Category Archives: The X Files

The X Files, S10 E6 Review

The X-Files My Struggle II is meant to be the conclusion of the two-part sequence that bookends season 10 of The X-Files. But Chris Carter’s follow-up does little to build on “My Struggle’s strengths except to use the subject of alien DNA to further a Syndicate/Cigarette Smoking Man storyline about pathological warfare. Carter, in his attempts to craft a mythological episode that pulls in government conspiracies, alien technology, and Cigarette Smoking Man all at once, provides a compelling argument for why The X-Files should really stick to a more formulaic one-shot approach.

The biggest flaw in The X-Files My Struggle II is the overstuffed nature of its plot. Carter spins off from the first episode of “My Struggle I” not by focusing on the government cover-ups that Mulder and Scully uncovered, but by eliminating most of that in order to get to a poorly explained event where human immune systems are breaking down based on the administration of unknown genetic material that destroys the body’s ability to protect itself. All of this is predicated on Cigarette Smoking Man and the Syndicate’s work to bring down humanity at every turn.

“My Struggle II” works hard to keep all of the facts in check, and for the most part, a large chunk of the episode focuses on Scully and returning Agent Einstein battling back and forth with different scientific theories about alien gene manipulation and the potential for a pandemic to spread. Carter certainly understands the tension of a disease outbreak, but the episode is often too caught up in the scientific ramblings to really feel suspenseful.

Carter separates Mulder and Scully, too, which leads to a fractured plot that often has to juggle two disparate storylines. As Scully and Einstein race to stop the pandemic, Mulder – and later Agent Miller – heads to South Carolina to confront Cigarette Smoking Man after he offers Mulder a cure for the illness. Mulder is given little to do in this episode, and unfortunately that leaves the rather unlikable Einstein as a partner for Scully. Since last episode’s “Babylon” already separated Mulder and Scully for long periods of time, this finale’s similar manoeuvring eliminates a lot of what fans love about their relationship.

It doesn’t help that The X-Files My Struggle II messily tries to pull in Tad O’Malley, the TV anchor who has stumbled upon these government conspiracies. The cuts to O’Malley’s TV show take up too much time for no reason, and it seems Carter doesn’t really know what to do with the character. Likewise, Cigarette Smoking Man is given such long expository diatribes about his alien DNA terrorism that the mystery and pathos of the character is lost.

“My Struggle II” is a difficult episode to write about, especially because The X-Files’ fate is up in the air. The opening credits exchange “I want to believe” for “This is the end,” but Carter and FOX have repeatedly mentioned bringing the show back for more. Carter’s cliff-hanger ending – not only putting Mulder in danger but conveniently calling back to why their son William has been such an important part of this tenth season – begs for at least a few more minutes of explanation. As a season finale, it’s frustrating and nonsensical but at least acceptable given the show’s return; but as a series finale, it really forces the viewer to question the impact of bringing the show back in the first place to end on such a sour note. Because “My Struggle II” is frankly the worst hour of this six-episode run.

Carter’s initial mythological premise at least gave the semblance of structure, setting in motion a new angle on aliens and the government conspiracy that forced Mulder and Scully to return to their work. This season finale muddles that, calling attention to Carter’s consistent wavering around the truth.  “My Struggle II” is an episode that viewers will remember most, too – and that’s a shame, considering the strong stand-alone episodes that have made up this season. The struggle doesn’t just reference Mulder and Scully’s fictional exploits, but Carter’s attempts to settle on just what he wants to do with the mythology of the series.

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The X Files, S10 E5 Review

The X-Files has been absent for most of our 21st century terrorism issues; season 9 ended in 2002, airing right after the collapse of the Twin Towers but ultimately bowing out before the brunt of the present political strife. Returning for this tenth season, Chris Carter and company didn’t need to wax political about the current tension between American intervention in foreign affairs and the Islamic State’s violent regime, but The X-Files Babylon attempts to tackle these hotbox issues anyway with an episode that finds Muslim suicide martyrs bombing an art gallery because of an offensive piece of artwork.

Making an unbiased sociopolitical thriller with a supernatural twist is, obviously, not easy, especially with the controversial topics that “Babylon” brings up, and this episode will easily stand out as one of the most divisive offerings of this tenth season.

