TAD O'MALLEY: What Bill O'Reilly knows about the truth could fill an eyedropper.
Men in black. Roswell. Government conspiracies.
The X-Files is back.
When last we saw FBI agents Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), the government had officially shut down the X-Files, and our heroes had set off to try their hands at a normal life—together.
But, it seems that the last thirteen years have been less than rosy; when their story resumes, Mulder and Scully are no longer together. Mulder is apparently a depressive shut-in while Dana has returned to medicine.
Not at all what longtime fans had hoped for, but perhaps this new case will change all that.
TV shock-jock Tad O'Malley (Joel McHale) needs Mulder's help in revealing a government conspiracy—it's frankly amazing our government has enough time to do anything else, what with the number of secret projects they're working on. Maybe that explains all the potholes I have to dodge on my morning commute…
A young woman, Sveta (Annet Mahendru), claims to have been repetitively abducted and experimented on. But her claims don't end there: apparently, she's also an alien/human hybrid (the most recent in a long line in X-Files history), has had several alien babies stolen before they were even born, and has both telepathic and telekinetic abilities.
That's a lot to put on one girl's plate.
While Scully gets to work testing Sveta for biological proof of her story, Mulder is shown an ARV (Alien Replica Vehicle) created from recovered alien tech and powered by free energy.
And just like that, Mulder's off on another paranoia-laced rant, once again convinced that the government is using phony alien abductions/invasions to distract the public and further their quest to snuff out freedom and seize absolute control.
O'Malley is determined to reveal everything on his show. Scully is against it, and tells Sveta that her tests came back negative, which definitely kills the impassioned mood.
Almost immediately, the girl recants her previous testimony; a military squad destroys the ARV and the scientists behind it; O'Malley's show is pulled without warning; and when Dana's re-tests come back showing Sveta's genetics have indeed been altered—as well as her own—she tells Mulder she's changed her mind. That the Truth (with a capital “T”) does indeed need to come out.
I have to admit: at this point, it feels like Mulder has seesawed between “true alien believer” and “cynical anti-government conspiracy theorist” one time too many. This is a story we've seen before in the season five “Redux” and “The Red and the Black,” where Mulder's deepest convictions were overturned by clever mouthpieces, only to be reaffirmed by later experiences.
O'Malley's spiel about the negative influences of consumerism, political lies, and media manipulation is an overall stirring one, but this isn't anything we haven't already heard on this show. So much of this episode, from the flashbacks to the Roswell crash to the fear-mongering conversations, feels rehashed and too familiar.
Given the limited nature of this new run, I was hoping to hear and see something new. The return of Mulder and Scully deserves a truly world-shattering case or threat, some new monster or menace that allows each of our heroes to shine in their signature way. The plot is simply too recycled, the dialogue so familiar I could practically mouth along on a first viewing.
Then there's the problem with the current direction of Mulder and Scully. This detached, relatively impartial tone to their partnership does neither the actors nor the characters any justice. I find it extremely hard to believe that Scully would have left Mulder over something like depression, considering her stalwart loyalty and commitment over the course of the previous nine seasons.
If Dana could stand by Mulder in the face of madness, paranoia, alien assassins, abductions, and government interference for a solid decade, I refuse to accept that she would walk out of his life over something like depression. As an empathetic medical woman, surely she would have helped him with his treatment.
And on the flip side—given Mulder's devotion to Dana—I would naturally assume he'd do whatever it takes to make their relationship work. The man has been willing to sacrifice his own life, freedom, and sanity for her behalf. If they could stand by each other in the midst of Dana's fight with cancer, of course they would do the same for his depression.
Their split feels contrived and forced—honestly, it's lazy writing. I'm exceedingly tired of screenwriters who feel the only way to make a couple interesting is to give them conflict via a break-up or personal betrayal. Mulder and Scully were interesting and compelling for nine seasons as functional partners/lovers. Breaking them up purely to (potentially) put them back together again is frustrating and trite.
It wasn't all bad. Joel McHale is pretty perfectly cast as the slick Tad O'Malley; he's very good at playing charming, smarmy, and eloquent. Gillian Anderson has only, impossibly, become more luminous over the years. Mitch Pileggi is definitely rocking the more-salt-than-pepper beard. I really appreciated the O'Reilly dig. Mulder's snark is still in evidence.
SCULLY: That's quite an entrance you make there.
MULDER: She's shot men with less provocation.
I won't say that I hated this premiere, only that I was disappointed—which is so much worse, don't you think? This was an opportunity to rejuvenate one of the greatest sci-fi series of all time; a chance to take beloved characters and give them new monsters, a better budget, and slicker special effects to shine in a present, pressing setting. There could have been a real urgency and vitality here.
Instead, it just feels like the same shit, different day. Here's hoping tonight's episode is a step up.
Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.