Season 10 of The X-Files brings back many elements that made the original series great but also omits important ones.
I’ll admit it: I’m an X-Phile – an obsessive fan of this once great 90’s television phenomenon. So it was with much excitement and trepidation that I eagerly awaited the airing of the new series. Would it reach the heights established in previous seasons or would it tarnish this once great series? The answer is a bit of both.
Episode One, My Struggle (10x01), reintroduces Mulder and Scully since the events of I Want to Believe, introduces several new characters, and establishes a new mythology. Unfortunately, towards the end it tries to introduce too many theories and struggles to do most of them justice. Moreover, the episode rehashes some mythology elements from Redux (5x02) and Redux II (5x03) without acknowledging it, and disrespects much of the mythology from the first nine seasons. Nonetheless, the characters are respected and have developed since I Want to Believe, and there is enough mystery and intrigue to set up for future mythology episodes and keep viewers watching.
Founders Mutation (10x05) picks up threads from the opening episode about the government’s experimentation on humans and ties it together with the emotional ramifications of putting William (Mulder and Scully’s son) up for adoption. While the emotional scenes are touching, their limited number means they don’t carry the weight to move audiences deeply. The case itself constantly evolves as new evidence is uncovered, yet so much of it seems unrelated that it seems schizophrenic at times. Therefore, it comes across as emotionally flat, hard to follow, and the least effective episode of this season.
While Mulder and Scully Meet the Were Monster (10x03) has a terrible title, the episode sees comic genius Darin Morgan return to pen an episode (his first since season 3’s Jose Chung’s From Outer Space), and follows in the footsteps the other four classics he penned. Mulder begins to doubt his pursuit of the truth, while the agents pursue someone who can transform himself into a beast that kills people. As the hilarity ensues, the episode interweaves a potent message about being human, a clever twist, and plenty of easter eggs for X-Philes to locate. Despite being Scully-lite, this poignant and hysterical episode is the highlight of the season.
In Home Again (10x02), the agents investigate a case where a monster comes to the aid of the homeless to protect them from government machinations. Although initially mundane, the case ends with an interesting twist and speaks of life’s impermanence, the ability to give and take life, and the responsibility inherent in creating life. Interweaved with this is an emotional sub-story about the ailing Mrs Scully and Scully’s shame about putting William up for adoption. With an excellent performance from Gillian Anderson, these scenes draw audiences into Scully’s emotional landscape. But on the whole, the episode is fairly average.
Babylon (10x04) is a poignant episode about the power of words and the effect they can have on people and society. Taking a similar quirky, comedic, and feel-good tone to other Carter directed episodes (Post-Modern Prometheus (5x06), Triangle (6x03), How the Ghosts Stole Christmas (6x08), and Improbable (9x14), it delves into the concept of duality (explored successfully in Syzygy (3x13) and mutilated in the abysmal Fight Club (7x20)). When terrorist bomb a club, agents Miller and Einstein, who parallel Mulder and Scully, draw on the expertise of The X-Files’ agents to communicate with one of the comatose bombers. Much hilarity ensues as each of the agents pit their theories against one another and Mulder “trips” on magic mushrooms. While some of the early humour is low key, like the aforementioned episodes, Babylon ends on a touching, feel-good moment between Mulder and Scully that will make audiences smile.
The season finale, My Struggle II (10x06), parallels the opening episode, but focuses on Scully. When several viral outbreaks threaten the world’s population, Scully and Einstein struggle to prove alien DNA in everyone’s genetic makeup causes it, while Miller searches for Mulder, who encounters an old foe. Unfortunately, Monica Reyes, reintroduced here, is dishonoured because she makes a decision that is out of character with who she is. Moreover, the grandiose scope feels too big even for The X-Files. Nonetheless, the threads left dangling in the opening episode are used much more effectively here to create a suspense-filled, drama-driven thriller reminiscence of previous mythology episodes.
Overall, this season has been about the writers re-locating the show’s voice and integrating a modern approach to storytelling by interweaving sub-stories into each episode’s narrative. Sadly, only a few episodes manage to do either successfully, let alone both. Moreover, much of the dialogue is overwritten, especially in the episodes written by Chris Carter (My Struggle, Babylon, My Struggle II).
Mark Snow's music retains its familiar tones, even reusing some cues from previous episodes. Instead of dating the series, this creates a sense of familiarity, drawing audiences into a comfortable state. Fortunately, Snow has updated his sound, giving the series a sense of aural progression.
Unfortunately, most of the episodes eschew the series’ traditional ‘hiding the evidence in shadows’ style, which used to make the unbelievable believable. This is further marred by filming during Vancouver’s summer, which lacks the dark atmosphere conveyed during seasons 1-5 and I Want to Believe. And many episodes are more of a nod to the series’ past than a progression of the series. This is evident in the original title sequence being used instead of a modern one, which dates the series more than anything, the lack of Scully’s name on the basement office’s door, and many other aspects like this.
Nonetheless, season 10 reveals that the show still has some validity in the modern era. With some tweaking and a focus on producing quality stories, future instalments of The X-Files have the potential to raise this once great series to the status it once had.
Overall: 3 stars.