The X Files 11.01

‘The X Files’ 11.01 Recap: “I Just Want Somebody to Tell Me What the Hell’s Going On”

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.

Episode Verdict

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.

21 comments

  1. I didn’t watch it, but based on this, the new season sounds like an absolute joke.

    Carter should take a bow and Vince Gilligan should come back. Now that Gilligan has two excellent series entirely under his belt, imagine what he could do with X Files.

  2. Chaz Dumbaugh

    As much as I love Mulder and Scully and the X-Files was one of my favorite shows in High School, it needs a total reboot with a new cast and new ideas, get some monster of the week stuff back and just go with it. I havent seen this episode yet and didnt read the review but my wife and I love the show and dated while it was on, so it holds a special place for us, so regardless I will probably enjoy whats here but I could do with some new stuff, new cast, new team behind the scenes, the show is ripe for a proper tech savvy update that Fringe almost started to achieve but jumped the shark with alternate realities and weird stuff

  3. Worst episode ever, and that includes the Robert Patrick seasons and the I Want To Believe movie.

    Not only did they retcon Season 10, but a big chunk of the original series. So not only was it horribly written and directed, it was also a big slap in the face to loyal fans.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I still think this show can never do worse than the Season 9 “series finale.” That was the worst two hours of television I’ve ever sat through.

      As bad as this was, it still wasn’t the worst thing that aired on Fox last night. Did you watch 9-1-1? Woof, what a dog.

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        I feel like this season hasn’t been particularly well advertised. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it was on if my DVR’s pre-existing series pass for this show hadn’t picked it up.

  4. theHDphantom

    Damn. Forgot this was even on last night. Goes to show how much I actually care about this new season. Last “season” was bad enough, with the only decent episode being the one Glen Morgan wrote and directed (Home Again). The others were a waste of time.

    Just looking it up now, I see Glen Morgan wrote and directed the upcoming episode “This”, so I’ll probably check that one out next week. Probably pass on all others though.

  5. Guy

    I chose to watch The Blacklist over this during the live timeslot last night. My viewing in the truly horrid Fox app today confirmed that I made the right decision. I pretty much hated the entirety of last year’s revival season, but I wanted to check in to see if lessons were learned. Sometime around the “car chase” I realized not only were no lessons learned but this could actually be worse than Season 10.

    And the big colonization that nine seasons and a movie built towards was hand waved away in a single line?! Climate change? The all-powerful aliens that had been paving the way for their invasion of Earth for thousands of years didn’t see that coming? With all their influence in the events of modern human history, they couldn’t get us to lay off the fossil fuels?

  6. I was a big fan of The X-Files in 1995-1997 (even bought two VHS tapes!), but I was a young boy back then, and can’t remember all the details. Was it already established that Cigarette Smoking Man was Mulder’s father? Reading this recap, that tidbit was new(s) to me.

  7. Elizabeth

    I was so happy to read this review and discover someone else was as utterly confused about this episode as I was. Granted, I was never a huge X-Files fan and haven’t seen every episode but I did watch the previous “event” season so I thought I would be good to go. Then this episode happened and I was completely lost. Was the plague from the season finale just a premonition?

    Or worse, the advertisements had a line about “parallel universes” so it left we wondering if we were even watching the same set of characters. Maybe this entire season is on an alternative Earth. Maybe Jerry O’Connell will show up in this season finale as his character from Sliders and explain that the “alien” invasion is actually the Kromags from an alternative Earth. Or maybe it will be a crossover with the characters from Fringe.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Yes, this episode ret-cons away last season’s finale as just being a dream. Scully calls it a premonition, but given that they will inevitably prevent it from happening, I don’t think that word is quite accurate. In any case, it’s lame.

      Just like last season, the episodes in between the premiere and finale are expected to be monster-of-the-week cases unrelated to the alien invasion storyline. The third episode (the one Darin Morgan is doing) will be about the so-called “Mandela Effect.” I believe that’s where the clips with characters talking about parallel universes come from. [Edit: Looks like Fox has juggled the episode order and now the Darin Morgan ep will be fourth.]

  8. William Henley

    So if the events are precognition, they will save a fortune on future production costs by recycling old clips and shots that were left on the cutting room floor, and just have the two agents standing in front of a green screen with Scully saying “See, I told you”

  9. Doug

    Easily the worst hour of television I’ve very seen. It felt like it had been put together by a high school drama class.

    I remember the X Files was highly anticipated and had high production values…Wow it has fallen.

    Another bad aspect was Mulder. He was basically deranged this episode- running around with a gun and picking fights. And what was with slitting the throat of Scully’s attacker? I know it’s fitting but how would it go down an FBI agent doing that!

  10. Chaz Dumbaugh

    After watching it with my wife, we were pretty damn happy with it, what can I say, its good to have X-Files back on. But….this really just needs rebooted with new people. They can easily take this formula back to BEING the X-Files with a team investigating unexplained stuff filed away, thats what I enjoyed most about X-Files. Thats what made Fringe start so strong too, but they get this overarching story that becomes to complicated and just too much in general and it takes away from what made the show so strong. I would love for them to go back to that with a more modern take with different characters, I love Mulder and Scully but they dont feel like them anymore really.

    Regardless we will be watching this season because we enjoyed the first episode just fine 🙂

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