Carter writes and directs “Babylon” himself, and what’s most apparent is the delicate way he approaches the subject matter. There’s no preconceived judgment of Muslims, no intentional stereotyping or mocking the characters that do eventually threaten the safety of an Austin, Texas population. Instead, Carter gives us a cold open that clearly defines its Muslim character’s beliefs and even shows the open derision he receives from the rest of the American world – a redneck trucker leering at him while asking what country he’s in being the most obvious – not to pardon his violent actions, but to at least contextualize the source of tension.

It’s easy to see how an episode centered around a public bombing (complete with people running around on fire) could go wrong, but for the most part, “Babylon” is fair in its representation. At the same time, the episode often can’t decide on a tone; its horrifying opening seems to settle on darkly serious, but its presentation of Mulder/Scully doppelgangers in Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) and Agent Miller (Robbie Amell) feels uncomfortably playful when compared to the subject matter.

“Babylon” has fun pitting Mulder with Einstein and Scully with Miller, both of whom offer up opposing sides to their investigation about how to reach the suicide bomber in a coma to figure out where to find the rest of the terrorist group. Ambrose plays Einstein with an even colder scientific approach than Scully, while Miller is a more doe-eyed and paranormally-inclined version of Mulder; both of them indicate why The X-Files‘ pairing worked well to begin with, and Carter’s exploration of both scientific and supernatural teamwork teases of a new X-Files that finds Miller and Einstein taking over for their older prodigies. That they’re returning for the season finale is another exciting possibility for the series’ future.

“Babylon”‘s goofiness escalates throughout the episode despite its Muslim bomber Shiraz (Artin John) on his deathbed in a hospital in a catatonic state. Carter finds room for Mulder to go on a little drug trip, ingesting what he believes is a mushroom that will help him spiritually reach Shiraz. There’s dancing and what virtually becomes a country music video set to Trace Adkins’ “Honkey Tonk Badonkadonk”, all in the name of science no less. It sobers up a bit as Mulder hears a prostrate Shiraz whisper Babylon Hotel in his ear, but for the most part, Mulder’s role in this episode provides the fan service X-Files fans may or may not be looking for in this tenth – bonus – season.

These moments might be funny, but they’re also too sporadic for this episode. Carter lazily explores these avenues without effectively producing a need for them, and both avenues – while establishing two similar secondary characters – are messily driven by exposition. “Babylon” wants to say something about the world’s tense politics, but couching it in the humor of a drug-addled dance-off is perhaps not the best way to approach the threat of terrorism.

Carter leaves it to the episode’s final moments to draw a conclusion about God, with Mulder and Scully mulling over the possibility of a god that allows violence in His or Her name. It’s a forced explanation, a way to cohesively encapsulate the tropes of “Babylon” without fully contextualizing the situation of religious extremism, and that makes this episode the weakest of the tenth season so far. At the same time, it’s also the one that is able to cut loose the most: Carter understands that sometimes what the world needs most is to have fun instead of creating wars, and it’s ironic that “Babylon” suffers its own internal war of finding a proper tone.

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The X Files, S10 E4 Review

“Home Again” was originally meant to air as The X-Files‘ second episode of season 10, an alteration that makes sense after seeing how the episode proceeds. It’s a story that focuses more on Scully than Mulder and Scully together, pulling them apart for nearly half the episode before they solve a murder mystery together. Alternately, the episode that became the second to air, “Founder’s Mutation,” featured the familiar team dynamic, one of the strengths of the series throughout its ten seasons.

Had “Home Again” aired in the second slot, it might have felt like a weak stand-alone episode despite the references to Mulder and Scully’s son William. But as the fourth episode this season, The X-Files had room to work with Mulder and Scully together before separating them, and “Home Again” comes right after an episode where Mulder suffers from his own identity crisis. In this episode, Scully learns of her mother’s heart attack, and drops everything to be with her in the hospital.

Fans of The X-Files will know that Scully has had her own share of family issues, and “Home Again” brings them up right away; her mother, dropping in and out of consciousness, asks for Scully’s brother Charlie instead of her more immediate family, and it bothers Scully that the time spent away from her mother has clouded the bond she had with her. A quarter necklace and a change in her mother’s advance directive cement this discomfort, further ostracizing Scully from her mother’s life.

