(I know. I’m sure everyone’s using that headline, or some variant of. I can’t make myself care. The X-Files sure didn’t.)
When I first heard that The X-Files was returning, my interest was rather low. It’s not because I didn’t like The X-Files when it was on; I did, although certainly I wasn’t the show’s most diehard fan: I came into the series late, caught up on most, but not all, of it and gave up entirely after Mulder left. There are definitely episodes I never saw and whole plot arcs I don’t remember all these years later.
Still, I remember the show with fondness and I wanted to be excited about its revival. I just struggled with it because The X-Files ran for nine seasons and got two movies, and I’m generally of the opinion that anything that had so much time to tell its story doesn’t really need a comeback/sequel/revitalization. I’m much more interested in spending that energy bringing back worthwhile shows that were cancelled before their time.
But like I said, I didn’t expect The X-Files to be bad. And considering this revival was only six episodes, well, I felt honor bound to check it out.
You guys, I know I’ve said this before, but I’m saying it again: it shouldn’t even be possible to be this disappointed in a show when your expectations were only lukewarm at best.
And yet. Here we are. (Disclaimer: SPOILERS ahead.)
Of Season Ten’s six episodes, I have liked precisely one of them, and even the episode I did like (“Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” obviously) didn’t work for me on every level. (Parts of it were hilarious, though. Especially anything to do with Scully, who is clearly the best.) And to be clear: it’s not like the other five episodes were flawed or problematic but still interesting. At best, I was bored. At worst, I actively despised them.
I already discussed how I felt about the first two episodes, especially the bullshit retconning in the premiere and how Mulder’s Big Revelation didn’t feel earned to me in the slightest. But “Home Again” failed for me pretty badly, too, by horribly rushing Scully’s mother’s death and poorly tying it into the crappy adoption storyline. Gillian Anderson gave a great performance and I appreciated some of the callbacks, but everything about this story felt weirdly abrupt and just kind of dumb, so I couldn’t even emotionally invest in it the way I wanted to. (Medical oddness or inaccuracies bugged me a bit, too, which I’m much less forgiving about when the material is this crappy.)
And yet, somehow, “Home Again” was actually my second favorite episode of this season. That’s how bad the tenth season was. “Babylon” might have been the very worst. (It’s hard to be sure, with “My Struggle” and “My Struggle II” also sucking so hard). The Muslim-as-terrorist storyline was just the same, expected bullshit that needed to go away, you know, a decade ago. The medical inaccuracies were actually even worse. (When will people learn about central monitoring? Honestly. If someone hooked up to a telemetry machine codes, medical professionals outside the room will notice, and for Christ’s sake, 99% of people I’ve seen code don’t just drop from 120 to O in a second anyway. Hollywood’s love of the easy-to-understand flatline has given people lousy expectations of what death looks like.) The nurse was just nuts. Tripping Balls Mulder went on way too long; more importantly, his whole plan was the most batshit, bullshit thing I may have ever seen.
Seriously, guys. It’s one thing to create some kind of experimental SF telepathy machine, hook your detective and the mostly-dead guy up to it, and throw some psychedelics in to broaden the detective’s horizons or whatever. That’s Fringe. I can deal with that. Mulder, on the other hand, literally just took shrooms in the patient’s presence. That . . . does not work. A character should have to do more than get high near a braindead patient in order to make psychic contact with him and, by extension, solve the mystery of the week. (It’s not even a monster of the week. Why isn’t “Babylon” about investigating the mysterious trumpet noises? That might have felt like an X-Files episode.) Except, of course, that Mulder didn’t even take the shrooms because he actually took a placebo and
shitty writing the power of suggestion alone made him telepathically connect with Shiraz, all so that the show could poorly tie this total crap story to thematic shit about, like, faith or whatever? It’s so, so bad.
And then we have our finale “My Struggle II.” Le sigh.
I was initially surprised when I realized that the six-episode season wouldn’t be a continuing storyline because anything that short usually is. After “My Struggle,” of course, I was frankly relieved we were moving on to standalone episodes . . . but that also meant that this whole pandemic felt like it came out of nowhere, with Scully making ridiculously fast leaps that just seemed entirely out of character. The poorly named Agent Einstein is like, “Hey, maybe we slow our roll and talk about this semi-reasonably,” and the usually logical Scully is like, “There’s no time for reason!” and I’m like, “Sweet Jesus, WTF?”
The premise seemed weirdly anti-vaxxer, too, which I was pretty uncomfortable with. I guess there’s pro-vaccine stuff, too (as Scully saves everyone with a vaccine made from her–and say it with me now–ALIEN DNA), but that’s also kind of problematic since vaccines are preventative measures and can’t cure shit. Like, you know I don’t do science, and even I know this. And how quickly did Scully make up this magical antidote anyway? It seemed like I blinked, and Scully went from, “Oh, this is what I need to do!” to “I can save everyone now!” Like, she just ran around with what I’m convinced was merely a bag of normal saline and was like, “You’ll all be fine!” Except Mulder, of course, who was SUPER sick and could only be cured by their absent son, assuming they don’t all get blown up first. I’m finding myself super apathetic about such a fate.
Other things worth mentioning:
A: Why, in God’s name, wasn’t anyone wearing any form of PPE? We’ve got anthrax, we’ve got Totally Creepy Eye Disease, we’ve got probably every other form of illness and contagion imaginable, but you wouldn’t know it from the medical staff, who mostly couldn’t even bother with basic surgical masks, much less isolation gowns, respirators, bunny suits, etc. Of course, as the (stupidly sudden) plague increases in intensity, the hospital would surely start running out of equipment, but even in the beginning no one seems that concerned about basic safety for either themselves or their other patients. I take issue with this.
B. Mulder was apparently so non-essential to the plot that they just decided to have him needlessly confront the Cigarette Smoking Man, I guess, and then suddenly collapse? Yeah, okay.
C. Has anyone re-watched this episode to count how many times ALIEN DNA was said? I have a really bizarre urge to get a dog and name it Alien DNA now. “Aw, Alien DNA, did you have an accident? Alien DNA, stop eating my shoes!” Conversely, I suppose we could just have a mixed drinks competition. Give me your best cocktail recipe for Alien DNA: go!
On a similar note: we really don’t need to have someone say a variation on “I want to believe” in every single episode. We really really don’t.
The tenth season was bad on a pretty embarrassing level. I don’t even care about that cliffhanger. I have -4000% interest in coming back for an eleventh season.
Gillian Anderson, no question.
TENTATIVE SEASON GRADE:
D. And that’s taking “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” into account. I watch a lot of shows that semi-regularly frustrate me, but I haven’t disliked something this much since I watched a random episode of 2 Broke Girls.
Anything can be saved by shrooms, placebos, or alien DNA. Except maybe being blown up, but I suspect that Scully will simply throw her magical IV bag at the alien ship which will promptly liquify like the Wicked Witch of the West. Because that makes about as much as sense as anything else on this show.