by Matthew Thompson
I regularly cite The X-Files as one of my all-time favorite shows. It was really the first “adult” show I watched religiously. I think my love of The X-Files probably informed my taste in TV going forward as well. Like my penchant for sci-fi and supernatural aspects. Or how I prefer my procedurals mix in a healthy bit of mythology. Or even my use of the word mythology – and monster of the week – when describing various shows. Needless to say, I was excited for this year’s revival of The X-Files. In fact, there was nothing coming to television this year that I was looking forward to more. After watching the first two episodes, I am here to give my thoughts on how Mulder and Scully’s return is faring thus far (spoilers to follow!).
When I lend a critical eye to the premiere, it is hard to not see the problems. I think a lot of them are due to the difficult task of restarting a show that has been off the air for 13 years. “My Struggle” aims to inform us what has happened in this world since we have been away. It looks to get these character back together and working cases in a way that makes sense. It attempts to present a new angle on the mythology that connects to the past without violating it. With only a six-episode limited run on the cards at the moment, this had to be done quickly but it all feels rushed. There are other issues too. Joel McHale’s character just doesn’t really work. The dialogue is wonky and feels like it is trying too hard (the way they shoehorned in some classic series’ lines here felt particularly forced). All these things make for a messy first hour back for The X-Files.
And yet… I still found myself enjoying it. No doubt a lot of that is nostalgia. Just seeing Mulder and Scully – even Skinner – on my TV again is lovely and what fan wouldn’t have a smile on their face when the classic intro played. But there was good stuff beyond this I think. I really liked the flashbacks to the UFO crash and how it tied into the informant that Mulder was speaking to – who of course couldn’t give him a straight answer. The re-introduction of the Cigarette Smoking Man just seemed cool even if perhaps not the most plausible development. And I am at least intrigued to see where the mythology is going. While I admit the conspiracy rant by Tad was a bit much, I’m not sure this kind of thing feels all that out of place in a modern day X-Files. And I suspect there is more to this than what was laid out to us in this episode, so I am curious to see where they take things next.
While “My Struggle” *ahem* struggled a bit to regain the series’ footings, the second episode “Founder’s Mutation” seemed to fall right back into that classic X-Files groove. Right from start with its unsettling cold open that showed a man killing himself due to a piercing sound in his head, this just felt like a good old-fashioned X-File. Given Mulder’s absence in the final two seasons, it has actually been even longer than the 13 years the show has been off the air that Mulder and Scully have just worked a case together. Sure there was the movie, but they were both just sort of helping out there. Here they are partnered up and working a case together for the FBI and it just feels right. They even searched around the victim’s home with flashlights! The case itself was a good one too. Particularly memorable were some of the creepy visuals like the kids in Goldman’s facility, the baby climbing from the woman’s stomach or the look on the girl’s face as she turned towards her mother in the pool. And what seems like a simple monster of the week ends up weaving into the mythology as well including seeming connections to Mulder and Scully’s son William.
I think this smaller scale story compared to the premiere really helped bring the best out of The X-Files. Along with the lighter, more elegant tying in of the mythology I just mentioned, it featured some interesting character moments in the odd dream sequences along with a better implementation of the series’ typical sense of humor. All of this as well as some sharper writing – this time from long-time series’ scribe James Wong – helped the leads’ excellent chemistry shine through better than in the initial hour.
A few more things:
- Apparently “Founder’s Mutation” was originally the fifth episode of this season. I don’t know if this means that in the episode airing fourth (originally intended to be the second) they will show more of a transition to them getting back going in the FBI. Going from the end of the first ep to the second one actually felt a little abrupt which I chalked up to them just wanting the duo back to their old tricks in a hurry, but the order switch is likely the explanation.
- I like how different Mulder and Scully feel in the dreams. Some good acting there.
- I don’t watch previews, but the next episode is called “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” and is penned by Darin Morgan which has amazing written all over it. Critics seemed to think it was the best of the first three as well. I seriously can’t wait to watch it.
- I was very curious to see how the ratings would be for the second episode given that the first wasn’t all that well-received and was given a big boost by the football lead-in, but Episode 2 did very well. Considering how dire FOX’s ratings have been in general, I would be surprised if they didn’t order another season of The X-Files. Even if it was another short season like this one to accommodate for the actors’ availabilities, I would certainly welcome some new X-Files every so often.
While the first episode got things off to a shaky start, I feel really good about where things are headed after checking out the second one and am just really glad to have The X-Files back on television. I hope to check in with the rest of the season if not weekly than when it wraps up the season. Thanks for reading!