TV Review: The X-Files Season 10*
*I’m calling this season ten because I don’t consider this a “series event'” but a natural extension of the show. Consider it a fourteen year hiatus between season nine and ten if you will.
If you ask adults who came of age in the 1990s what show defined the decade for them, some might say ER, others NYPD Blue, and still others Seinfeld.
For me it was The X-Files.
When the show premiered on September 10, 1993 I was instantly hooked. The two main cast members were young and vibrant, the storylines were fascinating and creepy at the same time, and the show blurred the line between science and science fiction. The X-Files also contained one of the greatest show intros of all-time, culminating in the classic tagline, “The Truth Is Out There.”
While the first seven seasons were excellent, there’s little argument that seasons eight and nine were underwhelming. It’s not that they weren’t entertaining, but with the sporadic presence of Duchovny the show lacked that narrative pop. Replacement agents John Doggett (Robert Patrick) and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) while serviceable, were essentially ersatz Mulder and Scully. While I enjoyed what people presumed at the time was the series finale, the 2008 film The X-Files: I Want To Believe was God awful and had almost nothing to do with the mythology. Moderately successful financially, the film was panned by most critics and fans. At that point I thought the The X-Files was truly at an end and none too soon.
Yet when rumblings began in 2014 of an X-Files revival, rather than react with groans I reacted with excitement. The “end” of The X-Files left a bad taste in my mouth, as it did with many fans. I hoped that Chris Carter and company would be able to bring the show to an ultimately satisfying conclusion. With it only being a six episode “series event,” a mini-series seemed perfectly appropriate. After all The X-Files has always been TV-centric. Why do a third film?
While sometimes a mixed bag, The X-Files season ten was deeply satisfying and a strong return for the iconic television show. I say “return” and not “conclusion” because (SPOILER ALERT!!!) they catfished us people. Season ten ended on a HUGE cliffhanger and with the strong ratings I can guarantee this show will be back for an eleventh season.
Since the season was so short, it’s only fitting that we break down each episode individually. ***WARNING SPOILERS BELOW***
EPISODE ONE: “MY STRUGGLE”
Since it’s been fourteen years since The X-Files went off the air, Mulder does a quick voiceover recap of the essentials of the show. Rather than come across redundant, it was actually informative (completely forgot Scully and Mulder had a kid) and a good way to bring newcomers up to speed who didn’t have time to watch the other 202 episodes and two movies. Mulder lives alone and is severely depressed, while Scully works at a hospital and represses her guilt at giving up her son William. The episode as a whole succeeded at drawing us back into the X-Files mythos, as Mulder and Scully begin to uncover a vast conspiracy involving not aliens, but alien technology used in order for a select few to take over the world. I.E. fascists. (1%ers anyone?) Scully is doubtful of course, calling Mulder’s ideas batcrap crazy. However, thanks to fringe television talkshow host Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) and abduction survivor Sveta (Annet Mahendru), Scully begins to question her own previous abduction and the possibility of alien DNA within her. The result (with a little nudge from FBI director Walter Skinner) is that the incident draws Mulder and Scully back to the X-Files. And of course we get a shot of the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) right at the end. While there’s a little too much exposition in this episode and it feels a bit rushed, “My Struggle” was still a great way to kickoff season ten.
EPISODE 2: “FOUNDER’S MUTATION”
The X-Files mythology (aside from aliens) often gravitates toward fringe science such as genetic manipulation. “Founders Mutation” is a quintessential example of this, as Scully and Mulder are thrust into a case involving a death at a company called Nugenics Technology. The episode starts out in classic X-Files fashion, with the actual suicide of Dr. Sanjay, seemingly caused by a high-pitched sound. The case is quickly taken over by the Department of Defense but that doesn’t stop our intrepid FBI navigators. They finally manage to get an interview with the founder of Nugenics, Dr. Augustus Goldman. Turns out Goldman has been doing his own Frankenstein-esque experiments trying to solve genetic abnormalities. This includes his own daughter and son who as you might guess, reunite in spectacular fashion, much to Goldman’s misfortune. “Founder’s Mutation” is arguably the best episode of season ten.
EPISODE 3: “MULDER AND SCULLY MEET THE WERE-MONSTER”
I always appreciate a drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The X-Files is like that, insomuch as they had several comedic episodes, or what I refer to as “meta” episodes. These are always a wink to the audience with the implied notion, “Hey we know we are show about aliens, ghosts, and government conspiracies. We also know that you know the whole concept is kind of ridiculous so let’s crank that ridiculousness up to hilarious levels.” Episodes like “X-Cops” and “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” paved the way for “Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster.” Rhys Darby from Flight of the Concords plays the titular were-monster, Guy Mann (yup that’s his name), and is absolutely hilarious here. In a strange reversal, he’s actually a lizard creature bitten by a man, meaning he transforms INTO a man. Which apparently causes him to get a job and worry about things including mortgages and 401Ks, even though he has no idea what they are. Guy also has a pretty inflated idea of what his relationship with Scully is too. Ironically, this episode ends up renewing Mulder’s faith in his search for truth, just as it was beginning to wane.
