THE X-FILES 10×01 Debriefing: Same old conspiracy song and dance

THE X-FILES:  L-R:  Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully and David Duchovny as Fox Mulder.  The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). The thrilling, six-episode event series, helmed by creator/executive producer Chris Carter and starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI Agents FOX MULDER and DANA SCULLY, marks the momentous return of the Emmy Award- and Golden Globe-winning pop culture phenomenon, which remains one of the longest-running sci-fi series in network television history.  ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Ed Araquel/FOX

*Insert “The Truth Is Still Out There” pun here*

Fourteen years after the original series went off the air, and eight years after its last movie was released, it feels downright strange to be reviewing a brand-new episode of The X-Files. Like we’ve hit some sort of collective rewind button, sharing this trip down memory lane all together.

Yet somehow, the most quintessentially ‘90s show feels topical, since it seems like maybe all those government conspiracies Fox Mulder raved about to anyone who’d listen (and many who wouldn’t) over the last few decades aren’t so fantastical after all. Mulder and Scully are back, a little older and wiser and battle-worn, but don’t let that fool you — these two are in the thick of it, and for that, we should all be grateful.

Grab your tinfoil hats and alien-grade icepicks, because it’s about to be a bumpy ride.

To be perfectly honest, I had a tenuous (to be generous) grasp on the whole mythology arc of The X-Files at the best of times during its nine-season run, so the plot of season ten’s opener flew over my head, mostly. Here’s the Cliff Notes version: a Conservative media personality named Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) contacts Mulder, via Scully, via Skinner, about a new Conspiracy™, leading them straight to a woman named Sveta (The Americans’ Annet Mahendru), who claims to be a multiple abductee.

THE X-FILES: Guest star Annet Mahendru. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Courtesy Fox

Her story is eerily similar to someone else’s we know. Her experiences are not at the hands of aliens, as we would be led to believe, but of “men” — faceless and nameless, naturally. She’s been pregnant before, without her consent (obviously) and every one of those pregnancies has ended with said shadow figures “taking” the babies. She’s worried it will happen again, and is visibly terrified that she’s being watched. According to Mulder, she is the new Key to Everything™. Oh yeah, there’s also an alien vehicle that’s been in storage in a warehouse outside the city, since the days of Roswell, and Tad takes him to see it — it’s made of some particle that means it can disappear and reappear at will, and does so before his eyes. He’s fired up about this in a way that he clearly hasn’t been in a while, given the state of his house (and his stubble), and the fact that, oh yeah, he and Scully aren’t living together anymore. (Sniff!)

Scully, our resident skeptic, is skeptical. Ah, just like old times! She’s still working in what must be the most medieval-looking basement operating theater in Vancouver Washington, this time as a surgical assistant helping doctors to give ears to children born with genetic abnormalities. (Hmm, the plot thickens.) She’s certainly not about to believe a “charming man with charming BS” about a new conspiracy, since she’s over all of that. Moreover, she’s worried about Mulder — they may have broken up, but it’s evident that that was probably more of a self-preservation tactic on her part due to his apparently-partner-diagnosed depression. She might want to see him get out of his little house, but maybe not at the cost of falling down this rabbit hole.

THE X-FILES: L-R: Guest star Annet Mahendru and Gillian Anderson. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). The thrilling, six-episode event series, helmed by creator/executive producer Chris Carter and starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI Agents FOX MULDER and DANA SCULLY, marks the momentous return of the Emmy Award- and Golden Globe-winning pop culture phenomenon, which remains one of the longest-running sci-fi series in network television history. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Courtesy Fox

Still, Scully can’t help her curiosity, and she tests Sveta’s blood anyway, to verify her claims that she has alien DNA as a result of her experiments. (My thoughts: isn’t that exactly what the original series claimed? Isn’t that what the chip in Scully’s neck was about? My head hurts.) Though the original test comes back negative — which Scully uses to dismiss Sveta’s allegations and nip this investigation in the bud before Mulder boards the Conspiracy Train to Icepick City — she nonetheless decides to re-test the woman’s sample, not trusting the too-clean results, and also concerned about the implications for herself. (Which begs the question — is there a conspiracy mole inside Our Lady Of Perpetual Bad Lighting Hospital?)

Not only does the second test come back chock full o’ alien DNA for Sveta, but it matches the anomalies Scully found in her own sample, too. Our resident medical doctor has a vested interest now, and perhaps reluctantly agrees to join forces with Mulder to get to the bottom of this, but it won’t be easy. (Especially since the aforementioned alien vehicle is conveniently blown up by men in black after Tad and Mulder’s visit.) Where Mulder is pumped about getting his spooky groove on, Scully is a little more reticent; she might want the truth, but she’s been down this road before, and knows its cost.

