My Struggle

My Struggle 10×01

Spoiler-free overview:

Elation. That’s what I felt when I first stumbled across an article hinting that there might be more X-Files. I loved this show when it was on the air during its first run (and I do feel giddy saying first run because… now there’s more than one!!!). The X-Files was my first real fan-girl experience. My pre-teen self had never imagined a television show could mean so much, or be THAT COOL. Not like all the other little shows, the X-Files captured my imagination and dazzled my senses. That was 1996, yes I was late to the party but I caught up quickly.

After the second movie, it seemed a light had gone from this world because I was convinced there would never be any more X-Files. I had a hard time saying goodbye to Mulder and Scully, just the same as how finishing a series of novels can sometimes necessitate a mini-funeral. So yesterday, after an impatient wait since I pre-ordered my season pass on iTunes, I sat down and pressed play like a kid racing out of bed on Christmas morning.

And it was Christmas!! The tree was brightly lit and look at all those presents! (Yes I follow David Duchovny on Twitter…) Unlike my childhood Christmases though, I don’t mind sharing my new toy with 20 million other fans. In fact, I can’t wait to!

All the elements I expected to find were present and accounted for: mystery, tension between Mulder and Scully, humor, crazy theories, politics, nail-biting and always the little bit of ick. The X-Files was always rather self-aware and this trend has continued wonderfully. Familiar faces, familiar scenery- that good old thrill is back in town!

Performance of the night goes to: Gillian Anderson. See below the spoiler line for details.

Rating: 8/10. See below, but these two points are for a couple of minor things I noticed in an otherwise stellar pilot. Which it seems like this is. It’s a pilot and a welcome home all in one. It is exceedingly clear to me that a lot of love went into the writing and performance. Everyone’s affection for this work is shining through the screen and onto the viewers.

Here endeth the spoiler-free overview. Below there be dragons! Look here for what to expect from an episode review.

Scene 1: Mulder’s monologue

I have always been a fan of narration when it is well done. Mr. Duchovny does not disappoint. As reminders go, I can’t think of a better way to go about it. These photos, their badges, the fire. All of these are elements familiar to long time fans, but will also allow new fans to catch up with references in a very few seconds. When asked the question, how do you sum up ten years worth of drama and mystery, they gave us a perfect answer. Perspective.

In one neat and very simple shot, they gave us our reminder and our frame for the present: Mulder’s mental status. One minute to sum up ten years, I dare you to do better.

Scene 2: Are we being lied to?

With the history of their work on the X-Files neatly reviewed, Mulder moves on to describe the history of UFO sitings through a montage.

This gets us right back into that beautiful space of doubting the credibility of the protagonist as we always have for Mulder. He sounds like a crazy pants, but then again, he’s awfully smart and knows how to present evidence. What he’s saying can’t possibly be true, can it?

And we’ve played right into the hands of our writers. How much of what we just saw that looks like historical footage has anything to do with reality and how much of it was utterly made of for this television show? Before you write me off as a conspiracy nut, I’ll come right out and say it: I do not believe. But how to verify that? The writers have set us up to doubt what we hear and see in the news media, which is wonderful! And frightening at the same time.

So no, I don’t think we’ve been visited by aliens. Maybe there are alien life forms in the ‘Verse out there, but I listen to folks like Neil deGrasse Tyson for my news on that front, not Fox Mulder.

Even so, the whole point of this show is doubt. So please, shake my confidence in what I know, make me think about it and make me skeptical of what I read on the Internet.

Scene 3: Title Card

The musical theme we have been waiting for.

Seriously, why mess with perfection? I am SO glad they chose to leave this alone and not try to outthink themselves on this. These opening credits are elegantly simple and effective. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Scene 4: Two shakes

Enter flashback to New Mexico crash site. I love that this scene utilizes very little dialogue and just lets us feel the gravity of the doctor’s emotions: anxiety and trepidation.

Scene 5: Walter Skinner, Assistant Director, FBI

Scully’s day job: doctoring. She wasn’t expecting this phone call.

Scene 6: The aliens won’t let it happen.

My life has become a punch line.

So Scully is no longer living with Mulder, but is still willing to pass along the message from Skinner. I suppose this change in their status from that of the two of them waving at us from a rowboat may disappoint some of the shipper fans out there, but not me. I have always enjoyed their tumultuous dynamics and trust the writers to do this complicated relationship justice.

I do love how Mulder has duct taped his webcam… and how the tape is peeling up, probably from him rubbing it out of paranoia.

