After the terrible premiere episode on Sunday, Fox quickly followed with a second episode of the newly revived ‘The X Files’ on Monday night, which will be the show’s regular timeslot for the rest of its run. It was a wise decision to air the first two episodes on back-to-back days, because the second one is decidedly better than the first.
Written and directed by former ‘X Files’ writer/producer James Wong, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a great episode, but it’s enough of an improvement to keep fans hanging in for a while. Forgoing most of the mythology nonsense, this is a solid “Monster of the Week” episode that would have felt right at home somewhere in the middle of the show’s fourth or fifth seasons.
At a biotech research lab called Nugenics, scientist Dr. Sanjay goes nuts after hearing a piercing high-pitched sound in his head that nobody else notices. He locks himself in the company’s computer lab and tries to download something until he can’t take the pain anymore and stabs himself through the ear, right into the brain, with a letter opener.
Mulder and Scully are brought in to investigate his death, but are not allowed to examine the hard drive that Sanjay was tampering with, under the excuse that the data on it is classified research for the Department of Defense. Their requests to interview the company’s mysterious “Founder,” Dr. Augustus Goldman, are also repeatedly rejected.
Mulder steals Dr. Sanjay’s phone and finds a history of several recent calls to a contact called Gupta (Vik Sahay from ‘Chuck’). Mulder arranges to meet the man at a bar, thinking him to be a corporate spy, but realizes in a very funny scene that he’s actually a male hustler. Meanwhile, Scully performs an autopsy and discovers that the victim had scrawled the words “Founder’s Mutation” on his hand before he died. Later, while rummaging through his house, they find photos of numerous physically deformed children. Suddenly, Mulder is nearly crippled by the exact same shrill ringing sound that affected Dr. Sanjay. Scully doesn’t hear anything.
With their efforts to investigate the case repeatedly stymied, Mulder believes that the lab is performing illegal and unethical genetic modification on human subjects for the Department of Defense. When she learns that Dr. Goldman is a major donor at the hospital where she works, Scully uses her contacts there to arrange a meeting with him. While at the hospital, she and Mulder encounter a pregnant girl named Agnes (Kacey Rohl from ‘Hannibal’) behaving erratically. She says something is wrong with her baby and asks for their help. The stern nurse in charge of the hospital tut-tuts and tells Scully and Mulder that the girl is on drugs.
From out of nowhere, Scully has a very weird fantasy/nightmare about the son, William, she gave up for adoption years earlier. The scene is very awkwardly staged such that it isn’t clear whether it’s a dream or really happening until it’s mostly over.
Mulder and Scully are finally granted an interview with Dr. Goldman (Doug Savant from ‘Melrose Place’). He tells them that it’s his life’s mission to help children with terrible genetic defects, and walks them through a ward filled with bizarrely mutated kids. Scully questions why he keeps them all locked in sealed rooms, and isn’t satisfied with his answer.
Mulder and Scully are both troubled when news comes that Agnes was killed in a hit-and-run – especially when they realize that her baby was cut out of her body.
Their next visit is to a mental hospital, where Goldman’s wife (Rebecca Wisocky from ‘Devious Maids’) has been interred since she was convicted and declared criminally insane for murdering her own baby. The woman tells them a story about her daughter, Molly, who could breathe underwater. She believed that her husband had performed experiments on the girl. Desperate to prevent him from doing the same to the new baby she was still carrying, she tried to cut it out of herself. (The gore effect for this is really disturbing.) She was later told that the baby died but doesn’t believe it.
Eventually, Mulder and Scully tie all the plot threads together to a janitor at the lab named Kyle Gilligan (a nod to former ‘X Files’ writer Vince Gilligan, perhaps?), who was standing in the room exactly one floor above Dr. Sanjay when he died. It turns out that Kyle is the Goldmans’ son, and he has a psychic power to cause pain in people’s minds and exert some mental control over them. He’s been searching for his sister Molly, and tried to force Sanjay to locate her using the lab’s computer.
Scully and Mulder arrest the boy and bring him back to the lab to confront Goldman. He agrees to let them meet Molly, but it’s a fake-out and Kyle can tell right away that it’s not the right girl. He gets loose and runs through the lab until he finds the real Molly. They have a psychic connection. Once together, they use telekinetic powers to escape the lab. When he tries to stop them, they crush Dr. Goldman’s head and cause his eyes to pop out. Gross!
The kids get away and go missing, but Mulder gets a blood sample and considers this a victory.
The episode ends with Mulder having his own weird fantasy about witnessing son William get abducted by aliens.
The plot of the episode kind of falls apart at the end, and the dream sequences don’t work at all. Nonetheless, this feels way more like ‘The X Files’ than the season premiere did. If nothing else, the Mulder/Scully dynamic is back on track where it should be. That alone is a huge improvement.
Next week’s episode will feature the return of writer Darin Morgan, who wrote several of the absolute best episodes of ‘The X Files’. I greatly look forward to that one.