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Review: ‘The X-Files’ Revival Shows Its Age in Season 10 Premiere

Review: 'The X-Files' Revival Shows Its Age in Season 10 Premiere

After more than a decade off the air, “The X-Files” is returning to a vastly different television landscape than when it left. While that may cause pause for many skeptics, Chris Carter’s ambitious and groundbreaking sci-fi series helped break ground on the land now lush with strong and unique voices. Many now-famous writers got their start working within the monsters-of-the-week and mythology structure of the Fox drama, including Vince Gilligan (“Breaking Bad”) and Alex Gansa (“Homeland”), leading optimists to hope that the new season/miniseries/event series/revival of “The X-Files” would be able to slide right in among the elite television shows it helped create — or, at least, represent its past self respectably under modern light.
Instead, after just one episode of the upcoming six, “The X-Files” feels like a faded relic, barely clinging to what once made it great.
Premiering in the U.S. at the New York Comic Con, Chris Carter’s first broadcast television episode since his landmark series went off the air in 2002 couldn’t have been shown to an audience better-suited to receive it warmly. And, yes, excitement could be felt buzzing around the expansive conference hall as the MC warmed up the crowd, fans danced to the DJ’s blasting mix of hits and “X-Files” superfan Kumail Nanjiani introduced the first episode with unparalleled passion and vigor. Yet during the screening itself, the audience was largely quiet. Cheers burst out when Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) first appeared on screen, and the unaltered opening titles were met with rapturous applause. Otherwise, most of the episode — which could’ve passed for fan fiction if not for the main cast’s presence and big budget production moments — passed by without much stirring, laughter, cries or gasps. 

READ MORE: ‘X-Files’ Fans, Let’s Revisit Just How Bad ‘I Want to Believe’ Was

Frankly, it’s hard to blame them. Though fans were appreciative for having finally been given the gift of more “X-Files,” the post-screening atmosphere was notably muted. (Also, many fans likely knew what Indiewire’s TV Editor Liz Miller has pointed out in the past: that the first episode, written by Chris Carter and dealing primarily with a complicated new conspiracy theory, will likely not be the best of the new season.) With the exception of one fan verbally berating Carter for a choice he made in the new season — a choice kept secret by this spoiler-wary reporter — most questions were geared more toward nostalgic blubbering and hero worship.
Which, perhaps, is an idea that’s worked against the revival from the beginning. Nostalgia is a double-edged sword that can make up for some superficial flaws or enhance them to the point of damaging what came before. The first episode is far from the latter, but it does verify concerns many viewers have had since the “I Want to Believe” movie debacle (a disaster as close as anything to come to tarnishing the sterling reputation of one of television’s best series to date): “The X-Files” is one complex beast. After years of various theories, monsters, abductions, aliens, proof and lies, reopening the cases, so to speak, is only advisable with a deft, focused touch. 
Breaking news: Carter doesn’t have it. Opening with a long-winded voiceover (that even Duchovny psuedo-complained about during the post-screening Q&A) and awkwardly infusing old lines to new events, the first hour of the revival never really finds its stride. 

“I think we’ve got to come out and punch them in the mouth,” Carter said after the screening. “I think we knew we needed to make a statement. We needed to be bold and show them that we’re back.”
Episode 1 doesn’t have all the ill-fated effects of being sucker-punched squarely in the face, but it does elicit a rather dizzying reaction. So much is said, so many pieces are put in motion, and so little of it actually holds the meaning for the audience that it appears to carry for the characters. Much of the plot itself was too convoluted to spell back for you if I wanted to (and, again, I do not. Indiewire maintains its spoiler-free review policy). What I can say is the motivation for these characters is grounded squarely in actions taking place off screen, and that, in and of itself, is a huge problem for the current show.
Any comeback worth making is brought about by demand. Not demand from the viewers, but through events taking place in the story. What Carter has chosen to bring his veteran stars off the bench feels as paper thin as Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster, unceremoniously ripped in half during the episode (and in the season’s trailer). New characters are treated as stereotypes, with a miscast Joel McHale proving the most distracting and the superb “Americans” supporting player Annet Mahendru being utterly wasted in a role that’s never properly developed. 
Perhaps most aggravating, though, is a tendency played out to its breaking point in past episodes. Mulder and Scully always appeared, to the naked eye, to be partners first, friends second, and lovers a distant sixteenth. The undercurrent of sexual tension and assumed off-screen romance drove viewers batty; many would cling onto an exchanged look or brief touch of the hands as evidence of a deeper, stronger connection than is explicitly depicted onscreen. And really, it worked. By the time the series ended, Mulder and Scully were the dramatic equivalent of Sam and Diane or Ross and Rachel in that we desperately, desperately wanted to see them end up together. 

