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10X6: My Struggle II

The X-Files 2016: Introduction | 10X1: My Struggle | 10X2: Founder’s Mutation | 10X3: Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster | 10X4: Home Again | 10X5: Babylon

This is the final of the six episodes of this revival. In all the promotion by FOX, it was billed as the “season finale”, implying there will be more even if negotiations have not started. Accordingly, the episode ends with a huge cliffhanger: Carter had written this cliffhanger into the story months ago, gambling it all in hopes that the audience would be there and that more episodes will be made — after all, if FOX was interested to revive the show after all these years, why not more than once? So far, ratings are such that a season 11 seems only to be a matter of time.

In that context, the episode’s tagline, “This Is The End“, is ironic! It also introduces us to what presents itself as the most important episode of The X-Files mythology, but ends up being the most frustrating.

10X6_ufo

Obviously, spoilers after the jump.

Alternate Universe

My Struggle II features a plot worthy of a feature film. In fact, much of it is how I had imagined the filmic resolution to The X-Files mythology for many years now: Scully creates a vaccine to a biological attack, spreads that immunity to the entire population, and thwarts the conspiracy’s and the aliens’ plans with science! The science itself, the best part of the episode, is detailed in an annex below. Had there been an “X-Files 3”, this is how I would have envisioned it! (see my Dec-22-2012 article) And just as Scully had started to spread what could be the end of this infection, a UFO appears and sheds its beam precisely on Scully. This is no alien UFO, it looks like the military UFO/ARV that destroyed Sveta, and it is there to stop her. Cut to credits!

However there are two significant differences from what I had imagined compared to what we see in the episode: one is the lack of aliens (and we will come to that in a moment), and the other is the open, public way in which it all happens. Infected people are by the thousands in the capital of the USA, and if Tad O’Malley is right it is global; thousands of people witness a UFO. Nobody can forget this event entirely, however much memory swipe the conspiracy does to the abductees. This is a tense apocalyptic thriller of a global scope, with historical consequences. The X-Files mythology is advancing forward in a way it had not since season 6 (apparently) erased the Syndicate. The world will no longer be the same after this.

Hear our prayer

Hear our prayer

That also means that it no longer is our world. The X-Files had always stuck to a certain realism in order to make its stories more believable. That meant that the cases Mulder and Scully investigated never clearly concluded, or that the evidence were destroyed, or that the events did not bring about changes that could make us think this is another world. I believed the resolution to the impending viral apocalypse posed by the show’s mythology would occur “below the radar”, in an underground fight to find a cure and manage to spread it to the entire population without them knowing, perhaps even using the conspiracy’s own tools, making colonization moot.

Future episodes will have to acknowledge that. Despite this, I do not expect The X-Files to become a fully post-apocalyptic show, with a significant share of the population dead. If they want to continue the mythology/stand-alones mix, the next season will have to temper things down, revealing that Tad’s reports of a global outbreak were false, or that the outbreak was local, or that this was a grand rehearsal of the big event and that the immune systems can be switched back on as easily as they can be switched off. The viral outbreak brought about by a conspiracy of men is very reminiscent of the very memorable apocalyptic end to the second season of Millennium, the two-parter 2×22: The Fourth Horseman & 2×23: The Time Is Now, penned by Morgan and Wong. The series was unexpectedly renewed for a third season, and the writers had to downplay what had been presented as the end of the world, saying that only a handful of people died. With this episode, we see the conspiracy’s plans finally hatching, and Carter definitely puts the story in a completely separate universe.

The new Cigarette-Smoking Man

He is alive, he is the same person that we thought died in 9X19/20: The Truth, he is not genetically modified or hybridized so as to be able to self-heal (apart from the alien DNA modification that Scully also has). He simply survived, with some burns and scars. This cartoonish return goes well beyond his previous fake deaths. While his first death in 5X03: Redux II included a premeditated return (Fight the Future had been shot at that point), all his subsequent returns from the dead were progressively more unbelievable. His death in 7X22: Requiem symbolized the death of the (first) mythology and marked a first “end” to the series. His death in The Truth served the same symbolic purpose: as a representation of pure evil, he taunted the hero and laughed among the flames of his own destruction — he is pulverized by military missiles that destroy the entire surrounding rock structure and burn his flesh to the bare bone (or was that image symbolic as well?). He has become the Phantom of the Opera, and we witness his literal unmasking and his horrendous Devil-like disfigurement.

His return here marks a severe lack of imagination and requires copious amounts of suspension of disbelief.

Like father like son: Jeffrey Spender-like protheses

Like father like son: Jeffrey Spender-like prostheses

His return serves the exact same narrative purpose. He is the series’ nemesis, the avatar of evil, the tempter. He had tempted Mulder to join his side before: in 5X03: Redux II and in 6X12: One Son. Each time Mulder refused even if that meant death for him; here it is no different.

We discover that he was tended by none other than ex-Special Agent Monica Reyes, a new sort of Diana Fowley. She accepted to work for him (which seems to consist in lighting his cigarettes) in exchange of being made immune against the coming plague. Throughout seasons 8 and 9, Reyes was presented as a “sunny”, moral character who made a good friend with Scully; the reversal presented here makes her an interesting character, not made unbelievable only because we did not get to know Reyes very well anyway. Why Reyes, though? Couldn’t the CSM do without her? Why didn’t she contact Scully to warn her earlier?

In the flashbacks, he might just have been unable to prevent an attack by powerful Supersoldiers that have infiltrated the government and the military, but lying in his bed he says “I’m the most powerful man in the world”. He is and always was at the top of things, although we get no word on how he managed to do that or who his associates are.

The new mythology

It’s been in motion since 2012” but only now has it become noticeable. Everyone’s immune system fails due to a “Spartan virus” brought about by the global elites, inserted in everyone’s bodies via vaccinations made mandatory by the government, and activated by a “release of aluminium” in chemtrails from commercial airplanes or by “microwave radiation” from telecommunications antennas (and what was that about graffiti being used to target specific people?); social order collapses and the world plunges in chaos. The new mythology is a syncretization of many modern-day conspiracy theories — the anti-vaccine crowd, the chemtrails, the survivalism militias. Carter has certainly remained alert of this milieu just as he was in the 1990s, however these theories are now much more accessible and widespread, and viewers are more likely to have come across them now than in the past, and made up their minds about them; the result is a conspiracy that is less dramatic than the original one, or at least one that will be more debated — you either already think these theories are ridicule, or already believe in them.

21st century Lone Gunman

21st century Lone Gunman

To these more right-wing conspiracy theories, Carter adds an ecological message that is more usually associated with left-wing: global climate change and the destruction of the environment by human activities. “We have just had the hottest year on record on planet Earth“: that is true, 2015 was the hottest year since global temperatures have been measured, 1880. Humanity is on an unsustainable path. This had happened to the aliens as well: “The aliens predicted this. They saw it happening to themselves. Neither you nor I can save mankind from self-extermination.” This bout of ecological wisdom is interesting but feels completely out of place coming from a character like the CSM, who has been plotting self-extermination himself; it might have fared better coming from another character, a face to this new conspiracy.

And so the elites have decided that since the world is going to end anyway, they might as well decide how, wipe out the entire population, and start civilization from scratch with the “chosen ones” survivors. This plan has been set for a while, and it has not been set by only the CSM: “You have no idea how well we planned“. In all this, the aliens are innocent or benevolent creatures.

The central idea echoes strongly the mythology of the third season of Millennium: “We are rushing towards an apocalypse of our own creation“.

Whither Purity?

After My Struggle, we were waiting for the second part to see whether the new elements presented would be confirmed or if there would be another twist. There has been no twist and this new mythology appears to be “the truth” (for now).

The events here do present similarities to what had been announced before. The smallpox vaccinations were referred to before (3X02: Paper Clip, 3X24: Talitha Cumi), though not as carriers of another virus but as a system to tag and catalog the population. The conspiracy was working towards effectively spreading a disease (4X21: Zero Sum, Fight the Future). Kurtzweil was warning of a viral apocalypse that would bring the shadow government to power (Fight the Future). And we have seen abductions and alien DNA being found in abductees before (see 2X08: One Breath and 5X02: Redux). What is surprising is actually Scully being surprised at finding this, when she was aware of it since 1997! What was surprising is that she did not remember identifying inactive alien DNA in the human genome of every human when examining Gibson Praise and an alien claw (6X01: The Beginning).

However, the elephant in the room, the plan for alien colonization, has not been mentioned. The change of the nature of the conspiracy do not warrant even a passing mention: what has been said in My Struggle is now the new normal and Mulder feels okay with this.

2X08_confrontation

10X6_confrontation

The CSM seems to be presenting that this plan, the depopulation of the planet because humanity was self-destructing, was the original plan all along. In Scully’s opening monologue, when she talks about a conspiracy of men, she doesn’t mention colonization; and yet we see photos of the Syndicate Elders, the very same that we heard discuss many times using such words as the “colonization of this planet by an extraterrestrial race” (5X14: The Red and the Black; Fight the Future; 6X12: One Son). I had hopes that we were exploring the conspiracy inside the government that was shooting down UFOs, running parallel to the Syndicate (see My Struggle or Primer 3), but this definitely identifies this new conspiracy with the old Syndicate.