EPISODE 4: “HOME AGAIN”
Not every X-Files episode can be great and “Home Again” was a case in point. Easily the weakest episode of the season, “Home Again” finds Mulder and Scully investigating the murder of a city official. It’s your typical “monster of the week” episode in that a mysterious creature known as the Band-Aid Nose Man defends the homeless by killing officials involved with relocating them. “Home Again” is an attempt to be socially relevant but it never really quite coalesces. Granted the monster is scary but the plot development was lacking in this episode. On a positive note, Scully’s mother returns to the show and before she dies refers to Mulder and Scully’s son William. It’s an incredibly cryptic remark and Scully inexplicably demands to return to work after her death. Although I freely admit everyone grieves in their own way. Despite being a pretty poor outing, “Home Again” was nonetheless entertaining.
EPISODE 5: “BABYLON”
“Babylon” was a much more successful attempt at being socially relevant than “Home Again.” The episode revolves around an Islamic Fundamentalist bombing attack in Texas. One of the bombers survives but is in a deep coma. What’s interesting is that Mulder and Scully both attempt to communicate with the bomber in order to find out about a future attack, however they go about it in prototypical Mulder/Scully fashion. I.E. Mulder attempts contact through a supernatural manner and Scully through science. While Scully monitors the bombers ECG signs for responses, Mulder’s is a bit more…unconventional. In fact it’s kind of stupid. Fox essentially takes mushrooms and goes on an acid trip which involves line dancing. Relevant to this episode are the two agents Mulder and Scully engage for assistance. “Babylon” introduces FBI agents Einstein (Lauren Ambrose from HBO’s Six Feet Under) and Miller (Robbie Amell from The Flash). Both are clearly Doppelgangers of Scully and Mulder with Einstein naturally being the scientific one while Miller is more focused on the paranormal. However, in an interesting move, Mulder engages Einstein looking to rely on her scientific mind and Scully works with Miller from a paranormal stance. The episode ends about the way you’d expect, although there is an odd “trumpets from Heaven” scene which put the cap on a somewhat disjointed episode.
EPISODE 6: “MY STRUGGLE II”
It wouldn’t be an X-Files season finale if they didn’t pull out all the stops–including a colossal cliffhanger as I previously mentioned. This episode has everything: alien DNA, an apocalyptic virus, the return of an old character (Agent Monica Reyes from season eight and nine played by Annabeth Gish), and a confrontation between Mulder and the Cigarette Smoking Man. The episode takes place six weeks after the season premiere episode and involves a deadly pathogen called the Spartan virus. Everyone seems to have it–except those with alien DNA. The “Elite” have been chosen by Old Smokey to rule in a new world order. This is very much a high-octane episode with Scully racing against time to create a cure from her own blood not only to save the human race, but also Mulder. The scenes between Mulder and the Smoking Man are just epic. And Reyes’ connection to Smokey? I can only describe it as Faustian. “My Struggle II” culminates in over the top fashion with an alien spacecraft (or at least alien ship technology) appearing above Mulder and Scully just as Scully arrives with the Sparta cure. It’s a conclusion deeply satisfying but infuriating at the same time.
Overall, The X-Files revival was a huge hit in my book. It was good to see the chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson still exists. Moreover, it was important to see that Chris Carter still has the goods. So much has changed in fourteen years, especially with technology and global infrastructure that there’s a goldmine of new stories out there ripe for excavation, hopefully for years to come.
Going forward I’d like to see The Lone Gunmen show up again as they were sorely missed. (I don’t really count Mulder’s acid trip where they appeared at a honkytonk. I need something more substantial.) Furthermore, Mitch Pileggi was severely underused. Additionally, the creators of The X-Files have to stop dancing around the issue of Mulder and Scully’s son William and delve into his story. There’s little doubt that the creators of The X-Files are trying to pass the torch on to newcomers Einstein and Miller. While Ambrose really impressed me as Einstein, I’m not sold on Amell as Miller. To me The X-Files has always been about Mulder and Scully, but I’m willing to give them a fair shake if it comes to that. Hey whatever results in more episodes for this fan is fine by me. The X-Files is a virtual lock to come back full-time although in what capacity I don’t know. It probably won’t be a full 20+ episode season but hopefully it will be at least 13 or 16 episodes. Whatever we end up getting however, I’m sure The X-Files fans will be grateful.
I know I will be.
Season 10 of The X-Files rates: 8.5/10
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