I’m blogging at you from underneath a pile of snow. DC got a zillion inches this weekend, which canceled a number of plans that I had but also reminded me how lucky I am to have shelter, food, and heat. I got a lot of work around the house done that I had been meaning to do for some time, which is good because the baby’s due date is 17 DAYS!!! This journey has been so monumental (and felt so LONG) and now it’s almost over…but in many ways I guess it’s just beginning. We are very excited to begin the adventure of being parents together–we are so grateful for the wonderful community of love and support we have, from right next door to all around the world. They say it takes a village…this lucky kid has one heck of a village!
So, the X-Files. Let’s talk. Have you seen the first two episodes yet? If not, and you don’t want them spoiled for you, now’s the time to bail.
Still with me? Okay! So, it’s been fourteen years since the X-Files was last on the air. And when it went away, people had basically given up on it. Its first six seasons were groundbreaking, appointment television that got people obsessed. Then, David Duchovny left the show (and came back later but only sort of and it was really weird) and the last three seasons, particularly the last two, made a lot of fans bail on the show. There was an episode, I kid you not, called “Jump the Shark”. Pretty much everyone knew that things had gotten really bad, but for some reason the show kept going. And then there was that 2008 movie…and the less said about that the better.
I bring these things up because, in the intervening years, people have gotten nostalgic and remember the X-Files perhaps too fondly. They’ve conveniently forgotten all the bad stuff and want this new series to be as good as the best episodes of the 9 year run. Which I feel is a recipe for disappointment. We need to remember X-Files fairly…it wasn’t all good. There’s no reason to believe (although I certainly…want to believe? #toosoon?) that every moment of this new season will be incredible.
So going in with that attitude, I have to say I’ve been enjoying it so far. Not loving it, necessarily, but having a good time. I am invested in where it’s going, at least. It’s not like watching the last few seasons of “Glee” (or let’s be honest, the last few seasons of “The X-Files”) where I was like “I am actively hating this but I’m here because I have a problem with letting go.” It really is better than the stuff Chris Carter and Co. peddled towards the end.
I think a big part of the problem is that for many of the viewers, we are in such a different place than we were 14 years ago. This might be hyperspecific to my age group, but for me and my friends, we were in nerdy loner outcasts in high school when this show ended. Now we are adults, we’ve got jobs, we’ve got spouses and kids. It would be an understatement to say that our lives have improved considerably. (Yes, kids, it really DOES get better!) So, we the audience NEED the X-Files a lot less than we did back then. TXF was, for so many of us, a lifeline. I feel about TXF like a lot of people have been saying they feel about David Bowie–it let me know it was okay to be weird. It was the first time I felt like I belonged to something. It gave me hope for a brighter future (even as it was predicting the end of the world). The friends I made in TXF fandom are some of my best and closest friends today. This show BONDED people. Seeing someone in school with an X-Files pin on their backpack was a sign that person was an ally, someone you could trust. They were in the club, your club. It was amazing to, for the first time, have a club. TXF did that for so many of us. It shaped us into the adults we eventually became and helped us survive those thorny teenage years.
So how could new X-Files replace that? Quite simply, it can’t. We don’t need it as much as we used to need it. Now it’s just for fun. So the stakes are considerably lower. And it’s difficult to adjust one’s expectations and know how to watch this show anymore. So it’s been a little weird for me, honestly. I think that’s part of my issue with the new run.
My meta-angst aside, I think it’s also important to remember that this six-parter is a minseries and not a “true” season of the show. I’m grateful that BBC Sherlock has taught me how to be deal with a teeny tiny slice of a show. Trying to pack the emotional arc of a whole story into just a few hours is a very different thing than stretching it out over 15-20 hours. I think it’s going to be better to judge the season as a whole once we’ve seen all six. You can’t pass judgment in the middle of a haircut, you know?
Phew, is that enough disclaimers yet? You can see that I am pretty invested in this 🙂 Now to the actual plot!
-I don’t mind the Tad O’Malley/we have met the aliens and the aliens are us plot. Yes, it’s a “reboot” of the mythology, but the show actually did this several times over the run. It’s the black oil! It’s aliens! It’s alien bounty hunters! It’s human/alien hybrids! It’s the killer bees! It’s the super soldiers! Every few years, Chris Carter got sick of the mytharc he’d made, or he decided it was too unwieldy, and he chucked it and made it new. There’s a reason nobody really knows what the show’s conspiracy was about. (Google “X-Files mythology explained” and you will see what I mean. There are some very interesting late 90’s websites that contort themselves in pretzels trying to make the whole thing fit together.) This idea–that the government is using alien technology for its own nefarious purposes–is more compelling to me than the supersoldiers theory. TXF has always been at its best poking its fingers into people’s darkest fears, things they know they shouldn’t be afraid of but are anyway. Right now, that bogeyman is the government. So they went there. A lot of people felt like it was stupid, but it worked for me.
