Caution: There be spoilers here
Sunday, My Struggle, the first half of the two-night premiere of the long-awaited The X-Files’ revival mini-series aired on Fox. Beginning with a voiceover by Fox Mulder gruffly describing his lifelong obsession with the paranormal, specifically with aliens, whom he believes abducted his sister when the two of them were children.
As Mulder speaks, items are tossed into a pile: file folders; photographs of Mulder and his sister, Samantha; his and former FBI partner, Dana Scully’s IDs; and pictures of some ‘Monsters of the Week.’ Fan favorites appear such as the creepy flukeman; the very first MotW stretchy serial killer, Eugene Tooms; and Rob Roberts, the one that I find the most sympathetic. He tries really, really hard not to eat your brains, but, in the end, he will. He can’t help it; he’s an addict.
Before I have too much time to think “wow, trying to squeeze in nine seasons and two movies worth of info into a prologue takes a long time,” Mark Snow’s haunting X-Files theme begins. I was so happy they chose to use the original credit sequence! Seeing the lovely, 25-year-old Gillian Anderson with lanky, young David Duchovny just like I did every Friday (then Sunday) night for years made me the Mayor of Nostalgia Town.
They say that hunger is the best sauce. The same principle is true for nostalgia. Nostalgia makes an audience forgiving. We fill in gaps carelessly left open by rushed writers; we overlook implausible retcons and impossible resurrections. I know I’m not the only one who does this. When you love something, you see it in its best light. Even when there are obvious problems and inherent challenges like those that exist in this X-Files episode. I want to believe that it is good and marks the beginning of a mini-series worth a wait of 13 years. So, I guess factor that in as you read.
The episode proper begins in the past, as indicated by subtle sepia tones and the dated 1950s style uniform of the young man we see on a bus in the opening scene. Uniform guy asks the only other person riding the bus – a Man in Black seated far behind him – how long it will be until they reach their destination. MIB says something snarky, but calls the man “Doc” and informs him he doesn’t have to wait long. The bus lurches to a stop at the crash site of the UFO we’d seen careening toward Earth during Mulder’s opening history lesson.
In the present at Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital, Washington DC, we see Dr. Scully, in surgical scrubs, heading into surgery. She gets a call from Assistant Director Walter Skinner, who is trying to get in touch with Mulder. Scully phones Mulder and we see him, unshaven and scruffy, inside his dark, cluttered home. Scully tells him some guy named Tad O’Malley has been calling the FBI trying to set up a meeting with him. Mulder checks O’Malley out online and, seeing a bit of his pundit show on which he rails about liberals wanting to take your guns, declares him a jackass. When O’Malley starts talking about aliens, though, Mulder tells Scully to give Skinner the go ahead on setting a meeting and indicates he expects her to come, too.
Mulder and Scully meet downtown and while there’s still fantastic chemistry between them, there’s also the strain of a failed relationship. When Scully notes that it’s good for him to get out of the house now and then, he replies wryly, “It certainly was good for you.” Their relationship has obviously changed since we last saw them – together, as a couple – but it looks like the kind of breakup where a lack of love was not the cause. Sometimes you can love someone dearly, but can’t be in a healthy romantic relationship with them.
O’Malley usually arrives in bulletproof hummer limousines and in the car, he promptly offers the former agents champagne “because why not!” In perhaps the creepiest moment of the whole episode, O’Malley addresses Scully as “Dana.” For some reason, this made me hate the guy even more than his wacko politics and sleazy-slick demeanor. Using her first name struck me as an uncomfortably intimate act. I mean, even Mulder calls her Scully… and they lived together and have a kid!
The familiarity irritates Mulder, as well and he spends the majority of the scene in full-on snark mode which leads to this stilted exchange:
O’Malley: Like yourself, I’m a true believer
Mulder: I only want to believe. Actual proof has been strangely hard to come by.
O’Malley: You ran the X-Files. You were the X-Files. You all but wrote the book!
Mulder: I’m afraid that book is closed.
Scully: As are the X-Files, for better or worse. We’ve moved on.
Mulder, looking longingly at Scully: Yeah, for better or worse.
It’s not dialog so bad that it makes you wince, but you know they can do better than that. The clever repartee was one of the joys of The X-Files. As Mayor of Nostalgia Town, I’ll pardon Chris Carter for this one, but I expect to see better in the future.
We also meet a young lady named Sveta who tells a harrowing tale of a lifetime of abductions, tests, harvesting, and pregnancies. Scully directly asks Sveta if she means the aliens impregnated her. Before she answers, Sveta looks to O’Malley, who nods, and she then answers that yes, the aliens got her pregnant and then took the babies before they were born. Sveta then rather shockingly announces that she has alien DNA, however, it turns out that she’s never had her blood tested for anything out of the ordinary so Scully agrees to test her.
At the hospital Sveta tells Scully she knows she is skeptical because she can read her mind. Scully asks, “Is that a personal trait or something that happens with alien DNA?” To prove her skills, Sveta provides a bit of exposition to bring viewers up to date on the Mulder/Scully relationship:
- They were a couple before.
- Scully diagnosed Mulder as depressed.
- Mulder’s depression killed their relationship.
That’s when Scully jabs Sveta with the needle and tells her “That’s enough.” Sveta starts to complain that Scully doesn’t know how horrible it is to be abducted, but stops when she realizes that actually Scully does.
While this is happening O’Malley takes Mulder to meet some people who are very paranoid about their work. At this point, my heart leaps. I’m thinking I’m about to be reunited with The Lone Gunmen. Alas, I was wrong.
What we do get is Mulder being shown an Alien Replica Vehicle (ARV); he has never seen one before and is practically giddy. The scientists proudly show him its flight capabilities and gravity warp drive that use nothing but the “energy of the universe,” though they warn him that their fellow scientists’ labs were destroyed by the government.
All of these strands start coming together as we find out that someone has alien DNA; there’s more than one ARV out there and there’s definitely a conspiracy afoot. The question is: who or what is really behind it?
While this episode didn’t rock my socks, I am still very hopeful that the X-Files revival is going to be good. There are some retroactive continuity issues that confuse me and some out of character moments that made me rage but Monday’s episode is reputed to be better than the first. With some of the original series’ best writers on board for later episodes, plus the promise of a couple Monsters of the Week, I believe the revival will be well worth watching all the way through. At least, I Want to Believe it.
I rate this episode with 3 out of 5 sunflower seeds