I think this is going to be one of those situations where my nostalgia for The X-Files overrides a lot of my negative feelings about its reboot.
I’ve seen the entire series through at least twice; there are many episodes I’ve seen three or even four times simply because I liked them that much. And my hype for these new episodes has known no bounds, especially after seeing “The X-Files Re-Opened” video that was released last month.
The thing is, at this point I’m confident in saying that you could watch this miniseries-style event without having ever seen a single X-Files episode. Or hey, if you’ve only watched some X-Files, that would work too, obviously. Why is that? Well, at the beginning of both “My Struggle” and “Founder’s Mutation” there’s a quick yet detailed explanation of [almost] everything that’s gone before. Shoot, Mulder even gave a comprehensive list of “historical” UFO sightings! Again, for right now I’d say that this was enough information that anyone paying attention would have a decent idea about what was going on and be able to watch at least these next two episodes (though if you really haven’t seen all of the prior X-Files episodes and both movies, I’d say wait until this little revival has wrapped up to be certain that the whole thing will actually make sense to you).
And honestly, this particular cold opening didn’t bother me one bit, and when it was followed by the original opening credits in all their glory, I was very pleasantly surprised. So much so that I got chills. (Like I said, nostalgia FTW.)
Although most of “My Struggle” took place in present day, there were several brief flashbacks to a UFO crash in New Mexico in 1947. We never get any names, but we do see that an alien survived that crash…only to be killed by the government men who showed up to investigate. The only person who protested this insanity was a young guy wearing glasses, who called himself a “man of medicine” and carried the alien body away despite the government men scoffing at him for doing so. To be honest I spent a good part of this episode trying to figure out if I was supposed to recognize young glasses-wearing guy from the original series (more on that later).
I have to admit that it was a bit jarring to see Joel McHale as a conservative conspiracy theorist, but he did a really, really great job, and I definitely felt that there was good chemistry between him, David Duchovny, and Gillian Anderson right from the start. (Well, minus that weird bit where his character, Tad O’Malley, apparently asked Scully out on a date…and then we saw them drinking champagne together in his limo. That creeped me out a bit, but hey, maybe that’s just my Mulder/Scully shipper heart getting in the way.)
Probably the biggest issue with this revival is the fact that Mulder is more skeptical than he was at the beginning of the series, while Scully is far less so – and that was mentioned quite soon in “My Struggle”, when Tad O’Malley claimed that he was a true believer like Mulder and Mulder said “I only *want* to believe”, because solid proof has been hard to come by. The problem is that after a couple of conversations with Sveta, getting to view an “Alien Replica Vehicle” (with no good explanation as to why Tad O’Malley had access to such a top secret project), and then meeting up with Dr. Glasses Guy from the 1947 flashbacks, Mulder decides that aliens aren’t the problem – a secret organization trying to take over America using alien technology is.
Now, personally I do think this is something that was more than hinted at in certain episodes in the original series, but Mulder’s sudden and complete 180 and the fact that at this point the show seems to be throwing away so much of its own mythology and lore are really just beyond me. I’m trying to withhold judgment until after I’ve seen the rest of these new episodes, but Mulder and Tad’s fast-spoken explanations about how atomic bombs attracted alien attention (okay, that was cool) only for men to take over alien technology and then create this world that’s always at war (okay, that’s kind of true) so that they can later use that technology to take over America…well. They lost me when they started using what appeared to be footage from the recent situations in Ferguson and Baltimore. Too soon, guys. Too soon. Remember when X-Files kinda avoided real-time politics and situations? Remember when X-Files was something more than a South Park underpants gnome joke? (“Phase 1: Collect Alien Technology. Phase 2: ?. Phase 3: Take over America.”)
Thankfully the end of this episode and some of what happened in Monday night’s “Founder’s Mutation” started bringing things back around. This new conspiracy is still out there, and I still can’t get behind it yet, but the end of “My Struggle” and some of “Founder’s Mutation” definitely made me feel a lot better about where they could be going. Yes, the Alien Replica Vehicle was blown up. Yes, so was Sveta (by what appeared to be an alien spaceship). Yes, it turned out that both Sveta and Scully had alien DNA in their genomes. Yes, Skinner texted Mulder and Scully and YES, the episode closed with the Cigarette Smoking Man announcing that the X-Files had been reopened. (Listen, I know he supposedly died in the series finale in 2002, but Chris Carter has promised that there’s an explanation for this and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it’s better than this whole underpants-gnome-style conspiracy theory.)
