Due to popular demand and Chris Carter being able to find sufficient holes in his stars’ schedules to get the band back together, The X-Files returns on Sunday (FOX, 10/9C) – with a second ep premiering in the show’s regular timeslot on Monday (8/7C)..
Despite the almost fourteen years between the event series premiere and the last regular episode, the chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson is as good as ever – and if the first three episodes are any indication, the show fits in, quality-wise, around the fourth and fifth seasons. It’s that good.
The series takes on its three main episode types over its first three weeks – the alien conspiracy mythology, fringe science and weird creatures – opening with My Struggle, an episode that takes the show’s alien conspiracy mythology and plays havoc with it. Then, on Monday, the series moves to its regular timeslot for its remaining five episodes and delves into fringe science with an episode called Founder’s Mutation. Finally, the third episode, Mulder & Scully Meet Were-Creature lightens the mood and gives the show’s third major trope – weird creatures.
My Struggle was written and directed by Chris Carter and finds Mulder and Scully being drawn back to X-Files through the efforts of conservative news and conspiracy blogger Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale, Community).
Mulder is initially not at all glad to be back – almost all of his unsolved cases have been cleared up in the most ludicrous ways. Scully seems to be along for the ride mostly to protect Mulder from his despondency.
The episode brings the Roswell Incident back with a startlingly new twist that almost breaks Mulder – but an interview with an abductee (Annet Mahendru, The Americans) – who has incredible evidence – gives his enthusiasm a badly needed jolt.
Founder’s Mutation – written and directed by James Wong – finds Mulder and Scully investigated the seeming suicide of a computer genius who killed himself by jamming a letter opener into his ear canal. The only things more unusual about his death than the way it is seemingly closed off by the CIA – in the person of Agent Lindquist (Aaron Douglas, Battlestar Galactica) are the piercing that he (and no one else) heard just prior, and the cryptic note he scribbled on his hand: founder’s mutation.
The Founder (Doug Savant, Desperate Housewives) is a reclusive scientist who apparently works with children with unusual deformities – and may be breeding orphan children to create people with unusual powers and abilities.
As dark and twisted as My Struggle is, Founder’s Mutation, with its focus on a scientist who uses children as lab specimens, is darker.
Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Creature – written and directed by Darin Morgan – aims to equal or surpass the bar set by Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, or Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’ and comes pretty close.
Here, Mulder & Scully investigate an attack that killed a man and injured a local animal control employee (Kumail Nanjiani, Silicon Valley). Besides a were-creature, this episode is notable for a typical Mulder/Scully conversation played out in full by Mulder – which leads Scully to state, ‘Yeah! This is how I like my Mulder!’
Adding to the comedy are a peeping tom owner of a seedy motel and Rhys Darby as the hapless/confused manager of the local Smartphones Is Us.
This X-Files event series is smartly written and has first class production values (except where they are pointedly not required). Duchovny and Anderson play the characters’ ages with an appropriate amount of been there/done that world weariness (at one point Mulder sighs, ‘I’m a middle-aged man. I am.’) that works nicely to offset their renewed interest in their jobs – even after such a long absence.
The first three episodes feature a range of genre veterans – but, according to IMDb at least, nowhere near half of the total cast for the six episodes. Easter eggs abound (more than I found, I’m sure, but while I loved the series, I was never quite fanatical about it).
The best thing about The X-Files – as an event series – is that it’s not vintage X-Files. It’s not merely a retread of tired themes and overworked tropes, but a fresh look at them through the eyes of vastly more experienced individuals – whether we’re talking Mulder and Scull or Chris Carter and his writers’ room (and even from the point of view of fans who were so much younger when the original series aired).
The X-Files are back and they’ve benefitted from being away.
Final Grade: A
Founder’s Mutation photo by Ed Araquel/Courtesy of FOX