While we do discover their relationship status in the premiere episode, that same tendency to trust in the audience’s understanding of the unsaid has been shifted to all the wrong moments and for entirely off-base reasons. Strange implications connect without any sense of justification, leading to repeated emotional fumbling. Be it person-to-person or work-related, it’s hard to say for sure why anyone acts and reacts as they do in the first hour. 

Keeping in mind this is only one-sixth of the series set to debut this January, there’s plenty of time to recover. If the coming episodes — written by fan favorite “X-Files” veterans and focusing more on monsters than mythology — can hone, focus or somehow support the huge scope established all too quickly, Season 10 could still be a very welcome revival. But after one hour, I seem stuck in a strange place of wishing there were more episodes coming — giving them more time to work out the kinks — and wishing we would’ve never awoken this massive beast at all. While things could get better, they could also get a lot worse.

Grade: C+

READ MORE: ‘The X-Files’ Revival: What We Know and What We Don’t Want to Know (So Far)

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Comments

Ashley

Are you kidding?? Episode 1 is seiously the best xfiles episode I have seen!! I am so excited for this to be back on tv!

Descarte

I’m seeing a long standing series of bias in these comments. I’m as excited as anyone else to see a new season of X-Files surface, but lets not kid ourselves to ignore some glaring issues with its initial impression. Die hard fans should remember older episodes of X-files that firmly entrench the lore in a conspiracy that definitely involves conflict with an alien influence. Does anyone remember the episode of the Alien being living on earth being infatuated with baseball?… That episode alone throws off Mulder’s new found conviction in the idea that the conspiracy surfacing in season 10 is solely influenced by humans only. The new conspiracy theory of season 10 essentially comes out of left field. Its sort of clinging by a thread to an older plot point from an older episode of X-Files that explored Department of Defense involvement around the time Mulder began experiencing clairvoyant and telepathic abilities, which still eventually highlight a definite alien influence and motivation for alien perceptions of humanity as being a threat. This new season, as of episode 1, is throwing out the idea of an alien threat entirely now. Its rewriting the lore and I think that is treading on risky ground, which really offsets my reaction to this new season of X-files. I just hope they work out these issues by the mid-season. I don’t want to see X-files end up tripping over itself and killing its 10 year legacy.

sean harrington

It received 21.4 million views. India. Lmfao

Mk

Loved every second!!

Dr Rocker

I could not disagree with you more. The show is fantastic. You obviously are not a fan in general. Mulder is now nearly insane and that is what Carter wanted to show. Mulder has been suffering alone with severe depression for years and likely has Bipolar Disorder. His mania was in full gear during episode 1. I thought it was great and consistent with a great show that is true to its characters. You wanted a 25 year old Mulder so watch the reruns. As for me, I love the new series!

Alex Quintino

VC é um babaca, faz melhor idiota , puta lixo de comentári. VSF

Hoowa

I also thought it sucked.

Muldfeld

This seems quite a thoughtful review. I just hope the writing is better than 8/10s of Season 9; that was truly awful. Carter and Spotnitz were always my favorite writers though and the mythology through Season 7 my favorite episodes, though Gilligan’s "Paper Hearts" was the best of Season 4. I especially like Carter’s concern for political issues; that’s what’s missing from so much sci-fi not written by Ronald D. Moore or Ira Steven Behr — a complete lack of any willingness to challenge society to think; most follows J.J. Abrams’ prescription of total escapism and poorly written at that.

