On September 10, 1993 my world changed. As I sat and watched the pilot episode of The X-Files I knew I was watching something completely different than anything I had seen on television. At the same time my mother knew that as a twelve year old who had nightmares from watching Unsolved Mysteries this was probably not a good show for me, and it took me several years before I ever finished watching the pilot (I bought it on VHS for $.99 from Blockbuster Video, which is possibly the oldest sounding sentence I’ve written in a very long time). But once I watched it and was caught up on the rest of the series thanks to late-night reruns I quickly realized which episodes I preferred, which is important to this review because there are typically two types of X-Files fans.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS REVIEW WAS WRITTEN AFTER ONLY THE FIRST TWO EPISODES (OUT OF THE SCHEDULED SIX) HAVE AIRED.
On one hand there are the “conspiracy” fans, which love the continuing storyline that was established in the first episode that deals with government cover-ups and whether aliens have actually made contact. While those are fine episodes and I enjoy them, the second camp is where I truly sit. This could be called the “monster-of-the-week” group, but it isn’t always about monsters. My personal favorite episode is “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” which is a haunting and beautiful episode that also perfectly captures moments of humor (if you remember how Mulder is predicted to die, then you understand).
But this review isn’t about a now-twenty-year-old episode (wow, I feel old) rather about the brand new miniseries. I wrote all of that not just out of self-indulgence (which what internet critic isn’t just a little self-obsessed, really?) but hopefully as you read whatever gushing love or critical opinion lays below you would understand how to properly file away this critique based on what type of X-Files fan you.
One more facet to understand as I spell out the review, fans of The X-Files also come in another different categorical breakdown. This is whether they are a Mulder or a Scully. I am a Scully. I am a skeptic always trying to understand the world in a rational scientific method. Because of this I try not to use the term “theory” when discussing conspiracies. By definition they lack hard evidence and cannot in any way be tested to determine their veracity. So I use the word “hypothesis” instead because it is a slightly more accurate description of most conspiracies. I don’t care if that offends you because you believe in Bigfoot.
But enough of all that… on to the show…
This first of the six new episodes starts with a brief introduction to the history of alien conspiracy both actual (not real, but as it is perceived in conspiracy hypotheses) and the mythology presented in the show as told by former special agent Fox Mulder. It is an interesting monotone speculative recount reminiscent of Scully’s journaling at the end of old episodes. The entire intro is really a reminder to old fans who maybe haven’t watched anything since the often underrated 2008 movie, or maybe fans who have watched since the series ended in 2002, or it is a primer course for those who have never watched the series at all.
As the series picks up and the story unfolds, the events of the 2008 movie while not retconned to have not happened are ignored in place of this being really a direct continuation of the story left off in May 2002. Mulder and Scully’s relationship apparently has had some hardships as they have gone their separate way. Through the first two episodes of this new season we discover that their inability to bond and create the romantic relationship all of us fans knew they should was due to them having to give up their newborn son for adoption in hopes that would help keep him safe (go back and re-watch season 8 if you need a further explanation of that).
Mulder and Scully are thrust back together at the behest of a Glen Beck/George Noory type right-wing conspiracy talk-show host who claims to have undisputed evidence of a government cover-up and aliens. As the drama builds Mulder of course follows the talk-show host down the rabbit hole while Scully remains ever skeptical. The culmination of the “evidence” occurs as Mulder, the talk-show host, and an alien-abductee meet with Scully and spell out their grand hypothesis on the planned government take-over by a secret cabal using alien technology. The fascinating point of this scene being that I’m not sure Chris Carter actually had to make any of this up, but only had to look on virtually any conspiracy hypothesizer’s website. Scully’s reaction to their desire to take this information public is a fascinating response in that she not only questions the morality of disseminating these fear-mongering ideas but also calls into question the actual constitutionality of saying them. This debate scene was the perfect rekindling for me of all the things I always loved about the X-Files, and I could’ve watched another hour of just this.
That isn’t to say the episode is without its faults. While scene above for me was absolutely perfect, the entire episode feels rushed; not in the frantic way that build suspense, but in that it was probably originally planned to be an hour and a half long which was cut down to forty-five minutes. I feel like there are more scenes on the editing room floor which involved Director Skinner’s arc and new found need to reopen the X-Files. You understand through one scene that he misses Mulder and Scully, and even respected their work. But the culmination of just a quick text at the end which officially brings the band back together felt rushed and following the previous moments it felt out of left field. Luckily they did give reason for Scully to want to rejoin Mulder’s quest for truth with a scene in which she mentions how she was never more challenged and never felt more alive than when she was involved in the X-Files.
The second episode of the new series, while it continues to follow down the same government-conspiracy-alien-cover-up, it also is a monster-of-the-week episode merging the best of both worlds. It tells the story of a man who commits suicide from what can be best described as the worst case of tinnitus ever. As the episode advances government cover-ups, eugenics, and genetically enhanced superhuman children all come into play creating a hodgepodge of X-Files goodness. All of this culminates in a traditional X-Files ending of an unresolved resolution and Mulder making a pun about a man’s eyes exploding out of his skull that would’ve made Jerry Orbach proud.
Along with just a great plot, the continuation of developing Scully and Mulder on a personal level in showing both of their dreams and nightmares had they kept their child was a fascinating look into who each of the characters were, and helped reinforce their mutual decision years ago to give the child away. While it’s fairly obvious that this may be the underpinning theme and plot of this miniseries, they’re crafting it in such a way that new viewers can jump on board and fans like me who felt seasons eight and nine meandered a bit can rekindle our care for this storyline.
The Bottom Line:
As a final analysis, the first episode although it was clunky at points was a necessary episode both for first time introductions and a reintroduction after their fourteen year hiatus (if you don’t include the 2008 movie, which you probably should because it was really enjoyable). It may not be entirely rewatchable in terms of favorite one-offs to go back and revisit but it wasn’t wholly bad either. So episode one I’ll give a 6.5/10. The second episode is a return to the truly classic formula that we all loved and enjoyed. It was traditional X-Files without feeling repetitious or old. If you were a fan and were excited about this series returning, I think this was the type of episode you were hoping for no matter which fan camp you may fall into. It was both a standalone, but still advanced the characters’ over-arching plot. It is re-watchable and I’m sure some fans could even place it into their elite group of favorites. I wouldn’t go entirely that far though. I’ll give it an 8.5/10. — After seeing the previews for next week’s episode entitled “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” I’m one-hundred percent confident my overall rating will go up but for now I give the series so far an average of 7.5/10.
Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine