I was excited to have the X-Files back. Fox had announced that Chris Carter would return as show runner and three of the show’s original writers, (James Wong, Darin Morgan, and Glen Morgan), would be back to write and direct an episode each. Only Carter would write and direct three. It sounded great on paper but I was left with only one word after watching this recent season: disappointment. Even through that disappointment I couldn’t help but be glad to have Mulder and Scully back on tv, because though the story has gotten muddled and confusing over the years, the characters are still brilliant.
The problems were evident right off the bat. The premiere involved an off-putting structure, stilted catchphrase-driven dialogue, and a smorgasbord of new conspiracy ideas that didn’t quite jell into anything cohesive. Basically, Carter seemed to want to reboot the entire show, in a way attempting to undo what had come before, to continue a story that is long over.
The structure of the season was bizarre. You’d think with six episodes that you’d get a tighter narrative but only the first and last episodes (written and directed by Carter) deal with the over-arching mythology. And that would be fine, if the finale didn’t feel overly cramped, trying to resolve too much. And if the second episode didn’t suffer from tonal whiplash as everything in the premiere seemed to have been forgotten until the finale.
However, the episodes written and directed by the other three X-Files writer range from good to a masterpiece. The third episode is the masterpiece and will go down as one of the greatest episodes of X-Files to date. The episode had nothing to do with the government conspiracies at all and was instead played for meta laughs. Rhys Darby guest starred as a lizard man-monster thing that found itself infected with human banality after getting bit by a serial killer. It’s reverse-monsterism. It was here that Duchovny and Anderson really let go and had fun. The first seasonal indicator that they were happy to be back.
The fourth episode was the heaviest episode dealing with the death of a character and “stick it to the government” street art that came to life and killed city councillors. And I’ll defend the fifth episode for being bat-shit crazy and sending Mulder on a shrooms trip.
And then it was over. The problem was that there were too many ideas cramped into six episodes. Maybe Carter should have focused on his one conspiracy or maybe every episode should have been a solo episode of the X-Files with the finale stressing why the duo were needed to return.
The most effective part of the show was the closeness of Mulder and Scully. It took at least an episode for Duchovny and Anderson to find some fun in their roles, but once they did it was a dream to watch them. The season did a commendable job in displaying their shared love for each other and their shared regret over their son William. Even though there was no big reveal involving William, his emotional weight weighed heavy on the show as it closed out with a big “to be continued.”
Season 10 of The X-Files was more of a sampling of past X-Files episodes than a coherent extension of the show. The six episodes structure seemed to stifle the series more than anything. And since the show returned to high ratings, I’m sure everyone involved will be making another season. Here’s hoping it returns with at least 13 episodes and a conspiracy that is much easier to follow.
Score: 5 out 10