Friday, January 29, 2016

The X-Files: Season 10, Episode 1 - "My Struggle"

I do believe it was around the end of Season 6 that I finally checked out of The X-Files. I enjoyed the first few seasons of the lauded series and LOVED the first film (don’t ask me about the second one or I will unfriend you) but after that it seemed to turn stale. Once David Duchovny left at the end of season 7 I knew I had made the right decision. I mean, if one of the two main stars was bailing on it, why shouldn’t I? Without him it just wouldn’t be the same. 

So here we are. It’s been 14 years since the show ended its run and a limited series revival has begun. Is it good enough to bring me back into the fold?

The new series picks up with a television host (Joel McHale) contacting former FBI agents Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) in regards to an alien conspiracy he has uncovered within the US government and plans to go public with on his show.
I will admit that this new series had me surprisingly invested at the start with its interesting set-up and a very convincing performance from an unorthodox casting choice – Joel McHale (Community, The Soup). The script from writer/director/series creator Chris Carter moves at lightning speed to not only catch us up on what’s been going on with Mulder and Scully in the interim (thankfully this series seems to be ignoring the existence of I Want To Believe) but to re-thrust the characters into the overall mythology as quickly as possible. It works, but I did have some issues with the presentation.

My main beef is that the series expects, no, requires that the viewers know every single detail of the alien colonization plot that was the bread and butter of the original run. Each. And. Every. Detail. It’s been a while since I re-watched the show, but I managed to get by. Newbies on the other hand will be completely lost. I’m sure this series was made for the fans, but there is an untapped audience out there that could become potential viewers should the series continue. I don’t foresee anyone that’s not already an X-Phile sticking with the show past this pilot episode. 

Another gripe is with Mulder. In the original show he was prone to believing in whatever situation he and his partner happened to find themselves in without hesitation. Giant flukeworm monster. Yes. A dude can predict the day of his own death and the deaths of others. Of course. Bees are being used to carry a parasitic alien virus that will impregnate the human population with otherworldly beings. Why not. But never in a million years would I buy the fact that one girl would be able to spin a tale so ridiculous to Mulder that he would throw out everything he knows to be true and has experienced personally. It almost felt insulting, as if Carter was trying to purposely move away from the alien colonization storyline once and for all, just as he did during the Duchovny-less years with that super soldier crap, by having one of the main characters spit on his own beliefs. When Mulder started preaching to Scully about how, “We’ve all been lied to!” I inwardly groaned, as did Scully during those scenes. 

Outside of that, I found this to be a somewhat successful return for The X-Files. I really enjoyed the interplay between Mulder and Scully, all the sights we are given access to that revolve around the mythology plotline were cool and fun (loved the UFO hybrid ship that can fold space), and it left me feeling a little excited to see where the show is headed during its limited run.

However, I do feel that series creators need to stop directing their own shows. Vince Gilligan (formerly of The X-Files) directed several key episodes of Breaking Bad. Joss Whedon helmed various episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and Agents of SHIELD. And Chris Carter joins the ever-growing list (he also directed I Want to Believe). Some made the transition successfully. Actually everyone I mentioned has… except Chris Carter. I have no problem with him personally, but Carter has absolutely no visual style. This episode is boring to look at despite all the cool events going on and the chemistry of the two main stars. It’s almost like he pulled a George Lucas and just said “Stand there and you know the rest” to his actors. Let the people who actually have experience take the reigns please. With other modern day television shows looking more like big budget Hollywood fare The X-Files feels like a relic of the past in the visual department.
But like I said, I kind of enjoyed the episode as a whole despite its faults. Sure there are things that bugged me. I’m a longtime fan. Of course things will seem out of place and awkward after all this time goes by. It will never be EXACTLY the same as the original. The actors have aged considerably, technology has improved, storytelling techniques for television have evolved and the way people watch television has even changed completely. Just like the original run, I’m sure this will settle into a groove just fine. I’m just glad the show is back where it belongs. But 6 episodes?! 6?! Really? Agent Carter is getting 10 episodes (I’m not digging on the current season so if it ends here I’ll be okay with it), but The X-Files only gets 6. Lamesauce.

But please, Chris Carter, no more movies. I was shocked to see how many millions of people tuned in for this premiere episode despite the quality of The X-Files: I Want to Believe. In fact, I’m surprised I even watched it after that joke of a flick. But will The X-Files return to television again if this run is a huge hit? Only time will tell.

2.5 out of 5

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