My Struggle 4: Sure. Fine. Whatever.

I should be devastated. I was promised answers to questions new and old, resolution to mysteries introduced as recently as last week, and a satisfying conclusion that brings together the four My Struggle episodes into a standalone series-within-a-series.

And yet I’m okay. Why? Because I had seen My Struggle(s) 1 through 3. That changes everything. A metaphor comes to mind:

I’m in the passenger seat of Mulder’s 2018 Ford Product Placement as he careens down the highway. I’m not sure what he’s chasing, but he’s being really dramatic about it. Eventually I realize even he doesn’t know what he’s after and that we’re definitely going to crash and erupt into a ball of flames. May as well enjoy the ride, I think to myself.

It was with this Scully in Syzygy attitude that I watched the episode, for better or for worse. It’s not a great way to go through life, but I’m pleased to report that it made certain elements of the episode less unwatchable than they would have been otherwise.

Event: Various murders

How I should have felt:

WHAT. Why did I spend any time at all trying to figure out how the new space colonization conspiracy fit in with the old conspiracy?? And why was Barbara Hershey shoehorned into other episodes as though she mattered? Are these people who are being mind-exploded by a teenager related to the Russians from This, or are they part of CSM’s efforts to cover up the experiments that created William in the first place, or did they even have an origin or purpose at all aside from being the X-Files equivalent of Red Shirts?

And did you just SHOOT MONICA REYES IN THE HEAD FOR NO REASON?? Does no one remember that Monica Reyes used to sing whale songs and scorched a super soldier with a pot of boiling water to protect Scully while she was giving birth? Did Skinner even know that Monica was collaborating with CSM in Scully’s future-vision a.k.a. season 10 in its entirety, or alternately did Scully never have the opportunity for a sit-down chat about her premonitions of the global apocalypse because she and Mulder spent season 11 distrusting Skinner, which means he hasn’t seen Monica Reyes in like 15 years and thought to himself, “Oh hey, it’s Monica. Long time, no see. BLAM BLAM BLAM!”

How I felt:


No spin-off for you…


No spin-off for you…


Oh hell! Skinner just gave you a Krycek. In any case, no spin-off for you…


I’m not convinced Skinner is dead.


Event: William switcheroos

How I should have felt:

Wait — holy crap. That conversation was really with William the whole time?? But… but… HE LOOKS JUST LIKE MULDER. Whoa, my mind is blown.

How I felt:


It’s William.


It’s William.


Also, DPO called, it wants its hobby for delinquents back.


Event: William gets shot in the head

How I should have felt:

What a heroic and shocking sacrifice. Because William has seen the horrors of the future, he’s stepped into his father’s place and gotten himself shot to stop that from happening. … though I guess if his future-visions included Mulder dying in a car on a bridge, he must know that either CSM won’t shoot Mulder, or that his visions are collectively BS.

And thank goodness that he’s pulling his Ghouli trick again and only making us think he’s died from a gunshot wound to the head. … though he must have had to use some of his powers to make CSM’s bullet go astray to keep himself from actually getting shot. Unless CSM knew it was him and shot to miss? Or unless CSM decided to be true to his character and have the aim of a decrepit old man who was barely cobbled back together after taking a helicopter missile to the face?

How I felt:



Event: Scully as Ms Moneypenny

How I should have felt:

So if I cut all the Mulder out of this episode, I just watched 42 minutes of Scully sitting at home and then taking a break from all the sitting to call a cable news show. And thanks for the awkward cuts that keep me from seeing her find out William’s true parentage; until the end of the episode, I just assumed Skinner got distracted and forgot to tell her.

But it’s okay — she’s pregnant, which is the only good thing that can ever happen to a 54-year-old woman and is enough to wipe out any of those pesky William issues she’s been having since season 8. It’s a good thing we spent a significant portion of seasons 10 and 11 setting up mega-conspiracy arcs that never happened instead of learning more about what motivates these characters to stay in the FBI, giving Scully a real meeting with her son, having any clue what they agreed to in the church conversation from Nothing Lasts Forever, letting Mulder and Scully kiss now that they’ve conceived two children together…

To Chris Carter — I know you’ve been getting beat up a lot this season. We are all eternally grateful for the vision you had when you created Scully, Mulder, and the X-Files, and there have been some truly genius moments of television that you brought to life. Thank you so much for everything you’ve made; you can kind of tell the quality of a show by how many people are willing to careen into the wild depths of obsessed (“focused,” we used to call it) fandom for it. X-Files would be nothing without you.

