The X-Files returns to a world not all that different than the one its peak years left behind. The series that ushered in a new wave of science fiction television fizzled out in May of 2002 as the post-9/11 world sought comfort in its pop culture heroes thwarting terrorists and working alongside government. It was easier to trust the bigger entity than latch onto the convictions of a small, but persistent minority.
Now 14 years later, The X-Files undeniably has a place in the post-Snowden world. Government mistrust is as high as ever and outsiders like Fox Mulder are getting harder to silence. Yet even if the right sentiment is there, the premiere hour of The X-Files’ 6-episode revival will turn some believers into skeptics.
Fans arming themselves with cautious optimism after I Want to Believe underwhelmed at the box office in 2008 shouldn’t be quick to let their guard down. A rousing refresher course on The X-Files during the cold open and the opening keystrokes of Mark Snow’s iconic theme song hit positive notes that no other show during TV’s recent revival craze have. From the exposition-heavy open, the Chris Carter written and directed episode counters with a beautifully illustrated scene set at the alien crash-landing sight that’s intertwined throughout the story of Mulder and Scully’s rekindled professional relationship.
Therein lies the problem for the appropriately titled “My Struggle.” The visually stimulating sight of extraterrestrials in the barren Roswell desert is a welcome break from the sluggish, uneven rhythm of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson attempting to recapture what made their platonic (at first) on-screen relationship electric. Couple that with the energy of the miscast Joel McHale, a lackluster mystery involving an alien abductee, and a handful of nostalgia-fueled callbacks crowbarred in, and you get an overwrought first hour that (though likely unintentional) caters more towards attracting new fans than the diehards that spent years begging for the series to continue in some form. After all, do we need Fox Mulder telling us to ask ourselves “are we truly alone” when fans have known the truth was out there for nine seasons?
With all that said, we shouldn’t dismiss The X-Files revival after hour one of six, especially considering everything the first episode needs to establish after a 14-year layoff. The middle episodes of the revival are written by Glen and Darin Morgan, who wrote or co-wrote some of the series’ all-time classics. The optimist (and fan) in me says Duchovny and Anderson will find a light in the dark. They always do. Plus, there are monsters to come.
We’ll have an in-depth, spoiler-filled look at “My Struggle” following the premiere.
For more on the revival and our retrospective look at the series, listen to our Sci Fi Fidelity Podcast!