There are many, many things wrong with this. Such as:

  • If an easily inserted DNA bit like the one Scully has was sufficient, what was the point of the complex alien/human hybrids program? Why Cassandra Spender was more successful than others?
  • Wnat of the Syndicate’s pact with the alien Colonists? What was the significance of the abduction of Samantha?
  • Who were the Faceless Rebels?
  • Of the clawed alien gestated by an infection by the Black Oil, the Well-Manicured Man, shortly before sacrificing himself, says “This isn’t Colonization, this is spontaneous repopulation! All our work! If it’s true, they’ve been using us all along!”
  • Where are the Supersoldiers, alien replicants in power since 2001?

Certain possibilities to reconcile all this present themselves, however all of them are problematic and would add even more complexity — just when Carter’s stated objective was to simplify the mythology.

  • The Faceless Rebels could have won the war against the Colonists, off-screen, and left, leaving the stage free for a conspiracy of men. Or, the aliens left for greener pastures and the conspiracy of men expanded. …But we are told the Spartan virus was delivered with the smallpox vaccination, and so it must have existed since before the 1970s; what was the use of it then?
  • The Supersoldiers really were a governmental program, not a program run by aliens. …But they were against the CSM, who is presented here as a mastermind of the governmental conspiracy.
  • The Spartan virus was conceived by the Syndicate as a last-minute resistance solution against the alien Colonists. It would be used as a deterrent against the aliens: with humanity dead, nothing left to colonize (similarly, nuclear holocaust was to be the deterrent, according to a cut scene from 9X19/20: The Truth). …But we are told that the genetic technology was “given to them by an alien race”, and the aliens wouldn’t give the Syndicate the tools of resistance.
  • What we see is indeed the start of colonization: the loss of our immune system was a false flag operation to attract our attention from what is really going on. The Spartan virus will also activate something that will have similar effects to the infection by the Black Oil. Or, Scully is giving everyone what she thinks is the cure, when in fact she is putting alien DNA to everyone, that will become active and turn everyone into aliens. …But that means that the CSM is being manipulated as well — which is odd, since he knew all about colonization in the previous 9 seasons.
  • What was meant by “colonization” was something different from what we though it did: just the takeover of the planet by the global elites, assisted by the aliens, who want to “save us from ourselves”.
The Mount Weather database: could General Daniel M. Miller be Agent Miller's grandfather?

The Mount Weather database: could General Daniel M. Miller be Agent Miller’s grandfather?

The only possible option — and it is a big stretch — was that the CSM manipulated everyone in the Syndicate into doing his bidding from the very beginning (1947), inventing this story of colonization. Or, the Syndicate itself was being manipulated by the all-knowing Elites into believing colonization, another layer of the conspiracy onion. (Or vice-versa, and the Colonists will appear when the Elites don’t expect them!) The UFO crash we saw in My Struggle was the real crash, and from the very beginning the Men In Black kill the innocent aliens, create this story of alien colonization in order to instill fear, stage a UFO crash in Roswell (“Roswell was a smokescreen“, as the old informant told Mulder) where they plant the information on colonization (see the Mount Weather database Mulder glimpses at in 9X19/20: The Truth). The Alien Bounty Hunters and the Faceless Rebels, at whom the old informant in My Struggle specifically laughed at when Mulder called them alien, would be man-made: hybrids from the Russian program sent to exterminate the US Syndicate for example, or hybrids made by the Elites to police the Syndicate. The Syndicate was never in direct contact with the aliens, but such memories (such as their contact in 1973 that sealed their cooperation, 6X12: One Son) were implanted in them by the Elites to manipulate them. The Elites manipulating the Syndicate, itself manipulating the governmental conspiracy. …As big a hand-wave explanation as they come.

To be fair, the first years in the original series were extremely ambiguous, much more than what most would remember, and many events could be interpreted both ways. Scully’s abduction and her implants were made by men, for example. So much so that when a first reversal towards a “conspiracy of men” came in 4X24: Gethsemane / 5X02/03: Redux, it would have been possible to make a coherent picture. That was a very exciting story to tell, and it came at the very last moment Carter could tell it: there is nothing in the dialogue that unambiguously confirms aliens or alien colonization before 5X14: The Red and the Black (interestingly, the specific event the old informant refers to); before that it is only insinuations or Mulder’s interpretations. And since then, the mythology has accumulated more and more elements, making a deep reversal ever more difficult to believe.

Another reversal of the story in the future is not impossible. But this season has presented sufficient material that would make a return to the “old” mythology a contradiction with this season! I guess the reason I have trouble with this is that, despite its crazy science-fiction, I find the old mythology more interesting than the super-fast and few elements that we have been presented of the new one. The X-Files mythology has been marred for good.

Rush!

Carter gives us a suspense thriller of unprecedented scope and unprecedented speed in The X-Files. This creates excitement, but half of the episode’s shortcomings come from it trying to cram too much story in too little time. Every second is filled with dialogue, leaving no time to breathe. The contagion went from one case to global pandemic in half an hour. The new mythology went from introduction to development to climax in two episodes. Agent Einstein underwent Scully’s 8 seasons’ worth of character development from skeptic to acceptance to believer in the span of a single episode. The doctors diagnosed, tested, retested, identified, isolated, mass-produced and found the solution to an agent of biological warfare that took decades to set up. Tad O’Malley’s frequent interventions serve, again, as exposition and info dump to progress the plot given the budgetary and time length impossibility to show us these developments.

Because of this, everything feels unnaturally fake. Things that might have flowed better with more time here seem forced or ridiculous. The science might be sound, but when it is concentrated like this it is no different from technobabble. Scully disregarded Tad’s theories in the premiere, here she believes everything he says from the very beginning. Mulder needing stem cells feels like a line pasted there to remind us of William. We do learn that Scully thinks he “will be protected by his inheritance and by alien DNA“, but it is not clear how. Are Scully’s alien genes hereditary? How can a barren woman know?

Surely not everything Tad says is to be taken at face value, but things are going so fast that it is impossible to distinguish between false information and true explanation. Ambiguity was a strong point in The X-Files and surely there are some of Tad’s theories that do not hold up. But there is too little time to develop the mythology; information that would have been established by investigation, by discovery from the protagonists, is presented by O’Malley instead. We are narrated what the truth is, we do not live it.

10X6_Mulder

Summarizing the mythology, or nearly any X-Files episodes in fact, can be ridiculous. This is why the original X-Files excelled, building a mysterious atmosphere with a realistic investigation that mixes some fantastic elements, with moody music, with stories that imply that there is much more that we do not know yet, and giving stories enough time to develop. What happens here is the complete opposite, and My Struggle II and its conspiracy, topical nevertheless, feels no different from a late-night made-for-television movie that would have been based on The X-Files.

These are defaults that this episode shares with My Struggle. However, we could have been more lenient on the first episode given its difficult task to return from a 14 (or 8) year hiatus, show where the characters have been, introduce the new status quo, and still tell a story. The same cannot be said of this episode. In fact, the developments here are so fast and come so close after the premiere that the first part of My Struggle could have been done without entirely, and use that airtime to give more space to the second part’s story. The viral plague could have started being explored from the premiere, instead of spending time in 1947. In a short season in which most of the issues come from pacing, this episode illustrates this problem best. Like all previous episodes in this revival, things flow better after a rewatch, but the initial impression remains. This problem stems from a desire to tell more story given the restrictions given by Fox and the actors, and this is not a cable show, where the narration can take its time — so to some extent Carter’s heart is in the right place. However, I cannot imagine that the final product would attract anyone else than fans who are already emotionally committed to these characters and story.

Closing thoughts

Mirroring Mulder’s “struggle” with his beliefs in the first part, My Struggle II really showcases Scully. Scully and Einstein, two women, two scientists, work together to save the world: that is a beautiful image. (It is marred though by a line in the opening, where Scully answers the phone as “Agent Mulder’s phone“: not only does she still not have a nameplate and desk but she is also Mulder’s secretary?) Her fears that she might turn into something alien, illustrated in her opening monologue, are reversed by the end of the episode: what saved her, and will save everyone is alien! Einstein’s realization that “If this actually works…then I’ll have alien DNA” is one of the episode’s highlights. Mulder does very little overall and serves as the spectator to William B. Davis’ performance. For a revival fueled by the desire to recreate the unique chemistry between Anderson and Duchovny, Scully and Mulder spend an absurdly small amount of time together here — not to mention that their estrangement did imply an interesting background in My Struggle but since then has served no purpose. The six weeks intervening between the two episodes are supposed to reflect real time, but given what has happened — Scully quitting her job, Mulder recovering from depression, FBI reinstatement, training, investigations, dealing with Scully’s mother’s death — that is far too short.

With this new spin on things, Carter is trying to give back to the show a sense of mystery, a sense of unknown. We have known what we thought was the truth for too long, and safe in our beliefs we thought we knew everything. The X-Files has been about lies and deceits and subjective knowledge of an impossible truth. Instead of drawing the mythology to a close, Carter chooses to return us to those early seasons of the show, when anything was possible and mysterious and frightening. True conspiracies also evolve, transform, shift with the passage of time and with circumstances, and a cliffhanger ending promising answers in the future is entirely in line with this approach. Already fans are producing a multitude of theories to try to explain this new twist: it worked!

