Some 14 years after he was driven into exile by a government-spanning conspiracy (and 8 years after an aborted film reboot), Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) is back, and more paranoid than ever. Sporting stubble and unkempt hair, the FBI agent-turned-fugitive has been barred from officially continuing the work he pursued within the bureau’s secretive X-Files division. But times have changed for people like Mulder, even as their preoccupations and obsessions remained the same. With the advent of the Internet and social media, evidence of government cover-ups and wrongdoings are now accessible with the push of a button, something that wouldn’t have been possible in Mulder’s time with the FBI. Indeed, in the first scene in which we actually see him, he is watching an interview with President Obama on an Internet video site to see how he responds to a joke question about Area 51 when he gets a call. The call, of course, is from Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson).
As Mulder notes during the episode’s introduction, Scully’s beliefs and convictions were greatly challenged during her time working with him. Long recognized as the red-headed skeptic ready to raise an eyebrow whenever her more-credulous partner opened his mouth, Scully is now a doctor at the humorously-named Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows hospital, possessing long blonde hair and a stout patience for claims about unexplained phenomena. Scully has changed, yes, but not in a way that deviates from the original series. She is not the same person she was 25 years ago, but that’s because she wasn’t the same person when the show ended 15 years ago. The veteran FBI forensics specialist is ready to pick up where her former partner (both professionally and romantically) left off, which is exactly where viewers should want her to be.
It is against this backdrop that the series, with all of it’s mythology and all of it’s monsters, resumes. Amazingly, this is done without skipping a beat between last night’s episode and the 2002 series finale. After being informed of an unusual affair by fan-favorite Assistant Director Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi), Scully calls Mulder and the two set out to investigate just like old times. They have grown physically and emotionally further from each other but the famous chemistry between the two agents remains, a testament to both Duchovny and Anderson’s commitment to these characters (characters which, mind you, they haven’t played in almost a decade). It isn’t just show alum who give worthwhile performances though. Joel McHale of Community fame turns in an entertaining performance as Tad O’Malley, an unabashedly right-wing talk show host who shares a lot more in common with Mulder than the latter would like to admit and introduces them to Sveta (Annet Mahendru), a soft-spoken, haunted girl bearing scars on her stomach from what she claims was an experiment after she was abducted by a UFO. What they reveal to the agents is the biggest conspiracy theory of all: aliens aren’t responsible for UFO abductions. The government is.
Truth be told, this isn’t exactly a shocking twist, especially for long-time watchers of the show. Such fans will remember a similar story arc arising around the middle of the series’ original run, where a disgruntled government employee approached Mulder claiming that aliens and UFOs were meant to distract people from the machinations of the military-industrial complex. They will also know that this story line was quickly concluded with the employee’s theory debunked and the focus shifted back to aliens. Nevertheless, enough time has lapsed that the show’s take on this kind of plot feels not simply fresh, but enthralling. Wouldn’t it be crazy if after all these years, we learned that Mulder was the one who was wrong? It’s the kind of question that X-Files fans simply can’t let go unanswered and what makes last night’s show so good. Viewers are left on the edge of their seats, forced to wait until the next episode for the truth to be revealed. It’s a fitting re-start for The X-Files and a reminder to audiences that the truth is still out there.
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