The return of the X-Files. If any series could come back for another run–and continue–this is the one. With its potential for story arcs, monster of the week, and character development in a rich and expansive world, there are lots of opportunities for stories. Hell, ‘Supernatural’ is set for at least 13 full seasons, and as much as I enjoy it, it feels like it ran its course around season 5 or 6 due to the constant retreading of angst between the brothers Winchester, not being able to let go of its larger and somewhat tired Heaven/Hell mythology, and the limited supporting cast. I’m only in it for the boys… Granted, many people consider X-Files dipped when Mulder and Scully left, but I liked Reyes and Dogget, and they pulled it together for a decent finale. However, when season 9 closed up, it did so with the promise of bad things to come–the alien colonization of Earth–and mystery in the air. It was a series set to return and season 10 almost seems overdue.
But not like this. I didn’t let the hype get to me in the build-up, but I had a thrill at hearing the original X-Files music kick in, seeing an alien saucer crash, and seeing Mulder and Scully reunited. Nice start. Yet disappointment began to creep up on me. Mulder and Scully’s relationship hadn’t survived the wilderness years. Especially disappointing after 9 years of will they won’t they in the original series. Another show that won’t allow their main characters to be together. Greater than that though, was my disappointment in the setting up of the X-Files world for its continuation–just why the X-files was reopened seemed unclear and then the conspiracy mythos built through 9 seasons was revealed as largely being misdirection.
Granted, the mythology was often a head-spinning convoluted tangle of competing groups of aliens and collaborators, with often hard to define objectives, and it took some following, but just to undo large parts of it and explain it away as lies lessens what the original series gave us. 9 years of world building pretty much wiped away. It takes away much of the story I followed and makes it red herring and subterfuge. The X-files did that in its original run from time to time, but this shift after the story being ‘set’ in our heads for 15 years was jarring. Plus, I didn’t buy Mulder–who had lived the conspiracy for 25 years–with huge personal losses tied up in the conspiracy accepting the interpretations of a YouTube truther as thought-shattering revelation. Okay, Ted O’Malley sets himself above the kid in his bedroom narrating often repeated lists of pop culture mysteries with him having access to a freakin’ spaceship, but even so, I would’ve expected Mulder to interpret all this from his world view, not buy into someone else’s. Plenty of people were pissed at J.J. Abrams’ alternate universe Star Trek for the reboot of the movie franchise, but at least it left the original series of Star Trek alone and unmolested.
I was able to let this go. I figured that X-Files wanted to maintain its brand of paranoia, but recognised its complicated backstory and wanted to draw in a new crowd, to get old and new viewers onto the same starting block for a new run. Fine. The first episode did a pretty good job. It felt rushed, but with such a limited run, that was understandable, and the sooner the show got into its swing the better for it.
‘Founder’s Mutation’ was a good follow-up, with a nice balance of mystery, gruesomeness and action, but the reflections of Scully and Mulder around the fears they had for raising their child were confusing. I wasn’t sure if I was seeing fantasy or flashback at first, and the morph effect of William becoming an alien just struck me as a little hokey. It’s one of the few occasions where telling over showing would’ve been better–an emotional discussion between Mulder and Scully around their fears would’ve been a welcome reconnecting of the two lead characters.
Comedy has always had its place in the X-Files, and with a lot of gruesomeness and layered plots the tongue in cheek episodes were always welcomed. For much of ‘Mulder and Scully meet the Were-Monster’ I lapped up the fun the show was having with the leads, but the episode really pushed the limit of what was credible for the show and the characters. I’m glad they did it, I just wished they had toned it down. Yet, on reflection this was really the highlight of the season.
For me, the season took a dive after its mid-season episode. ‘Home Again’ was sadly not a follow-up to the original series story ‘Home’, and while it was an impressively gruesome episode, for an episode about a ‘thought form’ it didn’t feel fully formed and lacked a satisfying resolution. X-Files totally lost the plot on ‘Babylon’, and while the placebo and nocebo effects are fascinating, what they had Mulder do was just cringe-worthy. I like a good surreal scene, but again, they just pushed the comedy and wackiness way, way too far. It also went on a little too long (although it was nice way to get the Lone Gunmen back in). Also, I thought the approach to the terrorists was going to attempt a thought-provoking twist in an attempt to turn our preconceptions against us, but they were just the villain of the week used for heavy handed questions and preaching forced through characters. So much so that the closing dialogue between Mulder and Scully was hammy, naive, out of character, and barely even dialogue.
The series just about pulled itself together for its finale, and it offered a taste of what this series could’ve been. The episode, in a sense, delivered enough story to maintain a story arc for the full 6 episodes, but rushed through it in 45 minutes. It pitched us back into the alien genetic modification of humanity plot, and while this had been set up in the opening episode, this would’ve fitted in well with the original mythos without any attempts to undo it. It was also an episode littered with flaws–Mulder and Scully being separated for much of the story, three FBI agents not thinking of using Mulder’s phone to track his location, Miller getting access to Smoking Man’s home seemingly unopposed, Scully choosing to defend one episode of looting in a city falling apart, the rushed outspread of infection, and Scully’s almost as sudden Magyver cure, and Smoking Man’s relevance to the plot considering how he was heavily connected to the alien colonization plans–which we now know was a red herring. Don’t get me started on the cliffhanger ending… If that ship was piloted by their adopted son ready with some spare T cells for Mulder I wouldn’t have been surprised…
To end what has been labelled as an ‘event’ show, which could potentially be a one-off never to be repeated return to the X-files with a cliffhanger was confident–but considering this poor return which is unlikely to engage new viewers and more than likely disappoint the fans it strikes me as misplaced confidence. I only stuck with this season as it was X-Files, my affection for Mulder and Scully, and it was mercifully short. Any series with long seasons will have weaker episodes filling their run, and X-Files is no stranger to this, but returning for a 6 episode run we should’ve had 6 strong episodes–episodes that could’ve easily balanced a story of the week with a satisfying over-arcing central mystery.
What of the future? Miller and Einsteen are cheekily presented as younger Mulder and Scully types, presumably to ease them in as supporting or most likely replacement characters. Sadly, from what we see of Miller he’s way too green and youthfully earnest and blinkered to be a credible lead character–I couldn’t see him surviving the world of the X-Files. Einsteen was snippy, and inconsistent in her approach to the work–rolling her eyes at her partner’s esoteric approach to investigation, yet willing to throw herself in with Mulder–a stranger–to support him taking drugs to reach a terrorist’s psyche. Miller and Einsteen contribute little, and as we don’t get to spend much time with them in their own right it’s hard to care for them. If they are to return they really need some work and care. I’m fearful that it won’t return. Studios aren’t known for risk taking and backing a show with poor receptions (which this does generally have from what I’ve read). I realise I’ve come down hard on season 10 and it might seem strange to want more, but it can’t end like this, and my hope is that the creators will recognise where they went wrong and what needs to improve so that anything that might follow, because despite the missteps and the weaknesses the series has 9 strong seasons behind it and season 10 could just be a blip we can move on from with a return to form, because despite this I still want to believe…
What did you think?