If you have been saving up The X-Files for a binge watch, be warned of spoilers ahead.

The X-Files--don't stop believin'
The X-Files Season Ten–don’t stop believin’

Season ten of The X-Files is nothing if not ambitious. Over the course of only six broadcast hours it brings up or takes on transgenderism, Islamic terrorism, God, immigration, media conspiracies, motherhood, monsters, and medical experiments—some of which are more “out there” than others. While the assortment of threats and themes covers The X-Files’ usual ground, many topics seem to be thrown in more to give a sense of currency to the revamped show than to contribute materially to the goings-on. As flaws go, though, the sometimes blunt attempts to reference current issues are a mild one. It’s been a long time, after all.

Beginning with “My Struggle,” the initial, mainly serious episode that catches Mulder and Scully up to the present day and re-orients them in the vast government/alien conspiracy, the revival of The X-Files is a rollercoaster of topics, threats, and attitudes ranging from the grim to the hilarious, to the maudlin and the ridiculous. The new season presents a highly condensed version of the original series’ many moods, which, while engaging and on-point, taken as a whole come off as trying just a little too hard to hit every single mark.

The second episode, “Founder’s Mutation,” riffs on the theme of secret alien experiments brought up in “My Struggle” while still leaning on a monster-of-the-week story line. While the plot is interesting enough, it contained, for me, an enormous hole based on really questionable Department of Defense contractor hiring practices. This episode also brings in a fantasy version of Mulder and Scully’s son, William, and a whole host of regrets.

“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is a complete 180 from the show’s previous serious tones, embracing the inherent silliness of the show in a very affectionate way. In between the mockery of modern life, psychoanalysis, and traditional lycanthropy, episode three hammers in as many easter eggs and inside jokes as an hour long show can hold. Of the current series, this is certainly my pick as the best installment.

The fourth episode, “Home Again,” is again a monster of the week, but without the ties to aliens and conspiracies. Art, Buddhist thought-forms, homelessness, exploitation, and disenfranchisement are all tied into a neat, greasy bundle of green goo and maggots that kills people. Graphically. The more interesting counterplot once again invokes their son and makes a rekindling of Mulder’s and Scully’s relationship seem genuinely possible, if not likely.

“Babylon,” episode five, again introduces a generous dose of silliness with the young, alternate versions of Mulder and Scully and Mulder’s wild night on suggested hallucinogens. However, the episode feels off balance because the dominant plot concerns visions of God, Islamic immigrants and suicide bombers. It is not an easy pairing.

After a recap of Scully’s history of involvement in the X-Files, the final episode of this short season, “My Struggle II,” comes back hard to the all-encompassing conspiracy from the first episode and the pervasive alien DNA problem. It retells a much-told plot (shades of The Stand and The Omega Man) with oddly stagey exposition and an utter lack of humor or lightness in an attempt to reference all the previous episodes. The younger agents are back, the hospital from episode two is back, the religious iconography from episode five, the Cigarette Smoking Man, the internet conspiracy theorist. The conspiracy becomes amplified with anti-vaccination hysteria, threatened ecological collapse, chemtrails causing immune system failure, and a doomsday virus set to kill all humanity unless it can be nullified. Of course there is far too much loaded into a single episode, and it ends on a wicked cliffhanger.

It would be cruel not to continue the show.

The X-Files Season Ten: Mulder and Scully in action
The X-Files Season Ten: Mulder and Scully in action

As of now, Fox has not committed to any additional seasons, but the possibility remains open, especially with the strong ratings the mini-series has garnered. All in all, the renewed X-Files with its older, wiser, more tested and more contemplative agents is a comfortable place for viewers to fall back into. The storylines, while crowded in a short season, are well paced and well written despite large doses of silliness, and the overall mood is not one of reboot but of reflection. There is pleanty of excitement still to be had, an there are still some truths to be sought after in this new version. And I think there are plenty of fans still willing, and quite eager, to look.

E.A. Ruppert contributes book and media reviews for NerdGoblin.com.  Thanks for checking this out. To keep up with the latest NerdGoblin developments, please like us on Facebook , follow us on Twitter, and sign up for the NerdGoblin Newsletter.