That said… what the hell was this.

How I felt:

See above.

I’ve got a fever… and the only cure is more MOTW

After last week’s airing of Rm9sbG93ZXJz (gesundheit), there have been quite a few reviews lauding the “flexibility” of X-Files — that we’ve got this series with enough credibility to stretch genre boundaries without sacrificing quality.

A lot of credit is given to the Monster of the Week / mytharc style of episode continuity, where bone-chilling developments in the shadowy government conspiracy world can be put on the back burner for a few minutes while our heroes chase hurricane worms and butt genies. There was a time when this feature of the series grated on me a little, especially in seasons where you were waiting for something really important to happen —



— and knew as soon as you saw a horde of creepy townspeople that this was not your week.

But that was then.

Now, as a dedicated viewer of season 11, I say praise Jesus Slug for these intelligent, entertaining entries in the MOTW category that create just a little more narrative space between me and any rendition of My Struggle. My Struggle wants me to engage in a world of space colonization and medical rape, where the world may or may not be about to end in a collapse of human immunity, and where Miller and Einstein exist. The great MOTW episodes this season — I’m thinking Rm9sbG93ZXJz, The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat, This — cuddle me in their arms and say, “I know the apocalypse is coming, but let’s watch Mulder and Scully go out for sushi.”

I’m hoarding all the feels and giddiness I get from these episodes and wrapping myself in it one week at a time like papier mache ahead of week 10, when my piñata self will be lowered into swinging range of the My Struggle bat. In the meanwhile, in honor of these delightful sandbags against the impending mytharc onslaught, let’s take a moment to recognize a special subset of the MOTW genre: the concept episode.

Is this a real term? No. This is a thing I’ve just made up and for which someone else has probably already established a label. Nonetheless, today we’ll define a concept episode as an MOTW that doesn’t look like an X-Files episode. Some of these are great, and some of these are forgettable crap. Let’s take a look at three of each just for the sake of symmetry.


Fearful symmetry??” “That’s not even related at all. Did you even read the intro?”

Great Moments in Concept Episode History

3. X-Cops


“That’s gonna give me nightmares!”

As recently as two years ago, I thought this episode was hot garbage. Woe unto my ignorance. Even though the premise is gimmicky AF, they’ve somehow managed to port over an entire plotline onto a cheaply-made reality show precursor without losing the essence of what makes X-Files tick — Mulder & Scully, and a scary monster.

One good indicator of an episode’s quality is its quotability, and who can forget Mulder’s bleep-laden admonition for the man behind the door to cowboy up? Or his recommendation that Scully consider a new look in the form of bubble gum pink?

There is also that classic little bit of Scully backtracking on her abject dismissal of Mulder’s crazy theories, in order to save face for him in front of the cameras. Firstly, aww. Secondly, it’s a nice reminder for anyone who might think Scully comes across as a harping shrew that we act differently when we know someone else is watching.

Though if you have ever thought that Scully came across as a harping shrew — how dare you.

2. Triangle


“Triangle… I love you.”

Mulder may or may not journey into the past in this episode, which gets several brownie points for its 1940s fashion and music, and several zillion brownie points for the kiss that we all know is the real reason this episode is on the list, despite whatever non-shipper rationalization I’m about to invent.


Not that one.

For those with a greater appreciation for cinematography than I have, one of the key features that differentiates this episode are the no-cut action sequences a la Hitchcock’s Rope. For me, it’s the usual swirl of circular logic and causality that you get with a time travel story, but with the added bonus of our favorite characters with accents. It’s also the conspiracy element, the tense 1998 race to get satellite data, the Lone Gunmen…


Oh and this

1. Post-Modern Prometheus


If I could turn back time…

It’s in black and white. That’s how you know it’s a serious artistic endeavor.