“Home Again” pursues Scully’s grief quite well, relying more on symbolism than expository dialogue. And there’s a direct correlation here to the season premiere “My Struggle” and “Founder’s Mutation,” with Scully recognizing the loss she’s endured after giving her son William up for adoption. While The X-Files has a tendency to explore this redundant theme in “Home Again” – with Scully exposing her exact emotions to Mulder in a dialogue at the end of the episode rather than allowing the viewer to grasp the meaning – the strength of the episode lies in its metaphorical depiction of “human trash,” whether it be a son given up for adoption or the homeless on the streets of Philadelphia forced to move to a group home during a cleanup operation.

The main mystery of The X-Files Home Again expands on that idea of human trash with a disturbing killer known only as Trash Man (or sometimes Band Aid Nose Man), a deteriorating monstrosity that acts as a guardian for the homeless. Trash Man is a creation that doesn’t get much explanation; he rides around in his own garbage truck, leaving maggot-filled footprints and a rotten stench in his wake. His appearance is notated by his graffiti silhouette, and he targets only those that want to harm the innocent indigent.

“Home Again”‘s antagonist is effectively terrifying, and the episode doesn’t flinch from his ultraviolence. He’s known for tearing the limbs off of his victims, and The X-Files gives us multiple examples of Trash Man’s vengeance. And both Mulder and Scully are helpless to stop Trash Man’s reign – willed into existence by an artist, the monster is basically unstoppable until he slinks back into the shadows after completing his task. “Home Again” prefers to leave Trash Man’s existence an unsolved mystery, and while the episode could have used a bit more time to expand on Trash Man’s backstory (or at least the tulku area of Buddhism it rushes to name-drop), The X-Files allows this eerie creepypasta character to live on without exposing his secrets.

The X-Files Home Again subplots resonate despite early indications that neither will tie to the other, and the episode’s tone slips back to the seriousness and intensity of The X-Files‘ darker episodes. Its only misstep is allowing Scully to give voice to her emotions, since the episode’s theme has more impact when left unspoken. But “Home Again” really does feel like The X-Files has returned to some of the best monster designs in the series, and one of Mulder’s quotes from the episode rings true: “Scully, ‘back in the day’ is now.”

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The X files, S10 E3 Review

Well, that was damn delightful. What a funny, clever, absorbing episode. Honestly, given how much “Mulder &Scully Meet the Were-Monster” twisted and played with tropes from the show’s old trademark monster-of-the-week episodes, it’s hard not to see it as – possibly – the duo’s final monster hunt. As in, it could be considered a genre capper/ender. But it doesn’t have to be, of course. The idea is that there will be more X-Files after these six episodes. Not sure when, but they’ve been a huge hit for FOX and everyone involved wants to do more.

But yeah, all the hilarity and whimsey sort of made it feel like it was designed to be a final hurrah for Mulder’s obsession with urban myths and rumored rampaging creatures. That being said, it’s not the first time the show’s given us outside-the-box silliness like this. In fact, writer Darin Morgan, who penned this chapter, is the creative force who gave us “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” and “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space.” And the show was more than capable of carrying on after those particular blessed events.

I think one of the reasons that “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” was such a welcome entry, and struck such a tremendous chord with me, is because it followed a couple of episodes where the show’s stars didn’t seem all that interested in being back. Due mostly to the dourness and wonkiness of the return episodes themselves. The second better than the first, but both still underwhelming .

So even though this one gave us a dose of tonal whiplash, it was still just so great to see this two characters act all ridiculous and cheerful. With the only real push-and-pull drama here being Mulder’s creeping acceptance that there might just not be any real monsters in the world (or left in the world). And the retroactive regret of having wasted a ton of time chasing after elaborate pranks and oddities explained away by natural phenomenon.

This episode had some great guest spots. From the paint-huffing Tyler Labine and Nicole Parker (reprising their old “stoner” roles from a couple of old X-Files episodes) to Kumail Nanjiani’s “seen one, seen ’em all” serial killer. But – man – Rhys Darby was fantastic. Such a good role for him as the ancient “man-sized human lizard” accidentally infected by a bite and reverse-engineered into a humdrum middle-aged man with relatable, piddling concerns about employment, money, (lying about) sex, and burgers. What a fantastic take on the were-trope. And a lovely part of Darby who, honestly, was my favorite part of HBO’s Flight of the Conchords.