Carter decided to go into this risky new direction with the mythology to make it more topical to current concerns and conspiracy theories. In fact, it could very well be just a grafting on to The X-Files of the ideas Carter was developing for his cancelled TV series for AMC, “Area 51“. These are interesting stories to tell. Yet the contradictions with previously established dialogue would be especially obvious today in the age of binge-watching and streaming services — something which, ironically, has resulted in a recent reappraisal of the mythology and its up-to-now consistence! Carter is banking on the hopes that the mythology was too complicated for a significant amount of people to care (which, to a large extent, is true).

What is most frustrating is the reluctance to even address the possible inconsistencies and offer possible trains of thought to reconcile this with the previous nine seasons. Although they have the opportunity to do so, the characters do not debate what they think is happening now and how the situation changed from 2002. Something that makes me think that no re-reversal is forthcoming and that Carter will stick with this story; until he decides for the aliens to return, and he will introduce another onion layer of conspirators, at the cost of some more consistency. And unlike in 5X03: Redux II, where the CSM says of Kritschgau that “he has deceived you with beautiful lies“, there is no final hint that another interpretation is possible. We have to stick with “everything we’ve been lead to believe was a lie“.

5X14_beam

10X6_beam

Yet it would have been simple to give this season more coherence. The villain could have been another person representing the Elites, a person not aware of the previous colonization plans (or at least a person acknowledging he manipulated the Syndicate), and not the CSM, whom we have heard say things explicitly on alien colonization. Carter and Fox wanted to appeal to fans with the return of recognizable faces; William B. Davis and Annabeth Gish were available, however both their characters were ultimately not necessary. And at the other end of things, Mitch Pileggi is very underused; overall, Davis must have had more screen time than him!

Some Chris Carter quotes help to shed some light regarding continuity and resolution. From a recent interview:

You’ve switched up the conspiracy story. Why?
Carter: My feeling was that this had to follow perfectly from where the original series left off, but it didn’t necessarily have to take everything as gospel that had come before. I thought that was an interesting way to tell these stories. It was in keeping with what I’d been thinking about, certainly in keeping with the times that we’re living in.

And from a 2013 interview:

It was nine years of good storytelling, and even though a lot of people would like to see a third movie, I don’t think there’s a whole lot we need to elaborate on.
You think that, story-wise, you’ve come to a conclusion that you’re happy with?
[Long pause.] We did the work and I hope we did it well, and, you know, you move forward in life. And while it’s wonderful to be recognized twenty years out, I’m very excited about telling new stories.

What can be said with certainty is that the new X-Files is not back to do a “victory lap” for nostalgia’s sake — elements are repeated from the past but the story as a whole moves boldly forward with this episode. Whether future mythology episodes will offer more consistency to this new mythology and even attempt to reconcile it with what came before remains to be seen. I do expect the old informant of My Struggle to appear again and do exactly that in season 11. However the task seems daunting, and the self-imposed limitations to return to formulaic stand-alone episodes and always end the mythology on cliffhangers does not bode well. Despite moving forward, this revival’s mythology also gives the impression that the story can go on forever, from twist to twist, so long as Fox is willing to have it returned. In short, it’s no “victory lap” but it’s not a grandiose finale either. 7X22: Requiem remains the most narratively and cinematographically satisfying ending among all the endings The X-Files has had.

Despite all this, this is Chris Carter’s show, and “for better or for worse” I would not want to see anybody else telling these stories (although a more interactive writers’ room on the plotting would not hurt at all either). We are in 2016, the actors are in or nearly their fifties, and each time will be more difficult to convince (and pay) everyone for a return. A season 11 is a near-certainty, but beyond is a big mystery, and Carter should take this into account in his plotting of final episodes. Why then not focus exclusively on Mulder and Scully’s story? Already, they are becoming active in if only a postponement of the conspiracy’s plans; they now need to do away with their cigarette-smoking enemy; and resolve their issues with their son. Next season should be the one with the search and closure of the William storyline.

Annex: The good: The science

The good aspect of this episode is the science of it. Carter received the help of microbiologist Dr. Anne Simon and physician Dr. Margaret Fearon to come up with the ideas presented here, and both received a writing credit. These are truly laudable efforts for scientific veracity! Anne Simon, who wrote the book “The Real Science of The X-Files“, was the one behind the idea that humans have alien DNA inside them because the Black Oil virus, being a simple virus, needs that genetic material to create a gestating alien and would have been unable to do so otherwise; a sound scientific idea that had a huge impact on how the mythology evolved, from Fight the Future to 6X22: Biogenesis!

The events here consist in an epidemic of a multitude of diseases that occur because the immune systems of the entire population are not functioning. Without an immune system, germs that exist absolutely everywhere but for which we have built a resistance attack and can be deadly. Vaccines, which essentially consist in an injection of the disease itself in order for the organism to build a protection against, become sources of disease. Soldiers vaccinated against anthrax are the first to succumb: “the vaccines are attacking their systems“; Scully prescribes them doxycycline, which is an antibiotic indeed used for the treatment against the anthrax bacterium. And indeed, it is mandatory for US troops to be vaccinated against anthrax since 1997 with Clinton’s Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program (halted in 2004, restarted in 2006).

10X6_science

The immune system is failing because of a lack of “adenosine deaminase” (ADA), an enzyme key in the development and maintenance of the immune system. ADA is synthesized in the body thanks to specific genes. The immunodeficiency here is due to the gene coding for ADA has been removed. It was removed thanks to a gene editing technique that has been discussed a lot since its invention in 2012-2013: CRISPR/Cas9, described by Einstein as “RNA and a protein cutting genes at exact locations“.

CRISPR (Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats) are strands of DNA found in bacteria; combined with proteins, Cas, (CRISPR associated protein), they can identify and destroy DNA strands coming from a virus, they effectively give an acquired immunity to the cells or organism carrying them; combined with the Cas9 protein specifically, they can identify and cut a specific point in a larger DNA sequence, i.e. a technique for gene editing. In a multicellular organism the DNA can be edited in the organism’s cells or in the germline, those cells that pass down genetic material to the next generation (i.e. in animals, sperm and ova); and so CRISPR/Cas9 can be used to change the genome of a population and effect that change for the population’s descendants as well: “Something entering the germ line, something that would be passed down hereditarily”. CRISPR/Cas9 has already been used on human stem cells, and its use on human embryos is just beginning — barely a few weeks ago, its use for research on human embryos was permitted in the UK. This is cutting-edge science! The ethical and hazardous implications of its use are obvious.

It seems the CRISPR/Cas9 that we discover in the episode was effected on the population via their vaccination for smallpox. Smallpox vaccines were mandatory until 1972, after which the disease was considered eradicated; the last outbreak dates from 1977. Hidden inside the smallpox vaccination was a “Spartan virus“, a delivery of a CRISPR/Cas9 complex that would target the ADA gene in the host. However, the immunodeficiency started manifesting itself in the present day. Why it did not manifest itself immediately and how it got activated is not clear. Tad suggests the “spreading of a substance that triggers a genetic response” via chemtrails, however how that works is not detailed.

Everyone is affected. Everyone except those who have a specific bit of DNA that can “code for something that targets the Cas9 protein“, destroys it, and renders the deactivation of the immune system impossible. That is alien DNA, inserted in the genome of specific people during their abductions by men (staged as alien abductions). (It was probably inserted thanks to a gene editing technique that involved CRISPR/Cas9, but let’s not go in there.) Scully has it thanks to her abduction (see 2X08: One Breath and 5X02: Redux). She also mentions she has “extra nucleotides“, extra letters to the four-letter DNA code (C, G, A, T) that all Earth organisms share, that identify this part of her genome as alien (see the seminal 1X23: The Erlenmeyer Flask). Mulder doesn’t have it as his abduction (by what were, by all accounts, aliens, and not men like for Scully) was aiming to convert him into a Supersoldier; whatever remnants of Black Oil he had inside him (7X04: Amor Fati) they were “flushed” then and he was returned “in perfect health“, free of his previous diseases (8X18: Three Words).

5X02_pcr

10X6_pcr

Scully and Einstein perform a PCR (polymerase chain reaction, to multiply a DNA sequence) followed by agarose gel electrophoresis, twice, that allow them to identify and isolate the alien DNA bit. They use “primers from my sequence“; primers are short nucleic acid sequences that identify DNA strands and start their multiplication. The alien DNA is situated “near the centromere, on chromosome 17“, the middle part of one of 46 chromosomes in the human genome. Scully then creates bags labelled “Spartan virus vaccine 10ml” that can carry that alien DNA strand inside the body, and reactivate the ADA gene. How that part of alien DNA becomes part of the host’s genome is not detailed — is CRISPR/Cas9 to insert the gene involved?

Scully sees Mulder is very weak and says he would also need stem cells, to help rebuild his immune system along with the Spartan virus vaccine. To prevent their rejection, stem cells from a person genetically close is preferable — hence the mention of William. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells, before they become specialized cells such as muscle or neurons. They can be acquired from an embryo, but also from adult, mainly from bone marrow.

