The X-Files: Conspiracy Theories About A Show Centered On Conspiracy Theories

Presented for your approval are two vastly different reviews of last night's X-Files premiere episode "My Struggle III" from two mainstream media outlets. Interestingly enough both critics watched the same episode that we all did, but came away from it with two contrasting opinions on what they had witnessed. Upon reading these two reviews it can only be assumed that both writers had preordained agendas to spin their reviews to reflect their strong views on subjects that are on the forefront of every media outlet.

Yahoo! took the political approach (surprise) by making it about U.S. president Donald Trump:

The new 'X-Files' is obsessed with Trump

Remember when The X-Files was obsessed with alien abductions, conspiracy theories, and monsters-of-the-week? Well, it still is, but the new episodes that begin airing Wednesday night on Fox have a new boogeyman: President Trump. Show creator Chris Carter and other writers pepper the scripts with references to Trump’s current dislike of the FBI, one of the series’ key characters talks about “fake news,” someone else wears a red Make America Great Again cap. There’s more — much more (I’d almost forgotten about Trump accusing Ted Cruz’s dad of assassinating JFK — damn you, Chris Carter!) — but I’ll let you find all the rotten Easter eggs on your own.

The 10 new episodes represent the return of The X-Files, a continuation of the revival that began in 2016, and follow closely on the mythology spun out from those episodes. As is always the case, the season premiere is written and directed by Carter. It’s titled “My Struggle III,” to remind you of last season’s bookender episodes, “My Struggle” and “My Struggle II.” This new 11th season picks up where Season 10 left off, with the Cigarette Smoking Man and talk of a “global contagion.” The “struggle” of the title, although plural, can be ascribed to both FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). It’s always fun to spend time with these two — the characters and the actors. Indeed, as time goes by, it’s somewhat more fun to just appreciate the actors: Mulder and Scully remain fixed in their philosophical positions and reactions to various wild events, but Anderson and Duchovny have become more subtle performers who are using the fact of their middle-aging as an opportunity to present themselves as more sly, more self-aware, yet eminently comfortable with each other and appreciative of each other’s deepening skills. I wish I could say the same for Carter’s mythology, but, alas, the paranoid conspiracies that were so absorbing, the mythology that was once so satisfying to ruminate upon, has started to seem like dry, barren ground to be trod across, again and again, out of a sense of weary duty.

Entertainment Weekly focused their review on sexual assault, specifically rape, making the point that the series has always danced around the subject:

... But so too is sexual abuse and consent, and this show has a shaky history there. Scully was violated without her consent when her eggs were harvested during her abduction; Mulder found out what had been taken from her before she did. That experience kicked off a series-long story that was less interested in Scully’s emotional trauma than it was in “will-they-won’t-they”-ing her uterus: She couldn’t have kids! She might be able to have kids! IVF didn’t work! She had a baby anyway! But was the baby Mulder’s?

Even when not centered on Scully, stories about rape on this show have a hard time using the word “rape.” (Season 5’s black-and-white classic “The Post-Modern Prometheus” skirted around dealing with the monster as a rapist because the women he “impregnated” all wanted kids.) Now, in 2018, the Smoking Man tells Skinner it was “science — alien science” that made him the father of Scully’s baby. Euphemisms aside, the outcome is the same. The X-Files just went back in time nearly 18 years to add in the rape of its main character by its villain and to question yet again whether Mulder is William’s father. It’s baffling. It’s irresponsible. And even if not everything CSM claims turns out to be true, dangling a terrible possibility over our heads only to eventually disprove it doesn’t usually make for satisfying drama.

The Truth Is Out There