I think it’s a safe bet to say that there was nothing that excited me more in this world than the return of the very foundation of my nerdiness. Once rumors started bubbling up of the X-Files re-emergence onto television screens, I soaked in everything that I possibly could. I was more excited for this than any other thing in recent memory. This show was my jam front to back, up and down, left and right. This wasn’t going to be a reboot or re-imagining or straight remake, it was an honest to god continuation of the original series. All the original players from in front and behind of the camera were coming back in some capacity…. What could possibly go wrong? A show steeped in hyper-paranoia and mistrust of the government being brought back in a time where our mistrust of the government could never be higher. A show that debuted in the early 90s being brought back 14 years after it went off the air.. When has that ever been a recipe for disaster?
Well having just finished the last episode of this 6 episode event(the faithful just refer to this as Season 10) I have decidedly mixed feelings about this return. Of the 6 episodes we got.. 2 of them were classic X Files, 2 were problematic but still entertaining while 2 were just flat out rusty and full of problems. So while not the slam dunk I had hoped it would be… The X-Files return served as a reminder of its heyday both highs and lows.
To be honest, there was no way to satisfactorily wrap up 9 years and 2 movies worth of mythology in just 6 45 minute episodes, but I still maintained hope. The opening episode “My Struggle” showed us a new mythology being offered. Unfortunately this was probably the most problematic episode of the bunch…from the rather rusty acting, overstuffed narrative and shoehorned attempts to modernize this universe, Chris Carter and company did not put their best foot forward and many fans began to fret over whether or not bringing the show back was a good idea. I personally believe that the show and it’s messages are timeless and remain relevant even in today’s cultural zeitgeist… But this episode did nothing to prove that theory. “My Struggle” introduced a lot of lofty ideas and complicated stories to be explored.. But with only 5 more episodes left and the knowledge of 3 of those episodes being standalone stories, I wasn’t so sure of this new mythology having enough space to breath.
The next episode “Founder’s Mutation” while not dealing with this new mythology, it kind of goes back to a pretty massive plot device in the original run of the series while telling a decent monster of the week episode. The weird flip being that the dealing with the monster stuff took a back seat to the repercussions of Scully’s remorse over giving up her and Mulder’s child William. It was this episode that kind of planted the seeds of this particular emotional plot device that would see regular playtime over the course of the next 4 episodes.
Are you beginning to see a kind of trend? They’re introducing these lofty long form concepts that just don’t seem like they’re being given the proper room to breathe. 6 episodes is not enough time to properly analyze this big stuff especially when more than half your shortened season is focused on standalone episodes that don’t really tie into the larger story your trying to tell. I understand that all the principals have pre-existing projects they’re working on and it’s a matter of jumbling their schedules to work on this project, but still.. I would’ve vastly preferred just 6 standalones as opposed trying to have their cake and eat it too.
I know this review has sounded rather harsh thus far, but I don’t really have harsh feelings about what’s been given to us. As someone who’s passionately followed this show from the very beginning, it’s only out of love that I notice these things. It’s because I know of the high standard X Files is capable of that I have a somewhat critical opinion of what we’ve seen. The third episode “Mulder and Scully Meet the Weremonster” perfectly encapsulates what this show can be at the height of its powers. It perfectly balanced the innate comedy that comes with exploring this strange phenomenon while at the same time layering In a deep message about the fabric of humanity while considering the possibility that maybe we’re the real monsters. This episode stands toe to toe with the best of the show in its original run and really gave me hope for the remaining 3 stories.
The next episode tackles the whole Mulder and Scully giving up William thing head on while again having a monster b-plot that just feels rushed and tacked on to pad out the running time. “Home Again” had more to say about Scully’s remorse over leaving her child behind even if it was for an altruistic reason. We’re also treated to Scully having to deal with the death of her mother. Sheila Larken makes a return as Mother Scully and in her few scenes really leaves a deep impact going forward(assuming we get another season after this which I pray to god we do if for no other reason to properly give context and explanation for the myriad of dangling threads)
It’s as if they weren’t confident that the fans would be back so they crammed as much as they could into the mini season and it shows. The X Files is known for being tightly plotted and very sure of itself with which direction it’s going in(at least through season 7) and this is very much not that show. One hand the hardcore fan in me is more disappointed than anything that they just couldn’t pick one direction to go in. If they had spent all 6 episodes dealing with the narrative mythology they had created in that opening episode than we’d have more time to take in and understand the story they were trying to tell. Also, if they had just stuck to a more “anthology” like series of episodes with 6 standalone monster stories with maybe a single common through line, that also would’ve worked like gangbusters. Sadly, we got a very schizophrenic show that tried to condense everything it was in the preceding 200+ episodes into this very short shifted mini series run.
The X Files is at its peak when it’s given room to breathe and let it’s rather bizarre concepts and ideas spread their wings over a longer period of time. When given a limited time frame in which to operate, the slow methodical and deliberately psychological show compromises its core values and uses a lot of narrative cheats and slight of hand that just don’t feel at all natural in the universe it created for itself. If the goal or point of this new series of episodes was to prove that the rabid fan base still exists than mission accomplished, but huge ratings are only half the equation to making a show like this successful. You can have all the numbers in the world, but if there’s no story to tell or no story based reason to bring back a favored property other than to wave your finger and say “hey! We’re still here” there’s a huge problem.
I didn’t walk into this endeavor with a chip on my shoulder. I doubt you’ll find a bigger fan of this show than yours truly. The X Files is the foundation of my entire nerd lifestyle. I mean… I was even a fan of the often maligned second movie that came out in 2008. The more Mulder and Scully the better I say… I’ll never be able to get enough. So believe me I was just as shocked as you are that I had this kind of mixed reaction to the revival. I think it proves I hold this show to a higher standard than most that I wasn’t able to blindly follow it as it kind of went careening off the cliff towards the end of this new run. I’m able to separate my insane fandom from my critical mind and recognize that while I had a lot of fun with some of these episodes, the other half really showed that some major retooling needs to be done with the creative team behind the camera. Do I hope that they come back for another season? Absolutely…. Just don’t let Chris Carter back in the writers room and maybe come back for like 12 episodes instead of six. I’ll take a dynamite story over a huge national audience any day of the week.
That being said, I’m glad to have you back Mulder and Scully.