Why would I watch this jackass Scully?

Here’s where we get political. Nicely done.

I love that Fox has actually allowed the X-Files to flagrantly make fun of them. This is earned kudos toward a network I have less than tender feelings for. I also love that we are able to see Obama, for real, in the world of a TV show. These kinds of details lend a reality that comes close to creepy. That moment of cognitive dissonance: I thought I was suspending my disbelief because this is fiction. Oh wait, that bit right there, that’s not fiction, um… how am I going to separate fact from fiction when I don’t actually know the truth???

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I bought the ticket for this ride.

Yes I know this is fiction, that’s never been in question for a moment, but getting yanked back into reality in an unexpected moment does all kinds of fun things to my suspension of disbelief mechanism. It’s a thought experiment and an elegant one!

Scene 7: Uber?!

Ahhhh…. This scene is beautifully played by both of them. And lusciously written. I have so missed their little verbal dances. These understated interchanges are as deep emotionally as a full on sex scene in other programs, more so I would say for the sheer quantity of baggage the writers have to draw upon.

This is when dialogue distillation really works and the minimal style is so very shiny.

Gillian Anderson understands that eye magic secret more often seen with British actors. She knows that a scene gets sold with the eyes. Her naked appraisal of Mulder here gets her performance of the night.

She’s shot men for less provocation.

Scully, you shot me in the ass! Remind me, she did do that, did she not?

See, I thought we learned this one already, never get in the car, it always goes badly. Sorry. It just seems that no piece of fiction ever ends well by getting in the car with someone you don’t trust.

Scene 8: You’ll have to excuse him…

Scully isn’t thrilled to be called by her first name uninvited…

Mulder isn’t pleased about that either.

The X-Files are closed… we’ve moved on.

Poor Mulder. And how awkward! Scully however, has been around him long enough to shrug him off though. See what I mean about having faith in the writers? They’re still in love, it’s obvious. We’re going to get every inch of that fabulous tension served just how we like it: tense.

Mr. O’Malley proves his stripes to Mulder. The most evil conspiracy the world has ever known.

In yet another example of brilliant minimalist understatement, Scully blandly states: That’s quite an assertion.

Scene 9: Aliens couldn’t find this place…

And again with beautiful understatement: I am familiar with the syndrome…

Oh yes, Scully is familiar.

While this scene is exposition, we get by on tension and rich back story we are already familiar with if we are long time fans. I suppose new fans, getting this introduction for the first time, would wonder what Scully is squirming about.

It is weird to hear Mulder call Scully Dana. Hmm. I suspect he is making fun of O’Malley, but it could be his grasping at intimacy also. I’m not sure here.

Scene 10: For god’s sake, what have you done?

Flashback in which we see what we have come to expect from heartless G-men: shoot first examine the body later.

Scene 11: Maybe you do

Scully and Sveta get to know one another. The new audience isn’t privy to what we know for sure happened in the past which leaves them dependent on Scully’s interaction with Sveta to guess how much of what Sveta says is accurate.

For a returning fan, we likely believe Sveta much earlier.

It is nice to see Scully discomfited by Sveta’s frank analysis of her relations with Mulder and the existence of William. As an expository technique, getting that bit of history told to us by someone other than Mulder or Scully is a pretty powerful tool and well used.

Scene 12: A very rich man

Glue scene: a tiny scene that gives some vital piece of info; a snippet of often exposition that gets us from one scene to the next. Most glue scenes depend on snark, visual impressions or fast emotion for their forward momentum and this is no different.

No major plot movement happens in this scene. It’s just Mulder about to take a chopper ride with Mr. Rich and Curious. Whenever I see a scene like this, I always wonder just how necessary it is.

Of note, Mulder is not impressed by other people’s paranoia.

Scene 13: Faraday Cage

Mulder, and the audience, get a tour of the lab of awesome. An ARV.

I think we’re meant to doubt here, as Mulder touches the craft and it powers up, if it isn’t responding to his own warped DNA. We see a few minutes later that somebody has a controller,  but it is more telling that no one bats an eyelash at it powering up at his touch. Deliberate mislead though, effective.

We get to share Mulder’s fanboy moment and it is delightful.

Scene 14: Where he got element 115.

Mini-flashback so we know somebody studied the body.

Scene 15: Blood spatter!