Also, they kind of had to do it. The end of the series promised the aliens were coming in 2012 to take over the world. That…kind of didn’t happen. So they needed a work-around to conserve the show’s mythology (or they would have had to set the show in a post-colonized world, which might have been cool but would have been a totally different thing.) So this was the solution that they came up with, and I can’t really think of a better alternative. I know some people didn’t buy it but I don’t know how else they would have done it.
That said, it’s…almost a little too topical. It’s true that, in many ways, Mulder’s worst nightmares have come true. In the 90s, the idea that the government was spying on us all the time was a joke. Now, we know it’s a reality. There are drones. There’s Edward Snowden. There’s the NSA. The conspiracy theories of the early show are the realities of today. Chris Carter seems to take great glee in pointing this out, over and over again. And it keeps taking me out of the show every time he does it. I’m like, “yes, CC, we know you were right. You’re very smart and clever. Now can we do the show again please?” I know that the original show was very rooted in its own time and place (see the hilarious Jimmy Kimmel sketch here for further proof of this) but I don’t need to be constantly reminded of our current political climate. It works in concept and theory, but the execution, so far, has been a little clunky. I hope, as we see the next few monster of the week episodes, CC will throttle back on that a little bit.
The main characters–I don’t know what to say. It’s terrible and superficial, but I keep thinking “wow, they look SO OLD.” (with the exception of AD Skinner, who is a fox as always.) Gillian Anderson can’t even quirk her signature Scully eyebrow because of all the work she’s had done. David is looking rough. Time has taken its toll on our dear friends and it keeps reminding me “this is new X-Files, not old X-Files.” It didn’t bother me with “The Force Awakens” at all, so it’s not me being ageist and awful. I don’t know what it is. Their voices, their characters, and everything else is great, but it still feels off on the whole. Does someone else have an explanation for this? I really don’t want to blame it on looks. Is their chemistry off? The dialogue? Something is not quite right.
Last night’s episode, “Founder’s Mutation”, was on paper, everything I wanted. My biggest beef with the 2008 film was the lack of discussion about William, Mulder and Scully’s kid. They’re talking about it now!! They have remorse and really white-people fantasies about doing science experiments with him! It’s the answers that we so desperately wanted in 2008 and didn’t get. But it wasn’t enough. ARE THEY GOING TO FIND HIM? I reserve judgment until the series is over. But if CC brings him up and doesn’t bring him home, I will be VERY SAD.
I also feel like, at the end of the ep, I have no idea what happened? Like, who are all those kids? Is the government messing with them? Will the siblings go on a rampage blowing up labs and exposing the truth? What about the sad unwed mothers’ home? Is the government in on that, too? (And is it possible that Scully worked in the hospital for 7 years and didn’t know a thing about it?) I feel like the whole hour was a setup for something bigger, but I’m worried we may never get that payoff. Again, reserving judgment. But I was at least entertained during the hour. It felt like old-fashioned X-Files. I just hope it’s leading somewhere.
The thing I did like about the 2008 movie was that it showed just how damaged our poor heroes are. They’ve been “chasing monsters in the dark” for their whole career and it’s cost them everything. There’s no way they can just live normal lives anymore–they’ve seen too much. As much as I want them to elope and run off to a small, sunny tropical island and stay far away from all of the chaos and the conspiracies, I don’t think they could do it. It’s not who they are. But this new series has really highlighted for me how masochistic it is for me as a viewer to want them to get dragged back into the muck again and again. Like, how many times can we make them give up the lives they’ve carved out for themselves and force them to chase aliens again? They seem tired. Not the actors, but the actual characters. Mulder and Scully deserve a break–or eventually, they’ll have a psychotic break. I felt the tension in the shouting at each other on the porch scene in the first episode. They have been having the same argument for decades. And they’re running out of reasons to keep trying. It’s actually pretty sad when you think about it. I care about these characters too much, obviously, but I almost hope that after this miniseries, they tie up the loose ends and let these characters go. Give us the answers you owe us, CC, and then let the show go.
All that said, I am SO PUMPED for the Darin Morgan-penned ep next week! It’s going to be hilarious (I hope). A home run on that ep would go a long way to get people on board with this new series.
What do you think, guys? Is the show beyond hope? Has the world passed the X-Files by? Or is there room for greatness still? Are you as invested in the William storyline as I am? What retirement fantasies do you have about our favorite duo? Let me know!! Stay warm and safe out there, those who were affected by Jonas, and see you next week!!