THE X-FILES: L-R: David Duchovny and guest star Joel McHale. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Courtesy Fox

That cost is all too real, especially to Sveta. She publicly reneges on her tale, now asserting that O’Malley paid her off to make the claims in an attempt to boost his ratings, obviously shaken. We all know that someone’s gotten to her, just as she feared, and we close with her taking off into the night, trying to escape whatever will inevitably come. Sure enough, in a case of déjà vu for any long-time fan, her car dies on the side of the road, and the clock inside it goes wonky. (Hmm, like missing time?) She knows what’s about to happen, but can’t help trying to fight it anyway. (I kept expecting them to suck her up from her sunroof.) Following every horror-movie cliché, she exits her car and attempts to run away from the tractor beam over her, sealing her fate. Just as she gets the door open, the ominous aircraft above one-ups the beam, and instead fires at her car, blowing it up in the process.

It seems like this may signal the end of poor Sveta, but the very end of the episode might give her a little hope, because it reminds us of another character presumed to have been turned into New Mexico Fried Chicken. In a callback to days of yore, the Cigarette Smoking Man appears before us, explaining to the person on the other end of the phone that The X-Files have now been reopened. Taking a drag from his tracheotomy, revealing his scarred face, our heroes’ evilest nemesis is back in the game, too — because every decade needs a villain.

Bet you thought you saw the last of me. / THE X-FILES: Guest star William B. Davis. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Surprise, Bitch! I bet you thought you saw the last of me. / Courtesy Fox

Just another day in the park for our intrepid former agents, wouldn’t you say?

THE X-FILES: L-R: Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully and David Duchovny as Fox Mulder. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). The thrilling, six-episode event series, helmed by creator/executive producer Chris Carter and starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI Agents FOX MULDER and DANA SCULLY, marks the momentous return of the Emmy Award- and Golden Globe-winning pop culture phenomenon, which remains one of the longest-running sci-fi series in network television history. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Courtesy Fox

The X-Files was probably the formative television of my teenage years. Though I grew up with a remote control in my hand, this was the show that really opened my eyes to how transformative television could be, and how watching a series with an overarching theme impacted the way fans interacted with it. It’s the show that taught me how to use the internet to engage with my interests — from participating on message boards and meeting other fans (who became friends), to consuming media and following behind-the-scenes action, I can without a doubt say that it was the show that introduced me to what it meant to truly be immersed in fiction. It’s what made me realize that it was okay to think deeper about a story, and that it was okay to write those thoughts out, too. (In a larger sense, there might not have ever been a ThankYouLizLemon.com without it.)

It’s strange, then, that I’ve been somewhat stand-offish about the revival; maybe I was scared of getting “burned” again after the last few seasons of the show, or maybe I thought I was just too grown up for such endeavors — no way would I be sticking Mulder and Scully pictures in my school agenda this time around. (Um, actual thing that happened circa 1998.) Yet, as soon as Mulder and Scully graced the screen, and as soon as the familiar notes came through the TV, it was like being transported back to that time, and suddenly all the misgivings melted away.

THE X-FILES: L-R: Gillian Anderson and guest star Joel McHale. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Courtesy Fox

Which is not to say the episode was perfect, but I was surprised about how that, well, imperfection didn’t really matter, when it came down to it. Yes, if I’m frank, the dialogue was cringeworthy in a lot of places, and at one point I realized that the entire episode seemed to be a continuous string of clichés hurled from one character to the next. Plus, as much as it pains me to admit it, I felt like the actors might not have quite hit their groove yet in the characters. (But that might also be a choice — more on that in a second.) I half-expected Scully to start googling (sorry, Finder-Spydering) surgery techniques here, which she did in the last movie, after seeing her refreshing O’Malley’s website. (Just bookmark it, already, Scully!) And yes, that conspiracy exposition was a lot to take in all at once.

By the end of “My Struggle”, though, it hit me that none of that mattered, because the tone of the show was what struck me, and that, my friends, was spectacular. The pacing of the episode was quick and furious in all the best ways, gripping me into the story that, as I’ve mentioned, I barely registered. The episode could have remained as-is sans dialogue, with Mulder and Scully and jump cuts to the conspiracy, and I probably would have been just as enthralled. (Hell, I thought I’d be annoyed that they revived Cigarette Smoking Man, but instead I’m down with him wreaking havoc, because he is their greatest foil.) I’m honestly impressed that Chris Carter and his merry band of writers pulled it off; it couldn’t have been easy to get this off the ground again after so much time away, and despite the growing pains, I think it was a success overall. It recaptured the essentials of the original recipe, while adding a little bit of a modern spice to reflect the change in times (or not), and in our characters.

Iconic. / THE X-FILES: L-R: David Duchovny and Mitch Pileggi. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Iconic. / Courtesy Fox

Those characters, I believe, are the real success of the premiere — just as they always were. Again, I’m pleased that the toll of their journeys are allowed to be on display, as painful as I’m sure it will be to watch in the next five weeks. As I mentioned, I believed that David Duchovny and (in particular) Gillian Anderson were a little “off” from the Mulder and Scully I last remembered, but then it hit me that that could also be deliberate. While Mulder seemed to find his mojo, so to speak, as the episode wore on and her got his conspiracy juices flowing, Scully seemed resigned, in a sense — always speaking barely above a whisper and generally seeming like she was over the entire operation.