It is quite complex! The CSM essentially quotes the science fiction seminal classic, H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” with his observation: “The ultimate irony. The defeat of the big-brained beasts by the tiniest unthinking microbes.” The novel ends with the invading aliens being killed by common bacteria they had no protection against:

“slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth”.

 

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43 Responses to “10X6: My Struggle II”

  1. brut85 says:

    FABULOUS review…and you share most all of my concerns….great job!

  2. ed says:

    Scully can’t click “find-phone” in Mulder’s computer but can create in 5hours some crazy mechanism/vaccine that will save the world…

    There’s so many thing wrong in this episode, in every level, plot, dialogues, and so on, that time will only make this perception even worse.

    That being said, the performance of William B Dave (working with such awful material, playing a non-sense character) is nothing less than outstanding.

  3. Magic says:

    I’m curious to see your opinion of this theory; I personally love it and hope either this is where Chris is going or he reads this theory and changes the story accordingly 😉

    http://secretsunjr.blogspot.com/2016/02/x-files-my-struggle-part-ii-or-outfoxed.html

    • orodromeus says:

      I’ve read it yes. Interesting observations, but I don’t buy it.
      Only Mulder needs William’s stem cells, for a specific medical reason, help his weakened organism fight infections, not everyone; Scully’s vaccine is sufficient for everybody else.
      Scully is far from being the only abductee left, and she was not a hybrid like Cassandra.
      As for the rest of the links, like Jeffrey Spender, I think these are more thematic cues than specific hints about the plot.
      I would have liked the outbreak we see in the episode be a false flag operation for something greater, but I saw no indication in the episode. Not that Carter can’t go there afterwards, with the alien DNA be used for something else, but I don’t think he has thought things through that much.

      • Chris Knowles says:

        First of all, you don’t know if Mulder only needs the stem cells. William was prophesied to be a crucial factor in colonization. His stem cells or genetic material may in fact become part of the vaccine.

        Second, read what I actually wrote: “Scully being the final survivor of the hybrid tests performed by the Syndicate.” That’s a big difference than only abductee.

        Third, Scully is very much looking to be a hybrid since we saw that her DNA markers are different than everyone else’s. And the clear parallels to Red and the Black make it evident she is in fact the new Cassandra Spender.

        Fourth, Carter said that old characters that died would be brought back in a way that honored past storylines, hence the Lone Gunmen coming back as hallucinations. Not only was CSM vaporized, we saw in William that JS was not only trying in infiltrate what was left of the Syndicate he was also impersonating Mulder. Also note that “Miller” gets Mulder and Miller was the alias JS used.

        And everyone also seems to be ignoring the entire subplot with the smallpox vaccines which goes back to Anasazi and Herrenvolk and ties directly into the creation of hybrids and worker races.

        As to the science there were two scientists who worked on the script so I’ll defer to their expertise.

        I have a lot of issues with this revival, starting with that Fight Club times infinity Were-Lizard thing. I’m not going to try to speak for Chris Carter. But if you’re going to criticize what I wrote, please get the details right first.

        • Chris Knowles says:

          And I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before- the whole South Carolina connection points right to Colonization via the live smallpox tests on the schoolyard in Zero Sum. And what else did we see in Zero Sum? One major character impersonating another.

        • orodromeus says:

          Hi, and thanks for commenting here. I appreciate what you are saying, however despite the additional information I have trouble with all these points.

          The stem cells are referred to in relation to Mulder specifically because Mulder seems weaker than e.g. Miller and Mulder needs help for his immune system to recover. There is a specific medical reason to do stem cell transplant in this case, and a genetically close donor is preferable. William’s stem cells would not be more useful to anybody else. William might be part of the solution, since that’s what has been teased at as far back as season 7, but not in this way.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hematopoietic_stem_cell_transplantation

          Scully’s DNA is different to a common person’s, but it should be no different from any other abductee that has been experimented on. 2X08: One Breath implies that Scully was being used for hybridization experiments, yes, and that’s what all abductees have been for to begin with, to create a hybrid slave race or to perfect a hybridization method for the Syndicate members. So I don’t see how Scully would be any special. Why are you assuming that all other hybridization subjects or abductees have been exterminated? Cassandra Spender was very expressly a one-of-a-kind successful hybrid, whereas there appeared to be nothing special to Scully’s abduction years before. The visual callbacks to The Red and the Black fit with an alien abduction scene, not to mention that both episodes were directed by Chris Carter.

          I understand that CSM having survived might seem incredible to you too but I don’t see this as the reason why we should be looking for alternative theories to comfort us. The only thing that would make me tick is the mention of a decade having past since Reyes left the FBI, which coincides with the moment the old informant contacted Mulder, but is also 4 years after the events of The Truth — but it might be just an error with the dates, the sort of which the XF writers have made several in the past.
          Speaking of motives, here is how Jeffrey Spender described his father and himself in the episode William:
          “Sitting here, you’d wish me dead. Shortly, I’ll do you the favor.”
          “Having failed as a conspirator to control alien colonization, my father wanted nothing more than to see the world fail, too.”
          “I took revenge on my father by taking William away from them.”
          So, Jeffrey was looking to destroy his father’s work, not continue it.

          As for the smallpox vaccine, yes it has been referred to before but for a different purpose, the tagging and cataloging of every person (Herrenvolk), and for identifying persons once they have been turned into unrecognizable hybrids (Anasazi). Here it is presented as being responsible for delivering a virus. You could say that it was being used to deliver the alien genes in hybridization (Anasazi), there you might be on to something. However, my main issue with the whole “false flag” theory — that the conspirators want to frighten people into getting another vaccine and that Scully is unknowingly deploying what will become colonization — is the complexity of it all. If you could deliver a virus to everyone via mandatory injections, why not deliver directly the genetic material you want people to get, i.e. the alien virus? Also, you are betting everything on the hope that the cure will be found by an ex-abductee doctor? And why would the CSM be lying to Mulder?

          If the this “false flag” theory proves true in season 11, I hope at least that the vaccine will be mandatory and delivered by FEMA or the CDC, and that it will not have been all thanks to Scully.

          • Chris Knowles says:

            I think you’re looking for a level of exactitude here that is not only beyond the scope of The X-Files but beyond most TV sci-fi. Most science in TV SF is essentially magic- they write the plots and shoehorn in the science later. What we are looking at here are broader themes and connections. Why South Carolina? Where did that come from? Well, it comes from Zero Sum, the site of the live smallpox test. The Spartanburg virus all led back to the smallpox vaccines in Anasazi. Since this science is all made up- we have no idea what alien DNA would actually do- it’s rather futile to get technical about what the smallpox program was doing in Herrenvolk. Otherwise why bring it up at all? Why not create some new virus or contagion especially for the Spartanburg contagion? As to CSM being a disguised Jeffrey, I did mention in the piece that A., he may be trying to subvert the program from within or B., he may have simply resigned himself to the inevitability of the apocalypse, given exactly what he told Mulder. Which, by the way, was extremely un-CSM in nature and certainly counter to the way CSM behaved towards Mulder the last we saw him.

            And there is something special about Scully’s DNA- she had prolonged exposure to the spaceship in Africa, which clearly had a powerful effect on the black oil virus in Mulder’s system and probably did to her as well. Carter was clearly and consciously recreating shots from Red&Black to draw the parallels. It’s obviously different from Cassandra but the apparent goal seems to be to manipulate Scully into creating a vaccine which will infect those with the right DNA profile with alien genes, transforming them into hybrids as we saw with Scully in the beginning. As to the complexity of it, we are talking about The X-Files, aren’t we? This is par for the course. Byzantine plots are the life’s blood of the Mytharc. I don’t think I need to cite all the precedents for extremely complex conspiracies depicted on the show itself.

            But I guess we’ll have to see what happens if there’s a season 11. I think that would have to be a continuous story, I don’t think anything else would satisfy today’s audience.

      • Magic says:

        What makes me think that what Chris Carter did in My Struggle 1 and 2 is a recontextualization (explanation to come) of the mythology and not a revolution/destruction of the previous mythos of the show was the Cliff-hanger scene … I think Chris understands X-Files fans are too smart and sophisticated to except a story-line that for all intense and purposes makes the mythos of the first 9 seasons irrelevant and that’s why I fully believe that that UFO at the Cliff-hanger is being flown by Aliens and they will be brought back full-force into the story-line in Season 11.

        Now what do I mean by recontextualization, the easiest way to explain it is through a model:

        First 9 Seasons (Hierarchy of Conspiracy)

        Aliens (Colonization Agenda or whatever else it is)

        Syndicate (for the most part doing the Aliens bidding but on the side working on a vaccine)

        FBI/Government/Corporations

        Revival; screws around with that hierarchy and it becomes something more along the lines of:

        Aliens (Colonization) Syndicate (Global domination)

        FBI/Government/Corporations.

        So basically the Revival changes the Syndicate from mostly being stooges of the Aliens (and being under them) to being on an equal footing with the Aliens and having their own fully separate agenda that the Aliens might not even know about.

