacrilege of ripping the “I Want To Believe” poster, he claims that he was just being led to a dead end during the decade he dedicated to the X-Files and he blames himself for it; they surely lied to Skinner as well in the process. His former boss rebukes, arguing that there wasn’t a single moment that he didn’t wish he could just reach out to him to bring him back, especially since 9/11 and how things have taken a turn. “They police us, they spy on us, they tell us it makes us safer,” Mulder comments, “but we’ve never been in more danger.” Skinner wants him to do something about it; Mulder calls his cell phone. Now Skinner has his number.
Tad O’Malley is broadcasting his show as usual, some paranoid rant about the Americans’ right to bear arms and how the government is out to get you in the likely imposition of Martial Law. He then makes a swift switch of gears to talk about the work that “his friend” Dana Scully is doing. At Lady of Sorrows, she’s silently judging Tad’s motivations when the nurse comes in with the results of Sveta’s and her blood tests. Scully has her run the tests again, while advising her as she walks into surgery that she’s waiting on a call from Mulder.
Mulder’s at the National Mall in Washington, DC, waiting for a contact. It’s the medic from 1947, obviously aged, and now played by Rance Howard, Ron Howard’s father. The guy is as paranoid as it comes. He asked Mulder to only contact him if he’d found proof; Mulder thinks he has but the man doubts he’s gone far enough, almost making fun of and dismissing him as he recalls how the incidents with aliens lighting each other on fire and so on were proof for Mulder. Mulder defends himself, saying that he was being manipulated, but now he’s seen an ARV. He’s sure that the technology from it is being used to experiment on humans and is being misreported as alien abductions.
Mulder knows how this operation is being carried out but the old doctor claims that the motivations will be a lot more complicated to explain. Sixty years ago the world was warned about the military industrial complex gathering too much power; according to Mulder the countdown began in 2012 and no one was aware of it. Alien technology is being used against humanity by men, without any assistance from extraterrestrials. He wants to know why are they testing on humans, especially since the doctor was the one to come to Mulder ten years ago in a bid to get him to guard the secrets he couldn’t take to his grave.
The old man defends himself; he didn’t know how his work would be used, and the lies are so great that the truth must be protected. Mulder wants him to come out with it, but his informant fears that these men wouldn’t hesitate to make a mockery out of them and put a bullet in him over it. Mulder’s nearly there, according to his informant, and before he parts ways he lets him know that Roswell was a smokescreen.
Later that night, Scully goes to Mulder’s house. She’s tried to get a hold of him since his phone call but he hasn’t responded to her and she’s obviously distraught. He claims that he’s figured it out, how they’ve been deceived all these years, but Scully is at a loss. He didn’t want to call her because he knows she’d think he’s crazy and worry about him, and indeed she would. That’s why she made it to his house. But he won’t let go of his argument, forcing her to listen to him regardless of how alarmed she is about him, and his tendency to believe that he can save the world when most likely he’ll only end up damaging himself. This is his life; he claims he believes even when Scully challenges him on it. He’s convinced that Tad O’Malley is right in thinking that this is a conspiracy of men. But Scully sees through the man; she knows he’s just a snake charmer and she doesn’t trust him. She can’t believe Mulder believes in his arguments, and that Tad will be the one to unveil this whole conspiracy. Scully tries one last time, “as his friend and as his physician,” he’s walking a dangerous ground. But he’s stern dismissing her, “He knows what he’s doing.” As Scully is about to try to object, Sveta comes out to the porch to check if everyone is alright. Scully is not happy about her presence, she’s not happy that he’s putting the girl’s arguments before hers.
She starts to leave, obviously hurt, when Tad arrives. She’s definitely not in the mood to deal with him. They’re having a meeting at Mulder’s place and O’Malley doesn’t know why she wasn’t invited. Mulder didn’t think she would have come. Still, trying to hold back her frustration, she questions his plans.
According to Mulder’s theory it wasn’t until the onset of the Cold War and the success had in Japan and Europe that the conditions were set for the execution of the plan. A conspiracy bigger and more secret than the Manhattan Project. Fresh out of the defeat of the Nazis, a new threat had started to appear because of a new extinction threat surfacing: the H bomb. The explosions were drawing alien forces to Earth, traveling through space using electro-gravidic propulsion. Advanced extraterrestrial species were visiting us, concerned for mankind and the threat of its destruction, trying to prevent it and sacrificing themselves in the process. So… now the aliens are good? World leaders signed off on analyzing and experimenting with the Alien technology found in these crashes and events. Tests were done on humans by staging abductions that were credited to extraterrestrials, including the creation of hybrids through gene manipulation and implantation of alien embryos.
