Review: The X-Files Season 10: Episodes 1 & 2

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that some people looked forward to the return of The X-Files on television as much as some people looked forward to the return of Star Wars in movie theaters. Although a smaller fan base, it’s proportionally as fervent.  There are also similarities in the way they returned as continuations from where they left off:  the time that has passed in their fictional worlds equals the time that has passed in the real world.

Where do we join FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) almost 14 years after the final episode of the original nine seasons of The X-Files was broadcast? To answer what is perhaps the most burning question first, the two are no longer a couple.  We don’t know all the details, but if the first two episodes of the newly-launched 10th season are any indication, we may learn bits and pieces over the course of its six episode run.

While this news may disappoint fans who longed for them to consummate their relationship over the course of nine years and 202 episodes (and two motion pictures), it provides drama and mystery to the revival. It doesn’t really matter if they’re together.  There’s a scene in the recent episode two, Founder’s Mutation, demonstrating that the two share an ongoing love and respect, regardless of the labels we have a desire to assign them.

More important to this cycle of stories may be the fact that they gave up their son for adoption and have not seen him in 15 years. In episode two, Mulder and Scully both experience fantasy memories of what may have happened had they kept him.  It’s interesting that each imagination of revisionist history begins idyllically with all the fun activities you do with your children, but ends with an inevitable horror they could never have avoided.

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I’ve mentioned only episode two so far, which is unusual, because it’s one of the series’ stand-alone episodes that doesn’t focus on the mythology or ongoing conspiracy plots. I actually didn’t care for the story, which deals with the investigation of a lab where genetic experimentation has led one of its scientists to gruesomely commit suicide.  While loosely tied to concepts introduced in episode one, it would be a throwaway episode if not for the personal interactions between Mulder and Scully.

What about episode one, My Struggle, then? To further explain where we find Mulder and Scully, the X-Files program has been discontinued.  Scully has become a surgical consultant and Mulder has become a recluse.  The two are reunited in Washington D.C. when FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) summons them on behalf of Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), an internet conspiracy theorist who claims to have uncovered the real truth that Mulder and Scully hunted for so long, so long ago.

This quick reboot of the fundamental mythology of The X-Files is controversial. It basically tells us that everything we knew, or thought we knew, about alien abductions and experimentation, never really happened… at least not by the perpetrators or for the reasons we thought.  I have no problem with this; in fact, it instantly updates the series and makes it relevant to today’s zeitgeist, much like the original run did in the 1990’s.

I do have a problem, though, with the fact that Mulder so readily accepts the new conspiracy as real. It’s hard to believe that a man who invested his entire life into investigating UFOs and related phenomenon would abandon it all based on the word of a cuckoo.  That is, I have a problem until I stop for a few minutes to think about it… Mulder is visibly at the end of his rope when My Struggle begins.  It has been at least 23 years that he has searched for answers and basically gotten nowhere.

THE X-FILES: Guest star Chris Logan in the "Founder's Mutation season premiere, part two, episode of THE X-FILES airing Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

When O’Malley shares what he has learned, it’s like a lifeboat for Mulder. Maybe there’s a reason he could never uncover the truth… because it wasn’t the truth.  Even if this new theory turns out to be nonsense, it’s something new for Mulder to investigate and might provide him some answers.  It definitely gives him hope.  And O’Malley does show him one amazing piece of evidence that gives validity to his story.

The mythology episodes of the original series were always my favorite. Each one would leave me hanging, craving more.  Then, the next week, they’d throw in a monster-of-the-week episode and not even acknowledge the basic story.  The X-Files was like two different television shows.  I’m not saying I didn’t like the standalone episodes in and of themselves; some of them were the most frightening things I’ve ever seen.  What I am saying, though, is that, so far, I feel the same way about the new season.

I thoroughly enjoyed My Struggle. Sure, the actors are a little rusty… it’s been 14 years!  But it doesn’t take long for their chemistry to begin bubbling.  I slowly eased into it and by the episode’s final scene, I was literally screaming for more.  That final image is a true gift for fans; I can’t get it out of my head.  I worry, though, that with only six episodes, the creators are not going to be able to tell a fully realized story.  They certainly can’t do so by wasting an entire hour on the likes of Founder’s Mutation.

It’s not that episode two is a complete waste; it has valuable moments between Mulder and Scully. It just doesn’t advance the underlying story.  Looking forward, season ten of The X-Files is giving us two more standalones, one of which has a title (Home Again) that suggests a sequel to one of the most popular episodes, Home, the second episode of the fourth season.  That leaves one, possibly two, episodes to address the new conspiracy.  I already feel like I’m going to be left wanting more.

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