The Monday episode of the X-Files revival, Founder’s Mutation felt like old-school X-Files from the opening scene. We see bloodshot-eyed Dr. Sanjay have a retinal scan to enter his job at Nugenics Technology. Waiting for the elevator, Sanjay alone hears a high-pitched sound that causes him obvious physical pain. The sound happens again at a meeting. A blood vessel in Sanjay’s eye bursts and we see things from his perspective: people appear to speak and move in slow motion; everything seems to vibrate; and the only words he can clearly hear, over and over, are “Go now!” Sanjay stands and desperately shouts “Can’t anyone hear that?” then rushes out of the room. Later, locked in the computer server room, writhing in pain from the sound, Sanjay scrawls something on his hand before committing suicide as frantic coworkers watch helplessly through the glass doors.
Mulder and Scully come to investigate the incident. Despite having security clearance, Mulder – who believes Sanjay was trying to access something on the server – is stopped from taking a hard drive as evidence as it is property of the Department of Defense. He is also told it is impossible for him to interview the head of the company, the reclusive Dr. Augustus Goldman, who everyone at Nugenics creepily refers to as “The Founder.” As Scully discusses security camera footage with the DOD rep, Mulder searches Sanjay’s body and stealthily retrieves his cell phone.
Mulder meets with Gupta, a man Sanjay’s call history indicates he talked to every night. Gupta informs Mulder that Sanjay had been out of sorts, saying that his kids were dying, which was puzzling as Sanjay didn’t have children. He also revealed that Sanjay had a second, secret apartment. In that apartment, the agents find photos and files about numerous children with genetic disorders. While searching, Mulder suffers the same type of auditory distress as Gupta – a painful high pitched noise and the words, “Find her.”
Back at the FBI, the apartment evidence is declared property of the DOD and the case is officially closed. Unofficially, AD Skinner gives the agents a few more days to look into Mulder’s theory that the DOD is attempting genetic modification of humans and the children Sanjay was trying to help were failed experiments. Scully and Mulder are able to collect clues from the security camera footage from Nugenics.
Through Scully’s connections at the hospital where she’d been working since the X-Files closed, the agents are granted a meeting with Dr. Goldman. They ask him about the “Founder’s Mutation” – the words Scully found written on Sanjay’s hand during his autopsy. Goldman, hostile to the agents, says it is meaningless and takes them on a tour of the ward where the children depicted in Sanjay’s apartment are housed in sealed glass rooms because they all have serious genetic disorders.
A visit with Goldman’s wife, a resident at a psychiatric institution since being declared criminally insane, reveals that The Founder himself has two children. One is a daughter named Molly, who has unusual abilities and the other, a son who his wife was convicted of murdering at birth, but whose body was never found. His wife believes both were subject to genetic manipulation by Goldman and maintains she did not kill her infant son.
After further investigation of the security tapes and leads from Goldman’s wife, the agents locate a young man named Kyle Gilligan who appears to have been in close proximity to Sanjay and Mulder at times when they were stricken with the excruciating high-pitched noise. They quickly discover Kyle has special abilities and is the cause of the piercing sounds and the auditory messages. They take Kyle to see Dr. Goldman, who examines him and when Kyle asks about Molly, Goldman, cool in a menacing sort of way, introduces him to a girl he claims is Molly. Kyle knows instinctively that she is not his sister. He does sense her presence in the facility, finding her in one of Goldman’s glass cages. The siblings have a strong connection and, using their unusual abilities, escape the facility.
This X-File proved challenging for both Mulder and Scully. Having given their own child, William, up for adoption 15 years ago to protect his safety, they worry about him. The conditions of his birth make them wonder if he was somehow genetically altered like the children they encounter through the case. We see each of them imagining their lives if they had kept William and the pain their sacrifice causes them. Perhaps later in the series, we will find out more about their son and his life since we saw him as an infant back in 2001.
I give this episode 4 out of 5 mad scientists.