Dark, funny, goofy and muddled, The X-File’s return is one of variety, but also of wild inconsistency. It’s not the triumphant return many fans had hoped for, but it certainly had moments where it recaptured that ’90s magic.
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are back in the shoes of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, investigators of the unexplainable, for the first time since 2008’s The X-Files movie sequel I Want To Believe, and for the first episode it’s almost as though they’ve been dragged back in unwillingly. It’s not just them though, but also the show’s writers, it would seem, ensuring that the tenth season gets off to a bumpy start. Clunky dialogue, lazy acting, confused mythology – it’s just not great at all. But it does improve, thankfully.
The six episode run essentially boils down to two excellent middle episodes, sandwiched by two average episodes, which are in turn bookended by two dire episodes, the season’s opener and closer. When it’s good, it’s very good. But when it’s bad, you’ll wish that they didn’t bother. The worst offending episodes feature a similar trait, in that they simply forget what made the series fun in the first place. This combined with a wasted guest star in Joel McHale (Community), whose character Tad O’Malley is one of the more annoying we’re likely to see this year, as well as the misusage of the series’ biggest bad guy The Smoking Man (William B. Davis) leaves a bitter taste.
With such a restricted number of episodes, and having been billed initially as an “event series”, you’d have perhaps have been forgiven for thinking that there would be a clear through line or story arc. A focused road to take these beloved characters down. An actual purpose. You would, however, be wrong. Rather it plumps for a disjointed Monster of the Week approach, leaving the show tonally all over the place. When we get round to the finale we just don’t get any real pay off, mostly because the majority of the set up for it came from a poor first episode, with four standalone episodes in between disregarding the final goal that the series was heading towards.
Yet having moaned on about the season’s disappointments, there was actually a fair amount that I liked. Episodes two through five play out almost as an X-Files greatest hits, touching upon the scarier elements of the show, before lurching into spectacularly silly, but really quite amazing territory with Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords) making an appearance as the Were-Monster, and Mulder taking a bizarre drug-induced trip. It doesn’t make for particularly even viewing, but you certainly never know what you’re going to get.
After they dust off the cobwebs from the first episode, it is actually quite the pleasure to see Mulder and Scully back together. If there’s one reason why there have been ten seasons and two movies based on the show, it’s these two character’s chemistry. They work as well now as they did back in 1993, and as long as that’s the case The X-Files will still have that special pull. That’s on the condition that Scully stops saying “Mulder” in literally every sentence. And they both stop telling us that they “want to believe”, or that “the truth is out there”. We get it, OK…
Rating (out of 5):