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In place of a much-discussed third X Files theatrical film, Fox decided to revive the show with a six episode miniseries that dives immediately back into the core alien abduction mythology. Chris Carter returns as executive producer and as one of the writers and directors of the new season. In addition to the irreplaceable Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson), the Season 10 miniseries brings back Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), The Smoking Man (William B. Davis), and Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish).

The X Files are back
The X Files are back

I didn’t watch much of The X Files in its original run from 1993 to 2002—I was more of a Buffy girl, back then. Nor did I watch either of the two big-screen X Files movies, or read the comics based on the show. However, such a cultural touchstone can’t really be ignored.

So I did watch The X Files intermittently online, when the mood would strike me. A couple of my favorites were the disgusting and legendary episode “Home” (S4;E2), about a severely inbred family who began keeping exclusively to themselves right after the Civil War, and the less legendary but still memorably creepy “Detour” (S5;E4), which uses the unlikely evolutionary adaptation of lost conquistadors to make its red-eyed monsters. These episodes gave me a certain fondness for Mulder, Scully, and their weird assignments, and gave me a rudimentary background in the show’s driving themes of alien invasion and shadow governments.

And now, The X Files is back and we all have another shot at believing that Mulder’s elusive truth really might be out there. This time, some of the ideas sound almost too familiar for comfort.

Episode 1 of the new mini-season, “My Struggle,” was written and directed by series creator Chris Carter and made its debut at New York ComicCon 2015.  With it, Carter again picked up the series’ mythology and brought it roaring back. There are UFOs in this episode, and lots of them. As Mulder tells us in the voice-over intro, “Only Roswell is remembered. But we must ask ourselves, are they really a hoax? Are we really alone? Or are we being lied to?” With that establishing idea, the episode proceeds to cut back and forth between a saucer crash in New Mexico in 1947 and the expanding paranoia of the present day.

XFiles2016
Mulder and Scully, together again

Fourteen years later, Gillian Anderson’s Scully is thinner, tired-looking, cool and still patrician. David Duchovny’s Mulder looks his age, weathered and ragged and drifting. But their chemistry is still there, a mutual concern made of expressions and glances more than any particular dialogue. It was good to see it.

To energize the familiar major characters from the original series, the new episode brings in Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale), a conspiracy theorist whose grand paranoia only serves to feed and magnify Mulder’s. Their pairing results in a huge, unifying conspiracy theory that incorporates the H-bomb as an unwitting beacon to UFOs, government cover-ups of alien technology, human experimentation resulting in human/alien hybrids, government created climate change, 911 false-flag accusations, and other, generalized anti-government conspiracies.

In addition to the modern conspiracy twists, the show digs deeply back into the classic iconography of alien abduction, with the added confounder that the X Files program itself was a lie to distract anyone from the truth. Mulder, who so wants to believe, is willing to believe that he and Scully were manipulated by the very program they devoted their energies to. The unifying theory only needs the “why” answered to prove it—and that quest will be plenty of fuel for a several-season-long fire.

The episode is very talky as it establishes itself after so long a hiatus. The exposition is heavy and somewhat melodramatic, rather than actually clumsy—it is technically well executed, but why, for example, is O’Malley explaining basic alien abduction information to Scully? And there is a dearth of action. What happens, happens in the last few minutes of the show in a burst of conspiratorial energy.

But Scully believes. Mulder believes. And the episode ends with Skinner calling them back in, because they are the only people prepared to face what is coming.

So, coming to the revival not as a die-hard fan but as a casual browser, I would have to say first episode of The X Files miniseries is intriguing and a welcome return. The writing is good, the cast is in its element, and the conspiracy theories are flying. I doubt six episodes are enough to cover all the possibilities suggested in the first one. But after this, I certainly wouldn’t say no to an eleventh season. Maybe it’s out there.

E.A. Ruppert contributes book and media reviews for NerdGoblin.com.  Thanks for checking this out. To keep up with the latest NerdGoblin developments, please like us on Facebook , follow us on Twitter, and sign up for the NerdGoblin Newsletter.

And as always, please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section!