It was awesome that we got two new episodes two nights in a row, too, though at at the beginning of “Founder’s Mutation” I was worried it was going to be more of a story of the week rather than building on the new information we’d learned. Thankfully, as the episode rounded out things came together more than I expected…and this time with a lot more of that creepy X-Files feel that “My Struggle” seemed to lack.
But first can I squee a bit that Aaron Douglas, a.k.a. Chief from Battlestar Galactica, had a little cameo? Because YAY!
Anyway, back to the serious stuff. Throughout “Founder’s Mutation” they had this awful high-pitched screeching noise thing going on, though there was no explanation as to why some people heard it and some didn’t. It did seem that it was only men experiencing this phenomenon, at least from what we saw. I hope that we learn more about it eventually, but as the episode ended with the cause of it – a boy named Kyle – disappearing, this may be one of those truly unsolved mysteries that The X-Files curses (blesses?) us with every now and again.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but dislike a few things about “Founder’s Mutation”. Yeah, the high-pitched noise was annoying, but not quite so frustrating as the idea that Scully worked in that awful hospital for seven years without having any idea about what was really going on. First, as I previously mentioned, she’s nowhere near the skeptic she once was, and second, how was Agnes the first girl to figure out that she and/or her baby were in danger?
Additionally, while I understand that there should be some references to Mulder and Scully’s son William, the sort of vision sequences (I honestly don’t know what else to call them) that both Mulder and Scully had were off-putting. However, this is another inclusion that I hope will see further explanation in the next four episodes, so once again I’m reserving judgment until the end.
Harkening back to the creepy hospital where Scully somehow worked for seven years without ever noticing anything was off (yeah sorry not sorry, I’m not gonna just set that plot hole aside), it turned out that Dr. Goldman, “The Founder” of the lab where Dr. Sanjay worked (and died) also sponsored that hospital. He was supposedly something of a recluse so it was almost silly how easy it was for Mulder and Scully to set up a meeting with him…and then of course there was the deus ex machina of them seeing a young girl who seemed for the most part mentally and physically fit trying to escape when Dr. Goldman brought them into his secret lair to show them all of the terribly afflicted children he was supposedly helping.
Little aside, here: Did anyone else notice that Dr. Sanjay’s name and his lover’s code name Gupta add up to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is a professor of neurosurgery and a media personality who reports on health-related issues, often for CNN?
Personally I think it was all too predictable that the kid who was the janitor when Mulder and Scully showed up to investigate Dr. Sanjay’s death was also the kid that they almost ran into when driving to Dr. Sanjay’s secret apartment. I knew he would show up again and be important, just like I knew that girl in Dr. Goldman’s hall of children would show up again and be important. Again, maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but didn’t The X-Files used to be better about keeping a few tricks up its sleeves?
Sure enough, it turned out that Dr. Goldman’s wife, who was locked away for supposedly killing their child, had her own story to tell…and that story explained the janitor, Kyle, and the girl attempting to escape, whose name was Molly. Jackie Goldman spilled her tale pretty quickly (I mean, ten minutes of silence after all those years not saying anything is fast) – that her daughter Molly fell in the pool and when Jackie dove in to rescue her, Molly was breathing underwater. That Jackie then tried to escape with her unborn son but got in a car crash, and this led to her son telling her to cut him out (the only officially documented instance of Kyle’s mind-control power – or whatever you want to call it – directly affecting a woman). We already knew that no one ever saw the baby again, but it turned out he was taken in by a woman who lived near where Jackie’s car crashed…and when Mulder and Scully found Kyle, they immediately brought him to Dr. Goldman.
Yeah, I know, what? They know that this guy is working for the government. They know he’s probably not a “good guy”. Seemed suspect to me, too. But it did lead to Kyle finding his sister, and to the two of them escaping together…after Kyle rendered Scully unconscious and gruesomely murdered their father, and supposedly caused Mulder to pass out as well so that he didn’t see them escape, either. All very convenient. (Yes, I’m implying that it was all a bit too convenient.)
Will we see Kyle and Molly again? Only time will tell. Does William have powers like they do, or is he deformed like the other children who were in Dr. Goldman’s “care”? Gosh I hope they explain that at some point in the next four episodes.
Listen, “My Struggle” and “Founder’s Mutation” weren’t perfect…but overall they did tell a great story. These episodes brought Mulder and Scully back together, reopened the X-Files, and gave us a lot to think about.
And I know I’m excited to see what happens next. Especially everything involving Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully because she honestly stole the show in both of these episodes and my love affair with her and this character will never die.
So who else is looking forward to next Monday?
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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