Television Review – The X-Files – “My Struggle”

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The X-Files is back! I admit as a fan since the age of 12 I never thought I’d get to write that again let alone review a new series! Thanks to an American friend with a US iTunes account, I’ve been able to start watching the series before it airs here in the UK. The fact it is still yet to air here (starts 8th February) or Germany, two of its strongest fanbases originally, still seems crazy to me, but next week UK viewers will finally be able to tune in on Channel 5 and continue the search for the truth.

As I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to start watching already, I thought it was time to review the three episodes aired so far, starting with the series premiere. If you’ve yet to watch, then be warned there will be spoilers.

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Gillian Anderson & David Duchovny are reunited at last as Mulder & Scully

My Struggle is a traditional mythology story to kickstart series 10. Written by Chris Carter, it’s a bit ridiculous and in my view the weakest of the first three episodes. It is however, an enjoyable reintroduction to the finest partnership on television (for more of my thoughts on that click here) and the basis on which the subsequent stronger stories can be built. My message then? Don’t give up if you don’t enjoy episode one!

Where are they in 2016? Still where they were at the end of the last (somewhat disappointing) film – Scully is still a doctor, assisting at a hospital with complex surgeries on young children and Mulder is still holed up in the little house we found him in the last time we saw him. The catalyst for bringing them back on to the investigative track is a call from Skinner, informing them that a internet/tv conspiracy theorist is keen to talk to Mulder, who of course refuses to go without Scully joining in the fun.

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Ted O’Malley (Joel McHale)

The said conspiracy theorist Ted O’Malley has some out there ideas about the government’s involvement in a greater conspiracy and over the course of the story manages to change Mulder’s beliefs yet again and refuel his desire to find out the truth once and for all. The latest mythology strand is back to the government, not aliens, being behind it all and it is them who wish to destroy mankind as we know it, not little green/grey men or super soldiers (although their reason is unclear, or at least it was to me!). I admit over the years it’s taken a lot of concentration to keep track of the mythology and it seems this complex web is clearly set to continue.

The vital puzzle piece in the story is a young woman, Sveta, who was apparently taken and tested on by the government. She, Mulder says, is the key (so the new Gibson Praise then). However, who she is and her part in the search for the truth is perhaps a bigger mystery than Mulder realises.

Overall, I enjoyed many aspects of this episode, but it also frustrated me as well. Acting-wise, David Duchovny effortlessly steps back in to Mulder’s shoes and I realised just how much I’d missed him. He’s still paranoid (taping over the webcam on his laptop), but seems to no longer know what he believes. The episode at least gives him the spark to get back to work. Gillian Anderson is just as brilliant as ever as Scully (although the wig drove me mad). Older and wiser, she clearly misses her work with Mulder and is still the equal to him on the screen. Their characters may have separated in the romantic sense when we meet them again but, crucially their chemistry is just as electric as ever and there was always so much more to their relationship than romance. It was always the show’s finest element and that’s certainly the case in this story. It’s also wonderful to have Mitch Pileggi back as Skinner (still an A.D after all these years, the poor guy) and I hope he continues to pop up over the series.

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David Duchovny & Mitch Pileggi (AD Skinner) back in the basement office

The visual effects are better then ever thanks to the modern technology available. The UFO crash in the teaser looks great and seeing Mulder up close with an ARV (alien replica vehicle) is quite a thrill. There is also the return of Mark Snow’s eerie musical tones, underscoring the scenes just as perfectly as before. Plus I loved that they have reinstated the original title sequence with the 1993 badges for David and Gillian and simply added Mitch in. It gives the series a classic feel, which will no doubt make long-term fans happy.

However, there were weak aspects to this story. Ted O’Malley (played by Joel McHale) is a rather two-dimensional character, who I found an unlikely catalyst for bringing the duo back to work and felt weak against the two of them. Would Skinner really have taken this man seriously enough to contact the agents about meeting him? The scene in which he and Mulder set out the latest conspiracy theory does feel incredibly far fetched too. Yes, I know this is part and parcel of the show, but I preferred earlier arcs where things didn’t seem quite as OTT. Also when Mulder returns to his office the cases are meant to still be there. Really? After 14 years? Then there is Scully’s revelation about her genetic makeup – surely she would have run such tests before, after all she’s been through? I find it surprising to know that she hasn’t.

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The sets and visual effects now available to the series look great

By the end of the episode The X-Files are open again, with Mulder and Scully back on the FBI payroll running them. I’m sceptical the events of this episode would have resulted in the reopening of a division of the FBI. Plus would our duo be able to just walk back in to their old jobs years later? This is where Carter’s writing is a bit lightweight for me, with so many unlikely elements that stand out, but I suppose ultimately we’re not meant to care about the how – the fact is the basement office is back open for business and after watching episodes two and three (reviews to follow), I can safely say it only gets better from here.

Yes, “My Struggle” is a little silly and doesn’t make complete sense, but it’s an enjoyable hour in which the key strands of the show are reintroduced, old characters re-established (who didn’t love seeing the CSM at the end like old times?!) and a new course is set for the remaining stories to be built on. From what I have already seen the show is still more than capable of brining both creepy and comedic classics to the screen. Welcome back Agents – I have truly missed you and can’t wait to see where the journey takes us next!

The X-Files begins in the UK on 8th February on Channel 5 at 9 p.m. Even if you’ve already watched it, tune in to get its ratings as strong as the US to show there is still an audience for the show here! If you’ve yet to see it enjoy (and even if episode one seems silly, stick with it, as so far the rest have been fantastic)! For a flavour here’s a trailer.

 

 

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