X-Files Reboot

February 1, 2016

Two episodes in and The X-File’s revival is lumbering about like it’s just been ejected from the Pet Cemetery. It looks and acts like what was once beloved. But for a show that had already clung on long after it’s creative heyday, something at the core of the show hasn’t made it back after Chris Carter applied the paddles, ignoring the DNR notice attached to all classic TV shows. The memory of what made them so legendary should be left alone unless the creators have a very good artistic vision for why they should be brought back to life.

What’s left gorked before us, here,  is a mongrel of the later seasons feral mythology, and a nose wrinkling stench that all involved are back for the bucks and not out of any true love for the project.

Fourteen years have passed since Agent’s Mulder and Scully were last seen pondering their unsure future in a motel room. After knocking boots for a while in a cabin in the woods, Scully was driven away by Mulder’s bleak demeanour, and has reconnected with her Catholic faith and her professional calling, partaking in medical trials to help children born without ears.

When FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner calls, the duo reunite -with little friction or sense of ceremony, to meet with a right-wing conspiracy theorist Tad O Malley (Joel McHale), who introduces them to a former abductee, Sveta, who believes she is infected with alien DNA.

He later brings Mulder to a top-secret location to view an aircraft built from alien technology and-following a quick chat with one of those men in the shadows that the series love to use as a narrative scratching post, Mulder is arching his back with what the casual observer might mistake for paranoid delusions.

But the viewer must have some cause to believe that Mulder’s neuroses are fuelled by some version of truth, or the show wont work.

When Scully spews that Mulder and O’Malley’s talk is “fear mongering, clap trap, isolationist, techno, paranoia”, she could just as easily be talking about the narrative turn the show has now taken, which returns devoid of any sense of mystery or credibility.

The first episode is self-aware, ironic and apathetic. It takes for granted that those lured back by the mini-series can recall what happened in the later, dreadful post-first movie seasons and throws us straight back into the action, without slowly rebuilding the universe or our connection to the characters.

It’s not helped by the fact that a supposedly depressed Mulder seems wryly amused by everything that happens, before tipping over like a mad cow into psychotic fervor.

Neither he, nor Scully, seem at all burnt by what happened to them in the past, professionally and personally, which makes the once crackling chemistry between them fall flat. The short number of episodes also means that no time at all is spent on exploring the tension that would be a natural by-product of a break up, the loss of a child and multiple attempts on your life and your character.

It’s business as normal, and as middling as that sentiment suggests. Even the shows visual moxy is bigger and blander. In the first two episodes we revisit Roswell, where the reveal of an alien- and of a spaceship, bare all the weight of full frontal nudity in badly made porn.

There’s also a hospital where children with horrible diseases have been saved from termination by the pro-lifer nuns Scully’s been working for. In the past such horrid deformities would be built up to, and would extract a huge emotional and nerve exposing debt.

Here it’s been and gone before we can really comprehend the horror of what we have seen. What’s worse, when the mystery is solved you feel nothing, as none of the supporting cast have been built up beyond tired exposition. You’re not even sure what happened, or what it all meant, not even in that “WTF was that” kind of way, the old show perfected.

Is it wrong that in spite of all this, I feel its good to have the X-Files back? And word around the critical water cooler is that episode three is up there with the best the show has ever produced.* Carter has three monster of the week storylines for us before returning to the mythology about aliens, syndicates, shady government organisations, and the like. If the ratings stay solid, he’s promised there could be more.

The first episodes of the mini-series may not have done anything to reinvigorate the corpse, but it might warm it up long enough for some fresh creative talent to be found who can make it really surge to life.


*It wasn’t. It tried for the self-mocking, self aware buzz that Buffy did so well and the X-Files just cant. And episode four is woeful


One Response to “X-Files Reboot”

  1. […] none of that “will we ever find out what’s going on” terror that Lost instilled in us and the X-Files returned to taunt us […]

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