Look, let me say this up front: I love The X-Files. I dabbled in the show for the first couple of seasons, but once season 4 started, I became religious about watching it. I didn’t miss an episode from then on out – yes, even after Duchovny moved on, even in those final dire years. I saw both films (and liked both films). I caught up on the first two seasons. And for a while, I could even explain to you all of those various mythology threads. So, yeah. I was a big nerd for the show for a long, long time.
And so, when it was announced that The X-Files was being revived, I was understandably excited. Yes, TV has moved on and evolved a lot since then. But there was something so fundamental and iconic for me about this series. I latched onto it just as I started to get into horror, and it helped that passion of mine along the way. The mythology showed me what TV could do with some scope, even when it didn’t always work. And when the show broke format – or just did something unexpected, whether it was the deranged nightmare of “Home” or the gleeful fourth-wall destruction of “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space“, there was nothing else like it.
So of course I was excited. And even when the early word started to sound dire, I stayed cautiously optimistic. After all, the show had gotten pretty awful by the end, but I stuck with it through that. And it probably couldn’t be that bad, right?
And, no, the first episode wasn’t that bad. Sure, it was clunky, a little ham-handed, a little exposition-heavy – in other words, pretty much what any fan has come to expect from a Chris Carter-penned mythology episode. Of course, given that Carter was basically throwing out/rebooting so much of what he’d done before, that was a little more understandable. But for better and for worse, it was the show, through and through, and it reminded me of why I got into it in the first place. Whatever else you could say about it, there was something ambitious, something off-kilter about its sensibility, and I really enjoyed having it back, warts and all.
And from there, things only got better. The second episode, “Founder’s Mutation,” was a fun (and grisly) little Monster-of-the-Week episode, reminding you of what the show could do just on a week in, week out basis. “Home Again,” the fourth, reminded us that Scully and Mulder were people we cared about, and nicely incorporated some rich drama into another monster case.
But the knockout, and the episode that single-handedly justified the whole revival and then some, was Darin Morgan’s “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster,” a gleefully bizarre episode that just kept on getting better and better. Suffice to say, it started as an episode about Mulder doubting the need for the X-Files to exist, somehow became an investigation about a possible werewolf, and then…well, and then everything turns on its head, and the show becomes a hilarious (and quietly heartbreaking) look at the human condition in modern times, all anchored by a spectacular performance by Rhys Darby. It’s an absolute blast, and ranks among the best things the show ever put out.
If only it had all stopped there.
Because after that, we went through not one, but two more Chris Carter episodes. And if it tells you anything, the comedy episode about Muslim suicide bombers was the better one. And it was about as full of good taste as you might think from that summary. Bringing in a modern version of Mulder and Scully, a ten minute drug trip, and half-assed questions of faith may not have made for a coherent episode, but at least it was never boring.
And yet, it’s still better than the trainwreck of a finale, which packs about 2 hours of story into 45 overstuffed minutes of exposition, brings back a character no one particularly liked or missed, overcomplicates an already complex and freshly rebooted mythology, puts all of the human race into jeopardy for reasons that never made much sense, mixes up the chronological timeline, shoehorns in awful dialogue in every scene, and ends…on a cliffhanger.
That’s right. This limited run of the show, from which there may never be more…ends on a cliffhanger. And it’s a really, really stupid cliffhanger at that.
Look, I love The X-Files, even now. And if more episodes come – and given the ratings of this batch, that seems likely – I’ll probably watch them. But like so many – Alan Sepinwall and Todd Vanderwerff among them (and I seriously recommend those articles, especially Todd’s, which gives a thoughtful take about what Carter could do and why it would play to his strengths) – I’d be so, so much more excited if it turns out Chris Carter was stepping back from the show. If we get more, but it’s all Carter…we may just have to all collectively agree to cut our losses. Because the end of the show may have been rocky last time, but it’s way, way better than what we got in this ending.