The X-Files Revival Ended As It Began: Terribly

The X-Files Revival Ended As It Began: Terribly

I wanted to believe it’d be different, but that’s not what happened last night.

There were reasons to fear The X-Files coming back before a single episode was shot; it’s hard to put lightning back in a bottle. Nostalgia is powerful, but not unbreakable. When I first wrote about The X-Files‘ return, I was willing to admit that I’d keep watching, despite the dreadful season premiere. There was reason for hope, too, as the series got better as it went along. The second episode was promising if a bit generic, the third episode was hilarious, and the fourth episode was a touching reminder of why this series works: Mulder and Scully.

The episodes that didn’t work? The first, fifth, and six. Who wrote those episodes? Series creator Chris Carter. He’s been the weak link the whole way, and weirdly, it’s because he keeps getting away from the people he created.

Little about The X-Files has mattered but the relationship between sceptic and believer. The mythology, convoluted as it became, was window dressing for two characters having their beliefs challenged over and over. The “truths” and conspiracies were, really, moments (for us) to better understand themselves.

The baseline for the revival was whether Mulder and Scully still worked. For the most part, that’s been proven true — I still love watching those two bounce off one another, the passage of time only adding to the long history between them.

Given all that, I can’t figure out why the last two episodes do their damnedest to make sure Mulder and Scully aren’t even in the same room together. In the finale, a mess on just about every conceivable level, they don’t have a single line of dialogue with one another until the closing moments Are you kidding me?

You had one job, X-Files! The one thing you needed to nail — the only thing that mattered — was a satisfying conclusion (or extension) of their relationship. Despite the plotting missteps along the way, that arc seemed like it was finally heading somewhere, with Mulder and Scully reconsidering their difficult decision to give up their son, fearing he’d be targeted by those in the shadows. As they grew older and the world began to move on, their hearts grew heavy.

Talk about a missed opportunity.

I wish it was the only problem with the episode. I mean…

  • Why bring back Skinner if you’re not even going to use him?
  • Fox Mulder, Mr. Conspiracy, has a phone tracking app on his desktop?
  • Why would anyone actually pay attention to Tad O’Malley?
  • Are we supposed to believe Scully fixed a worldwide epidemic because she’s saved a single hospital? How could they mass produce her DNA in time?
  • The long-awaited showdown between Mulder and The Smoking Man spends half the time with Mulder lying on the floor?
  • I’m still upset Mulder and Scully barely ever talked to one another?

I just wanted Mulder and Scully to track down another weirdo like the Flukeman. The X-Files has always been at its weakest when the stakes were raised beyond the main characters because it’s a show about those characters. I cared about Mulder’s sister because I cared about Mulder. I cared about what happened to Scully when she was kidnapped because I cared about Scully.

Everything else? Eh.

I suspect The X-Files will be back (again) in a few years with some episodes that try to bring actual closure. We don’t know who’s piloting the UFO that showed up in the final seconds, but given Scully musing about their son, it seems likely said child has been keeping tabs on them. Plus, a UFO in plain sight flips the show’s mantra on its head; the truth really is out there and everyone can see it.

It’s hard to imagine the episodes would focus on anything but wrapping up the remaining loose ends of the series’ mythology, and that’s a depressing thought.

Is there a way we can pretend none of this happened and just lock Mulder and Scully in a basement again to track down a bunch of weirdos? Who cares what was supposed to happen in 2012? Who cares what The Cigarette Man is up to?

There’s no use saying I won’t watch future episodes. I will, of course, because I am weak. In an ideal world, Carter would step back from his creation and let other people step in. That seems unlikely. Carter started this train, and he’s going to end this train. One way or the other, we’re going to the last stop.


  • I didn’t mind it. It wasn’t the height of television excellence but I felt it was a decent workaround to the missed occupation of 2012. But in respect to a few things both good and bad:

    Why bring back Skinner if you’re not even going to use him?

    Because he’s goddamn Mitch Pilleggi. You don’t not bring the guy back! Even if it’s only for a cameo or two 😉 Some Mitch is better than no Mitch 🙂

    Fox Mulder, Mr. Conspiracy, has a phone tracking app on his desktop?

    Yeah that was dumb. Honestly, they should have had Mulder running around with one of the old Nokias that didn’t have internet access. Playing on his paranoia would’ve been a far better option.

    Why would anyone actually pay attention to Tad O’Malley?

    Why do people pay attention to Alex Jones? Why do Americans listen to Donald Trump? Why do people flock like seagulls to anything willing to throw them a proverbial chip of ‘knowledge’ even if that knowledge may be tainted with stupidity? Because individuals are smart, knowledgeable beings, but in droves, people are moronic masses.

    Are we supposed to believe Scully fixed a worldwide epidemic because she’s saved a single hospital? How could they mass produce her DNA in time?

    Yep that was just dumb. They went ‘full retard’ there.

    The long-awaited showdown between Mulder and The Smoking Man spends half the time with Mulder lying on the floor?

