Minor spoilers? It’s six episodes , just go watch the damn thing.
Five weeks ago, I saw that a show from my childhood, like many nostalgia driven media these days, has been brought back from the grave to appease an aged fanbase. I don’t have a huge value judgement on this, as I fell in love with a certain British T.V show that did this in 2005, despite initially not getting it at all. And it was funny to see interviews with Duchovny and Gillian, almost mocking some of the badness of the old days, or just how cheap they had to be. It is enjoyable to watch stars not oversell their project, to quote Gillian in one interview ‘It could tank.’ Not what you get from stars attached to huge franchise motivated films these days.
Now I will admit, I am not a diehard X-Files fan. I had feigning interest in seeing the new movie in 2008, but lost sight of it in the wake of superhero madness of that summer. But seeing the original opening theme being used from the 1990’s brought back a deeply rooted fear factor that the old tune inspired in my pre-adolescent self. Indeed, the X-Files felt like it hadn’t missed a beat. But this show feels like a TV show built in 2016, but made by people teleported from twenty years ago. This might be intentional on the creators’ part to keep some consistency with the show, but to quote James from the Weekly Planet podcast ‘TV has moved on.’ But I think this is important to see, as television simply didn’t have horror, and aside from the Walking Dead, and some off brand ABC wannadrama, it still doesn’t. X-Files tried to deliver scares, mystery, science, and ideas at a time when sitcoms and then reality television was on the rise. With real characters!
Perhaps it is my faulty memory, but I feel like that is what made X-Files rise above the rest, despite budget, dated CGI, and potentially tired formulas. The first two new episodes almost jar you right back into the universe, the first getting the Mulder and Scully back together and the second putting them in an X-Filesy situation on the back of their return. Neither Duchovny nor Gillian seem to miss a beat, despite their time away and attempts to get away from these characters. Could there have been a smoother transition from My Struggle I to Founders Mutation? Yes. It was a bit jarring that Mulder and Scully were just back in the FBI on the X-Files. But instead of weighing through elaborate continuity tape, we are just back in the action. Which is perfectly fine. We get layers more to the mythology and potential set ups for where the story goes next.
Episodes three is a joy, although I will say the whole ‘Mulder needs convincing of the supernatural’ is a bit sad, considering over the course of 9 seasons, a trip to Antarctica, and the last two episodes, he has seen nothing but the supernatural and extraterrestrial. But it is more a bigger sign that the show worth having back. It was whity to have the monster turn into the human, and the whole ‘you see one you’ve seen ‘em all line’ makes for more of a focus on the character than on the reasons. But episode four goes right for the nitty gritty, in the Philly based with a magically, revenge zombie, killing uptight and unjust city officials. It was a backdrop which to paint Mulder and Scully’s feelings about their son, with the intertwining death of Scully’s mother plot. This made for an excellent emotional trace all the way back to the earlier days of the show, as well as deliver an excellent, albeit overpowered monster of the week.
The last two episodes of the season are a bit of a mixed bag. Episode five revolves around Mulder and Scully’s younger doppelgangers, Miller and Einstein. I felt this would have been a bit of a one scene joke, but instead carried into the next episode. Episode five in itself was fine, even funny at times (are the Lone Gunman truly dead?) but I felt it was a shame the creators of the show had to go the Jihadist route in order to have a perpetrator. It is not a terrible commentary on current times, but there could have been other ways of telling this story without dragging that into the X-Files. Then My Struggle II picks up where My Struggle I left off. Many have complained about this episode, and I would share some ire towards it. After episode five I was expecting at least some throwaway line about the recent revival of the X-Files had an impact on the events of this episode, but they didn’t. And everything felt far too rushed. Why not make it seven episodes? Why leave us on a cliffhanger? Why not oversee that the season has a bit more connection? There were only six episodes! But it seems that a season eleven will be in order.
Overall, I am glad to see the X-Files back. I didn’t even know we were missing it. In the waves of superhero and comic inspired media, an old, quirky 90’s franchise I think is what was needed to shake us from what might become a stopper. Maybe it needs a bit more update in direction, and maybe Chris Carter needs to steer more of the overall arc of a six episode miniseries rather than treating it as a smaller season. I want to believe there will be a quality conclusion to the cliffhanger. I want to beleive there will be more to fill out this continuation.
I want to believe that.
I really do.