After a shaky and sometimes exhausting beginning, the The X-Files revival miniseries picked up steam for a satisfying, monstrous finish.
The highly anticipated reboot of The X-Files aired Sunday night as part of a two-night premiere that continued on Monday night. Critics did not have the greatest things to say about the first episode, “My Struggle.” The Hollywood Reporter described the first night of the premiere as “very underwhelming,” and Variety called it “a missed opportunity.”
There are many reasons “My Struggle” was a struggle to watch. For starters, guest star Joel McHale seemed entirely out-of-place as a super-wealthy, conspiracy-peddling television host. At times, the subpar CGI made it seem closer to a failed Syfy original series than the revival of a monolithic, cult phenomenon. The entire episode was saturated with conspiracy rantings until it seemed more gimmicky and tedious than mysterious and thrilling like the original.
Furthermore, some of the real-life conspiracies and stories that were used for dialogue only felt exploitative and uncomfortable. “My Struggle” rarely slowed down, but its action deflated quickly in most scenes from forced tension. A lot of it watched like an episode of CSI or NCIS, so it’s no surprise this episode received mixed reviews.
On the flip side, fans have been ecstatic about the return of conspiracy-duo extraordinaires Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). Twitter users have called it “legit,” “more compelling” and “a bowl of warm, nourishing, nostalgic soup.” And I agree with most of what they are saying. Despite its shortcomings, I still enjoyed “My Struggle.” It seemed like a decent start, and I want to believe that this show will get better.
Yes, some dramatic moments fell flat. Yes, some scenes felt sluggish. But even if it is The X-Files, it is still a drama on FOX, and that doesn’t mean the same thing it did in the ’90s or early 2000s. It was the first episode of the reboot, so it makes sense that it might end up being far-reaching. It certainly seemed as if it was supposed to look cutting edge, and in some ways, it did. But it also looked more concerned with flashiness than quality in many ways with the production value feeling excessive, yet flimsy, and this detracted from the campy charm.
However, The X-Files’ creator Chris Carter’s story and everyone’s favorite UFO-chasing FBI agents made the first episode enjoyable. Though their performances had some rough patches, Duchovny and Anderson still have delightful chemistry. Not to mention, “My Struggle” was what is known as a “mythology episode”: An episode that contributes to the overarching, main conspiracy of The X-Files. So there were plenty of moments that made you excited for what’s to come, particularly the final scene.
Monday night, that excitement was somewhat fulfilled, but mostly teased, with the second episode “Founder’s Mutation.” Though “Founder’s Mutation” was announced as a “monster-of-the-week” episode, it unraveled some mythology as well. This is a relief, since just six episodes have been confirmed for The X-Files revival, and only the first and last episodes were announced as mythology episodes. But while the amount of mythology in “Founder’s Mutation” was satisfying, it mainly served to build anticipation for the episodes to come.
Still, “Founder’s Mutation” was certainly better than “My Struggle,” receiving a B+ community grade from The A.V. Club and a positive review from The New York Times. The important, dramatic moments succeeded, the plot didn’t feel convoluted and the episode was brimming with freaky frights of supernatural and genetic phenomena. I won’t go into detail about the types of monsters that were showcased, but they were significantly outlandish enough to make this fan feel like The X-Files was back.
Aside from the intriguing monsters and substantially better plot, there was an interesting focus brought onto Mulder and Scully in “Founder’s Mutation.” Bittersweet, separate daydreams of raising their child William instead of giving him up for adoption made for an interesting insight to the minds of the characters. But the highlight of the episode was still the paranormal creatures and bizarre, real-life diseases, bringing back the mystifying nature that made The X-Files a classic.
Despite the disappointment of “My Struggle,” it still had greater success than the most recent X-Files movie, The Truth is Out There. And though “Founder’s Mutation” only received 9.7 million viewers compared to the 13.5 million of “My Struggle,” the second episode set the stage for season 10 of The X-Files to be a satisfying revival suitable for modern television. Considering the preview of next Monday’s “Mulder and Scully meet the Were-monster” episode, The X-Files looks as though it will only get better as it continues.
To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email firstname.lastname@example.org.