But everything about this one was solid. From the opening scene featuring Mulder chucking pencils at Scully’s poster to him trying to figure out how to photo and/or video the mystery creature for proof of its existence (we just get a shot of Mulder screaming hysterically as blood lands on his cheek) to the were-monster himself lying about Scully coming onto him in the cellphone shop, this installment was on its toes the entire time. The monster man got a dog and NAMED HIM DAGOO! C’MON!

And Scully hit the nail on the head with “I forgot how much fun these cases could be.” Yeah, she knew Mulder was being “batcrap crazy,” but it was the Mulder she preferred. The kind of Mulder who’d stand in front of her and rambunctiously act out her side of a hypothetical argument about lizard men.

Oh, and that was a nice nod to late X-Files producer/director Kim Manners there, with the headstone in the cemetery.

“Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster” may have delivered an abrupt change in tone, one felt even more so given this revival’s short 6-episode length, but it was really freakin’ fun. And funny. And really clever with its twists and ideas regarding the savagery of monsters and humans.

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The X Files, S10 E2 Review

Like a proper classic “X-Files” episode, “Founder’s Mutation” gets pretty complicated pretty quickly. Mulder and Scully show up at a high-tech genetics company to figure out why Sonny, one of its scientists, wigged out and committed suicide by (eep) shoving a steel rod into his own skull. In investigating the suicide victim’s life, our own agents are led to the genetics company’s founder, Dr. Augustus Goldman (Doug Savant), who’s been overseeing genetic medical experiments.

Goldman’s experiments are secret, and their official investigation gets quickly shut down by the Department of Defense crying out, “Classified!” But that doesn’t stop Mulder and Scully from tracking down not just Dr. Goldman’s lab full of genetically deformed children, but Dr. Goldman’s former wife, who was locked up years ago for killing her unborn child (like, cutting it out of herself with a butcher’s knife). Despite seeming pretty crazy, it turns out that she had a reason: Dr. Goldman had been experimenting on not just their older daughter, Molly, but their unborn son, Kyle (who survived his unconventional birth), giving them both superpowers. Mulder and Scully track down Kyle, whose enhanced mental powers turn out to be the source of the crazy noise that drove Sonny to suicide at the beginning of the episode. It’s Kyle’s only way of communicating with people, which he’s been using to try to track down Molly. Reunited in Dr. Goldman’s lab, the brother and sister basically explode Dr. Goldman’s brain and rush off into the night.

Mulder and Scully are also forced to ask themselves some questions about their mysteriously conceived son, William, which triggers fantasies for both of them about what it’d have been like had they not given him up for adoption as a baby. Fantasy, though, is a tricky word: Not only do both sequences basically feature them as single parents, but both of them end in their personal worst nightmares for what could have happened to their son. Scully imagines William being afflicted by the alien-looking genetic order she was working to help treat in “My Struggle” (the previous episode), and Mulder imagines William being abducted in a scene identical to his memories of his own sister’s abduction.

Beyond an emotional conversation between Mulder and Scully (that quickly shifted to the sexy topic of whether or not Mulder thinks that her pregnancy was caused by similar genetic experimenting), the closest anyone got to laid was Sonny’s secret romance with Gupta. And things ultimately didn’t work out so well for Sonny.

If you were expecting a big unpacking scene, no such luck, but we are back in the original X-Files office, complete with the Fox Mulder nameplate. Alas, there’s no extra desk for Scully, but she does have some fancy new tech to play with. To be specific, there’s a nice flatscreen monitor with a keyboard attached, which she gets to balance on her knees…

Overall  a real and proper episode of “The X-Files”! This is what we remember fondly: a sometimes gross and sometimes scary (but ultimately fun) bit of science fiction vaguely built on fact. Mulder has some out-there theories! Scully does an autopsy! They both draw their guns and run around! There are parts that don’t flow quite so well — especially the transitions into Mulder and Scully’s imaginings about William — but this is more like it.

what do you think of the X files revival so far?

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