The following review is a review, meaning it talks about the new first episode of The X-Files miniseries. Ergo, concordantly, and vis-a-vis, it contains SPOILERS. Please proceed at your own peril.
Six or seven minutes into the premiere of this mini The X-Files reboot, I felt like I was back home in an old comfortable chair. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were back, meeting with a stranger I didn’t know whether to trust or not, and they were discussing a vast conspiracy of the utmost importance. It felt right. It felt good.
Then the rest of the episode happened and I remembered the old saying about how you can’t go home again.
What started out so promising and fun turned into a weirdly paced, utterly over-the-top melodrama that didn’t make any sense, and it didn’t make any sense in the bad way, not the good X-Files way. Not only did the episode entirely erase the whole mythology of the original series by saying it was all a red herring (which doesn’t make sense if you think about it for even a second), but it presented an even more ridiculous and larger conspiracy to replace it, yet one that was instantly understood and explained in great detail.
Mulder spent years trying to make sense of the original government alien conspiracy, but in this episode he figured out this new one in roughly three minutes with nary a clue. Seriously, what was the trigger, that Sveta said it wasn’t aliens that took her baby, but rather men? That’s not even a new idea for the show, but it was enough to trigger Mulder into totally abandoning everything he ever thought, and it was enough to send him on a path to total enlightenment about a global conspiracy to… do what exactly? That wasn’t clear, but it didn’t even matter, it was so silly. The whole thing reminded me of this old South Park joke, but somehow Mulder’s realization was less believable.
This felt like three years of absurd conspiracy squeezed into thirty minutes. None of it was earned, and as a result instead of feeling like the crazy, anything-is-possible X-Files we loved in the first place, it felt like it was something made to mock the original. You can sell an impossible-to-believe story, the original show did (until it kind of collapsed under its own mythology), but you need to peel away the onion to do that, not take a big bite of it.
Even David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s performances were all over the place. Early on when they just got to interact with one another as people with a complex past, it felt sincere and warm. Later it felt like they were going through the motions as the script and dialogue got harder and harder to take. Mulder’s depression and beaten down life were on Duchovny’s face early, but by the time he was screaming at Skinner it was so forced you felt bad for both of them.
There was also something strange about having Joel McHale’s Tad O’Malley/Glenn Beck character be right (apparently) about the most evil ideas of what the government is really about. In some ways, the original Syndicate of The X-Files could be defended. Aliens were coming, humans needed to do something to survive, and telling the masses we were all doomed might as easily have destroyed civilization as any alien invasion. Mulder was fighting for the truth, but there was value in the lie. More importantly, the lie made sense.
What’s the value here? Who are we rooting for? Everything was painfully spelled out for us and I still have no idea why any of this is happening. None of that is good.
This run is only six episodes, and at least a couple of them are going to be traditional, stand-alone/monster-of-the-week episodes that were so common for the show. At first I was upset by that. Why not give us an amazing, six-episode arc with a great conspiracy, one that maybe even finally gives us the closure the original finale did not?
After this premiere, I am looking forward to those episodes the most, but it does feel like they could have used the time to develop this main storyline, instead of squeezing all of this into one episode and undermining the entire series.
I’m still excited Mulder and Scully are back, and one bad episode isn’t going to be enough to ruin that. My hope is you can go home again, even if it feels a little weird – not so good – at first.
What did you think of the premiere? Tell us in the comments below.