Sveta is appalled and questions why the government would do such a thing, but Mulder is convinced that they lied as a matter of policy. They’ve been doing it even before they had the ability to deal with this technology. The big question is what are they trying to do with these tests. O’Malley just thinks that they’ve been hoarding and using this technology for seventy years at the expense of human life and the future of the planet, driven by greed and dark motivations. As Mulder claims, the takeover of America.
As Scully remains hesitant and skeptical as ever, Tad takes it even further. They’re planning on taking over the world by a systematic campaign rooted in chaos, violence and fear, supported by various technological means, political strategies and crisis provoked by wars that would ultimately enslave American citizens because of the establishment of priorities. The constitution would be violated in the name of national security, militarization of civil forces would happen, including the creation of camps sponsored and administered by FEMA. Corporations would enforce control gradually by triggering the population’s tendency for consumerism, overwhelming it with restrictions over food, pharmaceuticals, facilitating the advent of unhealthy conditions that would distract and cripple the ability of citizens to be aware of brewing situations. These are all smokescreens. The government spies without impunity, prepared to use that data when it finally strikes and the takeover begins, when America will be controlled by a ruthless group of elites.
“It will probably start on a Friday. The banks will announce a security action necessitating their computers to go off all weekend,” Tad explains. Mulder adds that digital money would disappear, much to Sveta’s surprise. Electromagnetic bombs would be detonated, knocking out grids, making it seem like an attack on the country by foreign forces or terrorists, possibly even aliens, but orchestrated by this coalition that would use Alien Replica Vehicles to convince the population.
Scully is appalled. She can’t believe they’re willing to go out and claim that this is what’s happening but Tad is determined to come out with it on his show. Scully has had it, she thinks this is fear mongering and techno paranoia, “so bogus, and dangerous and stupid that it borders on treason.” She thinks that everyone is being irresponsible if they move forward in exposing this, but the rest don’t see it that way, “especially if it’s the truth,” Sveta claims. But Scully turns around on this and delivers this piece of news: the tests that came back originally didn’t find any sign of an anomaly or alien DNA in Sveta. And with that, challenging and rattling something they held as proof of their theory, Scully leaves.
The next day, she prepares for yet another surgery. She can’t help herself and logs on to the internet to check on Tad’s broadcast. He reveals that even though he’d promised to deliver the truth that day, his plans had been stalled as Sveta has turned on them and went to the media to claim that he manipulated her to create stories about alien abductions. Mulder checks the broadcast as well; he’s convinced the government got to her. Back at Lady of Sorrows, the results of the re-test that Scully ordered have arrived.
Mulder goes looking for Sveta but she has fled. Armed men arrive at the complex holding the ARV, kill the scientists and blow up the ship. All is going to hell. When Scully finishes her surgery, she checks again on Tad’s website. The site is unavailable.
Scully walks into the hospital’s parking structure, and as she approaches her car she spots a scribble on her read window: “Don’t Give Up.” Mulder emerges from the shadows, reciting the Venus Syndrome and how the global warming scenario leads humanity to the brink of the sixth extinction. Those with means will be able to leave the planet, the rest will perish if they haven’t been exterminated by the fascist elites, “if you believe in that kind of thing…” Mulder humors.
The events of the day weigh on him. Scully informs him that Tad O’Malley’s show is offline and Mulder reminds her that the government is good at this. Sveta has fled, and Scully urges that they need to protect her. She’s run the test again, sequencing her entire genome because she didn’t trust the initial results. So, does Sveta have alien DNA? Mulder wants to know. She then tells him that she also sequenced her own genome because of her history and because they have a child together… please, someone hold me because Gillian Anderson does things with her face that I just.can’t.process. Scully confesses that Sveta is not the only one with alien DNA and someone has to put a stop to this.
At that moment they both get a text message from Skinner: “Situation Critical. Need to see you both ASAP.”
“Scully, are you ready for this?” He asks. She looks at him, emotional but determined. Her face makes me grab onto things ‘cause it hurts. “I don’t know there’s a choice.” Mulder nods. They’re back in this.
On a lonely road, Sveta drives in the middle of the night when her car dies. A green beam from above hits her arm and she starts growing desperate, trying to get out of the car, but the beam powers up too soon, the doors are locked, and the car explodes.
In a dark sitting room in front of a fire, a mysterious man talks on the phone. The camera circles around to reveal a badly burnt CSM. He hangs up. They have a small problem, he claims. A woman approaches, we can’t see her face but she puts a cigarette to his tracheostomy tube. “They’ve reopened the X-Files,” He says as he sinisterly blows the smoke out of the vent.
