Review: The X-Files season 10 episode 1 | Virgin Media
The Big Short

Review: The X-Files season 10 episode 1by Matt Looker | Rating: ★★

26/01/2016TV

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Outside of die-hard fans, does anybody know what happened at the end of the last series of The X-Files 14 years ago? You may recall that Mulder finally found his sister… or did he? Scully definitely had a child that was… I want to say abducted by aliens? Then there was the follow-up movie sequel in 2008 in which… something happened. Did Mulder ever actually discover the truth? Is it still out there? Has he checked his pockets?

The obstacle that this reboot now has to overcome is that the convoluted conspiracy threads became so tangled by the time the show ended that creator Chris Carter has to address it all and move on in order to start afresh. And he does exactly that. With all of it. So we have a first 20 minutes that is just crammed full of nonsense background referencing. When the episode starts with some conveniently picked still photos  being shown one by one while Mulder provides a handy explanation of the show’s basic concept, you know that Carter has struggled to find a way to make this new series stand alone organically.

All this exposition has given Mulder a migraine

It was always to be expected though. When the show famously became so entrenched in its own confusing mythology, we knew we were in for a backlog of information in order to all start this new adventure on the same page. But it still makes for an awfully dense first half.

The show has became so entrenched in its own confusing mythology

As Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are reunited at the request of former boss Agent Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) in order to meet TV presenter and conspiracy nut Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) at his request, they skirt around every major plot touchpoint of the series: their relationship, Scully’s child, Mulder’s paranoia and their broad and elaborate history. Words and acronyms related to alien invasions and the secret sciences they have investigated are thrown around like we are all expected to remember the exact episodes from which they derived and instantly know the implications. 

“All the parking lots are full, Mulder. I have no idea where we can meet.”

O’Malley then introduces them to Sveta (Annet Mahendru), a multiple alien abductee who claims to have birthed several children under extraterrestrial experimentation and who may or may not have telepathic and telekinetic powers as a result. After some investigation Scully is, of course, sceptical and Mulder is, of course, taken to a secret warehouse by O’Malley to see something even more mysterious and shocking. And it all relates back to Roswell somehow.

With so much baggage to carry forward and so much plot set-up to give, this reboot doesn’t come across anywhere new as fresh as it would like, but then the latter half really makes up for it. When Mulder makes a (quite vague) discovery that threatens everything he has believed so far about The X-Files, we have a chance to wipe the slate relatively clean and it is at this point that the new series looks like it might be heading in an exciting new direction instead of just discussing the same old conspiracies in the same old dark parking lots.

The X-Files may have finally gone insane with its own maddening mysteries and supposition.

Tonally though, this episode struggles. With Carter writing and directing this return to his defining work, it all feels made in the same vein as when the show first broadcast in 1993, when it redefined the sci-fi paranoia genre. And so the entire episode explores ideas of implausible science and global collusions that have long been parodied, and it does so with a completely straight face. When Mulder is told that he is ‘close to finding his answers, he just needs to ask the right questions’ by a man in a big coat and a black hat in the middle of the night for what is, presumably the 200th time of his career, it’s hard not to roll your eyes.

But no laughter. No, that is reserved for the absurd dialogue throughout the episode, which never flows like a conversation that any two people would ever have in real-life. Mulder in particular speaks only in truisms and clichés, even in direct response to simple questions like Scully continually asking him if he is ok. By the time we get to a midway montage in which both he and O’Malley reveal the enormous extent of the conspiracy at hand by listing everything from H-bombs and terrorist attacks to consumerism and junk food, all to a slew of accompanying news footage, it seems like

Wait until Scully sees her entry in Mulder’s Ex-Files.

And yet, there is still the great sight of Mulder and Scully back on our screens working together. There is still the familiar broom closet of the FBI offices that hosted Mulder’s many paper files and posters. There is still that spine-tingling theme tune that will put a smile on your face as broad as Scully’s sceptic streak. And that all counts for a lot in the face of so much that is wrong with this episode.

Between fond nostalgia, just enough plot development and a few welcome surprises, all signs point to what will hopefully be a much better second episode and hopefully a truly great series overall. At least, I want to believe.

The X-Files returns to Channel 5 in early February.

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