The X-Files Reboot: Why, Why, Oh God Why
I’ve never been an enormous fan of The X-Files, but I am an enormous fan of getting drunk on cheap red wine and shouting at the TV with my friends while watching The X-Files, a tradition I’ve been upholding for more than three years now. And hey, I do have a small soft spot in my heart for the goofy, earnest, occasionally brilliant show; it brought us the inimitable Gillian Anderson, for one thing, and despite a violently overwrought mythology, it crammed in a lot of great sci-fi and horror. I’m also dating a person who has an “I Want to Believe” poster over his bed, so I have had it inflicted on me perhaps more than I would have otherwise.
And however I felt about the show, I was pretty pleased to hear about the reboot. With just six episodes, it seemed like a chance for the show to tie a neat bow around it’s sprawling mess of a backstory and provide the vaguely satisfying ending that fans had been praying for for over a decade. It might not be groundbreaking television, but it was a chance for some great actors, writers and directors to chill in a well-realized sci-fi world, and I’m all for that.
So, I gathered the appropriate amount wine and friends and curry and watched the two-parter opening. And it was…there, I guess? Even though it was only broadcast last month, I’m genuinely struggling to remember the actual plot of either episode. Magic…children? Right wing internet news host? Um, Scully has an iPhone? Mulder and Scully were there, but the show seemed worn-out, grasping, outdated, even. I was excited when I first heard that fabulously nineties theme tune for the first time, but the show had insisted on bringing creator Chris Carter’s angsty-teenage writing to the present day too.
And honestly, forgettable is about the best accolade I can give to the miniseries run. After one slightly alright comedy episode, the show took a sharp downward turn, generally limiting Scully’s plot to clunky mother issues (Scully’s mum! Scully AS a mum! Scully as a baaad mum!) and having an increasingly bored-looking Duchovny drag himself through rehashes of older, better stories. Even their once-electric chemistry- twixt the leads the launched a thousand ships-seemed wheezingly belaboured this time around. With only six episodes, the show was positively drowning in it’s old mythology, apparently unwilling to do a serious freak-of-the-week episode (for my money, the best outings of the show’s original run) because they had so much fucking explaining to do. Explaining that couldn’t be done in nine seasons and two movies, apparently. Explaining that even this season left still unfinished.
(This seasons also seemed to be a Fox News viewer’s wet dream, as well- with some pretty cringe-worthy transphobia, a suicide bombing plot that swung between unthinkingly racist and insanely goofy, and a finale that revolved around an anti-vaccination plot. Yes, The X-Files always took on edgy topics of the day, but all of this seemed as if the show had sort of…not bothered catching up with what was actually genuinely controversial and not just crap spouted by hard-right pundits on late-night TV? Anyway, on with the review.)
As ever, the overarching plot for the miniseries could be summed up in this ever-relevant meme:
-a story- though that moniker might be a little grand for what we actually got- that came to a head a few nights ago in the finale. It’s probably on of the most notably bad finales I think I’ve ever seen- not just fustrating, like The Sopranos, or divisive, like How I Met Your Mother- this was just straight-up a bad piece of television. Written as though Chris Carter had made a bet about the number of times he could put “Alien DNA” in a script, plotted with all the subtlety and nuance of swift kick to the genitals and eye-gougingly dull, My Struggle II- an episode title I am certain turned up in an episode of Scrubs at least once- is bad TV to set your watch by.
An hour-long mess than included such jaw-droppingly awful scenes as Scully morphing into a badly-VFX’d alien to underline some point Chris Carter’s catastrophic script was too lazy to get across, Monica Reyes being dragged back into the plot, presumably because Annabeth Gish lost that “Alien DNA” bet with somebody, and, perhaps most gallingly of all, a cliffhanger. Yes, that’s right- with no future episodes confirmed, the episode had the fucking audacity to end on a cliffhanger. And that about sums up my feelings towards this miniseries as a whole, or rather, how Chris Carter’s feelings to it came across.
This miniseries was a piece of wank. And I mean that in the most literal way possible- this was a giddy little circle-jerk for Chris Carter and his kin, or, at least, that’s how it came across. In refusing the answer any real questions fans had about the show’s mythology, dumping a bunch of weirdly politicized plot points into almost every episode, and rounding off with the inkling of a resolution if fans just stick with it for a few more godforsaken episodes, these six episodes seemed more like Chris Carter pandering to himself over listening to his fans. And he’s totally welcome to do that. And I’m totally welcome to call it an embarrassing piece of shit.