Sunday, January 31, 2016

"The X-Files" Returns With New Episodes

For 9 seasons & 2 movies, FBI agents Fox Mulder & Dana Scully investigated UFO conspiracies, weird creatures and strange events on The X-Files. The show (which premiered in 1993) went from cult favorite during its first couple of seasons, to television phenomenon & fan favorite by the time it ended its run in 2002. Now everyone’s favorite FBI agents are back in a six-episode mini-series. Can the magic of the series’ best episodes be recaptured? Based on the first two chapters of this mini-revival, I’d say the answer is a yes. The premiere, which aired January 24, was entitled “My Struggle.” Scully is working as a doctor/surgeon at a Catholic hospital, which is where we last saw her in the 2008 movie, The X-Files: I Want To Believe.  Meanwhile, Mulder is essentially in hiding, and narrates the beginning of the episode with a catch up on previous events for fans, and for those new to the show. It’s also clear the couple have separated sometime after the conclusion of that 2008 film.

Mulder & Scully are reunited & drawn into a case involving a woman named Seta (a strong performance by Annet Mehendru of The Americans) who claims to have been abducted by & experimented on by aliens. An online conspiracy theorist (nicely played by Joel McHale) leads the agents to the woman, but there appears to be more to the story than just a simple case of alien abduction. It also seems the conspiracy maven may have an agenda of his own. What is interesting (and a little frustrating) about the plot is it ultimately throws a curve into the series long-running government conspiracy/alien storyline. It’s one of those clever twists that seem to negate some of the stories that came before, but only time will tell if this new angle will provide us some true closure to the show's longest running plot thread. But what is undeniable is that the two leads quickly fall back into their wonderful onscreen chemistry, and it’s fantastic to see these characters again. Of course, Mitch Pileggi returns as Walter Skinner, the agents’ boss & sometime ally, and William B. Davis is back as the sinister Cigarette Smoking Man, who apparently survived his death at the end of the original series.

The revival’s second outing aired on this past Monday (the time slot where the rest of the miniseries will be seen in the coming weeks) with a much stronger entry entitled “Founder’s Mutation.” This story was more akin to the original series’ standalone or “Monster of the Week” episodes, though it still managed to tie into some of the show’s overall themes & arcs. The agents (now re-activated by Skinner) investigate the possible suicide of a scientist, and find out that his death is not as simple as it looks. This leads them to a government project that is working with children suffering from genetic mutations, and it brings back memories for both agents regarding their son, William. We last saw William at the end of the TV series when he was given up for adoption for his own safety. Is he a product of the same genetic manipulation as the kids seen in the episode? Was Dana implanted with alien DNA when she was abducted during the show’s original run? It’s clear that this miniseries is going to look at some of these issues, if not answer all the questions.

While the first episode wasn’t bad, and had some entertaining moments, I’d say the second episode was much more satisfying as a whole. The second entry has a much stronger plot than the first, and the dialogue and situations feel very much akin to what we saw on the original show. One of the best things about the revival is that Chris Carter (the creator of the series) is back at the helm, along with several of the series’ best writers, including Glen & Darin Morgan and James Wong. I have to admit, as a long-time fan of the series, it is a real kick to see it back on the air. In fact, most online reviews have pointed out that the upcoming third entry, “Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster,” which airs tomorrow, is the best episode thus far. One interesting fact about this third outing it is if you look at the previews, there’s a quick glimpse of a character that looks very much like Carl Kolchak from The Night Stalker, which was one of Carter’s main inspirations for creating the show in the first place. Is it just a cool Easter Egg or something more? Tune in tomorrow and find out! Here’s a link to the trailer for the the mini-series:

2/2/16: Update: I've now seen “Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster,” and it's the best episode of this mini-revival thus far. This humorous tale about the hunt for a mysterious creature is filled with in-jokes, easter eggs, and subtle (and not so subtle) nods to X-Files history. It's a wonderful valentine to long-time fans, and Duchovny & Anderson have a ball with their characters in this entertaining story, written & directed by Darin Morgan, who penned the classic  "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" for the original series. Let's hope the rest of the episodes of the miniseries are this good. Highly recommended. 

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