But seriously — it’s a “monster of our own making” story with a twist of Cher. Even if you don’t buy that the episode really happened because of the comic book fadeaway at the end, you at least have to acknowledge that whoever wrote the comic actually had a close encounter with Mulder and Scully. And who among us has ever been able to look at pest fumigation tents the same way since?

I could break character and leave out my favorite part of the episode because I’m insecure about being typecast as overly distracted by shipper fluff, but I can’t — nay won’t — be held accountable for falling victim to what is certainly one of the sweeter SQUEEs in the series.


Say it with me — SQUEE!

And lest we forget…

Forgettable Moments in Concept Episode History

3. First Person Shooter


I do still dig her outfit, though.

As mentioned above, I love the Lone Gunmen. I also love seeing Scully be badass, and I have a passing interest in first-person shooter video games. That said, these elements come together in a salad of nonsense that completely drowns out the feminist themes… if indeed something can be said to drown in salad.

Why are the Lone Gunmen on board with suppressing a murder investigation to avoid jeopardizing their software investment? Doesn’t that sound like something they’d write an article about in their silly little rag if someone else made that choice?

Why is every man in the office crowded around the interrogation room as if women had just been invented?

Why does this advanced immersion game render every character off the same model?

So many unanswered questions. And much like the unanswered questions posed by any rendition of My Struggle, I am completely fine with never knowing the answers.

2. Babylon

022116 mushroom

I wish.

In many ways, the episodes of season 10 and 11 are immune to inclusion on this list because there aren’t a lot of established norms for special shortened seasons of a classic series that’s been off the air for 15 years. That said, Babylon was just heinous enough that it transcended that restriction, much like a mother’s love transcending a coma and extremism or something.

The episode is already questionable even before the jump, as we watch a Muslim man pray, get bullied by a racist Texan in a truck, and then blow up a building. Thanks for that, Chris Carter. It was a bold and innovative choice to have one of the first (if not the first?) Muslims shown praying on X-Files immediately roll up on a building in suicide bomber chic.

It’s also a stretch of good judgment to shoehorn a lengthy drug trip scene into one of the only 6 episodes that will ever exist of this revived series, as far as anyone knew way back then. And there’s the Lone Gunmen again; I sense a theme. Even less judgment was shown in revealing that the mushrooms were a placebo the whole time. The viewer’s payback for reserving judgment on the honky tonk badonka-donk is thus that none of it meant anything.

It was perplexing to have Mulder and Scully walking hand in hand and discussing the nature of unconditional love and trained hatred, only to be interrupted by the sound of the Angel Gabriel’s horn.


Worst of all.

022116 miller

This happened.

If I thought it would take more than 10 words apiece to describe the entirety of Miller and Einstein’s character arcs, I would write a blog post about my burning dislike for these derivative, uninteresting inside jokes with arms and legs. They certainly did themselves no favors by splitting up Mulder and Scully for nearly the whole episode, and for apparently drawing them down to Texas to feed them fake drugs and talk to a man in a coma.

1. Sunshine Days


X-Files? *checks TV Guide to be sure*

I feel I should start by saying that I do not dislike Sunshine Days as much as I do Babylon. If Babylon is an offensively convoluted ode to plot holes, Sunshine Days is more of a quirky nuisance.

Its biggest problem is that it’s just a little too wacky. There are people who make the same claim about lighter fare from every season — and there certainly was a lot of zaniness in season 7, for instance — but even after avoiding the episode for 10+ years, I could still see the scene where Benjamin Linus makes Skinner levitate and hear the goofy music accompanying it.

111skinner levitates

“Whoa, folks, hold onto your hats — it’s gonna be a wild night!”

Stir in yet another Southern California setting to rub salt in the wound we all received when production left Vancouver, and you’ve got yourself a filler episode if there ever was one.

Where it runs afoul of viewers is in its placement in the season — Sunshine Days is the very last episode before the 2-hour series finale. There were only two stories left to tell at the end of 9 years of era-defining television, and one of them needed to be about the Brady Bunch.

As we find ourselves coming up on this very moment in history yet again, and with the specter of another middling series finale overwrought with late-era mytharc, I would like to give a warning to season 11, episode 9: I’ve got my eye on you. There had better not be even a single major chord of Mark Snow’s “zany” repertoire, or so help me Jesus Slug…