If you look closely at Scene 6, the stain on her neck and scrubs is visible. Likely from having shot these scenes out of order back to back. Of note, no one wanders around with blood on themselves or their scrubs. Cleaning the goo off is a very high priority for healthcare workers. Blood dries, flakes and gets itchy in a short order on the skin. Nobody delays getting it off them a moment longer than they absolutely have to. Most especially if it is someone else’s.

Privacy laws broken here, Scully would lose her job for letting that dude snoop patient info.

O’Malley pries into Scully’s life, intrusively. This is exposition wrapped up in O’Malley’s-a-creep and it works.

I have never felt more alive.

I, like O’Malley, think Scully is lying here about it being unrelated to her previous work. It’s the bit about the syndrome being most commonly found among the Navaho.

It is nice to hear Scully not shy away from the truth about her former relationship with Mulder. Denial here would have been a mistake as it would be inconsistent with the evolution of Scully’s character. She has matured into the understanding someone can only embarrass her with the truth if she were to let them. Scully doesn’t feel shame or the need to hide this particular aspect of her past. In other words, privacy holds no value if she has no reason to hide, cannot be hurt by what she shares. That said, it seems a little un-Scully-like to just open up to a stranger, deflection would seem the more likely choice. Especially to one who splashes detritus all over the Internet. But maybe she’s just exhausted and doesn’t give a pig’s fart anymore what anyone else thinks and she just wants the dirt digger off her case.

I’m not sure about the look Scully gives O’Malley here. She can’t really be encouraging this creep, can she?

Scene 16: Hitchhiking

You always wondered if they weren’t lying to you too.

Mulder shows up on Sveta’s doorstep to question her about a behavior he saw during their previous interview. I appreciate this attention to detail. Mulder was well known for noticing details and being astute about human behavior. Nice consistency.

Sveta confirms what we suspected from Scully’s experience, this is a job done by humans.

Scene 17: Not the first date he’s opportunely interrupted.

Classic. Mulder calls Scully to vent some paranoid and crazy sounding ravings which may or may not be credible. He’s so susceptible to believing whatever comes along… but he’s right just often enough to leave room for doubt.

Can we pull over a second, I’ve gotta get out.

That little line of dialogue does a huge amount of work. Scully has had more than enough of this from him.

I love that she steps away from O’Malley’s intrusiveness, again. What I just can’t see is why she’d get in the car with him in the first place. He’s clearly got good reason to find her attractive, but what could Scully possibly see in that guy? Maybe a hook-up? Nah.

And still, she just can’t escape the sucking black hole that is Mulder. And maybe that’s why. Right there. There just has to be something out there for her other than Mulder, or so she wishes.

Poor Scully, she might have wanted a different life, tried to have one, but Mulder and their work have a gravitational pull away from which there is no escape velocity.

Scene 18: I’ve always looked out for you.

Thematic exposition…

The bromance between Mulder and Skinner has always been a charming one and it nicely rounds out this glue scene. We’ve now had our call to action.

And Mulder gives Skinner his number…

This scene is quite serious on first watch, but the second time through, it’s kind of hilarious.

Scene 19: Publicity stunt?

Or another intrusion?

Note: anyone who hollers for a nurse by the word, “nurse,” is considered a grade-A jerk. Scully would know her name and use it. And this nurse would resent being summoned and sent like a lackey.

The fact that Scully is waiting for a call, hoping for that call, from Mulder tells us quite a bit. Perhaps Scully wanted that publicity splash for her cause, distasteful as O’Malley is. We already know she still deeply cares for Mulder, regardless of time and circumstance.

Scene 20: Let me take that bullet.

Mulder’s informant was the doctor we saw in the flashbacks. Here we get another classic scene where Mulder meets with someone in the dead of night fishing for answers but fails to get them. Lots of exposition here, necessary as a reminder to existing fans and as an entrance for new ones.

Scene 21: You’re on fire.

I love this scene. Scully gives Mulder what-for to try to fish him out one last time. But she realizes there’s nothing she can do.

And she calls Tad O’Malley a charming ass. Phew! I was a little worried there for a moment. Scully is much to smart to be taken in by a load of crap like him.

This is such a beautiful scene. Mulder is clearly mentally ill, has been for as long as we’ve known him. Scully knows it, loves him anyway and wants to help. The problem with Mulder is that sometimes he’s right, which makes him that much more vulnerable to the next big whopper somebody feeds him. Being right doesn’t erase his mental illness. It feeds it.

