In lieu of the best and worst roundup we wrote each season while rewatching The X-Files’ original run, we’re going to summarize our thoughts on season 10. Here’s what we thought worked, didn’t work and what we hope to see in what seems to be an inevitable season 11.
Radhika: The six-episode miniseries that was highly anticipated by even the most cynical of X-Philes has drawn to a close and this has us mulling quite a few things over. After solid ratings, a cliffhanger ending and interviews indicating that the show will probably be back in some form, it looks like we’ll get to see more of The X-Files at some point. But is it what we need?
Despite the fact that the revival ultimately left me with mixed feelings, I remain interested in seeing what more the show has to offer. What we received in this mini season was not the show at its highest quality, but it affirmed my belief that as much as I enjoy The X-Files: Fight the Future, The X-Files is best in the medium where it got its start: Television.
As time has gone by, I’ve grown increasingly fond of the cable and British TV model — shorter seasons seem to do better storytelling. With the exception of season two or so, the 20-plus-episode model during its original run didn’t always allow The X-Files to tell the best stories. But while some seasons of The X-Files were bloated, this six-episode revival of the series might have been a little too short. Perhaps we would have benefited more from 10 to 12 episodes, which might have allowed the show to breathe more, making room for the mythology/buildup of a William story and Monster of the Week episodes alike.
There were some episodes that really suffered from trying to do too much, particularly “Home Again,” which did some beautiful character work for Mulder and Scully, but also shoehorned in a lackluster monster (delightfully gross as it was). There was at least one episode I completely hated, while others were either in the “fantastic” or “I liked parts of it” camp. I recognize that this is not the highest of praise, but I am also not left disappointed in the way I was when “The Truth” aired or I Want to Believe was released.
For instance, despite Scully’s wig and often-raspy voice (I really hope Gillian Anderson just had a cold), I liked how Mulder and Scully were presented to us. I’m not invested in their romance, though I’ve always loved their overall relationship as a whole, but I think re-introducing them as partners (professionally and romantically) who have split apart and are now rebuilding their bond worked. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were able to reprise those roles in a way that shows evolution and still feels familiar, highlighting exactly how much those characters are the heart of the series. I know there’s some panic out there that Miller and Einstein could be Mulder and Scully replacements, but I remain optimistic that they’re not and that Fox knows better after no one enjoyed seeing Mulder and Scully apart in seasons eight and nine, even if they eventually grew to begrudgingly like Doggett and Reyes.
I don’t know how often I need The X-Files to come back. I do know I want a season 11, with slightly better pacing. While I want this mythology story, which clearly involves William in some way, to finish being told, I’m still OK with the possibility of The X-Files returning occasionally, Sherlock-style for some solid Monster of the Week episodes if it lives beyond a season 11. If that happens, I think we could still enjoy Mulder, Scully and some creepiness — without all the usual convoluted-ness or the awkward pacing of this past season — while still remaining true to the spirit of the show. And if that all comes to be, then I think this revival — warts and all — will have ended up doing what it should have done all along.
Max: Looking back on it, the six-episode order really did more harm than good. David and Gillian’s commitments — to Aquarius and The Fall respectively — meant that the production was on a time crunch. Yes, most of the episodes back in the day were packed with plot and information, but that was in a 20-plus episode season. Here, Carter and company had to restart a labyrinthine mythology plus conceive of new monsters and character development beats in the space of less than six hours of running time. The effect: half-baked ideas and a muddling of the alien conspiracy arc that was supposed to clear up and refocus events after things went off the rails.
But I will say this, aside from the Darin Morgan episode which rightly will be placed amongst his other stellar efforts on The X-Files, I really have grown to like “Founder’s Mutation.” The story mechanics could have used another once-over, but on the whole it was a deliciously creepy hour of television with a good number of memorable scenes. It is the kind of episode that people didn’t talk about as much back then but still had a punch and resonance, and yet it still managed to integrate Mulder and Scully wondering about what happened to William and what their life could have been into main plot, something that “Home Again” came up short in trying to do.
And even though the season ended on a huge cliffhanger that managed to frustrate, fluster, and anger the X-Phile faithful, I think I can commend Chris Carter for the decision to do something that has never been done before on the show or in the films. Throughout the course of the series, the mythology was always about some kind of nefarious plot, a conspiracy of men involving themselves with an alien menace working toward an event in the unknown future. Well, in “My Struggle II” the chickens began to come home to roost, and despite us not knowing whether or not this was the big “colonization” bandied about over the years, it is a definite turning point — plans and plotting turning into action.
Radhika pretty much covered a lot of what else there can be said about the major points about plot, character, and arc — the wasting of Walter Skinner and The Lone Gunmen notwithstanding — but only time will tell if this group of episodes was worth it, or if this was just some misguided attempt to cash in nostalgia which seems to be how projects are decided nowadays. For me, I think there is ample evidence for the former, if only for some things like Guy Mann — a tremendously memorable creation and a brutally hilarious presence. We laughed because his experiences with being human are true. And isn’t that what was one of the driving forces of The X-Files? Interrogations and explorations into the more outre parts of our existence. We watched because we want to believe, and I think we still do want to believe. I know I do.