Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
It’s not easy being an X-Files fan. Fourteen long years have passed since the original series ended with Mulder and Scully on the run, leaving us wondering if the world really was doomed to be colonised by beings from beyond our solar system. 2008’s I Want to Believe may have resolved the fugitive status of the protagonists, but it more or less steered clear of the show’s larger mythology. So enthusiasts everywhere rejoiced when it was announced that there would be six new episodes arriving in 2016.
Yes, at long last The X-Files has returned to the small screen, but was it worth the wait? No doubt the biggest question burning in the minds of most fans has been what happened with the impending colonisation date of December 22nd, 2012? With the story picking up in real time, it obviously never came to pass, but don’t expect to be given all of the answers up front.
In typical X-Files fashion, the first two episodes of the series conjure up more questions than anything else and that’s okay. This is only the start so there’s bound to be some confusion concerning conspiracies and shady government agendas. In fact, it was wise to begin by providing new plot points to ponder. It keeps things compelling and leaves you wanting more when the credits roll.
What we probably should be concerned about is whether or not six episodes will be enough to pay everything off, considering the first third of the tale has opened up a lot of threads and created a pretty convoluted puzzle that needs to be solved. Going by past experience, it’s difficult not to worry that we’ll be left up in the air when all is said and done, but until we find out how it all ends, there’s no point criticising “My Struggle” and “Founder’s Mutation” for what they don’t tell us.
What was frustrating was the fact that on occasion the first episode felt a little bit repetitive. It sees Mulder having a crisis of fate, which is something we’ve already witnessed and at the time it made sense to the narrative. At this point though, it’s hard to believe that the on/off agent could be told anything that would leave him doubting the truth of what the Syndicate were up to and the aliens’ agenda. From a viewer’s perspective in particular, we’ve been shown too much to throw out anything concerning colonisation and alien viruses and most other aspects of the established mythology.
The opening of the original movie alone demonstrated that the so-called black oil has been present on Earth for tens of thousands of years. It would be insulting were we asked to accept that vaccinations against its incubation and rebel aliens lighting colonists on fire and super-soldiers were all just a farce to hide the “real” truth, as the premiere suggests. However, we haven’t actually been shown any hard facts yet, so I’ll reserve judgement on that front until the end of February. There was a lot that worked well in these two episodes and for now let’s look at what we know for sure.
The pace and premise of “My Struggle” were both fairly exciting. Mulder and Scully were re-introduced in a way that kept the story flowing and didn’t waste any time on emotional reunions, without feeling rushed or unnatural. The episode actually managed to cover quite a bit in its forty-odd minute run time, including getting the band back together, building upon what preceded it and sending the story off in a new direction.
Setting aside whether I was completely content with how it addressed previous plot points, I did enjoy the inaugural episode and found it intriguing enough to declare it a successful set-up for the season. Most impressively, it captured the feel of the original series flawlessly . Everything from the tone to the aesthetics to the chemistry between the characters was consistent with what came before, which was a relief. Duchovny, Anderson and Pileggi all slipped seamlessly back into their iconic roles, delivering perfect performances.
Perhaps the best thing about the second episode, “Founder’s Mutation”, was that it wasn’t anywhere near as standalone as I was expecting. It had been announced that the series would be bookended by mytharc episodes, with four “Monster of the Week” tales in between, yet this was very much tied into the show’s mythology. Maybe not as blatantly as “My Struggle”, but anyone who is unfamiliar with William is going to have a hard time understanding what’s happening here. It really felt like it was one for the fans and that was appreciated.
Beyond Mulder’s brief monologue at the beginning of each episode, there actually hasn’t been a whole lot of spoon-feeding information to those who haven’t seen the first nine seasons, which is both surprising and gratifying. So far, this series doesn’t really cater to newcomers and that’s great for fans, but it could also be a cause for concern. With the lingering fear that all will not be wrapped up neatly come the end of episode six, it’s hard not to worry that it won’t pull in the numbers necessary to warrant another return.
For the moment though, while I could continue to criticise the handling of some of the mythology and question whether there’ll be enough time to do what needs to be done, instead I’ll employ a wait and see policy and rate the opening episodes as stories unto themselves. In that respect, The X-Files is off to solid start with a familiar feel and accomplished performances by its major players.
Follow @davesimpson1 on Twitter for notifications about new posts.