Yet, maybe that’s exactly what she is; she’s been doing this for half her life, and more often than not it doesn’t end well. (Even one of the few good things that came out of this for her — her relationship with Mulder — appears to have crumbled under its weight for now.) While she obviously wants her partner to start living his life again, instead of staying holed up in his Conspiracy Hut wasting away by himself, she’s also keenly aware of the toll his zeal takes on him, and on her as the person who loves him and stands by through thick and thin.

THE X-FILES: L-R: Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Courtesy Fox

That relationship, surprisingly (or not), was front and center in “My Struggle”, too. Don’t get me wrong, Mulder and Scully were always the core of the show — and I spent many a night in my youth pleading them to just kiss already — but their Mulder-and-Scully-ness was rarely verbalized. It was always there as an undercurrent to everything they did, and their love for one another was what drove  the show (namely in later years), but it was subtext more than anything.

Now, though, it’s all text. They spent the first nine years never talking about their relationship, to spending this episode seemingly talking about nothing but their relationship, to anyone around them. Sveta reads Scully’s mind about her feelings for Mulder and their child (more later!) and touches a nerve, Tad is keenly interested– hell even Mulder and Scully discuss “them” in brief spurts. Everyone knows they used to be together, and it seems like everyone’s pretty sad about them not being together now. It’s an odd feeling as a “Phile” who used to wax poetic when they’d do nothing more than stare at each other, but it’s oddly gratifying as an older and wiser fan of television who enjoys a little analysis with her Cheerios in the morning.

Even more so because it feels like the show is touching upon some issues that were left frustratingly dangling towards the original series’ twilight seasons, namely Scully’s abduction, and her son with Mulder. Her experiences always seemed to be used as a pawn in the larger game, her struggles somehow lesser than the overall conspiracy. Yet, she’s inextricably tied to it, and I’m so happy that we’re seeing her take interest in Sveta’s case because she wants to know what happened to her, too, over 20 years ago.

THE X-FILES: David Duchovny. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Courtesy Fox

Furthermore, how the William story was wrapped up in seasonnine was one of those plots that distanced me from the show, because it seemed so callous — as though the show didn’t know what to do with an actual child character, so they got rid of him without understanding how horrific that would be to Scully. Granted it was nearing the show’s run (only a few episodes before the series finale), but it was exasperating to watch a main character lose her child, by giving him up for adoption for his safety, then to more or less ignore it for the remainder of the season. I was surprised enough that I Want To Believe, 2008’s movie release, mentioned William at all, and am even more so that it seems like season 10 is going to tackle the story, and its consequences, head-on in 2016. Maybe the show took the long way to get there, but if we get to see Scully and Mulder both deal with what they’ve lost, then I think we’re in for a hell of a ride.

Needless to say, I’m pumped for this revival. We’ve gone to watching these characters in oversize suits and shoulder pads captured on VHS, to designer duds and big-name guest stars in HD. Visually, the episode was stunning (even as a someone who doesn’t watch sci-fi, that UFO crash was pretty darn cool), and there’s no mistaking that Vancouver gives the show a distinctive quality that is as inherent to its fabric as its people. I’m excited as a X-Phile, and I’m maybe even more excited as a lover of all things TV. I still can’t quite believe that I get to talk about new episodes of The X-Files in 2016, and that nostalgia is as comforting as a cup of hot cocoa. (Or a non-fat Tofutti rice dreamsicle.)

THE X-FILES: L-R: Guest star Joel McHale, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. The next mind-bending chapter of THE X-FILES debuts with a special two-night event beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 (10:00-11:00 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT), following the NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, and continuing with its time period premiere on Monday, Jan. 25 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT). The thrilling, six-episode event series, helmed by creator/executive producer Chris Carter and starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI Agents FOX MULDER and DANA SCULLY, marks the momentous return of the Emmy Award- and Golden Globe-winning pop culture phenomenon, which remains one of the longest-running sci-fi series in network television history. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ed Araquel/FOX

Courtesy Fox

Episode 1 is down the hatch, and episode 2 is hot on its trails tonight, revisiting old wounds right from the get-go. How did you guys enjoy The X-Files’ return to the small screen? Are you ready to go chase some aliens, too?


All photos courtesy of FoxFlash

 

Nels
Nels knew how to operate a TV remote control before she knew how to talk. As a result, she has spent an inordinate amount of time pretending she actually lives on a soundstage. When she isn’t watching whichever show is currently capturing her heart, she is writing about how said show is currently capturing her heart. She loves pie.

2 Responses to THE X-FILES 10×01 Debriefing: Same old conspiracy song and dance

  1. […] Tonight’s outing is classic X-Files, with human experiments and alien DNA and Mulder and Scully getting into a whole lot of trouble. Add in a dash of personal reflection on past choices, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for pretty riveting — and heart-wrenching — episode to follow up yesterday’s premiere. […]

  2. […] when Tad O’Malley came swinging into our fearful hearts and promised the planet’s destruction thanks to our alien overlords? Apparently he wasn’t all […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: