Last night, like 13.5 million other Americans, I found myself sitting in front of my television for the revival of the cult classic The X-Files. Aside from more than a little impatience as a result of Fox NFL Sunday running 28 minutes late, I came into the episode a completely blank slate. Last night was my first ever episode of The X-Files. Ever. This is what I thought:
The only thing I knew going into Sunday night’s episode was something that I had heard on NPR earlier in the day: The X-Files is an alien-centric series. This was actually a surprise to me. I was always under the impression that it was an equal opportunity paranormal/sci-fi investigative show with a snappy, if not somewhat contentious, chemistry between the two leads. Also a bunch of people liked it.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
The episode’s cold open at the infamous alien crash site near Roswell, New Mexico instantly threw me into the campy vibe that I expected from such a cult classic. Like the good Air Force doctor being driven in the dark – both literally and metaphorically -to the crash site, I found myself curious and a little anxious to what the episode would bring. Unfortunately, by the end of the show, I had little to stand on aside from the
possibility probability of a vast government conspiracy plot.
The reintroduction to Agents Scully and Mulder in the present day shows a relationship that is both distant and strained, with what little ties remain are held with nothing more than a hint of nostalgia and the apparent co-parental obligations of having a child together. Scully seems to have, more or less, moved on from the work she did at the FBI. The same can not be said about Mulder as our first glimpse shows him furtively googling a right-wing conspiracist on an older laptop with duct tape over the webcam. Because.. you know Big Brother. I’d be willing to bet Mulder is well-stocked in the tin foil department.
Eventually Mulder and Scully find themselves accompanying the now alien touting right-wing conspiracist (who coincidentally is reminiscent of a number of FOXNews anchors) to the home of an abductee. There we get some of the more heavy-handed alien abduction conspiracy lines including but not limited to: mind reading, telekinesis (it doesn’t work when anyone asks about it, obviously), the claim to have alien DNA, and to have been impregnated multiple times only to have the unborn fetuses removed. This rather quickly devolves even further to a private helicopter landing on the front lawn and whisking the conspiracist and Mulder to a non-descript warehouse to meet some super paranoid scientists working on an ARV, or Alien Replica Vehicle.
Despite the rather sudden arrival to this point the human-made alien ship is kind of cool and a rather sharp reference to the recently discovered element #115, Unumpentium makes the actual nerd in me smile. Even cooler is that it is the energy source behind the gravity warp drive that causes the ship to disappear in front of their eyes.
This one small gem is ruined by a rather hasty and ill-conceived love triangle that comes at me like an unwanted slap in the face. The conspiracist’s advances on Scully are almost as out of place as her apparent acceptance towards them. This now concludes the extent of this sub-plot.
At some point between the gravity warp drive exercise and the love triangle we get the first inklings that maybe the aliens aren’t the bad actors in this larger conspiracy that includes human abduction and hybrid fetus removal. None of this is super clear. But, it does peak my curiosity.
Even less clear is the conspiracist’s apparent connection to the now apparently human (i.e. government) bad guys. Somewhere in a murky explanation by Mulder is a surprisingly pleasant line saying “controlling the past to control the future” is essentially what all of this is about. Just to be sure though he throws in few obligatory references to a 9/11 coverup and the NSA. At some point I just have to assume Mulder knows what he’s talking about.
Remember the Air Force doctor from the cold open in Roswell nearly 60 years ago? Well he’s back to meet with Mulder to give him some insight. That insight however is arguably the most cryptic aspect of the episode. After the midnight meeting Mulder calls Scully and utters the most apt line of the episode: “I’m going to sound crazy!”
Again we get a glimpse of what the writing could be in a single line; the utterance of “a conspiracy of men.” You had better believe that I could write a killer spy novel with that title for the premise. I got a little too hung up on that line and somehow missed a comparison or explanation that UFO’s or aliens or something from the seventies were actually just the Russians – or vice versa. Who knows?
It is at this point that the bad faction within the government is getting a little upset that Mulder is getting close to them and they just go on a wrecking rampage. Alien ship? Blown up. Gravity warp drive couldn’t be bothered. Paranoid scientists who built it? Kidnapped and/or killed on the spot. Girl from the beginning who at one point didn’t, but then turned to actually have the alien DNA in her system? Blown up by an alien-looking ship/probably the government. Scully starts freaking out to Mulder because apparently she compared her bloodwork to the alien girl’s and found out she has alien DNA too. This, I think, is significant to the previous seasons. At least I hope it is because I looked away to pet the cat and came up lost and confused.
To cap off all of my confusion some guy with trach ends the episode with, “the x-files *wheeze* have been re-opened” and a puff of smoke through his neck tube. Gross.
Afterwards I came to the only sensible conclusion that watching this without any knowledge of the series was most likely a mistake. I took it upon myself to hop on Netflix to try and start getting caught up. At the time of this writing I am two episodes in and Mulder’s character is already much more palatable – most likely the result of not yet having been beat down by a decade of doubt at the FBI. It is much easier to see why this show would has such a following. I only hope that watching this first episode of the revival has not soured me too much on the entire premise because if Fringe taught me anything, it’s that this type of nerdy, paranormal, sci-fi FBI crossover is my kind of jam.
At the very least I owe it to myself and the show to give the creators/writers another episode or two to get over the colossal easter-egg lay of a premiere they’ve been waiting a decade to make. Because at the end of the day, despite the trashing almost every aspect of this episode, I want to believe.
(See what I did there?)
Until next time,