“My life has become a Punchline.” Fox Mulder laments.
It’s a line of dialogue that was imperative to the revival of The X-Files. Necessary, because The X-Files needed to poke a bit of fun at itself before it begins to take itself seriously again. It rightfully does so, considering the weight of conspiracy and exposition that is unloaded in the first all too short episode.
“My Struggle,” begins with narration by Mulder. He catches us up on the bullet points of what the series previously gave us over the course of nine seasons. All major events from Mulder’s sister’s abduction to the closing of the X-Files are covered by the expository monologue.
Even with the X-Files closed, Mulder has been keeping an eye on the skies and living in solitude, while Scully began work in cosmetic repair surgery, following their separation. It doesn’t take more than a phone call to get these two back in the field again.
Mulder and Scully are pulled back into the world of conspiracy when right wing conspiracy theorist, Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale) and Walter Skinner, call for their advice on a young girl who has been abducted and impregnated by mysterious figures from the skies. This ignites the Scully and Mulder dynamic of truth seeker and logic hound that we all love.
Mulder is suddenly faced with a much bigger conspiracy than aliens. He begins to doubt his entire body of work with the X-Files, and starts to believe that a top echelon has been posing as aliens to create a smokescreen for a bigger conspiracy.
I appreciate the new direction, even when it comes off standing on a soapbox and shouting about how the world has changed since 9-11. The first episode reintroduces characters and the long standing mythology and manages to pull a few punches in the process. It is not the strongest episode ever but neither were a lot of the episodes from seasons 1-9. In its favor, it definitely still feels like The X-Files atmospherically. Chris Carter and Co. were able dust off and pick up where they left off and that is no easy feat.
Both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, comfortably slide right back into their roles without missing a beat. Their relationship, as well as their separation, is believable and was something that I didn’t struggle with. I love seeing these two onscreen together and both their emotional moments and banter are a welcome combo to have beaming through my TV once again.
The first episode has a lot of exposition and even more heady conspiracy ideas. These give too much weight to an episode that is only an hour long. Too many ideas, without enough time to properly spread its legs and reintroduce itself to fans, stifles what could have been a much stronger episode. The pacing of the episode makes me wonder how much footage ended up on the cutting room floor.
Overall, though, “My Struggle” pulled me back into the fold again. I’m ready for more mythology and even more ready for monster of the week episodes. With James Wong, Glenn Morgan and Darin Morgan writing the next few episodes I’m sure that we are headed for much stronger much more recognizable territory. I definitely want to believe.
What is worse than getting a Q-Tip shoved too deeply into your ear drum on accident? Well, forcing a letter opener slowly through your eardrum and into your brain, of course. Episode 2, “Founders Mutation,” begins with a classic X-Files cold open that includes just that.
When Dr. Sanjay, a researcher at Nugenics Technology, begins to hear an ear-shattering sound, complete with phantom voices that are only audible to him, he does their bidding and starts the process of trying to break into an isolated server to retrieve files. He writes a message on his palm right before plunging the letter opener into his ear canal and through his grey matter.
Naturally, Mulder and Scully are called onsite to investigate. Mulder manages to procure Dr. Sanjay’s phone and follows his last phone call to a bar, where he discovers that Sanjay was concerned about “kids” dying. Meanwhile, Scully discovers that the words Sanjay scrawled on his palm read “Founder’s mutation.” When Mulder and Scully head to Sanjay’s apartment to give it a proper search, Mulder begins hearing the same ear shattering sound that Sanjay had previously heard, complete with voices.
While reviewing some footage that was taken outside of Nugenics Technology at the time of Sanjay’s death, the two agents discover that there were a flock of birds that filled the lawn prior to the “suicide.” Mulder believes that a sound must have been emitted, that wasn’t audible to humans but did manage to push earthworms up from the earth, causing the birds to flock.
While following up on the words “Founder’s Mutation” written on Sanjay’s hand, the agents tie Dr. Augustus Goldman to Nugenics. Mulder and Scully find that Goldman is experimenting on pregnant women.
The case begins to remind both Mulder and Scully of their son William, who they gave up at birth in order to protect. In a heartbreaking alternate timeline sequence, Scully dreams of raising her son at different points in his youth.
The agents head out to question Goldman’s wife, who is now in a psychiatric hospital. She informs the agents that after she had a car accident, she performed a self-cesarean with a kitchen knife. She goes on to inform the agents that her baby didn’t die but manage to crawl out of her uterus in order to escape.
On closer examination of the security footage that the agents viewed earlier, they discover that the janitor at Nugenics was behaving oddly at the time Sanjay drove the letter opener into his head.
When the agents confront the janitor (Kyle) birds flock to the lawn and Mulder begins to hear the ear piercing sound once again. Scully manages to stop Kyle and offers him help if he agrees to give himself up and to seek treatment at the Nugenics facility.
Kyle uses the opportunity in order to find his sister Molly in the Nugenics labs. When he finally does find her the telepathic and telekinetic are reunited and unleash a frenzy of energy on Mulder, Scully and Dr. Goldman. Dr. Goldman gets the worst of it, Kyle unleashes a “Scanners” like rage on him until Goldman is bleeding from his ears and eye balls are bursting.
Both Kyle and Molly manage to escape, while Nugenics is put under another jurisdiction.
In one of the most heart-warming and tender moments of The X-Files, Mulder dreams of an alternate timeline as well. He imagines him and his son William launching model rockets in a field and imagines him and his son sitting on a couch sharing popcorn while watching Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. He explains to his son what the monolith in the film means to him, explaining that it is either a first alien contact or the beginning of human knowledge. He comforts the boy and tell him that one day he will be able to form his own ideas about what it means.
The first episode did a great job of bringing fans back in and catching them up with the mythology, this episode far exceeded the first by making fans remember what made The X-Files a unique and great show. James Wong, wrote and directed “Founder’s Mutation” and managed to take us through the horrifying, the disturbing and the heartbreaking in under an hour. It is a fantastic episode that rates high on my overall X-File favorites.
Next week, Darin Morgan takes the reigns of the show in another “monster of the week” episode. Darin is responsible for some of my favorite X-Files episodes and I’m sure will do something strange and hopefully set the bar high for the new season.