Matt Benson

Matt Benson is someone who likes to scream about pop culture. For a small fee, he will come to your party/place of business/current location and do so at you. To hear him scream quietly (some people call this talking) into a microphone, you can listen to the variety of podcasts he hosts at benviewnetwork.com. To see him do this in 140 characters, you can find him @drmattbenson on twitter.

My name is Matt Benson. Since my childhood, I have been captivated by an hour long science fiction crime drama on the Fox network. Since the show went off the air when I was 11, in what I believe was a disappointing final season. My obsession has taken me to the Agents of GUARD where I review episodes of this TV show known as, The X-Files.

When this new season of the X-Files was first announced, I saw it as a great opportunity. It’s no secret that the mythology of the show had become pretty worn with age. It’s a common problem for shows from that time. The X-Files is a classic example of episodic television. But since then countless TV shows have proven the medium more than capable of showcasing great serialized storytelling. The revival seemed like the perfect chance take the lessons from modern TV and build a better mythology for a show that desperately needed it.

Instead, “My Struggle II” doubles down on a broken, irrelevant, useless mythology. The biggest problem is our cancerous old friend, the Smoking Man. He was literally obliterated on screen at the end of season nine, so it’s a bit a of a head scratcher when he showed up in the first episode of ten. In the finale, we finally got our answer for how he survived and it’s blindingly stupid. He just did. That’s it. There’s a flashback of him in a hospital recovering in a hospital from a few burns. Honestly, they might has well have just put his arm in a sling in episode one and offered no more explanation.

This is the Smoking Man as a skull after all the flesh was burned off of his face, on screen, while we all watched.
This is the Smoking Man as a skull after all the flesh was burned off of his face, on screen, while we all watched.
Here he is after that, looking relatively pretty damn good.
Here he is after that, looking pretty damn good relatively speaking.

That same scene has a pointless cameo from Annabeth Gish, reprising her role as season nine star Monica Reyes. The character was pretty pointless then too, so technically it’s kind of fitting.

The implications of this episode are as dumb as they are complicated it. To paraphrase Roger Ebert in his review of The Usual Suspects, to the degree that I understood, I didn’t care. Scully races to stop a virus unleashed by the Smoking Man, who’s the mastermind behind the whole government conspiracy. Remember how cool it was early in the show when we found out that the Smoking Man was only a cog in the bigger and even more sinister Syndicate? Yeah, nevermind. Lauren Ambrose’s talent is wasted tagging along with Scully but adding nothing throughout the whole episode. It’s sort of like when a new employee at Target has to spend their first day shadowing a current employee.

Mulder spends all of his time being sick and displaying inexplicably capable fighting skills, more so than he ever has previously. In the world of The X-Files, there are two things that just do wonders for the human body: smoking and aging. There’s a shot of him holding a gun to the Smoking Man that mirrors a shot from early in the series and the virus plot is reminiscent of season nine. It doesn’t feel like an homage or a callback. It feels more like everyone involved was too lazy to remember that they’d done this before.

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Season 2, Episode 8 “One Breath”
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Season 10, Episode 6 “My Struggle II”

The episode ends on a cliffhanger with an alien craft (or whatever season 11 will inevitably retcon it to be) hovering over Mulder and Scully on a bridge (another scene borrowed from an earlier episode), so there’s definitely going to be more episodes. Let’s hope they find better reasons to come back for the next season than they did this time.

Now they're just ripping off the Lost finale.
Now they’re just ripping off the Lost finale.

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