If 2016’s six-episode revival of ‘The X Files’ was a so-called “limited event series,” why did it end with a cliffhanger begging for more episodes and what do we call the new season? Perhaps it’s time to give up this charade that any TV series is ever truly limited in length if it gets decent ratings.
I also think it’s long past time that Fox took ‘The X Files’ away from guiding creative mastermind Chris Carter and let someone else take the reins of the show – preferably someone who has the slightest inkling how to tell a coherent story, which Carter no longer does. He drove the series into the ground during its original run, and his bookending episodes were by far the worst of the last revival season. Judging by the new season premiere, we can expect more of the same. In fact, the premiere episode is simply galling in its shameless ret-conning of storylines, as if Carter were deliberately trying to provoke the wrath of both long-time fans and, really, any viewer trying to make sense of his scatterbrained gibberish.
If you’ll recall, the last season ended with an alien virus causing a global pandemic that threatened to wipe out most of humanity. As FBI Special Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) watched her partner and lover Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) dying before her eyes, an alien spaceship descended from the sky and shone a bright spotlight on them.
Well, forget all that. It doesn’t matter. In fact, it never even happened. Probably very little of last season happened. It. Was. All. A. Dream.
Yes, that’s really where Chris Carter wants to go with this. The premiere opens with Scully comatose and Mulder perfectly fine. Scully’s doctor explains that she’s had a seizure and “her brain is on fire.” All that stuff about the pandemic was just a crazy delusion. Their boss, Asst. Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) – who is not a medical doctor – takes a look at her MRI and declares that blinking electrical activity in one section of the brain is a Morse Code message saying “Find him,” which he instantly interprets as meaning Scully and Mulder’s missing son, William. Whaaaaaaaaaa….. ?
Folks, we are well beyond logic or rationality here. Don’t even try to follow it. Nothing good can come of the effort.
When Scully finally awakens, she insists that her dreams were precognitive visions of events that will happen in the future. Further, she believes they’re being sent to her by someone else. This is all based on nothing, of course. She wants to leave the hospital and go look for her son, whose stem-cell DNA is the only hope of saving Mulder (who, again, isn’t sick at all). Mulder tells her to stay put and he’ll take care of it, but Scully ignores everyone else’s advice or orders and goes back to the X Files office, whereupon she promptly passes out. Later, she wanders off and gets in a car accident, ultimately being brought back to the hospital.
Mulder, meanwhile, gets involved in a pointless and dull car chase with some random guy, and then drives from Washington, D.C. to South Carolina is search of his evil father, the Cigarette Smoking Man. Instead, he finds another unnamed cigarette smoking man waiting for him, with a mystery woman played by Barbara Hershey glowering in the corner. They explain that they work for the Syndicate cabal that formerly employed the CSM, but now he’s gone rogue and plans to eradicate the entire human population. They offer to help Mulder stop him, but he’s skeptical of their real motives. Also, they casually mention that the impending alien invasion that has formed the backbone of this show’s narrative for 24 years isn’t happening after all, because humans have ruined the planet with climate change and it’s no good to the aliens anymore.
Through all this, the CSM (William B. Davis), now inexplicably free of the burn scars or prosthetics he sported last season, monologues his evil plans to former X Files agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish). Eventually, he corners Skinner in his car and offers him a deal – immunity to his planned pandemic in exchange for Skinner locating and bringing him William. When Skinner asks why he wants the boy, CSM reveals that he secretly roofied and impregnated Scully 17 years ago, and he’s the child’s father, not Mulder.
An assassin tries to smother Scully in her hospital bed, but Mulder drives all the way from South Carolina back to D.C. just in time to save her. Scully tells him that she believes her visions are being sent by William. Skinner arrives and lies to them about what he’s been doing, but Mulder smells cigarette smoke on him and starts a fight in the hospital. Scully says that the best thing they can do right now is go back to work and get back into their regular mystery-of-the-week routine, because that’s now somehow more important than the end of the world she was ranting about just seconds earlier.
At some point in the middle of all this, agents Einstein and Miller (Lauren Ambrose and Robbie Amell) cameo briefly, but it’s unclear whether Scully even knows them in this new ret-conned timeline or if she just dreamed all their previous interactions. They may have possibly allowed the assassin into her hospital room. Or maybe not. I honestly don’t have a clue.
This is pure nonsense. It’s awful on every level. The writing and directing are utterly incoherent. Characters behave with no sense of logic or consistency with previous behavior. Scenes are haphazardly crosscut back-and-forth with little purpose. Duchovny tries to patch over the narrative with a flat voiceover narration that sounds like he has no idea what the words he’s saying mean (which he probably didn’t).
To say that the plot makes zero sense would imply that zero might be the bottom of the scale, while the episode shoots way off the charts into the negative range. It’s just terrible, even by the very low standards that Chris Carter set with the prior season’s premiere and finale.
Don’t give up just yet, though. While it’s an unfortunate certainty that the season finale will return to more of this gobbledygook, the episodes in between should be unrelated monster-of-the-week cases, with a new Darin Morgan episode that’s sure to be a lot of fun. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.