        So because that’s how I understand it what I see happening in Season 11 is some-kind of a battle between Smoky and the Syndicate and the Aliens.

        • Magic says:

          Other then that battle the other main part of Season 11 will of course be about our favorite team of FBI agents trying to save humanity in this recontextualized world and maybe even pick a side to stand with.

      • Magic says:

        What makes me think that what Chris Carter did in My Struggle 1 and 2 is a recontextualization (explanation to come) of the mythology and not a revolution/destruction of the previous mythos of the show was the Cliff-hanger scene … I think Chris understands X-Files fans are too smart and sophisticated to except a story-line that for all intense and purposes makes the mythos of the first 9 seasons irrelevant and that’s why I fully believe that that UFO at the Cliff-hanger is being flown by Aliens and they will be brought back full-force into the story-line in Season 11.

        Now what do I mean by recontextualization, the easiest way to explain it is through a model:

        First 9 Seasons (Hierarchy of Conspiracy)

        Aliens (Colonization Agenda or whatever else it is)

        Syndicate (for the most part doing the Aliens bidding but on the side working on a vaccine)

        FBI/Government/Corporations

        Revival; screws around with that hierarchy and it becomes something more along the lines of:

        Aliens (Colonization) Syndicate (Global domination)

        FBI/Government/Corporations.

        So basically the Revival changes the Syndicate from mostly being stooges of the Aliens (and being under them) to being on an equal footing with the Aliens and having their own fully separate agenda that the Aliens might not even know about.

        So because that’s how I understand it what I see happening in Season 11 is some-kind of a battle between Smoky and the Syndicate and the Aliens. As for our 2 favorite FBI agents they will be trying to save humanity in this recontextualized world and maybe even pick a side to stand with.

        • orodromeus says:

          If colonizing aliens are still part of the picture, we don’t have enough knowledge yet to understand what is going on. They might have left, they might have been destroyed, they might be collaborating with the conspiracy that is still covering their existence, or they might have been so well infiltrated that not even the conspiracy knows about their plans anymore.

          What’s most problematic in season 10 is that CSM is again at the center of it all. So, colonization was not true and he was lying and manipulating the Syndicate during nine seasons; or he learned the truth after 2002, but he seems to be saying what happens with the Spartan virus was the plan all along; or the colonization is true and he was lying to Mulder in this episode for some reason; or the aliens have left, and the CSM is using what he had planned with the Syndicate for his own world-conquering purposes.

          • Magic says:

            How I see it neither the Syndicate nor the Aliens were completely honest with each other about what their agendas were as well obviously CSM and the Syndicate have never been really honest with Mulder about what their agenda was. So what Mulder knows or thinks he knows as well what we know as viewers are but pieces of the whole; the truth is still a big maze.

            Now in terms of your CSM point for me the bigger point with that is that he should be dead; I don’t buy that explanation from my My Struggle 2 but I also understand Chris’s move in that in a 6 episode Season it would have been very hard to create a new main villain so he decided to resurrect the old one. My hope is Season 11 is both longer and has more mythology episodes and because of both of those things that gives Chris and all the other writers enough time to create a new main villain. Some possibilities that I can throw out right away: William, Agent Miller, or a new character that CSM has taken under his wings as his protege.

          • Magic says:

            Right and to finish off my thought to show that there is a new main villain whoever he is he should kill CSM with a bullet to the head.

          • orodromeus says:

            I agree with you that everyone is manipulating everyone and it’s a maze. But you can’t have just conflicting information, if you want to tell a story it has to make some sense at the end. So I would be more OK with the “conspiracy of men” theory if we hadn’t actually seen the conspirators discussing colonization with each other (Red & Black, Two Fathers). I would be OK with the theory that alien colonization is happening in My Struggle II if the CSM hadn’t said these things; CSM had no reason to lie to Mulder at this point.

            The thing is, there was already a new villain that was supposed to replace the CSM: that was the Toothpick Man during season 9, a Supersoldier. He could have been the villain in s10. Alan Dale is a good actor, he would have been good at this.

  4. Zabird says:

    Excellent post! Now some questions/observations.

    Note that Scully referred to Monica as a “trusted friend.” Monica must’ve told her some other stuff to convince Scully, stuff that Scully did not share with Einstein. I’ve seen some suggestions that Monica might be running a con on Ol’ Smoky. What do you think?

    Also, all of this “reporting” came via a conspiracy guy on the Web, not the mainstream media, a fact that O’Malley himself mentions. So …

    And speaking of O’Malley, how did he know the results of Scully’s DNA test?

    Oh, and why the extreme close-ups of some people’s eyes?

    This is like the message board days of yore … I just hope that we don’t have to wait more than a year or two for Season 11. And that there are at least 8-10 episodes to give these stories a bit more breathing room.

    • orodromeus says:

      Reyes is already running a con on CSM by contacting Scully and telling her about the “chosen ones”. What else could have she said to Scully that we don’t know of? (and what is the storytelling purpose of your lead characters knowing more than your audience?)

      There’s O’Malley’s reporting but there’s also Einstein who was in contact with the CDC. It is spreading.

      It is implied that throughout the episode Scully and O’Malley are in contact via text messages. It is all but shown at the end when Scully stops the rioters then cut to O’Malley looking at his phone.

  5. GM says:

    The science of it was by no means good as most working scientists in the field would tell you. Unfortunately, a virologist/microbiologist is not necessarily qualified to consult on these issues, much less to try to tie them together into a show with such a complex plot history.

    Much of the science presented in that episode fails horribly on its own, even without that problem. But it is especially bad when trying to fit it with the past of the series — scientific buzzwords and techniques only invented a couple years ago tend to fail miserably when inserted in such contexts.

    The X-Files used to work best when it did not spend too much time on the science behind the X-File case/conspiracy plans, because often times the premise was absurd and thus doing so would have exposed the giant plot holes in the narrative. The result of avoiding that trap was some classic television.

    This episode spent a third of its time in detailed scientific expositions, which made sure that only people who have zero knowledge of molecular biology could possibly enjoy it (if it didn’t have a lot of other problems, that is).

    Let’s ignore the chronological blunders (the only reason CRISPRs are there is that it is a trendy buzzword — no conspiracy by aliens going back half a century would use that, the damn thing wasn’t even discovered until a dozen years ago, AFTER the S09 finale, and the aliens would probably have something much better anyway).

    Let’s focus on the most basic molecular biology problems.

    Does anyone even think about issues like how you identify “alien DNA” and how that alien DNA would be replicated and expressed in human cells?

    — If alien DNA had been inserted into everyone’s genome, then Scully would have no way of figuring out she had something extra, because it would be there in the reference sequene too.
    — She would have very hard time finding it anyway — how exactly do you find out you have “alien DNA” by sequencing you genome? The assumption is that strange additional sequences are artefacts, and it would have taken quite a bit of follow up experiments to confirm they were integrated into her genomes. Yet it was presented as if she just knew it in a snap of a finger. Nobody seems to have thought about that problem.
    — Which becomes only much worse once you think about the extra nucleotides. How are they able to amplify that? DNA polymerases often choke on unfamiliar substrates and they most definitely don’t have those extran nucleotides in the master mixes that labs used. Which means neither the PCR not the sequencing would have worked…
    — But more importantly, that DNA would not survive in human cells either — because it would not be replicated as we likely have neither the enzymes to make those extra nucleotides not the polymerases that would recognize them.
    — We do have one thing that would recognize them though and it is DNA repair mechanisms that would see them as damage, remove them and replace them with regular nucleotides almost immediately. And that would be the end of the alien DNA…
    — Also, how do you express alien DNA? More likely than not, it uses a different genetic code. Alien proteins might well also use different amino acids. But it is in human cells….

    etc. etc..

    The whole thing is so absurd that makes the episode very hard to watch.

    Yet you are praising the science. I don’t understand that.

    P.S. The scientific consultants are forever disgraced for what they did — if I was to get co-writing credits for an X-File episode, I am either doing everything possible to force Chris Carter to not butcher the science or I am taking my name off the credits.

    • orodromeus says:

      Well, if your arguments are at the level of how do genes express themselves as proteins, I think you are already more scientifically sound than 99% of what entertainment does. Your mileage may vary, perhaps proportionally to how good your knowledge of that field may be. As for the old show, it was never very specific either, it was more hazy compared to the specifics of this episode. I get your points, but this is a show that tries to have a scientific appearance and tell a fictional story. If anything, it is a story about the dangers of these new techniques of gene editing.

      I had trouble with how Scully identified “alien DNA” in My Struggle as well. If it’s part of her genome, what’s so special about it? Then in this episode they talk again of extra nucleotides. That might be just it: the bits with these nucleotides migrates to a different spot on the PCR, these are the isolated bars. But that’s a fair criticism about these nucleotides not being present in the substrate…

      About DNA repair mechanisms, you certainly know more than I do. If the bit is already a part of the DNA sequence in the entire organism, how is it identified and removed?

      The fact that these techniques were invented barely a few years ago is not really an incoherence. The point of talking about “alien tech” is really to say that the conspiracy had access to advanced techniques before everybody else did.

      • GM says:

        About DNA repair mechanisms, you certainly know more than I do. If the bit is already a part of the DNA sequence in the entire organism, how is it identified and removed?

