The much-anticipated (by me, anyway) new season of The X-Files has come and gone. I decided to reserve judgement about it until I’d seen all six episodes, but now I can conclusively say that the new series is…a very mixed bag. It’s kind of fitting, actually. In six episodes, the revival managed to capture the very best and the very worst sides of The X-Files, showing that even though Mulder and Scully have smartphones now, not a whole lot has changed for their show.
Here’s my ranking of the new episodes, from worst to best:
6. My Struggle (Episode 1)
Synopsis: After several years away from the X-Files, Mulder gets a tip from a wacky conservative YouTuber who has uncovered a new government conspiracy. He and Scully investigate, and end up back in their old basement office.
My thoughts: Man, this was a struggle to get through. It was nice to see Mulder, Scully, Skinner and the gang back in action, but they did waaaayyy too much monologuing, even for this show. And the new conspiracy makes, if possible, even less sense than the one the writers spent nine seasons building up. It’s like they tried to take every major news story of the last ten years and squeeze them into a connect-the-dots pattern. Mulder’s new habit of throwing out random references to current politics, just to show he’s still relevant, is also quite annoying–especially since The X-Files‘ time-honored tradition of paranoia fuel is really all it needs to stay relevant in today’s world.
5. Babylon (Episode 5)
Synopsis: A pair of suicide bombers blow up a mall in Texas. One of them survives in a coma, and while the FBI races to stop a second bombing, Mulder tries an unconventional method of communicating with him.
My thoughts: I wanted to like this episode, because it reminded me of some of the better ones from the old series–wacky sci-fi hijinks set alongside thoughtful explorations of philosophical subjects. But although I think it was trying to have a serious discussion on faith, zealotry and the power of belief, it never quite made it beyond cliches and platitudes. This episode also introduced two new agents who are supposed to be Mulder and Scully’s younger doppelgangers, but are really just annoying twerps. Mulder’s “magic mushroom” trip was pretty funny, but it’s the episode’s only redeeming feature.
4. My Struggle II (Episode 6)
Synopsis: The new conspiracy’s end game is revealed–a plague designed to wipe out everyone on the planet who doesn’t have alien DNA! Also, the Cigarette Smoking Man has lost his nose.
My thoughts: My opinion of this episode is actually subject to change. If the show gets renewed for an eleventh season, I’ll say it was a pretty decent, though rushed, season finale on par with some of the ones from previous seasons. If it doesn’t get renewed, then this cliffhanger was a horrible way to end The X-Files. Even Firefly got more closure than that. Also, the two new twerpy agents disappointingly re-appear in this episode, which makes me worried that they’ll become recurring characters in potential future seasons. Ugh. All in all, a rather disappointing end to the new series.
3. Founder’s Mutation (Episode 2)
Synopsis: An employee at a genetics company commits suicide under suspicious circumstances, leading Mulder and Scully into an investigation involving mutant children.
My thoughts: This was a good, suspenseful monster-of-the-week episode. I wish the “monsters” themselves had been slightly more developed, but the displays of their superpowers were still cool (and sometimes gruesome). Best (or worst?) of all, the story delves into Mulder and Scully’s fears and regrets about giving their son up for adoption, and it shows us what Mulder would have been like as a dad. Which pretty much destroyed me emotionally. Whyyyy couldn’t they all just have been a happy family?? *sniff*
2. Home Again (Episode 4)
Synopsis: No, it’s not a sequel to “Home.” (Still can’t decide if I’m more relieved or disappointed about that.) While investigating a series of bizarre murders in Philadelphia, Scully finds out that her mom is in a coma.
My thoughts: This episode was a major tear-jerker, and it left me, once again, in awe of Gillian Anderson’s acting skills. The woman can convey so much emotion without ever raising her voice, and it’s almost as enjoyable as it is painful to watch. And her mom was always one of my favourite minor characters on the old show, so it was already sad to see her on her deathbed. As for the monster-of-the-week plot, it was creepy and memorable and rather thought-provoking: a giant, supernatural garbage man, created from an artist’s angry thoughts, out to avenge mistreatment of the homeless. Although it seems a little weird to stick Scully’s personal trauma alongside such a horror movie-type investigation, the episode’s two halves tied together surprisingly well.
1. Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster (Episode 3)
Analysis: Mulder is feeling discouraged because so many of the “unexplained phenomena” he used to investigate have now been explained by the Internet. But he reluctantly accompanies Scully on an investigation into some Florida murders that appear to have been committed by a lizard-man.
My thoughts: I honestly think the entire X-Files revival was worth it just for this episode. It’s beautiful. It’s glorious. It’s a nonstop, 45-minute celebration of all that is great about the show. There are lots of treats here for die-hard fans–from confirmation that Scully’s immortality is canon, to a moment when Mulder lays flowers on Kim Manners’ grave–but you don’t have to be an X-Phile to appreciate the hilarious reversal of typical “were-monster” lore, as Mulder meets a peaceful lizard-man who has been cursed to transform into a human. Not only is this episode laugh-out-loud funny, it also rekindles the sense of wonder and joy at the absurdity of life that has always been my favourite thing about The X-Files. Darin Morgan’s writing makes me so very happy.
Overall, the reboot could have been a lot worse. It’s still more interesting than seasons 8 and 9, in my opinion. But the next season (and there had better be a next season) has to be longer, and it has to give us some answers about William and the state of Mulder and Scully’s relationship and so forth. I couldn’t care less about the big, vague conspiracy (even Ol’ Smoky has lost a lot of his villain appeal) but I still care about the characters, and, like Scully, I just want the “little questions” about their lives to be resolved.
And I wouldn’t mind a few more comedies about were-monsters.