    Some showdown… total letdown tbh.

    I’m still upset Mulder and Scully barely ever talked to one another?

    I was more upset they didn’t use this plotline as the basis for the 2nd movie instead of that Frankenpedo storyline they went with???

    For me, the XFiles revival highlighted two things. The XFiles sorely needs Vince Gilligan, his writing led to some of the best XFiles dialogue without a doubt. Also, that the XFiles truly is a dinosaur of the 1990’s that probably should have been left there. We’re used to exceedingly well made television with mostly logical follow throughs on plots these days and unfortunately the XFiles is a relic of a time where that was not really a concern on television. XFiles enjoys it’s use of Deus Ex Machina to the point it’s almost an abusive relationship in it’s espisodes (can’t figure a way out? Let’s Deus Ex Machina the shit out of this… ALIENS! MONSTERS! SOMETHING RANDOM! You’ll never truly know!!!) Not to mention the fact that ending in the way it did was frustratingly annoying because you just know if it’s back for season 11, it won’t resolve in a satisfying way and will just lead to more and more ‘conspiracies’.

    It sucks they didn’t bring back the Lone Gunmen 🙁 they were supposed to be back! 🙁

    • What’s up with Mulder being the only person around who needs magic DNA from his son to recover from the world-ending illness thing? So stupid!

      Also the anti-vax storyline bugged me. I know that’s a personally thing and I hate the idea of writers being restricted by social politics but yeah…..

      • I didn’t see it as an anti-vaxxer storyline, but the use of an old conspiracy theory itself, which fit with the theme of the show. Years back there were conspiracy theories about the Govts of the world distributing diseases etc under the guise of smallpox vaccinations, H1N1 shots etc. Not always started by anti-vaxxers, just usually by crackpots. However had they gone any further with it, labelling all vaccines etc, then they would’ve tipped over into that area of pissing me off too lol.

        • It’s not just years back and some (not all) are based on declassified documents that show undeniably that some governments distributed and spread disease in the name of study.

          The US Army admitted to dropping infected fleas and mosquitos to test the spread of disease from an introduced pest, they also dropped whooping cough on civilians in Florida.

          Hell, in 2010 the US government apologised after it was revealed that some that ran the now infamous Tuskegee experiments also ran a similar experiment in Guatemala where they purposely infected nearly 700 people with gonorrhea and syphilis. (Using prostitutes to spread the infections while with holding treatment to study the effects)

          • Absolutely but I’m just referring directly to the smallpox conspiracy theory itself. The Tuskegee experiment was abhorrent, finding out that was actually done, when people had pushed forward claiming it for years and then it was finally admitted, was nothing short of a devastating revelation.

    • I read that the characters are apparently dead? Yet despite this, they still made a return of sorts in the drug trip during episode 5.

      • Yeah they died in the final season of the old XFiles show after their spinoff got cancelled. They were rumored to ‘come back’ though, having ‘faked their own deaths’ (never an issue on Xfiles surely…) and there were also rumors Krycek was going to make an appearance…

    • IMO they should have gone with only up to season 4 as canon and discarded the rest as rumor and speculation as to what happened after the season finale. Mulder should have been a defeated man, never able to prove any of his theories, looked down by his peers and colleagues.
      In this day and age where everyone carries a camera with them, it is reasonable to assume beyond a doubt there is no evil unseen, or is there?

      Such a premise would be complex to write and would require a subtle approach towards the paranormal, but I would have preferred it.

      • That woulda been kinda awesome? Not that hard to write in either…

        Mulder, kidnapped at some point, had a bunch of memories implanted into his head. He’s returned to earth at some point and discovers he’s been absent a looooooong time.

  • I’ll wait till I see it.. thanks for the spoiler warning by the way.

    The last few reviews I read totally trashed the 1st and 2nd episodes and applauded the 3rd.. totally opposite to my thoughts. I’ve seen the 4th, which was equally great as the 2nd episode. So forgive me if I don’t take this review with more than a grain of (jaded and cynical) salt. However, there have been enough “off the beat” moments in this short reboot to make me wonder about Chris Carter’s vision… what has he been smoking…

  • HAHA! I said to my girlfriend last night “WHY THE F*CK WOULD MULDER HAVE A TRACKING APP!?”
    Such lazy writing.

    I didn’t rate the series, but I want some more closure than that.
    The series highlight for my mind was the Bandaid-Nose-Man episode, I thought that was half good episode half stupid Scully drama… but at least half good.

    Some of the other episodes where terrible.

  • It was worth it for Episode 3 alone, and Episode 4 was fantastic.
    So I am happy, it is effectively a brand new series, and finding its feet, having a 50% hit rate is quite reasonable.

    • The Were-human episode was just fantastic. An utter delight to watch really. The banter in it was hilarious and the concept was great!