        This is the point — it can’t be a part of the DNA in the wohle organism if it has “extra nucleotides”. It won’t survive even the first cell division after it gets inserted.

        Nucleotides that don’t look like normal nucleotides are often recognized as DNA damage (because that’s what a lot of DNA damage is — modified nucleotides due to various chemical reactions) and excised. Not all of them, it depends on the specifics, but it more likely than not if it something out of the normal, it is being recognized as not normal and the cell will attempt to repair it.

        Even if they surivive, they are not going to be replicated because when a cell from an organism on Earth replicates its DNA, it only makes more dA,dC,dG and dT, and uses those to replicates its DNA. It does not make whatever the other two new nucleotides are. And its replication machinery is finely tuned to working with dA,dC,dG and dT.

        The fact that these techniques were invented barely a few years ago is not really an incoherence. The point of talking about “alien tech” is really to say that the conspiracy had access to advanced techniques before everybody else did.

        But it cannot be alien tech. CRISPRs are an adaptive immunity system found in prokaryotes on Earth. It turned out that it is possible to engineer one of the CRISPR systems (and a couple of others later) for gene editing purposes. But all of that (the discovery of CRISPR and its adaptation for that purposes) happened only in the last decade or so.

        Whatever world the aliens are from most likely does not have CRISPRs. And being how advanced they are (having mastered interstellar travel) why would they be using earthly CRISPRs, even if assume they came here a long time ago and learned all there is to learn about the molecular biology of organisms on Earth? Presumably they have much better tools…

        • ireactions says:

          I don’t think the Spartan virus using CRISPRs is an issue — the Conspiracy of Men used alien technology to create the virus to affect humans and bring about their endgame. What aliens would or wouldn’t do isn’t an issue as it’s merely alien knowledge and technology at play here. It’s hardly a stretch that something in alien technology had direct application to genome alteration that allowed the Conspiracy of Men to attack this immunity even if aliens wouldn’t have done so.

          The part about extra DNA appears to be an error — or, rather, dramatic license as a plot device.

        • orodromeus says:

          Frankly I was surprised at the mention of nucleotides as well. It’s something from way back in season 1 (The Erlenmeyer Flask), introduced for Scully to be able to definitely say “this is alien”. The dialogue was: “a virus inside a bacteria” “in order to inject it into something living. It’s called gene therapy and it’s still highly experimental.” And the 6-nucleotide DNA was find in the bacteria, not the virus: “DNA sequences from the bacteria”. I always assumed the bacteria were alien, and it was being used in order to carry an artificially created virus, that was carrying alien/human hybrid (4-nucleotide) genes for gene therapy.

          But the dialogue in “My Struggle II” points towards the theory that all hybridization has been involving 6 nucleotides, which, as you say, is more complicated. Also, re: CRISPRs: maybe we should keep in mind that the aliens might have had a hand in the evolution of life on Earth (see Biogenesis) and our biologies and ecosystems might be actually close.

          We might be touching the limits of what has to be accepted by the viewer in order for the science fictional story to make sense. Similarly, I could say the aliens mastering interstellar travel defies the laws of (currently known) physics.

  6. ireactions says:

    Posted this on your Facebook page:

    I’m sorry you didn’t like “My Struggle II.” I really enjoyed it and I hoped you would too because you like THE X-FILES more than I do. I’m more a student of the show than a fan.

    I would disagree with you in some areas, primarily about quality. I actually hoped that you of all people would offer some way to square the Colonization mythology with the Conspiracy of Men; you’ve thrown out several options, mainly the Syndicate manipulated via implanted memories and staged incidents, while declaring this is unlikely and strained. Anyway, where I disagreed with you —

    Colonization and the Cliffhanger: The problem was always that TXF was a criminal procedural set in hospital hallways, office buildings, shadowy streets and rural locations. It’s not a place for interstellar dogfights and ray guns and laser swords, so Colonization was always a story hopelessly at odds with TXF as a criminal procedural with supernatural overtones. MS2 offers a Colonization of the human body via a virus created with alien technology; a lot of what was onscreen was similar to fears of drug resistant superbugs and the consequences. So, MS2 gave us a Colonization story that was actually suited to the format.

    I disagree that this is a “Millennium” situation. From an in-story POV, the solution to the Spartan virus is already present: Scully has devised a cure. Monica Reyes, having worked for the Smoking Man, must have given Scully more information, such as the identities of the chosen all around the globe.

    It would be very easy for Season 11 to reveal that once Scully created the cure, Reyes took action to have as many compliant ‘chosen’ as possible participate in mass producing and distributing the cure, meaning Scully has kicked Colonization’s ass and reduced the end of humanity to a one-day crisis.

    I can’t see how else Scully would have referred to Reyes as “a friend” after Reyes revealed her collusion or why Scully was so forcefully confident that everything would be alright if panicking people would just get to a hospital.

    Also, the original plan for “Millennium” in the producers’ minds was that Season 3 would be Frank and Jordan wandering the devastated landscape of the world after the virus had done its work. However, Glen Morgan and James Wong’s acrimonious relationship with FOX saw them leave and their intentions disregarded.

    Monica Reyes and the Smoking Man: I think Reyes’ motives for working for the Smoking Man are clear. She wanted to learn as much as possible about the Spartan virus and stop it. As for the Smoking Man, his character has always been shown to be addicted to power, an addiction Mulder characterizes as “sickness.” Reyes is openly contemptuous of the Smoking Man, who seems to enjoy it, enjoying having power over a beautiful woman, beckoning her to do his bidding with a gesture. It’s the same glee he exhibited when threatening Skinner in “Paper Clip” and making him do clean-up in “Zero Sum.” It’s a version of the relationship he hoped to forge with Scully in “En Ami.”

    This delight in power is further shown when the Smoking Man declares that it is “people” who chose to destroy the world, as though he were above them and not one of them and has not played a role in the state of this world. Certainly, the Smoking Man had access and influence and technology to help people, but he chose instead to treat the human race as his enemy. In “En Ami,” he speaks warmly of the power to hold life and death in one’s hands, attributing that desire for power to Scully; he was talking about himself. The ability to exterminate humanity outside of those he has chosen is his addiction and corruption taken to a logical conclusion.

    The Smoking Man is also an essential icon of TXF’s moral structure: he represents a twisted hunger for power that is only wielded in destructive terms; his sense of power exists only in dealing out violence and death.

    And ultimately, I was touched and moved by MS2, clearly in ways you were not. Colonization has always been so terrifying and all-encompassing. And then it comes — and it’s just a problem. A scientific problem. A problem with which Scully grapples and battles until she beats it into submission and saves us all, combining Mulder’s belief in extreme possibilities with her own scientific acumen.

    Despite being apart, I felt Mulder and Scully were every bit a team. Mulder represented the moral side of the story, making it clear that the Smoking Man’s self-declared pragmatism are the musings of a sick, twisted and deranged old man and Scully proves the Smoking Man wrong — the problems of our world are not insurmountable and they do not have to consume us. They can be solved with perseverance, knowledge and teamwork. Colonization was beaten. I felt hope.

    And when the spaceship at the end appeared, I felt something else — I felt this sense that even though the Conspiracy has been laid out and made clear (albeit with a lot of retcons and wholesale ignoring of the past), there is always something unknown, something out there — something for the X-Files.

    I loved it. I’m sorry you didn’t, my friend. Your devotion and love for the show is so clear — I would gladly trade every drop of pleasure I took in the series for an episode you would have liked.

    • orodromeus says:

      Thank you very much for your kind words! And your appreciation of the CSM’s character. You summarize the character perfectly, he is still his old self. I lament the fact that he has returned, just because the show feels like it has stalled at the same point for years. Also, what you say about Scully and Mulder and the problem-solving shows you definitely enjoyed the episode a lot! I do see that quite a bit of thinking went into the episode and many of these things were intended. What persist in my impressions is that the episode felt unnaturally quick, to the point where it is impossible to enjoy such qualities, however present they may be. That’s why I am wondering who else might be enjoying this apart from viewers who were already convinced to watch this revival by having already been drawn to the show thanks to its previous seasons.

      Re: Millennium: This is not the same situation because of Scully’s science — but thematically it is similar, a man-made biological apocalypse. And I remember Morgan or Wong’s description of a post-apocalyptic setting for their season 3, but I really think this was more of a fanciful musing on their behalf than a direction Carter and Fox really considered. For all intents and purposes, Morgan and Wong were writing the series finale and had absolutely no input in the making of the third season.

      I certainly agree with you that XF is a show about the paranormal in the mundane — hospitals, corridors, streets. It follows that its version of the alien invasion should be closer to these sensibilities, this is why a viral war is perfectly adapted. This is what I had in mind as well, and not some “Independence Day” type of big-budget war. However, what I mean in the beginning was that “My Struggle II” went even beyond that, with a viral outbreak and social unrest that goes far beyond what XF has shown us before, and thus makes it less believable as “our world”.

      There are many ways this can go afterwards. Scully solved the problem and literally saved the world. The outbreak is stopped by those in charge — in the same unknown way it was started (there is also nanotechnology involved?). The ‘false flag’theory: the government comes up with its own cure that they distribute mandatorily to the scared population, only to have this “cure” be the actual alien DNA infection, ushering colonization…or whatever the end game is.

