The X-Files kicked off a six-episode revival in an oddly low-key fashion.
When the first hour opens, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) have separated. Scully is focusing on her medical career while Mulder is something of a recluse. At the request of Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), the duo reunites to meet with controversial TV personality Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale). O’Malley introduces the ex-agents to a young woman who has been abducted repeatedly. That puts them onto a conspiracy that casts their history and former mission in a startling new light. After the conspiracy makes some bold moves to protect itself, Skinner re-opens the X-Files and Mulder and Scully are back in the FBI business.
After its underwhelming movie sequel of a few years ago, one might have expected The X-Files to come out with guns blazing to kick off this TV revival. So this rather deliberately paced outing that’s heavy on set-up but low on action is a curious move. It’s not bad. There are some good scenes, especially some rather fraught Mulder/Scully interactions that make the most of the accumulated baggage between the characters. But it’s not exactly a thrill ride.
Some fans will be amazed at how explicitly this new version of The X-Files embraces alien elements. In the past, those were often more a tease than a narrative fact, so the straight-forward approach is refreshing. The script traffics in a lot of trendy political points that mostly feel troweled on with little purpose. Mulder and Scully act out new variations on their classic “faith vs. skepticism” debates. A couple of visceral action beats catch attention, though neither involves the show’s stars. By the end, the path forward is clear and promises something more engaging.
While hoping for better things from the rest of the six-episode series, there are some elements for fans to appreciate in episode one. Duchovny and Anderson are always a welcome presence. Their chemistry remains as potent and prickly as ever. The script gives them a few very good interactions, where old patterns rear their heads in surprising ways. Duchovny still can ground outrageous story elements with his unruffled gameness for whatever the script throws Mulder’s way. Anderson injects a lot of heart and intelligence into her scenes. Pileggi doesn’t get much to do, but just seeing him show up to do his gruff, protective thing for Mulder and Scully is a nice callback. The new story framework is promising, even if getting it set up took up way more of the first episode than it should have.
So even if the revival kick-off could have been more eventful, there’s good reason to be optimistic about the return of The X-Files. With Mulder and Scully back in the saddle, things could get very interesting.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on January 25, 2016.