Just a couple weeks ago I wrote about my affection for the old X-Files series, as I’ve been rewatching them on Netflix and in anticipation of the new miniseries, which has now aired its first two episodes (as I write this – by the time it’s posted #3 will have shown as well). I also did a little reaction thing to (finally) seeing the new Star Wars film, so I thought I would do the same for the return of X-Files this week.
On the whole, I liked the first two episodes very much. I have seen a lot of criticism for the first one for being heavy on the monologues and for unreeling an immense convolution of plot, and some of that is probably fair. On the other hand, from the first scene where we got Scully’s ‘oh this is bullshit’ expression back again, the X-Files had returned and it was, for me, like having some old friends visit for a little while.
These kind of things are always a little risky; I mentioned a while ago about how much I had looked forward to a new Star Wars, only to have Phantom Menace appear. It could not have been such a heavy disappointment if I hadn’t wanted it to be good so very much. It’s kind of like a favourite musician on a comeback tour or an athlete trying to come out of retirement; you have great memories of them, you want them to do well and to give you some more magic, and yet you can’t help but be a little worried the whole time about it not being quite the same.
I think X-Files has – so far – done about as well as they could have in giving fans More X-Files, which is probably all they intend to do. I don’t expect any bold new direction for the series at this stage of the game. It was probably a bit of a gamble to plop the tangled coils of the show’s Alien Conspiracy plotline down right out of the gate, but the intricate strands of the schemes that enmesh Mulder and Scully has really always been part of what you sign up for when you watch the series. You either dig it or you don’t, and most of the time I find the scope and scale of the plots our agents find themselves up against joyfully fantastic, and as I said in my previous blog on this, that they match themselves up against these apparently titanic opponents is part of why I love these characters.
We did get classic Mulder and Scully back, too – Duchovny still has the boyish enthusiasm for the wild ideas Mulder wants to believe in that comes bubbling out from an understandably weathered demeanour. Gillian Anderson’s performance is everything I could have wanted; Scully the sceptic is still there, but you can also see the affection and concern she has for her butterfly-chasing partner that she’s been through so much with. Mitch Pileggi has somehow gotten younger.
After only two hours (ish) of TV the new X-Files has already given us stealth UFOs, amphibious babies, Cancer Man, telekinesis and suicide by letter opener. Again, it’s not anything that breaks the mold for the show, but it certainly uses the original mold to cast some new stories that sit pretty comfortably on the shelf next to the old ones.
Along with the delightfully gonzo stuff that X-Files has always, at it’s best, dished out, we also got some moments of perhaps surprising poignancy. In the first new episode, there was a wonderful spot where we watched Scully slide into a sort of resigned despair as she realizes that Mulder is, once again, flipped over into True Believer mode and isn’t seeing anything other than what he wants to.
One final thing that struck me that did seem to me different from the original series experience also came in the first episode where Mulder is unspooling the grand conspiracy as he sees it, and suddenly there were right wing standbys like the FEMA camps thrown in there as well. I half expected him to say the government was coming for everyone’s guns.
Conspiracy as an idea is in an interesting place these days; with the revelations about NSA monitoring (along with their various accomplices) people are more apt than ever to believe that there really are things being done by their government that they’re not aware of and might not approve of. I know people in Canada are far more suspicious of government than I ever remember them being in the past. So it may be that a show like X-Files has to go pretty far to come up with a conspiracy that sounds like it goes beyond what a lot of the audience might suspect is going on in real life. It also seems to me that this vein of explicitly right-wing conspiracy is something that has grown a great deal in the years that X-Files was away. It’ll be interesting to see what the writers do with that, as one of the assumptions about the motivations of the people behind the scenes seems to have changed.
I also realize now that I may have quite a bit to write about this, so I’m gonna leave it for its own entry.
Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased to have X-Files back, at least for a brief while. I’m not sure how long they can continue to make the old formula work, but it’s been fun spending time with these old friends for at least this short visit.
A while back I wrote about George R. R. Martin’s delay in finishing his latest book (I hope reasonably sympathetically) and now I appear to have had my own Martin moment sneak up on me. I had hoped/planned to have the sequel to King in Darkness done by the end of November or beginning of December, and now here we are at the start of February and it still isn’t quite finished.
There’s been some disruption from holidays and other Real Life issues going on and I think that’s the problem more than anything else. I still feel quite positive about the book (which, if you remember my Statler-and-Waldorf issue, is good news) and the feedback from my Eager Volunteers has been encouraging as well. I just need to ruthlessly rope off some time in which to Sit And Write and get this thing knocked out.
So, I’m not quite prepared to call this a Writing Crisis, but flipping the calendar over was a bit sobering. Gonna get to work.
Bit of a short entry this week, for which I apologize to those of you who prefer something more long form. I’m a bit under the weather and also should probably go Write A Thing.
I’ll try to do better the next time.