Jessica Morris ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly TV Staff Writer
With nine seasons, spanning from 1993 to 2002, and two movies, Fox’s The X-Files remains a pop culture phenomenon rarely seen with television shows of the sci-fi variety. Always ready to see special agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) back in action, fans were thrilled when an X-Files revival miniseries was announced in March of 2015. And when it finally came time for the series to air, fans turned out in droves to experience the magic of the beloved series for a second time.
The revival premiere that aired this past Sunday on January 24th, “My Struggle”, took in 13.7 million viewers. It should also be considered that the premiere was delayed nearly a half-hour due to the NFC championship post-game, yet fans stuck around.
“My Struggle” was not a perfect episode, nor an episode most fans will be interested in watching again. It moved slowly, was confusing, and seemed to be jumping all over the place. At times, the episode’s dialogue was also not up to par. There was a tremendous overuse of key X-Files catchphrases such as “I want to believe” that became grating. Still, “My Struggle” was enough to invest the audience in this continuation of Mulder and Scully’s journey. The episode fulfilled its purpose: it established where Mulder and Scully were now in their lives, got them back together again, and presented a new threat for them to face.
The episode begins with a classic-Mulder monologue, in which he gives an overview of the X-Files, his missing sister, Samantha, and his relationship with Scully. This opening functions as an effective reintroduction to the series. “My Struggle” includes a guest-appearance by Joel McHale in the role of Tad O’Malley, an online newscaster who believes heavily in exposing the “truth”. FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) contacts Mulder and requests that he meet with O’Malley. Soon, both Mulder and Scully are reunited (and are revealed to have broken up/gotten divorced) and are taken by Tad to meet a woman named Sveta, who claims to be an alien abductee. After meeting with a doctor from Roswell, Mulder begins to believe that the true secret to be uncovered is not the existence of alien-life, but governments planning to use alien technology in order to exert control and dominate Earth. Scully reveals to Mulder that she has alien DNA, just as Sveta did. The biggest shock of the episode comes at the end, with the reveal that the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) is still alive.
“Founder’s Mutation” is a much easier episode for viewers to digest. It takes the format of a classic “monster-of-the-week” episode which X-Files fans are accustomed to and love. In this episode, Mulder and Scully investigate the apparent suicide of a scientist, only to naturally fall into a much more complicated and dangerous case. They learn that a doctor named Dr. Goldman is experimenting on fetuses, and then killing the mothers if they protest. Goldman’s work, they find, has produced children with severe abnormalities and in some cases, superpowers.
The episode also references William, Mulder and Scully’s son who they were forced to give up for adoption, multiple times. Both Mulder and Scully reminisce about their son and what could have been had they had the opportunity to raise him. Overall, the episode is touching, thrilling, and feels more like an authentic episode of The X-Files then “My Struggle” does. Furthermore, for many fans, a greater resolution to the William storyline is exactly what they want and expect from this season. Given the events of this episode, it’s apparent more William-related scenes are to come. “Founder’s Mutation” proves that the revival series has the potential to be great, and that more seasons of the show are welcome.
Critics have been quick to point out that David Duchovny and to a greater extent, Gillian Anderson, do not play their characters exactly as they were in the original series. This is true. The old Dana Scully and Fox Mulder are not entirely there in Duchovny’s and Anderson’s performances, but that is not a detriment to the series. To be fair, it has been years, both in our world and in theirs. Their characters have changed, grown, and aged. There is nothing necessarily missing in their portrayals, there has just been years of experience and trials added to their characterizations.
Just as the characters of Mulder and Scully have been updated for the revival, so has the rest of the show. One of the most impressive aspects of the revival so far is how the show has been effectively updated for 2016 viewers. It’s still The X-Files, but Mulder and Scully are no longer trapped in the nineties anymore. There are frequent references to today’s controversies in regards to privacy and the like. By referencing real-world events of today, the show is able to intrigue a modern audience that is more vocal and interested in conspiracies and government corruption than viewers of any previous generation.