Previously, on “The X-Files”…
Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are FBI agents who investigate weird crimes. They were partners for a lot of years, and then they were in some sort of more personal relationship for a lot of years, and now they are working together again and don’t ask us for any sort of clarity on the timeline for any of that. Scully did get pregnant once and had a son that they keep saying is Mulder’s, even though after 15 years we’re still not totally sure just how the child was conceived (go with it). Oh, and there might be an evil government conspiracy working to take over the world — with science and/or aliens.
This Week’s Dossier
Like a proper classic “X-Files” episode, “Founder’s Mutation” gets pretty complicated pretty quickly. Mulder and Scully show up at a high-tech genetics company to figure out why Sonny, one of its scientists, wigged out and committed suicide by (eep) shoving a steel rod into his own skull. In investigating the suicide victim’s life, our own agents are led to the genetics company’s founder, Dr. Augustus Goldman (Doug Savant), who’s been overseeing genetic medical experiments.
Goldman’s experiments are secret, and their official investigation gets quickly shut down by the Department of Defense crying out, “Classified!” But that doesn’t stop Mulder and Scully from tracking down not just Dr. Goldman’s lab full of genetically deformed children, but Dr. Goldman’s former wife, who was locked up years ago for killing her unborn child (like, cutting it out of herself with a butcher’s knife). Despite seeming pretty crazy, it turns out that she had a reason: Dr. Goldman had been experimenting on not just their older daughter, Molly, but their unborn son, Kyle (who survived his unconventional birth), giving them both superpowers. Mulder and Scully track down Kyle, whose enhanced mental powers turn out to be the source of the crazy noise that drove Sonny to suicide at the beginning of the episode. It’s Kyle’s only way of communicating with people, which he’s been using to try to track down Molly. Reunited in Dr. Goldman’s lab, the brother and sister basically explode Dr. Goldman’s brain and rush off into the night.
Mulder and Scully are also forced to ask themselves some questions about their mysteriously conceived son, William, which triggers fantasies for both of them about what it’d have been like had they not given him up for adoption as a baby. Fantasy, though, is a tricky word: Not only do both sequences basically feature them as single parents, but both of them end in their personal worst nightmares for what could have happened to their son. Scully imagines William being afflicted by the alien-looking genetic order she was working to help treat in “My Struggle” (the previous episode), and Mulder imagines William being abducted in a scene identical to his memories of his own sister’s abduction.
Wait, Explain It to Me Like I’m Five?
Crazy genetic experiments might be part of a secret DoD scheme. Mulder and Scully miss their son. Mulder and Scully are sad.
So the opening sequence, in which a letter opener gets used very, very incorrectly, felt pretty graphic. But all we can say is “wow” regarding those children in Goldman’s lab, whose genetic disorders border on nightmarish, followed up by the most disturbing birth scene this side of “Rosemary’s Baby.” Writer/director James Wong was one of the writers (with Glen Morgan) of the Season 4 episode “Home,” which featured one of the most disturbing genetic mutations seen on screen in the 1990s (no offense meant, Mrs. Peacock). Clearly, he came back to top himself.
Well, somebody could have gotten some action, but noooooo, Mulder just had to play the prude and turn down Gupta’s kind offer of a bathroom blowjob.
Beyond an emotional conversation between Mulder and Scully (that quickly shifted to the sexy topic of whether or not Mulder thinks that her pregnancy was caused by similar genetic experimenting), the closest anyone got to laid was Sonny’s secret romance with Gupta. And things ultimately didn’t work out so well for Sonny.
Some Deep and Relevant Thoughts About Hair
Holy smokes, Gillian Anderson’s hair looks incredible in Scully’s fantasy sequence. Like, what happened there? A different wig? Something happened, is the point. And it looks fab.
Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure that Mulder has gotten a haircut since “My Struggle,” but what does it mean? Mysteries abound.
If you were expecting a big unpacking scene, no such luck, but we are back in the original X-Files office, complete with the Fox Mulder nameplate. Alas, there’s no extra desk for Scully, but she does have some fancy new tech to play with. To be specific, there’s a nice flatscreen monitor with a keyboard attached, which she gets to balance on her knees…
She’d probably prefer having a desk.
But It’s Not 1993 Anymore
We get the second Edward Snowden reference of the season so far! Also, Mulder cracks an Obamacare joke. But nothing too jarring beyond that.
Fun Ultra-Nerd Facts
Lots of friendly Vancouver faces in this episode, including Aaron Douglas (who played the Chief on “Battlestar Galactica”) and Omari Newton (a time-traveling terrorist on “Continuum”). One of the best things about Vancouver productions is this sort of overlap. Hopefully, we have yet more of it to look forward to.
Also, in a roundtable interview with Indiewire conducted earlier this month, executive producer Chris Carter confirmed that, while this episode is airing second, “Founder’s Mutation” was originally intended to be the fifth episode of the season. Thus, it wasn’t planned to be the first of the stand-alone episodes, which might explain why there’s very little set-up of the new offices (or Mulder’s haircut).
“I’m not going to ask you if you just said what I think you just said because I know it’s what you just said.” (Most Awkward Quote)
Watching Dad Mulder interact with Fiction William at the end of the episode was cute, but the only thing more dorky than Mulder quoting John F. Kennedy’s famous speech about going to the moon was the kid quoting it along with him. (Dorky, but admittedly in character. Mulder sure loves his speeches.)
“Dear Diary: Today my heart lept when Agent Scully suggested ‘spontaneous human combustion.'” (Best Quote)
Okay, plot-wise, the winner here is the ultra-creepy “I didn’t kill my baby. I let him out.” Mrs. Goldman really gets to the point there, in that moment. But Mulder’s heartfelt “You’re never just anything to me, Scully” is probably the moment we’ll remember most fondly from “Founder’s Mutation.” In an episode about two very lonely people whose previous years together are right now keeping them apart, this attempt to connect was a touching one.
Check it out — a real and proper episode of “The X-Files”! This is what we remember fondly: a sometimes gross and sometimes scary (but ultimately fun) bit of science fiction vaguely built on fact. Mulder has some out-there theories! Scully does an autopsy! They both draw their guns and run around! There are parts that don’t flow quite so well — especially the transitions into Mulder and Scully’s imaginings about William — but this is more like it.