      • Really? I felt it was so off from the X-Files formula. I’ve seen all the episodes, multiple times.. X-Cops is the closest episode that is similar to that episode. However, it kept the mystery alive right up to the end.. it was still shot in the X-Files style. Then you have the “funny” episodes such as “Small Potatoes”, as a good example, very funny episode but still there is the mystery and twists and turns.. On the other hand the “were-man” episode was like watching a completely unrelated TV series that just happened to star characters called Mulder and Scully who just happened to be FBI agents. Really terrible “X-Files” episode.. good episode of “something that isn’t X-Files”.

        • I think the thing is people were too caught up expecting solid retreads of already done plots and tropes they weren’t ready for the one episode that turned it all on its head and excelled in its depth in comparison to all the other eps, despite it’s presentation as a ‘monster of the week episode’.

          The episode cleverly subverted the show’s problematic perspectives and cliches, such as the obsession with conspiracy thinking, the allegory for religious faith and fantastically organized them around wittier ideas, like the wonders of nature (a source of some great XFiles episodes) and instilled empathy for the strangers among us rather than continuiing the fear of nationalism and immigration via metaphors such as the aliens etc.

          • I enjoyed the ability to caught up in the alien conspiracies and be taken away from reality in a alternative reality created by X-Files. The reason the 3rd episode felt so wrong to me is that a big chunk of the episode was just a mediocre comedian having a conversation with Mulder (graveyard scene) and relating his life story to him. It seemed to be exposition for the sake of exposition or a lack of writing chops (which is hard to believe considering the writers of this episode) or something else.. it just fell flat on me, someone who enjoys the mystery, the twists and the turns of the cliched plots of the main series.

  • Dammit! I’ve been waiting for the series to return to the trusted formula and only eps 3 and 4 have satisfied so far.
    That’s disappointing about ep 6.
    Rhys Darby +1

  • I didn’t hate it (or the first episode for that matter) but I really dislike ending on that cliffhanger. There was so much escalation going on that it felt like it stopped in the middle rather than at a turning point. It felt more like a commercial break than a season finale cliffhanger. Like the part where the seasons separate naturally is two scenes later. So next season, which I assume will be about the fallout will open with the final bomb dropping.
    Although I’m willing to admit that I just don’t like cliffhangers in general. They tend to fizzle when you watch them without the between season break. It makes it feel like the show is breaking the forth wall for the sake of advertising itself.

    I’ve got to agree with the Ted O’Malley confusion. It felt very out of touch even when it got things right. Sort of 90’s hacker-ish. Like what an old person thinks YouTube shows are like. This weird hybrid of what they know and the new technology that replaced it. It makes me wonder why anyone is listening to him. Not in a ‘why would I listen to him’ way but in a ‘why are these groups listening to him’ way. I felt like it would make more sense if he had no following and was considered a joke even amongst conspiracy theorists but he continued sinking his money into the show anyway.
    His show is this strange combination of YouTube conspiracy theorists, talk radio, political commentary show and traditional news man. He’s presented sort of like the leader of a group that shouldn’t have a leader. From a script writing perspective I guess the need for that character makes sense, but I feel like his show should have been random internet chatter with the character himself just being a conservative news anchor who was well connected to that scene.
    That’s essentially what he became in this episode. Getting new information in constantly and reporting on the story. I mean who was he getting this info from? I think if he was getting this info from a mid-meltdown conspiracy theory community that was just randomly drawing conclusions it would have been better. Having them actually get in the way of spreading real information. When he’s listing the triggers it should be clear that he’s getting this information from people who have been blaming things like chemtrails for everything.
    I’m sure that during the events of the episode someone really loud was screaming about how this validates all their theories about Jews drinking blood. Having him bogged down constantly have to re-iterate simple things like that it’s confirmed that wasn’t in the drinking water rather than having him just read out the headlines like he was being fed them from CDC press conferences. A guy trying to help, trying to find the information and get it out to the people, but ultimately being overwhelmed.
    I dunno, maybe that’s too complicated to get across with his limited screen time. I just feel like that character needed some serious tweaking to get right.

  • It’s kind of funny reading this guy’s confusion about how to properly express an emotional reaction as legitimate critique. Wonder when people are going actually start learning about the media they’re constantly… I don’t know, I wouldn’t call it critique… rambling on about?

  • I think the only positives out of it were another Darin Morgan episode. I’ll take it. DVD and Blu Ray sales of the X-Files has obviously allowed Chris Carter to buy a lot of cocaine.

  • I enjoyed it. It was a good nod to the old series, and I liked the way it made fun of itself at times. That said, I hated the ending of the last ep. I mean, a cliffhanger when we don’t even know if there is going to be another season and eh. I was never a huge fan of the Alien Conspiracy/William storyline. So I guess I didn’t like those eps as much as I did some of the others. I feel like the monster of the week cases were better.

  • Don’t think I have seen the sixth episode yet, I thought the fifth was ok, seemed like they might pass off the xfiles to another couple was what I was thinking.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!