There are two very different discussions to have after tonight’s fourth episode of the X-Files mini-series. The first is about the quality of the episode itself; the other is a lot more complicated — why does this reboot exist?
Before we get to the bigger question let’s start with tonight’s episode, “Home Again.”
Just like last week we have a monster, in this case a super strong “Band-Aid” garbage man who finds those hurting or profiting off the homeless and rips them apart. Unlike last week, however, this episode also tied into one of the show’s bigger arcs–Scully’s guilt and regret from giving up her and Mulder’s son, William.
Gillian Anderson was incredible in this episode. The scenes of her in the hospital with her dying mom, and how they tied in to her own pain over her son, worked beautifully. She was heartbreaking and raw, and it was easily the best performance anyone has given in any of the four episodes thus far. Even David Duchovny managed to do more with less here, feeling more like the Mulder we know by simply being there for her. Those scenes and moments felt honest to the characters and their experiences, without any of the forced, trite dialogue that plagued the first two episodes.
The two of them care for each other, and they don’t need clichés or overt exposition to convey the complicated nature of their lives and love for one another. Unlike in dream sequences earlier in this mini-series, where it felt like the show was shoving the fact that they are in pain over William in our faces, those quiet moments from Mulder and the pain from Scully allowed us to see it, and in turn to experience it with them. When he called her from outside the ICU door to say, “I’m here,” it was the single best scene from this reboot yet. Yeah, Mulder is always there for her, and her for him, and my god if that isn’t the heart of this show.
Then of course there was the second, independent aspect of the episode: the garbage man “Band-Aid” monster with the ability to remove limbs from torsos. In contrast to the fun, lovable Were-Lizard of last week, this was a much more classic, creepy, murderous X-Files monster. Yet, for not even really being around for half of the episode, it felt like we saw him way too much.
It was like a horror movie franchise that barely reveals the monster in the first few films, but then can’t help but show him constantly in the fourth movie. I was really into this painted/ghost-like/phantom that was tearing people apart like a mutant gorilla, but then they kept showing him in great detail and he lost some of his mystique.
And because this episode was really about Scully, we didn’t even get a real investigation. I’m obviously not complaining about the non-monster elements, but it felt like this episode didn’t really know what it wanted to be. You create this great X-Files monster, but then you barely investigate it. Not only that, you learn about him in another drawn out scene where someone explains the incredible phenomenon in exact detail, with no actual mystery. Then? That’s it. Let’s go home. We’re done here. The “Band-Aid” man investigation barely started, and then it ended just as quickly.
I know they tied it in with Scully realizing that her and the Trash Man were responsible for what they had done and no one else, but I don’t think it justified a half-commitment to what should have been a cool monster of the week. That moment for Scully could have happened without the presence of a supernatural art work.
So, why does this reboot exist? Let’s put aside the cynical answer (money). I give Chris Carter more credit than that as an artist. No, what is the story they wanted to tell here?
Think about what we have so far. In one episode we are told about a new, massive, global conspiracy that in some ways is even more outrageous and unbelievable than the one from the show’s original run. Then we meet kids that are being bred by our government to have super powers. That’s followed by a totally independent, fun monster episode with little bearing on anything before or after it, then we have two episodes mashed into one, where the main focus goes back to the plot about them giving up their son, something that doesn’t need a government conspiracy to be true.
In just two episodes we need to have some resolution to the massive conspiracy (involving the Cigarette Smoking Man don’t forget), super children, and Mulder and Scully’s personal pain over their son and relationship.
So, if X-Files wanted to do all that, why are we only getting six episodes? Why are we using some episodes for stand-alone stories? Things were so rushed in the premiere that it felt like an insulting parody of itself, and episode two also had pacing problems.
This episode, while thankfully free of bad dialogue, had an incomplete monster case attached to it, which left me wanting a full episode devoted to it, or to have it completely removed.
Mulder and Scully finding one another again, after all these years, and dealing with the fallout of what they’ve been through could have easily filled six episodes. A six-episode arc revolving around a new mythology, one where they could peel away the layers of intrigue with us, not thrown it in our face like a bad science fiction movie, could have worked too. Hell, six totally independent investigations would have just been fun and creepy and we would have all been glad to have Mulder and Scully back in our lives like last week.
Instead the writers are trying to do all of it and makes the reboot fell purposeless.
I walk away from this episode having enjoyed it. Gillian Anderson on her own made it worthwhile, and it was her and Duchovny at their best. My fear is I am going to walk away from this entire series never knowing why it was made in the first place.
Maybe all of this will make sense after the last two episodes; maybe I will understand what this was all about and this seemingly unfocused endeavor will become crystal clear, all in only two episodes that won’t be rushed. But maybe not. I’m skeptical.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Talk about it with us below.