They've lost me.
It's the same trick Chris Carter pulled in My Struggle, admittedly. Nonsense + nonsense + nonsense + conspiracy theories brought up to date + MASSIVE REVELATION TO BLOW THE FANS' MINDS!!! What's more, this revelation is far less silly than last time's. I can believe in it. I don't care, mind you, but long-term X-Files fans do and went nuclear. Mission accomplished, I suppose.
The difference for me, though, is that the Season X premiere worked, for a trash-diving definition of the word. I'd also expect to be comfortable with watching it back-to-back with the Season IX finale, because it's such a fresh start. 15 years had passed. This, on the other hand, is a direct continuation of the Season X finale... except that it's not.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: "First, the premiere reveals what we saw in the finale was all a vision Scully was having. Did you know that two years ago?"
CHRIS CARTER: "Yes. If you look at how I staged the scene in Mulder's office, the way I staged the scenes on the bridge with the spacecraft hovering above Scully, you can see that was part of a plan. The camera pushes right into her eye at both ends of the show, and it was all of a piece."
What? No, hang on. Firstly, I didn't get that from the episode. I just thought Carter was backtracking, failing to explain anything and creating plot holes. (Scully's in hospital being examined by neurologists, yes, but that's where she spent most of the Season X finale too.) I was getting annoyed about why no one else was worried about the plague and about Mulder treating Scully like a crazy person for talking about it. Secondly... what the hell? Having written himself into a corner with a world-changing cliffhanger, this is how he escapes? It was all a cheat. Sorry, a dream. You know, instead of writing explanations and a story that logically builds on what went before.
Technically, of course, it's a vision. A prophecy that might come true (but won't).
As a result, the episode's hard to criticise conventionally. I can't attack the lack of continuity or resolution. Mulder's scene with the Cigarette Smoking Man last time isn't meant to gibe with anything. The pandemic has been both rolled back and not. I can't bash any of that, much though I'd like to.
What I can attack, though, is the lack of logic. The episode doesn't even line up with itself. Scully says she needs to find their long-lost son, William, to get stem cells that she's inherited from her. This is to cure Mulder. He has these because he's her son, so he has her genes. Firstly, a child only has half of its mother's genes. Secondly, why not just take the stem cells from Scully herself? That would be faster. (A fix for this would be to assume that Scully wants DNA that William didn't get from her, but this isn't what's implied by the dialogue here and again would rely on Magical Scriptwriter Knowledge beaming into her brain.)
We later get other handwaved pseudo-reasons, but too late. The damage has been done. Carter's episodes, when they work, are surfing on their own momentum. He sets up a dramatic or funny situation, then rolls. This, on the other hand, was dead from the start. I didn't buy any of it.
We also have father-son nonsense. My caring levels went subterranean.
There's some shoving where Mulder and Skinner turn into six-year-olds. (Mulder had even said that Skinner smells, although admittedly that had been a relevant observation.)
The show's philosophising has again been updated, which in 2018 meant Donald Trump. I quite liked this. It's pointed enough to be mildly interesting. "And even if they were to get out, they would be dismissed as so much fake news. That's the world we live in, Monica. [...] We've thrown science out the window in favor of scandal and opinion and cant and all manner of ridiculous untruths."
Asking my mythology episode questions:
DENIABILITY: ahahaha, do you believe the Cigarette Smoking Man?
FOLLOWED UP: they do, actually. The Cigarette Smoking Man's fan-enraging claim is never proved, but this is the first of a Season XI trilogy of linked mythology episodes.
I apologise for ever praising Chris Carter. The best I can say about this episode is that its lurid revelation doesn't destroy the show's reality. I didn't laugh at it. Unfortunately, I'd have preferred that. The episode's dully competent in an "X-Files things happening" sort of way, admittedly. There's a throat-slitting. You can't go too far wrong with those. However I was clock-watching and wondering how much longer I'd have to endure this.