I’ve made a conscious effort for a while to not put too much thought into the reviews that have come out in these previous weeks about “My Struggle” and for a variety of reasons. One was the fact that every other “review” was not quite a review; we found ourselves reading two dozen articles that were about how three reviewers hadn’t agreed with this first episode. Many of the critics admitted to never having seen the show, or never understanding the mythology. And then there was the fact that many went in expecting a set idea of what the show should be, criticizing a variety of things like the new take on the conspiracy. Then they switched to jumping between saying that Gillian Anderson didn’t deliver, or on the contrary, praising her chops while putting David Duchovny’s down.
My biggest criticism in regards to them is the little time that so many put into sitting down and creating a fresh, original review backed by their own, personal, informed opinions when this project has taken so much time to come to fruition and so much anticipation has been built.
Having said that, here is my own opinion:
The tenth season premiere of The X-Files brings us to the lives of Mulder and Scully, today. I thoroughly enjoyed the take on separating them, despite even my own resistance to the idea when it was announced that they wouldn’t be a couple in the revival.
I think it’s a real situation, these are people that have been tortured beyond belief, both physically and psychologically, leaving scars that are quite noticeable. It isn’t just about Mulder’s depression, or his mounting paranoia, it’s also about Scully’s fears, her self-deprecating attitude when it comes to the actions she took to protect their son, her tendency to bottle up her feelings, and the fact that this road has been long and has taken a gigantic toll on their lives. It’s a load heavy enough to feed traumas even when not spoken and walked over, and even pretending that she’s the strongest woman we’d all love to be, Scully carries a deep hurt about so many aspects of her life with Mulder. It’s enough to make anyone run for the hills.
Why can’t they be together? When they’ve gotten over so many obstacles and hurt... together? I think it goes back to psychology. When one member of this partnership isn’t at its best, and the other’s fears are being triggered by the other’s situation, they’d just be spiraling down into a very unhealthy relationship. A destructive one. So maybe this separation was actually for the best, so that they didn’t push each other to a point of no return, and right now we’re walking into their reconciliation… the way that Mulder and Scully do it best, working together.
Yes, I want them together, but I also want these characters to be realistic - as much realism as The X-Files can bring, considering. The faster that we realize that these characters are not superheroes, but actually red blooded entities with weaknesses and strengths just like any of us - sans, you know, the alien DNA - the easier their stories and struggles become to digest, all the more heartbreaking and real.
Story-wise, this first episode was interesting. Carter has given a new spin to the conspiracy that while many might criticize because it doesn’t clear the board of the previous system to take on these new additions, it does update it to what today’s threats are, perhaps making it more realistic and easier to digest once you understand his proposal. But this is where my main criticism comes about this episode.
I wished that “My Struggle” had been an hour and a half of television. Not because I needed to see more of Mulder and Scully, but because I needed more breathing room in between key moments of the conspiracy build up to process it. It’s a lot to take in, transitioning from what we believed was the master plan of the syndicate, to a new step into a conspiracy that gets explained so fast that we almost miss the steps that make it so colossal.
Many things have occurred since the show ended; 9/11 happened, setting the world onto a path that has brought several wars and led to global unrest. Now more than ever each action that governments take have a bigger impact on the day to day of people everywhere. We are more aware, more informed or misinformed, depending on how you take it, and this makes a difference. Right now, we’re sitting at a similar moment to when The X-Files started; there’s more mistrust placed on our leaders, on our way of life, on the power we’ve allowed corporations to have, on all the entities and things that we have yet to understand but have actually accepted as a possibility.
This is the world where The X-Files exists today.
As a first episode, it feels like a new episode of a new show. Anderson and Duchovny are still landing into their roles, with some scenes seeming more comfortable than others. I, as a fan, can tell that in an ideal world I would have loved for them to have had more time to get accustomed to being inside Mulder and Scully before tackling scenes that carry such weight. In some segments, it feels like other characters that they’ve been playing during the last eight years might be seeping in a bit. But perhaps this is needed to also establish how they have evolved how they’ve changed and become the Mulder and Scully we are meeting fresh in 2016.
My favorite scene between the two is what I’ve began calling the “Don’t give up” scene because of that scribble on Scully’s rear window. Aside from the obvious attachment to the motto that all of us Philes have thanks to Frank Spotnitz. This is also the spirit that Chris Carter and these characters have carried throughout their entire battle. This is what the scene is about; it’s telling it’s intimate both Anderson and Duchovny are at ease in their characters and every detail is addressed in a way that makes me feel like a progression has been made. It reminded me of the infamous hallway scenes we’re so used to from the original run.
