After posting a bit about the Big Reveal at the end of “My Struggle III,” I felt sort of obligated to watch the episode. I mean, I thought, maybe the plot summary makes this episode sound worse than it is. Maybe this is really a flawed yet enjoyable hour of television that happens to be loused up in the final 2 minutes by a really asinine decision made by Chris Carter; and really, have I not seen enough asinine decisions from him to be more or less inured to them? Plus I hear Mulder and Scully have some good screen time together in this one.
So I watched it.
I really thought, after “Babylon” and “My Struggle I & II,” that I had run out of scorn where Chris Carter is concerned. But damned if this episode didn’t inspire me to dig deep and get a little more. This is bad television. Setting aside the implications of the much-discussed Final Revelation, Chris Carter’s writing itself is just so technically incompetent that it fills me with rage.
The cold open is a bad sign: a montage of stock footage of historical events overlaid with paranoid music and a turgid, pretentious voice-over monotonously delivered by William B. Davis. This is one of the least challenging and least interesting ways that Carter could have set the scene for this episode; and whether it’s lack of effort or lack of competence, the same laziness afflicts the entire script. There is, for instance, far too much time spent on Mulder driving, much of it made worse by more of those turgid voice-overs. Also…Mulder has Jeffrey Spender in his contacts? Spender is still showing up on caller ID under his real name? Also he is 80% less disfigured than the last time we saw him? Why?
Almost none of the dialogue is good. With Mulder and Scully things are at least sometimes interesting because Anderson and Duchovny are both pros at spinning gold out of Chris Carter’s crap dialogue. But my God, the scenes with Cancer Man and Monica at his house…that writing is so bad it cannot be redeemed. Faithful readers of my X-Files Rewatch will know that I was never a big fan of either Monica Reyes or Annabeth Gish. Nevertheless, I am angry on Gish’s behalf about the absolutely shitty quality of the dialogue written for her, which sounds like it was generated by Siri. In fact, you could replace Reyes in those scenes with an Amazon Echo and they would be virtually unchanged. “It sounds like you’re trying to end human life on this planet. How can I help?” Carter doesn’t care at all about the fact that Cancer Man is speaking, specifically, to Monica Reyes; he could just as easily be talking to Diana Fowley or Alex Krychek or, as I said, Alexa. Nothing Reyes says or does in this episode is character-driven or even character-specific, and as a result all of those scenes, instead of being Menacing and Tension-filled, are just tedious and boring. And I’m sorry, but this is Writing 101, this is beginner shit that Carter is just apparently either too incompetent or too lazy to get right. Any self-respecting amateur would have put more effort into making Monica’s side of those conversations more meaningful and more revealing of her character.
And there are mistakes like that everywhere. Mulder’s confrontation with the surviving conspirator and Diana Fowley 2.0, for instance, is also badly written, with some really exceptional clunkers, such as Diana Fowley 2.0′s description of their space colonization plan. Scully’s brain flashing in Morse Code is an appallingly stupid idea to start with, and the conversation Mulder and Skinner have around it does nothing to elevate it. The only points at which this episode ever comes alive are the moments of tenderness between Mulder and Scully and the moments of physical conflict–Mulder dispatching Scully’s attacker, Skinner and Reyes fighting over the gun in Cancer Man’s car. And all of that is down to the actors, director, and production team.
“I’m not an irrational person,” Scully says, early on. Yeah, she’s not supposed to be; but by God she is in this episode, and that too is offensive to me. But of course nothing about this episode’s treatment of Scully can possibly be MORE offensive than the final retconning of “En Ami.”
First of all, it offends me that “En Ami” even exists. William B. Davis (the actor who plays Cancer Man) wrote it, and even after the rest of the team went to work on his script it still plays like a really awful self-insert fanfic written for the sole purpose of allowing the author surrogate to make it with one of the canon characters. Scully is uncharacteristically gullible throughout, and–as “My Struggle III” so nauseatingly reminds us–she is also drugged and thrown in the back of Cancer Man’s car, after which she wakes up in his house in silk pajamas. None of us at the time were thinking, “Oh my GOD, he’s impregnated her WITH SCIENCE!” Most of us just didn’t want to think about what happened in that interval because the prospect of Cancer Man violating an unconscious Scully was just so awful to us. But like many other bad episodes, “En Ami” was always something you could just write off as a one-time mistake. “My Struggle III” now comes along to shove the thing down our throats by making it the cornerstone of the paternity narrative. Even if this turns out to be one of Cancer Man’s many lies, we’ve STILL been forced to revisit that fucking thing and to imagine an unconscious Scully being medically raped by the show’s most repellent character.
And we’re all so upset by THAT that we don’t even complain about the biggest writing fail of them all, which is the fact that Carter “resolves” “My Struggle II” by going full Dallas on us. This is the cop-out to end all cop-outs. First of all, it doesn’t even work; why would Scully be having 15 minutes’ worth of “visions” of fucking Tad O’Malley and his terrible right-wing show? Second…this is the absolute MINIMUM of effort you could put into resolving a cliff-hanger. And after what I have been through with Moffat and Sherlock and the extended-mind-palace theory, I’ve just had it with people who just hit “reset” because getting themselves out of the corners they’ve written themselves into is just too much work.
“We do our work,” says Scully, at the end of “My Struggle III.” Precisely, Chris…DO YOUR WORK! You have work to do as the showrunner and as one of the lead writers and YOU ARE NOT DOING IT. God, you could hire an intern that would write better scripts than this. And maybe you should. The intern probably would treat Scully better, not to mention Reyes. It just makes me so angry. Men like Chris Carter are this lazy because they can afford to be. No woman trying to make it as a writer or producer in this industry could be that lazy and survive. And yet. Here we are. THREE installments of “My Struggle,” all of them awful.
I look forward to tuning in for the episodes he didn’t write. I regret having wasted an hour on this one.