He can’t step back, he chases his gut feelings. They say intuition is actually the brain recognizing a pattern beneath conscious awareness. Mulder is very good at this and so leans on this skill. But he does so too heavily and has bought large packs of lies over and over again because of it. He’s a capable investigator, but his desperation to find the truth, to believe and be sure on an emotional level has given his enemies what they need to lead him around on a merry chase.

He even knows this, he just told Skinner this.

But here he is, right back at square one.

So, is he right this time?

Or right enough to be taken in, yet again?

You know what you’re doing.

For her part, Scully is remarkable for her resiliency. Scully was perhaps my first, favorite and most important female role model because she’s damned tough. She’s been through hell and unlike Mulder, though perhaps this is because it started when she was already an adult, her mental health is more or less intact. I will admit though that this is debatable and I hope to see more evidence of her struggle as we progress. Still Scully is one tough cookie psychologically and I believe quite admirable for her ability to accept really hard things and let them roll off her instead of getting bogged down in the mire like Mulder.

Scene 22: The creep parked me in.

Mulder, what are you up to?

Sucked right back in again. Poor Scully!!

H-Bombs drew them here? Ok…

And now the punch line:

All of the hell going on in our world has been caused by the shadow government in possession of alien technology bent on world domination.

I think this is poking fun at every crackpot conspiracy nut out there, of course, but is, on a parallel track, provides a dire warning as to the precarious state of the world. We need to get our act together sooner than later, even if it isn’t aliens and shadow governments causing the world’s woes, something must change.

Scully elegantly and succinctly states her case.

Oh, and your test results came back negative. Wham, coffin nail in that theory.

Mulder doesn’t have a rebuttal, but he doesn’t believe it.

Neither does Sveta.

Scene 23: They got to her.

Montage/series of mini-scenes.

Sveta is gone.

The MIBs blow up the ARV.

Scully finishes surgery, but her surgical attire is improper because her hair is exposed. And she’d never leave someone else’s blood or body fluid stuck to her person in that manner.

O’Malley’s site goes dark.

Scully receives the second test results.

Scene 24: Somebody misspelled “wash me.”

Cue scary dark parking garage. At least it’s Mulder that sneaks up on her.

Venus Syndrome. Someone has to stop these sons of bitches. I do love hearing Scully curse.

This scene is poignant and capitalizes on a beautiful intimacy that can only be achieved between two people who know each other very well. And we the audience know them very well too.

Mulder comes to see Scully, it’s unclear if he wrote the wash-me message on her car or not, even though she walked out on him a scene ago, having debunked him. So she thought.

Still, that kind of a blow might have shattered, or at least enraged, a less tightly fused couple. But Mulder and Scully stand and speak directly without seeking to vent their frustrations at each other. How many pairs of people can truly do this? I haven’t seen many, it requires a deep trust indeed to be able to do this. Those two are an institution that cannot be divided by time or distance or anger or fear, even when they try it themselves.

When pondering the definition of true love, these two, and moments like this come to mind because I think of true love as the point in a relationship when one sees the other not as an other, but as an extension of the self with all the rights thereto.

It doesn’t matter what happens, these two function as one.

And this scene ends perfectly, Skinner.

Scene 26: Not again!!!

Sveta gets it. Too late, Scully.


Scene 27: How is this dude still alive??

They have reopened the X-Files.

What a wonderful surprise. Of all the creeps I loved to hate, this one was my favorite.


Rating: 8/10 stands. One of the two points lost was for Scully getting in the car and having drinks with that O’Malley bozo. The other is for the offensive treatment of the nurse in this episode. Teaching the public that that is how nurses are treated is repugnant.

I, for one, am very excited! This is a very solid first episode, a new pilot. A new beginning. This does feel like coming home to a house I once lived in but never thought I’d see again after moving away. I know where everything is, but a house is just a shell, anything could happen here.

Performance-wise I think we are in for a treat. Hollywood has this bad habit of casting young, really young… People get better at things through time and practice and since these two were both wonderful twenty years ago, I expect them to be amazing now. Besides which, the stories of the young are told all the time, I can’t wait to hear what Mulder and Scully have to say to us later. We’ve already been privy to some beautifully mature emotional scenes between them and the delicious complications provided to us by their past history I suspect will provide a richness seldom available in television. This is SUCH an opportunity!

This reboot leaks potential like the X-xon Valdez.

Check out my other projects!

I also write reviews and other articles for Once Upon A Time and Mozart in the Jungle. In addition, I’m studying Once fans. If you’re already a Once fan, read about the project here. You can also check out my Once related Gratitude Project.


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