Mitch Pileggi comes back with a bang. Even though we only get one scene with him this is one of my favorites of the episode. Skinner has always been a solemn cheerleader for our heroes but that doesn’t mean that he takes all the blows. I’m craving to know everything about Skinner’s own struggle while remaining in the FBI even though we most likely won’t get to see it. I loved how there was a subtlety to their exchange how the man keeps reminding Mulder to keep his accusations in check and even when being challenged he manages to keep the upper hand and his authority. I still need my Skinner spin-off.
I found myself very surprised by Joel McHale’s performance; being used to his comedic side and actually being a fan of it his serious take on Tad O’Malley is refreshing and creates the discomfort that he’s meant to bring to the table. The use of his character to create tension between Mulder and Scully is played differently than your regular love “interest” in any other show might have been played. Even when he seems to be creating jealousy in Mulder he manages to trigger a sense of protectiveness in Scully that thwarts any possibility of this becoming a thing. She resents him for coming into their life he feels like a nuisance to Scully and becomes a distrusted source for Mulder. So I’m curious to see where this is going.
I wish I could say the same about Mahendru’s character. I really enjoyed her work on The Americans but I couldn’t get past her performance as Sveta. Of the whole episode one of her best scenes is her interaction with Scully as she examines her: it spoke of her character even a quirkiness when tackling what she’s suffered through an informative moment extending on her abilities as an abductee but we stopped there. I needed her character to be fleshed out a lot more than it was; what did she do all these years between her child years and now? How old is she? What does she do for a living? Does she have friends? We only get to see the barely there glimpses into her life that aren’t enough to make her a multidimensional character like was achieved with O’Malley. This was important to me because I really couldn’t connect with her enough to feel for her when the manure hit the fan.
On the technical side the film geek in me wishes this show continued to be shot on film. Joel Ransom does a great job with the cinematography but there’s a certain organic look and feel that was part of the greatness of the show that’s missing in certain hospital shots. He greatly makes up for it with his work with Carter to bring to life the grandeur of the imagery of the 1947 UFO crash and the ARV scenes to name a few.
Mark Freeborn did an AMAZING job with the production design of this first episode. The UFO is literally out of this world and the universe created for these characters informs as much as possible when able. In combination with the visual effects team the scenes that relied on their creative collaboration were a great treat.
I think enough has been said about Gillian Anderson's wig by now but if one thing has to be said about the new look of Mulder and Scully is that the wardrobe department is doing a fantastic job.
Mark Snow is there really anything that I haven't said about this man in the past? His additions to the scenes were great as always... but there was more. Specially in moments like the Porch scene a few of the hospital sequences and definitelly in the action sequences his work shines. I think there's also an special talent when there was a piece of music I didn't notice until my fifth rewatch... it means it was working so well with the scene in perfect collaboration that for me it was just part of the narrative. Having watched the next episodes... you're defintelly in for a treat... an emotionally painful one!
Editor Heather MacDougall does a great job in her collaboration with Carter as well but this is where I hit another moment where I found that the episode felt unbalanced. The monologues with Mulder and O’Malley relied heavily on stock footage that made it feel stale. Likewise the pivotal scene between Mulder and Scully on the porch of the unremarkable house doesn’t speak of what this show has delivered in the past for moments like these. It feels claustrophobic and it drags on to deliver the emotional punch using dialogue rather than Anderson and Duchovny’s acting chops and those elements were possibly lost because the shots were so tight that I kept reflexively backing away from the screen. If the “Don’t give up” scene is my favorite this is the perfect opposite because the height of the emotions doesn’t feel natural at all.
On later rewatches the episode as a whole feels a lot more solid which makes me wonder what new audiences or the casual viewer will feel about it and whether they will come back to revisit. Having seen the next two episodes which I won’t go into in this review I can tell you that after a premiere that has its expected and natural growing pains the show and everyone in it settles in more comfortably.
I don’t particularly grade episodes. It is said that the most important part about creating a film or a tv show is to actually deliver. In that aspect “My Struggle” does bring all the aspects of The X-Files back just with some caveats finding balance between the nostalgia and the newness and leaving the door wide open to amazing possibilities and moments to come for our beloved characters. This is just the beginning of the ride. I invite you to share your own constructive opinion about it in the comments section and congratulations X-Philes… you just had a new episode of your show play on your screen. Pinch yourselves this is not a dream you’re awake.