When I was a child, hearing the X-Files theme song creep from the television meant I was up way past my bedtime. If I didn’t run into my room fast enough, I was going to see some pretty terrifying stuff. Needless to say, this early relationship with one of TV’s most influential shows led to a fascinating curiosity.
Fast forward fifteen years, during which I spent many hours catching up on reruns on the SyFy channel after school (SciFi? How are they spelling it now?), and here I am sitting in front of my television, getting ready to watch the first new X-Files episode in thirteen years.
It was a surreal feeling, one that I’m sure many lifelong fans of the series felt as they watched Mulder and Scully reunite for the first time since the very lackluster I Want to Believe movie back in 2008. The X-Files machine has been such an influential part of television that it’s impossible to dissociate it from its place in the past, and this weird mix of nostalgia and history made for an interesting first episode for Season 10.
To be completely frank, the mythology episodes of the show were always the worst. Even during the regular series, it always felt like Chris Carter was retconning the alien/government conspiracy arc to try and keep things fresh. The frustrating result is a first episode that tries to do the same thing again. Our two favorite FBI agents were hardly on screen for five minutes before they started grabbing each other by the shoulders, Duchovny sleepily pleading about wanting to believe, and Scully remaining the constant skeptic.
It was, at times, a frustrating hour, where nothing particularly substantial happened. Perhaps this is due to the perceived retconning of the mythology. Even though we’re told maybe there were no aliens at all and everything was just a government ruse, it feels like it won’t stick for very long. Mulder kicks and rips the iconic “I Want to Believe” poster, and with it trashes all the overarching alien build up of the previous nine seasons and two movies.
Maybe we’re spoiled. After the initial demise of the X-Files, TV entered the so-called Golden Age, where strong narratives and complex characters trump the act of being loosely strung along for twenty-six episodes per season. Chris Carter and company couldn’t just end the mythology arc whenever they wanted because it might always be renewed for another season, thus continuing the cycle.
No, unless there is full committal to the mythology, the X-Files will lose on that front. Instead what the show needs is to show us what made it so great in the first place. The monster of the week format told us interesting, strange, and compelling stories, all compressed into a single viewing. With a limited six episode run, let’s hope more of them focus on what made the show so engrossing to begin with: Mulder and Scully facing down the weird stuff. We didn’t get much of that during My Struggle, and it hurt.
Yet despite the episode not being a good hour of television even by 1995’s standards, I still liked it. We got to see two very strong characters reunite and rekindle their relationship (whatever that entails), and with it the promise of fun adventures to come. Even the insane ramblings of Glenn Beck stand-in Tad O’Malley are plausible for the show and fun to listen to, if nothing else. I don’t know how I feel about Mulder jumping on board with literally every freaking nut-job conspiracy rolled into one, but dammit, I’ll watch him sort it out.
Is there room in our television schedules for the X-Files in 2016? It’s too early to tell. Carter has the pieces to make the show as great as it once was, it’s just a matter of fitting them into the proper places. I’m more excited and intrigued about the next few episodes, which are supposed to be back to basic monster-of-the-week episodes, but in the meanwhile, it was just nice to be reintroduced to old friends.
Odds & Ends:
- It’s really nice the theme song hasn’t changed, but I feel like it’s maybe shorter than before?
- “Uber?” Ugh, I really hope the show isn’t too wink-wink about taking place in contemporary times. Maybe this will be a nice bit of world building for people watching the show fifty years from now.
- Speaking of which, watching Mulder and Scully call each other on sleek smartphones is just plain wrong. Bricks or bust.
- The Smoking Man lives after being bombed to shit! I can’t wait to see who else they retcon from the grave!
- So aliens never existed but the government is pretending they do while they conduct experiments on the tech gained from Roswell to…enslave the American public? What’s the end goal of the government here, to make us work in the plutonium mines? That sounds like a stretch, but thanks Obama.
Steve has one of those “I Want to Believe” posters from his college days. Follow him on Twitter.