Yeah it’s back, but is it any good?
I’ve brought up the revival of The X-Files a couple of times since it was announced, the most recent of which was a couple of weeks ago. There are, as of this writing, two episodes we can sink our teeth into and I am going to discuss them spoiler-free for the most part. If you are a fan of the show and have yet to watch them, change that immediately. If you are not a fan of the show, change that immediately. Here we go.
Episode 1 – My Struggle
This is the one that had the most to prove to me. The last time Mulder and Scully were together was in 2008’s less-than-stellar feature film, I Want to Believe. Granted, that was a standalone story as opposed to part of the grander mythology the show’s known for, but it was an X-Files movie nonetheless so I expected certain things. For the most part, outside of the core actors (David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and Mitch Pileggi), the magic of the original series was in short supply. I am very happy to report that My Struggle hits virtually all the right notes.
The basic plot run-down is that the X-Files have been closed since 2002. Mulder is still searching for his own version of the truth, meanwhile Scully is back to practicing medicine. The two are romantically estranged, but otherwise seem to be alright with each other. The pair are called out of tin-foil-hat semi-retirement by conservative talk show host/conspiracy theorist Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale). Tad has information on various government/alien plots, but he contacts Mulder because he believes he has something that can actually stick; Sveta (Annet Mahendru), a woman being used as a guinea pig in alien/human fertility experiments.
The episode, written and directed by series creator Chris Carter, does an extremely good job of catching old fans up who may have lost track of story points over the years, while also condensing things for new fans who might have never watched the show before. The episode also lays a lot of groundwork for what this season, and hopefully future seasons, might have in store. It also upends a lot of what came before and adds a whole new element onto the conspiracy pile. The truth is still out there, but it might be a lot different than what Mulder and Scully (want to) believe.
Episode 2 – Founder’s Mutation
If My Struggle was all about getting reacquainted with the narrative’s myth arc, then Founder’s Mutation (written and directed by James Wong) is jumping headlong back into the monster fray. With the X-Files back in business, Mulder and Scully are given the case of Dr. Sanjay (Chris Logan), a man who killed himself after complaining of sounds that only he could hear. The man worked for Nugenics Technology, and the investigation leads the pair to investigate it’s owner, Dr. Augustus Goldman, a man cryptically known as The Founder. Needless to say, Mulder and Scully find that Nugenics Technology has been doing some very interesting research, primarily on children, and before too long Mulder is having the same auditory problem as Dr. Sanjay.
Founder’s Mutation is a really good installment of The X-Files, and reminds me of a lot of the better stand-alone episodes of the previous seasons. It’s good sci-fi, with just a dash of horror, and the performances of Duchovny and Anderson really shine in this one. Not only is the chemistry between the characters back, there is a nice subplot involving the possibilities of a life where they didn’t give their son William up for adoption. Although the pair still feels it was for the best, the decision does weigh on them.
For me, any series return or restart is always a gamble, but The X-Files always seemed ripe for renewal. Maybe it’s the format, maybe it the genre, or maybe it’s just that certain things seemed unfinished the first time around. Whatever it is, I am very happy to have Mulder and Scully back on television and I hope that this won’t be the last season we get, and I think the limited episode format can definitely be a plus for the show. The truth, thankfully, is still out there.
Until next time…