With the first negative reviews of the new “X-Files” opening the floodgates to reactions from massively underwhelmed critics, things looked dire for the long-awaited revival. The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman called the first episode, the only one of six available for review, “a very underwhelming hour that will force even diehard fans (and yes, I was one of them) to consider whether pushing onward is really worth the time,” and Variety’s Brian Lowry said , “it’s simply hard to escape the prevailing malaise of this being a deal-driven exercise, a chance to cash in on the name recognition of the title.” Even Lowry’s Variety colleague Maureen Ryan, formerly the founding editor of The Official “X-Files” Magazine, called it “a chaotic, disappointing mess” on Twitter.
Keith Uhlich, one of the most astute critics and dedicated X-philes in the business, made it clear he disagreed with the mounting consensus, and Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson pointed out that the return of writer-director stalwarts like Glen Morgan, Darin Morgan, and James Wong meant good things could conceivably be in store. “The X-Files” was, in some ways, an anthology show masquerading as an ongoing narrative, which allowed for a much greater variety in tone, and even quality, than your standard TV drama.
But critics had nothing else to go on until yesterday, when Fox, likely reacting to the bad buzz and just getting the jump on today’s TCA panel, added two more episodes to the press site. And guess what: They’re better! “Founder’s Mutation,” written and directed by James Wong, is a gory procedural that begins with Mulder and Scully investigating an apparent suicide at a mysterious corporation with ties to the Defense Department, and Darin Morgan’s “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” is, as you might expect from the title, a lighthearted take on classic monster-of-the-week episodes, with a cast including Kumail Nanjiani and Rhys Darby. (There’s also a brief appearance in the former by “Hannibal’s” Kacey Ruhl, which gives support to my fan theory that Abigail Hobbs is still alive, goddammit.) Although Scully has a smartphone now, the new episodes are very faithful to the look and feel of the old episodes, and especially in “Were-Monster,” you can feel David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson settling back into their old you-set-’em-up/I’ll-knock-’em-down rhythms, picking up where they left off. “I forgot how much fun these cases could be,” Dana Scully says as she’s looking over a freshly mutilated corpse. Thanks for reminding us.
The third new “X-Files” episode, the Darin Morgan ep, is finally what fans were hoping for. It’s hilarious and conceptually cool.
— Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint) January 15, 2016
Watching more #XFILES, with expectations corrected. Enjoyed Darin Morgan’s sweet meta-monster offering, a tribute to the late Kim Manners.
— Jeff Jensen (@EWDocJensen) January 15, 2016
The X-Files returns at roughly season seven levels. The mythology is a mess, but the standalones can be a lot of fun. #TCA16
— Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti) January 15, 2016