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How The X-Files Finally Resolved That Huge Season 10 Cliffhanger

the x files season 11 premiere scully hospital

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Fox)

Warning: gigantic spoilers ahead for "My Struggle III," the Season 11 premiere of The X-Files on Fox.

Season 10 of The X-Files ended on such a crazy cliffhanger that fans would have been seriously out of luck if the stars never aligned for Season 11 to happen. Fortunately, all the pieces fell into place, and the eleventh season just premiered on Fox to pay off on the Season 10 cliffhanger, which had left Mulder on the verge of death, the population of the world falling desperately sick, Scully racing to figure out how to save everybody, and a spaceship hovering overhead just as Scully declared that Mulder needed stem cells from William in order to survive. "My Struggle III" was tasked with paying off on that ending, and it did so in a way that few of us probably predicted.

As it turns out, most of the Season 10 finale didn't actually happen. Instead, it happened in precognitive visions shared between the long-lost William and Scully. The X-Files creator Chris Carter spoke to CinemaBlend about all things X, and he explained just how much of the Season 10 finale didn't happen:

So everything after the phone call in Mulder's office that Scully takes at the beginning of the season finale last year is in her head.

According to Chris Carter, everything except for about the first five minutes of the Season 10 finale was all in Scully's head and hadn't actually happened yet. The good news for everybody on the show is that the world isn't basically ending yet, the population of the planet isn't already actively being drastically reduced, and Mulder isn't yet circling the drain; the bad news is that the Cigarette-Smoking Man still has plans in place to make all these horrors happen, and there's only a select few people that he cares about actually saving.

The Season 11 premiere revealed that Scully and William are at least guaranteed to survive, although Cancer Man's attachment to them is decidedly creepy. He explained his real connection to Scully and his role in the conception of William in the very same episode in which Monica Reyes accused him of being in love with Scully. It seemed that Old Smokey had given up trying to reach out and save Mulder after all these years, although obviously we should take anything and everything he says with a grain of salt. He hasn't managed to survive for the past quarter of a decade by sticking to one story or dying for his beliefs.

In some ways, "My Struggle III" feels like a reset of Season 10's "My Struggle II," but Chris Carter went on in our chat to explain the real reason why the episode went in such a bold direction:

It was all the way I had planned it. There are four episodes that bookend each of the two series, what we're calling Season 10 and Season 11, and I call them the "My Struggle" series. The first episode in last season was Mulder's struggle and the last episode was Scully's struggle. The first episode this time is the Cigarette-Smoking Man's struggle and the last episode this season will be William's struggle. Those are all of a piece, so I imagined even though I didn't know for sure we would come back this season. I had to imagine how we would come back and there is connective tissue between the series finale last time and the series opener this time. There are shots that I did where we go deep into Scully's eye at the beginning of the series finale last time and then we're pulling out of her eye. This idea that we are in Scully's head was built in to that episode. While it feels like a reset, it is part of an ongoing larger story.

The big mythology episodes of the two revival seasons are a set that deal with the struggles of four main characters, so "My Struggle III" was not a reset so much as a bridge between Scully's ordeals and the Cigarette-Smoking Man's. We've seen three parts of the whole "My Struggle" series so far; everything will undoubtedly come together with the fourth and final part. In the meantime, the way the Season 11 premiere played out means that The X-Files will be able to jump right into some good old-fashioned Monster of the Week episodes without spending episodes on the cleanup of a worldwide contagion.

For more of what Chris Carter had to say about "My Struggle III," check out his comments on that devastating twist about Scully and William courtesy of the Cigarette-Smoking Man. Be sure to take a look at our picks for episodes to rewatch for Season 11, and don't forget to tune in to Fox on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET for new episodes of The X-Files. If you're still in the market for shows to watch on the other nights of the week, swing by our midseason TV premiere guide.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.