This review contains spoilers...
Opening with a Mulder exposition of his own personal obsession and the history of alien conspiracy theories, the My Struggle once again asks the question of "are we truly alone?" Coupled with the unchanged opening credit sequence, it is a glorious statement of intent; it's a continuation of the story that we loved (and that infuriated us) with the characters we fell in love with. Mulder and Scully are separated and pursuing their own lives, but are dragged back in by an online talking head, Tad O'Malley, a conservative conspiracy nut who also happens to be a Mulder-Scully fanboy. As they begin to investigate, it appears that they're amongst something far bigger and more dangerous than they ever expected. Again.
The length of time since the end of the series and the last movie, I Want to Believe, is a big one, so it's natural that there's some strangeness to the relationships. They've shifted and changed, but the episode seems torn as to whether it wants to brave that rockiness or not. It's a new pilot episode, re-establishing the mythos, the relationships and the world in which it all operates, but in doing so, it's trying to do too much. In both trying to emphasise that displacement and trying to make the episode run as smoothly as possible, Carter creates something mightily uneven.
The scene with Mulder and Skinner in the old X Files office is the best example of this alongside the clash between Scully and Mulder on his porch; it's thudding exposition set-up for the new story whilst trying to recall the past. The personalities and the relationships should be enough, but Carter doesn't seem to have enough confidence that we all remember how these patterns work. A character shouldn't need to say "the truth is out there" for us to know that Mulder still wants to believe.
A lot of the episode naturally gets by just through the sheer thrill of seeing Mulder and Scully back on screen together. Duchovny and Anderson slot back into their roles with ease, like pulling on a slightly irritating jumper and a sharp power suit respectively. Duchovny's sardonic humour is the same as ever, delivered with the lazy charm that he's made his own over the years, whilst Anderson starts utilising her full range of reaction faces almost immediately. Her expression after being mansplained by O'Malley was everything. The pair's chemistry is instantly present and correct too and though the episode is a little clunky in its explanations of their history between I Want to Believe and the present day, there's a weight to their every interaction that conveys a lot.
What it does to the mythology is a brave move and a pretty clever one too, utilising a War on Terror, post-Snowden/Wikileaks world to tap back into the atmosphere of distrust and paranoia that the series initially thrived on. As O'Malley and Mulder explain to Scully how it all fits together, the episode suddenly takes off and everything slots into place. It re-energises a mythology famously impossible to follow (I'm not sure we'll ever straighten everything out) and provides the new fight, the new struggle that brings Mulder and Scully back together. It's a big mess, of course, but what would The X-Files be with sense?
The final scene with the infamous Cigarette Smoking Man (replete with the effects of his eponymous habit) is a cracking slice of dark humour to end My Struggle with. It's another echo of its pilot episode, but handled with more deftness than the rest of the episode combined. It's that scene that gives me hope for the rest of the series. The awkward reintroduction is now out of the way, we can get down to trusting no one.
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