The X-Files (season 10)
Earlier this week I posted my overall thoughts on The X-Files six-episode event series (or “season 10” as it is being referred to in many places). Here now is a more detailed episode-by-episode analysis:
Episode 1 — “My Struggle” — This was a very rocky beginning to the relaunch. One of the biggest surprises/disappointments of this six-episode event season was the low quality of the three episodes that X-Files creator/show-runner Chris Carter wrote and directed. His two “My Struggle” episodes (that bookended the season) were just terrible. This felt like the “Cliff’s Notes” version of an X-Files episode, with way too much plot jammed into the hour. Nothing had time to breathe and none of the characters behaved in a way that made sense to me.
In the timeline of the show, Mulder and Scully have now been away from the X-Files for well over a decade. The event that brings them back to the FBI needs to be MOMENTOUS. But in this episode, it’s a nothing. The Bureau contacts Mulder and Scully just because a right-wing talk-show host (Joel McHale) wants to speak to them? Why is this the inciting event for these new episodes? Why, at the end of the events of this hour, do Mulder and Scully decide to return to the FBI? Why does the FBI take them back? None of that is clearly established. The episode also fumbles on explaining what Mulder and Scully have been up to since the events of 2008’s second movie, I Want to Believe. That film was all about the two of them getting their faith back, each of them in what they want to believe. But what have they been up to since then? I am OK with breaking the two of them up, even though it smacks of a desire to reset everything to the old status quo of the original series. (One of the huge mis-steps of the later years of the show, and that second movie, was having Mulder and Scully get together OFF CAMERA. We still never learned exactly how and why they got together after years of sexual tension. Nor was it ever made 100% clear that Mulder fathered baby William. But more on that in a moment.) But since it was established in the second movie that these two had been a couple for years, I would have liked this episode to have more clearly established what went wrong.
A lot of things happen in this episode but not much of it makes any sense. Why does one conversation with this young woman Sveta (The Americans’ Annet Mahendru, a wonderful actress totally wasted here) convince Mulder that everything he has believed in … [continued]
My father convinced me to start watching The X-Files about half-way through its first season, back in late ’93 or early ’94, and I was quickly hooked. I became a huge fan of the show, and I have been ever since. Seasons two through five of The X-Files are pretty spectacular, and what other TV series in recent memory has transitioned into a feature film in the middle of its run? It’s unprecedented, and only serves to illustrate what a behemoth The X-Files was back then.
That 1998 movie (which fans like to call Fight the Future but which, back then was just known as The X-Files movie) was the first time the series stumbled. In the years since, I have grown to love that first X-Files film. I recently re-watched it, and now it looks like a time capsule of The X-Files at the height of its power. I’d hold it up as one of the best examples a classic X-Files story, twisty and thrilling, gorgeous to look at and with some terrific humor and character beats. At the time it disappointed, though, mostly because it didn’t provide the definitive answers that fans of the series had expected. Seasons six and seven of the series, after the movie, were still solid, though the bloom was somewhat off the rose. The biggest problem was that, by that point, the show’s mythology — what had been one of its greatest strengths — was starting to become a weakness, too convoluted to make much sense.
The finale of season seven was designed to possibly serve as a series finale, since when the episode was filmed it was uncertain if the show would return. (This is a terrible way to treat a long-running successful show. Today, huge hit shows tend to be more able to end at a time of their own choosing, and thus able to craft a more satisfying ending.) Looking back now, in many ways I wish the show had ended after season seven, because when the show returned it was without David Duchovny, who appeared only sporadically in those final two seasons. I don’t want to overly bash seasons eight and nine, as I actually think that most of the individual episodes were still pretty great. But the show had to twist itself around narratively to explain Mulder’s absence in a way that I felt damaged the show and the characters. (I just don’t buy Mulder going on the run and leaving Scully, it doesn’t feel like something that character would do.)
I have often lamented on this site how seldom it is that a pop-culture juggernaut is able to have a definitive, satisfying ending. As I noted … [continued]