I can’t wait for "The X-Files"’ return and hope for some quality moments along the lines of Seasons 2 though 5.

JUAN

Let me review your review: Grade D-, Mr Travers. I’ve seen the premiere. And it seems you either never enjoyed the show (so why start now?) or didn’t actually pay attention to the premiere.

Mike D

Buddy, you clearly have no love for the series – don’t review it.

Jerry

"and, again, I do not. Indiewire maintains its spoiler-free review policy."

When was that policy enacted? Because this is the site who’s "Place Beyond The Pines" review out of TIFF had 0 problem mentioning that a certain someone exited the movie at the 45 minute mark. Pretty much ruined the experience of that movie for me.

GOD

You wrong….

I still feel a lot of bitterness and bad faith in two criticisms. Be saying that incorporates the conspiracy and other wait……. guys….. no …..really ???

It’s like a new Rocky have criticize it by what it is "still" a boxing history and made self (yours …the spin off is EXACTLY that’s …. and yet the critics it falls above… crazy ^^).

No, but I do not mind that we can be disappointed episode……ok, but say many stupid and bad faith….. why…. just to say the opposite of are neighbors…or annoy the fans…. but if cases stop the hypocrisy….finally, the US I’m not surprised.

Bretty

Lots of valid points made in this article, very hard for a show that was ground-breaking all those years ago, to come back fresh and interesting…

Deluge

Your metric for establishing whether an episode is good or not is how many people talk over it during the airing? Ok.

Tex

Don’t care what this glib, own fart smelling reviewer says, the X-Files is back. I got chills watching that clip.

Nicole

Perhaps I’m just a die hard fan, but I LOVED the second movie, and have a feeling I will love this series no matter what it’s like. Any X- files is good X-files!

gmc

The reviewer may have misread the whole X Files concept entirely. Why is the original review focussed on audible audience response? The X Files was never one for the clapometer or whoop gauge.

I think perhaps the author is confusing this drama with another 90s show such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The point of the X Files was it is one for the mind, for the thoughtful, within its perhaps outlandish seeming, endlessly varied weekly contexts. It was never really meant to hit viewers in the face with punches. Believe it or not, behind nearly every single edition of the hundreds of shows made of X Files was some kind of a relation to something very serious in a profound way of life, which we don’t usually speak about, within human existence. Examinations and questions into elements of the human condition which form the most commonplace, widespread conspiracy ever. This is, those parts of life which people quietly decide, typically, to cover up and rarely discuss. What was surprising about the X Files was that such a serious based concept could maintain long term populist appeal in the land of the shallow (TV and popular movie country).

A new series after years may find itself lacklustre to those looking for moving pictures which pull punches. It’s hard to see that producers would be focussing on shine essentially with such a familiar format, and when the mainstay of the target audience will be in or closer to middle age than nearly any other new series. There are reasons for continuing with this concept, and perhaps dramatic entertainment itself may even come a second to basic, underlying social functions which a program such as the X Files may pertain to addressing.

Harley

they must not know the definition of a true fan

BB

Still, I’m looking forward to the Scully-centered episodes (especially 6) and to Morgans’ writing. I hope that for "My Struggle 2", Carter managed giving Anderson the quality writing she deserves, though I’m a bit skeptic after this review.

Lo

Wow did this person watch any X-Files ever?

Rick Whatley

Another tired voice who wants attention from mother. You seem to be the only critic with such a silly opinion. The show has had near universal acclaim..but hey you got my attention.

Blackwood

Indiewire, ladies and gentlemen — the turd in everyone’s swimming pool.

Mike troncoso

This is literally the only negative review of revival that has appeared online…not like indiewire to try and stand out from the crowd…ahem

    Dmdcash

    LOL…rotten tomatoes destroyed CC’s three garbage eps. CC sucks, he has to go….

Fud Stud

I just found your JW review. Thank you… Most people liked that garbage. It was basically a cross between a terrible NBC drama and a sitcom but it wasn’t aware that it was either of those two. Terrible movie.

Fud Stud

So i’m guessing you hated Jurassic World. It was nothing more than a nostalgia laden mess.

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