“Salvator Mundi”: The X-Files, ‘My Struggle IV’
The last episode of this season of The X-Files ties up many of the narrative threads from both this season and last season’s bizarre finale. While we still don’t know what Scully whispered in Mulder’s ear in “Nothing Lasts Forever,” there is so much else to sort through it doesn’t matter.
The episode opens with some of Jackson Van de Kamp/William’s backstory, which feels an awful lot like the biographical history of a kid who could totally have benefited from a scholarship to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. The kid is on the run, Mulder and Scully are looking for him, and FBI Deputy Director Kersh is PISSED.
Kersh yells at Skinner: “Have you seen the Internet?” (The hilariously “old man yells at cloud” nature of this question cannot be accidental.) He’s mad because someone from the FBI told Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale! Remember?) that a plague is threatening humanity and he reported it on his show. Kersh demands Mulder and Scully’s badges. Skinner, never one to back down from a confrontation, wonders, “What if it’s NOT fake news?” to which Kersh replies, “I don’t even care if it is true. That’s someone else’s problem. We’re not gonna see panic in the streets.”
Cigarette Smoking Man calls Skinner, a little too gleeful about fulfilling the promise he made about unleashing a “global contagion.” Skinner asks him if it will stop if he can find William, but CSM is vague on that point, before hanging up with a directive to “just find me the boy.” Scully shows up and wonders why Skinner isn’t answering his phone. Scully offers to talk to Kersh directly, telling Skinner, that O’Malley’s statements are not actually outrageous.
Then it’s “15 Hours Earlier” and Reyes has called Scully to tell her that “they have William” on a plane and he’s landing in Maryland in two hours. “The person who controls your son is the person who controls the universe.” (Insert Dune reference here.) Mulder insists on running off to investigate. Scully does not approve but tells him to just come back alive. The scene cuts to Reyes hanging up the phone right before CSM gets in the car. If you recall from last season, she was secretly working against his plans, which would explain why she made that phone call.
Mulder goes to the airport but there’s no William, so he sneaks in to talk to Mr. Y, Erika Price’s colleague who’s got a major boner for “space colonization.” Mr. Y says they couldn’t catch William, but that “he has what everybody wants, what people would kill to have.” One of Mr. Y’s guards rushes in and Mulder kills him right before shooting Mr. Y in the head. Damn, Mulder. Who knew you could be so savage? He runs out of the building past the dead bodies of some jacked-up guards who has also presumably shot dead. Jackson, meanwhile, is running away from some similar looking men at a shipping yard.
There are a lot of scenes of Mulder and Scully on the phone, Mulder being tailed by one of Erika Price’s goons, Jackson hitchhiking, and Mulder looking for Jackson. Eventually the kid arrives at his girlfriend Sarah’s house and tells her he’s so sick of being alone. I get that Jackson has special powers and all, but he is a little annoyingly emo. It seems hard to believe this is Mulder and Scully’s kid. Sarah says she’ll meet him later at a motel.
Erika Price and her people find the car of the goon who was tracking Mulder, and they see his innards sprayed all over the car. They also find his phone’s tracking device so they head towards Jackson. Mulder gets to that motel first, however, and tells Jackson/William, “I’m Mulder, I’m your father” in a moment that’s meant to be touching but comes off a bit silly because, wouldn’t he just say “I’m Fox Mulder”? Anyway…
Emo Jackson says no one can help him, not even Mulder. Just then Price and her men show up. They knock Mulder down but before they can do anything to Jackson he literally explodes them all with his mind, Scanners style. It’s totally disgusting. He runs away before Mulder can catch him. Mulder calls Scully to tell her he’s gone and she says she’s going to drive to meet him there because William “will listen to me.” Skinner, who is standing right there when she talks to Mulder, offers to drive.
On the way, Skinner tells her there’s something she should know about William’s parentage. Through Sarah, Mulder then tracks Jackson to an abandoned sugar factory. Skinner and Scully see Mulder’s car whiz by and follow it. After she runs inside, CSM and Reyes pull up in the alley. Skinner approaches them and fires as CSM tells Reyes to hit the gas. Skinner kills Reyes and then dives under his own car as CSM plows into it. We see poor Skinner’s legs on the ground. CSM takes Skinner’s gun and heads inside.
Scully has found Mulder who tells her that William just wants to be left alone. Then the real Mulder shows up. Say what you will about David Duchovny’s acting, he does a tremendous job of playing Mulder and William playing Mulder. A lot of chasing ensues and finally, CSM gets Mulder out in the open, near a dock. He shoots him in the head. The real Mulder shows up (again) and shoots CSM, pushing his body into the water. I don’t know what kind of lighting or makeup they used to make CSM look like an animated corpse, but it was extremely effective in making the audience hate him even more than before.
Then Scully arrives and Mulder fills her in. She tries to console him by saying, “He wasn’t mean to be.” Mulder throws his gun into the water, and wails that William was their son, but Scully insists that he was “an experiment, an idea, born in a laboratory.” She clearly cannot tell a grieving Mulder that he wasn’t William/Jackson’s father. Mulder is devastated. “What am I now if I’m not a father?” Scully, crying, takes his hand and presses it to her stomach. “You are a father.” (At this point, I’m openly weeping.) Mulder is stunned: “That’s impossible.” Scully says it’s more than impossible. They embrace.
In the water below, William resurfaces, alive with a bullet wound in his head. And scene.
Is The X-Files over forever? It seems like Mulder and Scully have officially become a couple, which means that shippers all over the world are rejoicing. With Erika Price, Mr. Y, Reyes, CSM, and Skinner dead (I will never get over Skinner’s death, although I’ve seen speculation that maybe he was just injured, so who knows), there are no more chapters to this particular story. CSM doesn’t release the virus and Jackson and Scully’s visions turn out to be just that, visions.
So we come to the end of a season of The X-Files that a lot of people didn’t want, but also a season that turned out to be one of the series’ best and most consistently satisfying. It makes me sad that people gave up on the show after last season because as it turns out, Season 11 is the one that fans both needed AND deserved. If it truly is the end of The X-Files, then we could not have asked for a more perfect season.