Sometimes a Show can be a Zombie. That is to say, resurrected after death, to be judged by its droves of loyal fans. Such is the case with an old fave and standard-bearer of the supernatural genre — The X-Files. By now, you’ve either watched at least the first episode of Fox’s series revival or you’re waiting for people like us to bloviate about our geeky opinions or scholarly film critiques before you venture into the conspiratorial abyss. (Or you are somehow one of the few people who doesn’t care about The X-Files, but you’re inexplicably reading this anyway!) You may have even been eagerly awaiting for it to air live on Sunday, alongside other furious fans lamenting the NFL’s stale, lingering, masturbatory coverage, devoid of any concern for the upcoming premiere. No matter what, even the dwellers of the deepest underside of the most obscure rock are very much aware by now that Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are back!
We pick up this “new season” mini-series with a decent comprehensive review for those who might be new to the franchise, delivered by voiceover, courtesy of the always-iconic tones of David Duchovny. After an impressive alien crash sequence, and the visage of a wonderful downed flying saucer, crafted with practical effects, we cut to the intro – the classic intro. Like, the no-wrinkles-on-the-agents-yet intro. I suppose this was a nice throwback idea, but by episode two, I was sure there’d be an update, considering how nice the updated intro from season nine was. No dice, though. The classic persists so far. It definitely sets a nostalgic tone and isn’t a major detractor.
We meet a new set of characters who are juxtaposed against all the trappings an X-Files story would be expected to have in this mobile data, post-9/11, war on terror era. The overarching “mythology” storyline (alien conspiracy) is immediately updated to call into question just how much of what we thought we knew from Seasons 1-9 and twist it in a much more Earthbound direction. Rest assured, it is just as complicated as what was woven into the previous tapestry of alien tales, and promises to go new places that will complicate it even more. After a second viewing, I’m not honestly sure if I have all of it nailed down, but it’s making decent sense. Don’t divide your attention when the expository explanation time arrives about 3/4 of the way in. You’ll need the setup for the forthcoming episodes.
Joining Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are favorites Mitch Pilleggi, as the double-dealing helping-hand Assistant Director Skinner we always loved, but questioned our trust for, and everyone’s favorite nemesis, Cancer Man/The Smoking Man — William B. Davis. Yes, we did see his face and bones literally shredded by a rocket in the finale of the classic series and yes, the show runners have promised an explanation for his escape. My guess is the face we saw obliterated will turn out to be the woman in the front room of the pueblo and he will have somehow escaped with his horrible burns. Nevertheless, in case viewers somehow missed him in promotional art and in the trailers, the show’s creators did stash his guest start credit as a nice “gotcha” at the beginning of the credits, shortly after he makes his sinister re-debut.
A lot of the classic production values we all know and love are back in play, alongside the cast and storyline. The music, by Mark Snow. The shooting styles and directing within that canvass. Influence on the story from creator Chris Carter’s screenwriting and producing efforts. The X-Files package is being delivered just as we would prefer. Will it gather new fans? Maybe. Is it too safe a formula? Possibly. Time will tell on those aspects.
In the crowded world of sci-fi TV we’re lucky to have, this new stab at the mysteries of the X-verse will surely rise on reputation alone and will hold its own. What remains to be seen is how Fox will proceed from here. There is a smartness to the mini-series concept. One only has to casually observe the habits of various BBC series and their rabid fandoms to understand how much the story and spirit matter over the inventory of episodes.
Hopefully, the agents are in it for the long haul again. So far, the resurrected X-Files is on track for a 3/5 star success, by this author’s estimation. This could take a drastic turn toward 2 or 4 stars, or stay right on course. We’re not ready to put the Zombie down just yet, that’s for certain.
Want to speed through a primer by way of the original nine seasons?
I did just that over the weekend, prior to the Season 10 premiere. Here’s a handy list of episodes that are must-see to refresh your memory and ’90s nostalgia: (More complete lists exist and would be well worth the time, too, if you have it.)
S2: Duane Barry, Ascension (possibly the best of the series)
S4: Musings Of A Cigarette Smoking Man (my favorite episode overall, but not essential to the alien plot per se)
S5: The End
The first movie, Fight the Future (If you have time. If not… Read the plot summary on Wikipedia.)
S8: Within, Without
S9: William, The Truth pt. 1&2
Do yourself a favor and just keep Wikipedia open, and bounce around inside it to fill in all the gaps. If you’re super crunched for time, just read the plot summary of the whole series and watch The Truth for the best CliffsNotes primer on the new mini-series.