More than two decades since it first appeared on the air, and 14 years after its final, frustrating episode, "The Truth", The X-Files returned to TV in January 2016, with creator Chris Carter, and stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, back on board. Expectations were high, which is understandable, as The X-Files is one of the finest shows to ever air on TV, with its emphasis on quality writing, stylized and disturbing visuals, and a dense, paranoid mythology. Yes, its last couple of seasons were extremely uneven, and it ended more with a whimper than with a bang. But the 2008 feature film, X-Files: I Want To Believe, was a return to form, promising good things to come from Carter and co.
Eight years later, here we are, with the new season now out, with six episodes that, more or less, showcase everything that is great about The X-Files.
Starting with the deliciously paranoid opener, "My Struggle: Part 1", written and directed by Chris Carter, the series kicks off with a bang, with Mulder and Scully dragged into a new conspiracy involving shadow governments, alien technology, and the possibility of Scully being part alien herself! The opening episode is a bit slow to get going and a little rough around the edges, with Duchovny and Anderson a bit on the chilly side in terms of their portrayals of the iconic characters. But the last third of the episode is frantic, paranoid fun, with Carter writing and directing one of the best season openers of the entire run of the series.
The second episode, "Founder's Mutation", written and directed by James Wong (who with Glenn Morgan made up one of the best writing teams to ever grace the X-Files staff) is an entertaining, if uneven and incoherent. episode, with a half-baked story of gene tampering and teens with psychic abilities. It has some intriguing visuals and a couple of good moments for Mulder and Scully, but, overall, an average episode.
The third episode, "Mulder and Scully Meet The Were-Monster", written and directed by Darin Morgan (who makes his return to the show as writer after leaving in the third season) is a funny, witty, visually compelling episode, with a large dose of Morgan's brand of offbeat humor. It has some great scenes, and Duchovny and Anderson seem to be enjoying the hell out of the whole thing. But it needed a stronger director than Morgan to bring it to life, as one gets the feeling that under the direction of someone like the late, great Kim Manners (who directed Humbug, another great episode written by Darin Morgan) it would have been an even better episode; maybe even a classic. As it is, it's a very good episode, full of wit and energy, but something about the pacing is off, and it isn't as funny as it could have been. Astute viewers will catch a number of easter eggs that Morgan put in the episode.
The fourth episode, "Home Again", written and directed by Glenn Morgan, is one of the best episodes of this season, harking back to those great stand-alone horror stories that the series did so well on the first three seasons of the show. It's tightly directed, creepy, layered, and gives Scully a meaty storyline that Anderson can sink her teeth into. It's also a touching episode, and a gift for die-hard fans of the show. A winner all around.
The fifth, and arguably best episode of the season, is Chris Carter's "Babylon", a controversial story about Islamist terrorists, the afterlife, and the power of the human mind. It's a stunningly original episode, with Carter once again tackling one of the themes essential to The X-Files: the search for God. It's a cleverly written episode that, despite being a bit heavy-handed in places, delivers on all fronts, with terrific performances from all involved, haunting visuals, and a great final scene. A classic.
The sixth and final episode of the season, "My Struggle: Part 2", again written and directed by Carter, is, without a doubt, one of the most effective season finales in the history of The X-Files, with a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. It's superbly paranoid, with Carter throwing everything but the kitchen sink in terms of hitting all of our fear buttons (contagions, government conspiracies, Armageddon, loved ones falling terminally ill). It's too talky for its own good, with long scenes filled with exposition, and the direction seems a bit rushed at some points. But, ultimately, this is a terrifically entertaining episode, with a break-neck pace, and a deliciously evil performance by William B. Davis as Cancer Man.
Carter has already stated that this is not the end of The X-Files. And how could it be? It would be cruel to end it all with the fates of Mulder and Scully hanging in the balance like that. But that's the future. For now, fans can rest assured that The X-Files is back. This is not the confused and confusing X-Files of season 6-9. This is The X-Files of the first five seasons, with style, compelling stories, and terrific visuals.
Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2016.