TV Review: The X-Files - Season 10 Episode 1 "My Struggle"
Episode 1: "My Struggle"
Synopsis: Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) have been approached by Tad O’Malley (guest star Joel McHale), a popular conspiracy theorist web-TV show host who believes he has uncovered a significant government conspiracy. With the assistance of FBI Asst. Dir. Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), O’Malley seeks to enlist the help of former X-Files agents Mulder and Scully, who have since severed ties with the FBI. Through O’Malley they are introduced to Sveta (guest star Annett Mahendru), a possible alien abductee who shares shocking information with them that will challenge everything that Mulder has ever believed about the existence of aliens and the government’s role in covering them up.
REVIEW: I have been waiting for the return of The X-Files like many fans were anticipating STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. As a die hard fan of the series, I have collectibles, magazines, autographs, and more from the initial run of Chris Carter's seminal science fiction series. I am a fan of the films (check out my UnPopular Opinion regarding the second film here) and have been holding out hope that the event series would not only be a return to form for David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson but would also, like THE FORCE AWAKENS, kickstart a new generation of fans into the world of The X-Files. I am glad to see Mulder and Scully back on screen but I have the unfortunate duty to tell you how disappointing this first episode is.
What made The X-Files so special and unique during it's original run was the chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson along with the talented staff of writers who brought stories to life in a way not seen on television since the days of The Twilight Zone. With the first episode of this event series, The X-Files falls prey to rehashing the formula of the original series down to the opening credits and on screen font but failing to reinvent itself for a new generation. Sure, the production values are top notch and Duchovny and Anderson look just as good as they did a decade ago, but this premiere hour feels as if both actors are on cruise control rather than delivering anything close to their top work on the original series.
There are a few issues I have with this episode that prevented me from truly enjoying the return of my favorite FBI agents. Aside from three significant scenes of characters spewing exposition to try and catch us up, there is little regard for the mythology time frame dictated by the series finale. Back in the final episode of the show, December 2012 was stated as the beginning of the alien invasion. Here we are and that date seems to be reduced to a less significant moment in the massive conspiracy, mostly to justify the characters returning to their tried and true roles as investigators. Then, there is the relationship between Mulder and Scully. The romantic side of their partnership was a major factor in the 2008 movie but their romance seems to be over. I can buy that, but there is a lot of effort made to try and sell chemistry between Joel McHale's character and Dana Scully as well as potential heat between Annett Mahendru's possible abductee, Sveta, and Mulder. It feels very forced.
While Mahendru is a nice addition to the cast, Joel McHale feels incredibly miscast as a fellow conspiracy theorist. I kept waiting for him to be the funny McHale we are all used to but he plays it straight which just doesn't work for his delivery of the dialogue. Even a lot of the typical X-Files mumbo jumbo that David Duchovny has spouted over the years as Fox Mulder comes across as very labored in this episode. Sadly, everyone just feels very tired. It makes me wonder if the series would have been better served to have focused on two brand new agents working these paranormal cases with Mulder and Scully serving as the older generation guiding these rookies to the truth that is still out there. You know, kind of like how J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan did with THE FORCE AWAKENS?
There is also a series of flashbacks that are peppered through the hour which don't have much explanation to them. Historically, The X-Files has handled flashbacks better than this. The editing of this hour leaves it very hard to keep track of what time period we are in and why we are even seeing this historical footage to begin with. As the premiere comes to a close, we are also given a glimpse of the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B Davis), who was something of the Darth Vader of The X-Files. The villain was seemingly killed in the original run's series finale and his appearance here is unexplained and confusing, especially if you just binge-watched the original show. Again, I am sure things will be explained in coming episodes, but it feels very much like Chris Carter tried to throw everything but the kitchen sink into this premiere when he really didn't need to.
Don't get me wrong here: I am still incredibly excited to see Mulder and Scully back together on screen. With the way FOX has been hyping the return of The X-Files, I was expecting a lot more out of this premiere that what we got. While it does feel like the series never left, with such a large gap in between season nine and this tenth season, there should have been a lot more exploration to what these characters have been doing in the interim. It is very possible that the next five episodes will explore that more in depth which is probably why the network decided to air a second episode tomorrow night rather than waiting a full week for viewers to let this first hour sink in. I am glad to see The X-Files is back, but if the next five episodes don't kick things up a bit, this may be another revivial of a series that should have been left alone.