      I had in mind to compile a list of points that would try to reconcile the “conspiracy of men” storyline, or at least see where it falls on contradiction with what came before. So I am going to check on your work on reddit.

  7. Fantastic review, as always. I could’ve done without praising the science too much, but your review of this episode is certainly one of the best, if not *the* best. I’ve also written something about this finale, and the “new” mytharc in general: https://sites.google.com/site/questionsforcc/

  8. Kritschgau says:

    Thanks for your insightful review! I think we need a new primer trying to fit the core of this new mythology into the old one!

  9. Matt says:

    This is a great summation, as always, but respectfully I’ll have to defer and agree with Chris Knowles on many of his points. This isn’t to not acknowledge the areas of the episode, or season, that could have been better. I do. But I have processing a great deal, and I just respectfully disagree with some conclusions.

  10. Immortal Scully says:

    I read your page for years and I’m grateful for the work & research you do to bring us your reviews.

    1) I’m a fan of the series since ’94 when the show first aired in my country and my 10 years old self fell in love with it from an add and stayed up until after midnight to watch it.
    2) After the last movie I didn’t want the series to return, I thought the show belonged to the 90s and nothing could top the atmosphere and the brilliance of the original (and especially of the first 5 seasons – although some motw episodes of s9 are up there in quality with s1-5)
    … having said that, after I watched s10 I want more (and I wouldn’t mind a spin off) not because I need answers but because s10 – with all its flaws – it managed to intrigue me & to challenge my mind in ways that very few sci-fi series since The X-Files and Millennium have managed to do.
    The first episode is my least favorite of the revival, it felt strange somehow but with Founder’s mutation and on it felt like the classic X-Files
    Was it perfect? No
    Could it be better? Yes
    But in the end it showed me that the series has much to offer and it can exist today while true to its spirit.

    I can understand the criticism and I can see where some of it is coming.

    First of all, I’m not a virologist,immunologist or a medical doctor and I can not say if the science is sound or not, but it makes sense to me in the context of the series. It’s a science fiction not a science show and for me the way the science is used in s10 is like how it was used in the past 9 seasons. Also, I appreciate the fact that there is a science advisor and science in the series has some base in reality and Scully doesn’t create a device that can communicate with the dead people to get answers from Deep Throat etc. The modification of the DNA, the creation of “better” humans are matters that are present in science today and The X-Files is always great in mixing fiction with reality.

    About the inconsistencies from the old mythology: Fist lets wait and see how everything will play out in s11, I don’t expect or want answers about everything but there are still many ways the story can unfold that can fit with the old mythology. When Einstein said she will have alien DNA what came to my mind is: that’s the whole point. It reminded me the episode Red Museum where the kids were tested with the purity control and WMM words in the first movie “That’s spontaneous re-population”. Wouldn’t Scully’s vaccine speed up the process of the creation of a super race or at least isn’t a great large scale test with alien DNA? So what if that’s what the aliens or the conspirators want?
    Also the concept of good aliens is not new to the series. The episode E.B.E. hinted that, also Cassandra Spender first said that aliens are here to teach us and later said she was wrong and the different races are in war. Let’s see how that will play out. Did the good aliens/rebels won the war off screen and the colonization is stopped or the colonization/ deal with aliens was a lie all along(I don’t believe that) or maybe the colonization just started?
    The way I see it a lot of parallel plans run and there are conspiracies within conspiracies. The abductions of the first season and in Tempus Fugit/ Max are different from the government abductions, we have different experiments happening in the abductees and for different purposes, many kind of hybrids, clones, the propaganda project in Redux (Michael K. wasn’t lying if I remember correctly, that was his job and didn’t know anything about aliens) etc. Plans change, adapt in the current circumstances but in my opinion the heart of the conspiracy was always the survival of a small elite/ the syndicate and the control of the fate of humanity through the control of the DNA and the control of alien technology. I agree with you that a different main villain in s10 would fit with that better but I can’t imagine the criticism if they didn’t bring CSM back.

    Also I hear all the time why Mulder is not immune like Scully. Idk if I’m right cause I haven’t seen s8 for ages but isn’t Mulder suppose to be clean from alien DNA (or at least not a hybrid anymore) after “DeadAlive”? And in “En Ami” didn’t CSM showed Scully a 120 years old woman with a chip in her neck like her? I can be wrong but to me it makes perfect sense why Scully is immune and Mulder isn’t.

    I also like how William was handled which was something I was worried about. I liked the reason why they need him, I prefer the intimate scenario that Mulder needs stem cells from his son instead of s9 mythology.

    Another thing I see on the internet and I disagree with is the pressure for Chris Carter to step aside. I agree that he may need a writing partner or someone to overview his scripts and fix some of his writing problems (problems he has in the original series too) and I missed Rob Bowman in the direction but to me his vision, his ideas and the layers he puts in the series are still very much needed and what sets The X-Files apart from any other series.
    I also don’t get the sudden turn to Frank Spotnitz for salvation, wasn’t he there in s7-9 and in the second movie?
    I know Chris pisses off the shippers but a) the show isn’t a shipper show is a supernatural, crime, procedural, investigation, conspiracy show and b) M&S are indeed the heart of the show but not their sexual lives but the respect they share, their ideas and views that don’t match but they complete e/o, their philosophical conversations, their loyalty to one another and I saw all these in the revival.

    I just hope in s11 they can fix some pacing problems and they can get Vince Gilligan for a monster of the week and Rob Bowman to direct the mythology episodes but other than that I’m satisfied with s10 as a whole.

    P.S. Sorry for my English but it’s not my mother language.
    P.S.2 Thanks again for your reviews and your insights.

    • orodromeus says:

      You are right, conspiracies change and adapt to the situation. However the mythology developed during so many years in the series did make sense on the long run and it’s difficult to twist it without resulting in contradictions. The situation might have changed since 2002, for example some alien faction won another and colonization was cancelled or postponed. What is more frustrating is the fact that s10 doesn’t try to bridge the past with the present, offer a story for why things are different, but instead outright says that everything that came before are lies; and also the characters (well, Mulder) accept that it was all a lie without much resistance. s11 might return to the colonization storyline with complex manipulations, but then s10 will look like a short clumpsy misdirection when looking back. Let’s wait and see where this goes.

      What you say about Mulder’s and Scully’s alien DNA is my thinking as well. Scully’s DNA gives protection to the effects of the Spartan virus — but it’s not an immunity against the Black Oil virus, which was the point of the hybridization experiments from earlier in the series.

      Thank you very much for your thoughts and level-headed assessment of s10!

  11. Jason says:

    Something that I have not yet seen addressed in any reviews (and this may be because of negative opinions, mine own included, of season 9) is the prophecy concerning Wililam and Mulder. The (convoluted?) logic dictated that William would save mankind but only if Mulder lives. That seems to have come true in MS2.

    While it seems Scully has saved mankind with her vaccine, Einstein correctly points out she is also injecting everyone with alien dna. It is possible this will set off a chain of events that would lead to “spontaneous repopulation.” MS1 merely theorizes that aliens are not actively conspiring to colonize the earth. It would fit plotwise and thematically if the aliens that came to earth in the 20th century could not survive for long periods of time in the earth’s atmosphere and therefore planned a later date (2012?) to begin occupation, anticipating climate change would create more viable conditions, also more conducive for the species to evolve. Both FTF and The Beginning suggest the “newborn” gestated aliens need heat to evolve!

    But Scully’s vaccine is not the purity virus. It is akin to the Syndicate’s gene therapy work, transforming the surviving humans into a slave race. The aliens would need to act fast, however, in order for those not vaccinated to be infected with purity before they either die or receive Scully’s vaccine. This would likely occur simultaneously and the aliens’ delivery system would probably be much more efficient than Scully and Einstein’s system of delivering the vaccine. The result would be a substantial number of people dead, a small handful vaccinated, only to become a slave race, and the rest used as hosts for purity.

    Now as for the prophecy, if Mulder had been killed in season 9 or at any point since, there would be no need for Scully to seek out William. When the events in MS2 occur, Mulder is indeed alive and Scully must use William’s stem cells to save Mulder. But when she does this, it is likely she would discover the difference in her alien DNA, given to her by the syndicate, and William’s, with her fertility being linked to the alien craft in Cote D’ivoire. Thus, William becomes mankind’s savior. Conversely, if Mulder had died before MS2, the post apocalyptic world would have consisted of the slave race, a population of newly gestated EBEs, and William, there to serve a function similar to Gibson in the power plant in The Beginning, leading the new alien race toward its evolutionary destiny.

    • orodromeus says:

      What do you mean when you say “But when she does this, it is likely she would discover the difference in her alien DNA, given to her by the syndicate, and William’s, with her fertility being linked to the alien craft in Cote D’ivoire. Thus, William becomes mankind’s savior.”? You mean that by examining William’s DNA Scully will be able to devise another vaccine which would act against Purity? As in, William is naturally immune to Purity, and this immunity can be easily replicated? Perhaps it could turn out this way, perhaps.

