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Did The X-Files’ Revival Permanently Damage Chris Carter’s Reputation?

Did The X-Files' Revival Permanently Damage Chris Carter's Reputation?

A bad revival shouldn’t damage a classic’s standing: The new six-episode run of “The X-FIles” could have consisted of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reading Selena Gomez lyrics aloud for six hours and it wouldn’t make “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” any less a great episode of TV. But reputations live in the present tense, and they’re always subject to revision. By commercial standards, the “X-Files” revival was a smashing success, with ratings strong enough to all but guarantee more episodes will be on the way. But critically, it was a trainwreck, and the blame is being laid squarely at creator Chris Carter’s feet. 

Take a look at some of the reaction’s to last night’s mini-season finale, “My Struggle II.”

Alan Sepinwall, Hitfix: Chris Carter created “The X-Files.” He created Mulder and Scully. He cast Duchovny and Anderson. He dreamed up the mythology, and the Monster of the Week structure that alternated with it. He hired Glen Morgan, James Wong, Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan, Darin Morgan, Howard Gordon, and everyone else who walked through that writers room. Chris Carter is responsible for so much that made “The X-Files” an all-time classic. Chris Carter should also never write or direct another episode of the show.

Ken Tucker, Yahoo: Looking over the whole six-episode run, one must sorrowfully conclude that it is the creator’s contributions that are the most repetitive and excessively earnest. Earnest in the sense of wanting to keep making “X-Files” episodes, and therefore extending the mythology of the show despite the fact that its original aura of paranoia about the government has been played out to exhaustion by so much pop culture that followed in the wake of “The X-Files'” original run. 

Liz Shannon Miller, Indiewire: There have been good scenes and great moments over the last several weeks (especially in the episodes not written and directed by Chris Carter). And we still love this show, for all its flaws, including the way it can still drive us insane. But at this point, the roller coaster is clearly shaking apart.

James White, Empire: If there is to be more “X-Files” (the ratings have been strong in the States), it might be time to have Carter step back and let the other original writers, or some fresh blood, have a crack.

Josh Kurp, Uproxx: Chris Carter is responsible for one of my favorite shows (and the underrated “Millennium”), but I hope he never writes another “X-Files” again.

There are those who stand behind Carter’s new episodes, chiefly Vulture recapper Keith Uhlich, who writes so persuasively about the show that I almost, to coin a poster, want to believe. But Carter’s writing and directing contributions — the season openers and closers, “My Struggle” I and II, and last week’s “Babylon,” which introduced Robbie Amell and Lauren Ambrose as comic doppelgangers and followed Mulder on a hallucinogenic trip into a cowboy bar — were the worst of the new series by far. It doesn’t bode well for “The X-Files'” return, or its future, that “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” the only universally liked episode of the new run, was based on a ten-year-old script Darrin Morgan wrote for for the short-lived “Night Stalker” reboot. But at least Glen Morgan and James Wong’s “Home Again” and “Founder’s Mutation” at least managed to scratch the “X-Files” itch; they weren’t great, but they were good enough to remind you of the casual pleasures of throwing on an old episode. Carter’s episodes were often aggressively bad, and “My Struggle II” added insult to injury by ending with a trumped-up cliffhanger — the kind that, to judge by the violently negative reaction on social media, left fans less eager to see what happens next than feeling like they’d been strung along.

Carter, to be sure, is “The X-Files'” Charles Xavier, the one who brought writers like Wong and the Morgans, and directors like Rob Bowman and the late Kim Manners, who created the show’s highly influential visual style, together. But a short-form return doesn’t have the leveling effects of a 22-episode season — every bad hour is a substantial chunk of the whole — and there’s no writers room to smooth out Carter’s leaden dialogue and haphazard plotting. Carter shares story credit on “My Struggle II” with two PhD’s who helped flesh out the real-life science, but they didn’t do anything to make the rest of the episode make a lick of sense.

It’s a virtual certainty that “The X-FIles” will be back for more with Carter at the helm. And given that, when the New York Times’ Jeremy Egner delicately asked if there was anything in the new episodes he’d rethink, Carter suggested that his critics were the ones who needed to take a mulligan, it doesn’t seem like he’s especially inclined to change course. But if critics, and a good number of fans, had their way, it would be time for Chris Carter to step away from the show he created and let someone else take the wheel.

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