A Few Thoughts on The X-Files – Season 10

The X-Files Season 10, despite some reviews saying it lost a step, couldn’t have more captured the original show. It was the classic mixture of absolutely-off-the-cuff bullshit sold as its “mythology,” a single genius episode buried within, a couple worthy standalones, and one absolutely atrocious piece of garbage. A.K.A. Season 10 was a microcosm of the original 202 episodes that aired from 1993 to 2002.

Episodes

  1. My Struggle
  2. Founder’s Mutation
  3. Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster
  4. Home Again
  5. Babylon
  6. My Struggle II

By my estimation, the show went 3-for-3, its biggest strength being the reunion of talent behind and in front of the camera. All of the good stuff was done the two returning stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, though Anderson unsurprisingly does better work, and by X-Files veterans like James Wong and Darin Morgan who return to the material like no time has passed (despite all the show’s flaws, its writer’s room was often exemplary).

Morgan previously wrote four classic X-Files episodes, “Humbug,” “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” and “The War of the Coprophrages” and played the fan-favorite Flukeman in Season 2’s “The Host.” So it’s no surprise that his written-and-directed episode “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” was head-and-shoulders above the rest. It is a brilliant exercise in existential absurdism that embodies everything about the best X-Files episodes, with the added tragicomedy inherent in Morgan’s writing.

“Home Again” (NOT a sequel to the classic Season 4 “Home” as many like me hoped) is a Wong joint and brought horror elements missing from other installments. Like most episodes, its plot is shaky and a little weak but its themes and perverse tone manage to overcome it. Any day there’s a trash monster going around ripping people apart by hand, it’s a good day in my book.

Meanwhile, “Founder’s Mutation” was a little more generic but was a welcome shift to standalones after the astonishingly-bad, mythology-heavy opener (DIGRESSION: Chris Carter, if you’re reading, the show should just be standalones. Seriously, fuck this mythology. It would give a pretzel a heart attack: END DIGRESSION).

The three bad episodes of the revival have one thing in common: creator Chris Carter. As an extraordinarily hands-off showrunner, his show has always cultivated an auteur flavor, giving television writers like Morgan, Frank Spotnitz and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan the chance to imprint it with their passions and personal flavor. Carter’s auterism, however, is didactic and often boring.

Let’s be blunt: the “My Struggle” two-parter was not good. In fact, they were pretty awful in almost every way. Carter, who wrote and directed both as well as the also-terrible “Babylon,” is the George Lucas of The X-Files, i.e. a creator totally divorced from what makes his work great.

In the premiere alone, Mulder gives the most muddled conspiratorial speech since the end of JFK, unconvincingly rewriting the last 20 years of the show’s mythology. Carter madly tries to fit the show’s many catchphrases (I want to believe! The truth is out there!) wherever it is needlessly obvious. Meanwhile Joel McHale’s right-wing personality Tad O’Malley convinces him of 21st conspiracies like 9/11-was-a-false-flag seem unnecessarily politicized for this show. Conspiracies in the 90s – aliens! monsters! demons! – were a lot less offensive.

The aformentioned “Babylon” is truly one of the worst hours of television I have witnessed. From the disgusting blend of casual racism and Islamophobia, to the nonsense “plot” of giving Mulder magic mushrooms to make a psychic connection with a comatose terrorist (it’s even worse in action) to the fiftieth set of Mulder-Scully dopplegangers, Miller and Einstein played by Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose. Carter tried to wedge comedy in with the new agents and Mulder’s trip (which includes a dance number). None of it worked.

Despite all of these flaws, I will watch this show ad infinitum just to discover gems like “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster.” I’m bullish but I’d be lying if I said this revival wasn’t discouraging. Yet, I feel each truly-great X-Files episodes makes it all worth it and it’s not a feeling I have about almost any other show. So I’m glad despite the underwhelming nature of Season 10, there is already talk of another go-around.

About Sam Flynn

Wasting oxygen since 1992, Sam thanks the gods he doesn't believe in everyday his parents didn't discard him as an infant. It would have been the sensible thing to do.
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