      Although what we mostly saw in MS2 was Scully acting as a savior, much more than Mulder, who was in the prophecy.

      • Jason says:

        Yes, that is essentially what I mean. But it might seem a bit redundant storytelling-wise to go with the vaccine route again. I don’t know of another reasonable way to deliver that immunity to the population as a whole. I do suspect that Scully’s line from The Beginning “it would mean that all of us are” will become more important again. You touched on this in your Vienen analysis. Perhaps there is some way to turn on those dormant genes in all humans, to render them naturally immune to purity.

        The more I think about it, the more it seems Scully’s vaccine was only coincidental to the Syndicate’s plan. Maybe the spartan virus was intended to give “the elite,” those with hybrid dna, leverage over the colonists. If the only surviving members of the human race were hybrids then they would never become a slave race because there would be no remaining hosts for purity. This makes sense of CSM’s line that they only changed the time table. By killing of mankind with the spartan virus, they force the colonist’s hand.

        • orodromeus says:

          But then the immunity from the Black Oil was the main thing the Syndicate was trying to develop during most of the series. Either for everyone via the secret vaccine, or only for themselves via gene therapy hybridization. The hybridization program was supposed to create a slave race that would serve the aliens and the surviving Syndicate and their families. We were presented with this story as being the result of an agreement between aliens and Syndicate, with the aliens providing the technology to do gene therapy. Then why would the aliens give the Syndicate the means to exterminate themselves and thus make the hosts disappear? Maybe that was an unintended consequence, maybe the aliens thought that the humans would not go through with this threat of self-destruction.

          And yet, the humans did. They are self-destructing. Maybe in s11 we will see the aliens intervening to prevent our self-destruction, and it will look like they are saving us from ourselves. But they will only be doing it in order to keep the hosts alive for a future colonization. Humanity is trapped between the elites and the colonists. (A nice story, but I still have problems with the CSM saying all these things to Mulder as if he was never part of the Syndicate.)

          • Jason says:

            “The hybridization program was supposed to create a slave race that would serve the aliens and the surviving Syndicate and their families.”

            I’m not sure it is apparent that the syndicate would have been exempt from the slave labor. In Two Fathers an Elder/Alien Rebel complains about this to Krycek:
            “Collaboration has allowed you to prepare… to stall colonization. I mean, how close are you to developing a human/alien hybrid? That alone ensures your survival.”
            “As slave laborers for the aliens.” No one disputed that statement.

            It’s plausible CSM kept his work secret. WMM said in Terma, “Six of us knew,” talking about the black oil vaccine. (Obviously this changed by Patient X). But it shows it’s possible to keep secrets from the syndicate. Embedding the spartan virus in the smallpox vaccine was smart. It would not have raised suspicion among the syndicate or the colonists, since SEP was already part of the project under the guise of tagging and cataloging.

            CSM was always an outsider and despised by the rest of the syndicate but this recasts him as incomparably evil, using the syndicate as a tool to effectively exterminate two species!

            Thanks again for your work on the best x-files site around.

          • orodromeus says:

            You are right about the Syndicate Elders keeping secrets from one another as well. I guess there was precedent, if indeed what CSM reveals in My Struggle II is true. However, he did not only keep something secret from his colleagues, he was able to conceive of a global plague mechanism (something that the Syndicate took years to perfect with the Black Oil virus, with the corn and the bees), divert the smallpox tagging mechanism that the Syndicate was already using for a different purpose, and do all of that decades before, even before the foundation of the Syndicate itself (founded in 1973, and compulsory smallpox vaccinations stopped in 1972).

            In fact, another way to look at it that would make it coherent would be that the whole of the Syndicate was aware of the genetically embedded plague mechanism, and that they were using it as a failsafe mechanism in case the negociations with the aliens would go awry: self-destruct instead of surrendering. This could have been their bargaining chip, forcing the aliens to collaborate with the Syndicate instead of just ignoring them. However, as I pointed out in the review, the problem with this theory is that we are specifically told they got this gene editing technology from the aliens, and it would be counter-productive for the aliens to have given the Syndicate the tools with which they would blackmail them. Perhaps there is an aspect of this whole plan we are not familiar with yet.

  12. Jedi Master says:

    Hi, does anyone know if CC or FS had more influence in the mythology since s6?

    “I still have problems with the CSM saying all these things to Mulder as if he was never part of the Syndicate.”

    Skinner: You can’t ask the truth from a professional liar.

    • orodromeus says:

      As far as anyone can tell, they were both planning this together throughout season 8. Carter has more story credits without Spotnitz in some episodes like The Sixth Extinction and Requiem (the would-be series finale). Carter seemed to have a very important role in season 8 (writing alone the season opening and closing two-parters, and would-be series finale). Season 9 was in the beginning a Spotnitz-only project (season openers) but Carter returned and the apparently worked together for the rest of the season, apart from the series finale which is only Carter. Carter seems to be the one with the grand ideas, and Spotnitz to be the one that translates this into plot and character points.

  13. Immortal Scully says:

    Thank you for your response.

    You have right, they should have tried to bridge the old an new mythology and it would be easy saying that the colonization was postponed by the rebels or something along the lines instead of CSM acting like that was never the plan (Mulder is easily manipulated so it didn’t bother me that he believed the new story he is told). But I still have a feeling that we are not done with the colonization. I think that depends on how much time CC has to tell his story. In an interview he said he didn’t return to end it but can the series go on past s11? How many episodes can they make? How William will fit in with the MOTW etc. He must take these things under consideration and he, Morgan, Wong and everyone else who is returning must sit down and make a plan.
    If there is a good amount of mythology episodes I’m sure at some point the black oil, the clones and the hybrids will return.

    I liked, however, the return to the more human conspiracy and I’m fine with the idea that aliens are here to save us as long as they can do that without erasing the previous seasons. For instance they can say that the colonists were in war with the rest of their race or that a small group of Greys are against the colonists and in times these aliens visited earth to protect it but I’m no expert in the mythology so maybe I’m wrong.

  14. Luke Skywalker says:

    Thanks for the reviews. Personally I don’t care about the mythology since s5 but this episode, even though it wasn’t great, it felt fresh. The stand alone episodes, on the other hand, were amazing – very old school X-Files.

    Do you think at some point we’ll get a spin off?

  15. Alice says:

    Fantastic site. I’m amazed with all the details and information you have on the mythology.
    I enjoyed s10 myself but hearing all the complains I wonder if it would be better if Mulder and Scully passed the torch to a new generation. Lets face it The X-Files can’t be as great as it was in seasons 1-5, the series carries so much burden, so maybe a fresh start in the world of the X-Files is the way to go in the future.
    I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

  16. SamSimon says:

    Very interesting article, I think that you wrote everything that was to be written, thank you! You nailed it with this sentence: “Carter is banking on the hopes that the mythology was too complicated for a significant amount of people to care (which, to a large extent, is true).”
    It is true, and you could rewrite the sentence as a false quote: “”Here’s a big fuck you to all of you, old fans!” Chris Carter.”

    This episode killed my willingness to watch NEW X-Files episodes entirely. I won’t be back for season 11, and I think that I will get to the old episodes as soon as possible, because now I have a bad feeling about the X-Files and I want to remind myself how good it was. Of course it was many times inconsistent, as you also wrote; of course the mythology-standalone mix was not always working, but… it was good!!!

    These new episodes are not. As much as one tries to find good stuff in them, they are certainly not good. That’s a shame, but that’s life. At least I can say that I have 7 good seasons that I can re-watch! :–)

  17. Ana Bastow says:

    A lot late to the game maybe you are over this review but I wonder why are we believing CSM and the new informant? Mulder’s biggest strength is its biggest weakness. His mind can make sense of a puzzle and put it together faster than anyone else that is way he was so good as a profiler and why the conspiracy consumed him. This was the biggest puzzle he could do. CSM knows that in fact that is why he kept him alive so he could use his talents, but he also knows that if he gives Mulder enough fake pieces he will get derailed trying to make them fit. That is why Scully is so important to make sure the pieces are real and it doesn’t seem Scully has access to Mulder’s new informant. CSM will say what he needs to say to get the upper hand nothing else and nothing more, IMO.
    The ‘new’ conspiracy is another red herring to manipulate Mulder. I wouldn’t be surprised if all this years he went into hiding CSM working with the aliens/men and managed to clean up most of the evidence and ‘explain’ the mysteries so when he allowed Mulder to come back to the FBI he will be demoralized enough to be tempted.
    Now my personal theory is that he was the one that make Mulder leave and sent Spender to convince her to give him on adoption for his own protection (Spender never explained how he got away from his torturers did he? I think he offered his son a deal) and then tracked him down so he could have the ‘saviour’ and his powers on his side so he could be the heir to Earth, maybe he wants both power over the aliens and the human race. Is too much of a coincidence that is is presumed ‘dead’ yet again the same episode Scully announces her pregnancy and reappears once William was out of their lives.
    I think the theme of the next season will be William’s redemption. And maybe I give CC too much credit but I think this was the plan all along. Again William was conceived the same season we found out what happened to Samantha so it makes sense to give both of our leads a human connection to the conspiracy, IMO, YMMV.

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